Patricia Wrightson Biography

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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Patricia Wrightson has said that readers will find her biography much duller than her stories, but the setting of her own life is fairly exotic to American readers. She was born in Lismore, New South Wales, in 1921, and grew up in the sparsely-settled North River country area of Australia. Although she attended a district primary school, most of her secondary schooling was taken by correspondence, in a program for students living in isolated areas. She did much reading as a child, and she remembers gradually noticing that none of the books she read and loved were written by Australians, or about Australia. A few years later she began to remedy this lack through her own writing.

Meanwhile, World War II intervened. After graduating from high school she went to Sydney, where she took a job in a munitions factory. She also married, had two children, and then worked as a hospital administrator for a number of years. When her marriage broke up in 1953, she returned with her children to the river country. Then she started writing stories, at first for her own children, whose reactions helped her pinpoint what needed to be reworked in the stories.

Her first few published books were realistic novels for young people, set in the same New South Wales countryside where she had grown up. The Crooked Snake, the first of her books to be published, won the Book of the Year Award from the Australian Children's Book Council. While her first books surprised her by the attention they gained, not until A Racecourse for Andy came out in 1968 that she began to also be recognized outside Australia as a fine writer of children's books. This book, a warm story about a mildly retarded boy who thinks he has bought a racetrack, won several awards, including inclusion on the Hans Christian Andersen Honors List, an international honor.

About this time Wrightson began to want the challenge of writing a different kind of book, one in which magic and playful spirits played a part. She had read widely about the legends of the aboriginal Australians. At first she had great difficulty "feeling the magic" of the mythical beings in these stories, but finally the connection came to her as she imagined them inhabiting the same land as she.

Her later works, based on these various legends and beings, have brought her further fame. Starting with An Older Kind of Magic (1972), they have included a fantasy trilogy, the award winning The Nargun and the Stars, and several other novels along with Balyet.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Alice Patricia Furlonger Wrightson was born June 21, 1921, in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, where students living in isolated rural areas ("the Outback") of Australia received standardized lessons by mail which they studied at home. Tests and homework were mailed to a central office for grading. After completing the State Correspondence School, Wrightson attended St. Catherine's College in Stanthorpe. She married in 1943 and had two children, a daughter and a son. In 1953, after ten years of marriage, she was divorced. In 1946 she began working at Bonalbo District Hospital as secretary and administrator and in 1960 she became administrator of the Sydney District Nursing Association. In 1964, she took a position as assistant editor of School Magazine, and became editor in 1970. She retired from her post as editor in 1975 to devote all her time to writing.

Her books for young readers have won numerous awards: the Australian Children's Book Award (1956), the Book World Festival Award (1968), and the Australian Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award (1974 and 1978). In 1978 Wrightson was honored by being made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Both The Nargun and the Stars (1973) and Night Outside (1986) were named American Library Association Notable Books. A Little Fear won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in 1984.

Her unusual fantasies, which combine convincingly real characters, contemporary themes, and Aboriginal folkspirits (creatures from the mythology of the native Australian tribes), have been successful with young people in Britain and America as well as Australia.