Kate Wilhelm Biography

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kate Wilhelm has been in the writing business for decades. She first became famous for two lyrical, futuristic novels, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang and Juniper Time. Both won her fan awards like the Hugo and awards given by other writers like Nebula (Nebula: 1968, 1988, 1989; Hugo and Jupiter, 1977; School Library Journal Best Adult Books for Young Adults award, 1998). She has been honored for both her science fiction and her mystery writings. In addition to publishing her work, she teaches writing and has raised three children (Douglas and Richard from her first marriage and Jonathan from her second). She began writing while her first children were small, but also pursued a number of other careers, including modeling and working as a telephone operator. Wilhelm has been a fulltime writer since 1956.

Kate Wilhelm was born in 1928 in Toledo, Ohio, to Jesse Thomas and Ann (McDowell) Meredith. She married Joseph B. Wilhelm on May 24, 1947, and divorced him in 1962. Then on February 23, 1963, she married Damon Knight, a well-known editor and writer of science fiction. Wilhelm attended high school in Louisville, Kentucky, and obtained a Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1996. As of the early 2000s, she resides in Eugene, Oregon. Her knowledge of the Pacific Northwest is evident in much of her fiction, both early and later works.

Wilhelm's first novel, a mystery called More Bitter than Death, which was published in 1962, was written like many of her earlier works in the evening after her chil- dren had gone to sleep. Forty years later, she still maintains a regular writing schedule of at least four hours per day. As she stated in a Contemporary Authors interview, her one piece of advice to young writers is to guard their time jealously, to set aside the time that they are going to devote to writing and not let the world have it. Wilhelm has, from the first, been equally successful with novels and short stories. Her second published work, The Mile Long Spaceship (1963), was a collection of short stories about people living in space. Wilhelm went on to write many more works of long fiction, short stories for magazines, and short story collections such as the Orbit series (1966-1978) in the mystery and science fiction genres. Wilhelm acknowledged that she has a broad taste in reading but was attracted to science fiction, the genre in which she has published more than half of her fiction and received most of her awards, because of the philosophical ideas. She and her. husband Damon Knight have a close working relationship and critique each other's work and collaborate on editing and teaching projects. Since 1962, Wilhelm has published more than forty-five novels and collections, and there is no evidence that her productivity will slow down. As The Good Children demonstrates, she is able to experiment with new kinds of fiction while continuing to explore certain interests: ecology, women's roles, the future of the human race, and psychological factors in fiction.