Walden was born in New York City in 1909, and attended Norwalk High School in Connecticut, where she later taught English and Drama. She also attended Danbury State College, Columbia University, and the American Academy for Dramatic Arts. Her first writing was for local theatre groups in Norwalk. She described herself as a “reluctant writer” in More Junior Authors (1963). She wrote that her writing was inspired by “1) the urgency of things within me that needed to be said; 2) the insistence of persons surrounding me who have told me I must write.” Her husband and friends encouraged her to write, and she wrote her first book as “a good story and was surprised upon finishing it to learn that I had written a book slanted toward the young adult market.” Her first book, Gateway, was published in 1946 and her last book, Heartbreak Tennis, in 1977. Some fall into the genre of Malt Shop books. I wondered whose idea it was to honor this author, and then read she had endowed the prize herself! Well, it’s like buying one’s own brass bowl – if you want something, sometimes you have to plan it yourself. Amelia wanted the annual $5,000 prize to go to a book that exemplified her own positive approach to life, requesting that submitted titles should:
•treat teen readers as capable and thoughtful young people
•offer hope and optimism, even when describing difficult circumstances
•have a credible and appropriate resolution
•portray characters involved in shaping their lives in a positive way, even as they struggle with the harsh realities of life
In 2009, the first winner was Steve Kluger for My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park (I remember selling his Last Days of Summer to B&N in 1998). I wish I could be on the Award Committee. Perhaps ALAN needs a lawyer and I could barter my services. . . In the meantime, I recently found a duplicate copy of My Sister Mike, which I will send to someone who would like to try this vintage yet trailblazing author. It's one of those Berkley Highland paperbacks with the plaid corners I like so much.