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spacer Lifetime Achievement Award Winner spacer
PETER S. BEAGLE

-Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, is America’s greatest living fantasist, and his work has won him fans all around the world.

His grandfather, Avram Soyer, was a celebrated Jewish immigrant author and journalist whose stories and folktales were published in America, Europe, and eventually Israel. His uncles (Moses, Raphael, and Isaac) became famous and successful realist painters with works in the permanent collection of more than a hundred major museums.

He was conceived in Mexico City when his parents, founders of the New York Teacher’s Union, were visiting a Mexican branch of the family and socializing with a group that included Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky. He was then born in New York City in 1939 and raised in the Bronx, where he grew up surrounded by the arts and education. As a child Peter used to sit by himself in the stairwell of his apartment building, making up stories. As a young teenager he appeared on a regular New York weekend radio show, reviewing and discussing books. By the time he was 15 one of his story submissions caught the eye of Bryna Ivins, fiction editor of Seventeen magazine, who took him under her wing. Together she and her husband, the poet, critic, and anthologist Louis Untermeyer, introduced the talented young man to many of the famous writers, editors, and personalities of the day, including Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Norman Mailer, and Charles G. Jackson. They also connected him with his first literary agent, Elizabeth Otis, who at the time represented Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men).

Peter was 16 when he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1955, a feat he says he managed only with the help of friends (“I loved history and English, and got good grades in those. At everything else I was dismal to the point of embarrassment.”) Fortunately for Peter, a poem he’d written the year before won “best in America” from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The prize: a full scholarship to the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

While there Peter wrote and sold his first novel, the remarkable graveyard fantasy A Fine and Private Place, while still only 19 years old. This led to him being named to a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, where he participated in a program that included such future literary luminaries as Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove), and Christopher Koch (The Year of Living Dangerously).

During that fellowship he met the woman who would become his first wife. He later moved from New York to California to be with her: his 1963 cross-country motor scooter trip became the subject of second published book, I See By My Outfit, which has been continuously in print since 1965 and still wins awards. (Most recently, Conde Nast Traveler magazine named it one of the greatest 88 travel books of all time; and the new 2007 paperback edition won a Bronze medal for its publisher from the Independent Publishers Association.)

Peter followed this up in 1968 with his second and best-known novel, The Last Unicorn, which has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1982 an animated version of The Last Unicorn was released, based on Peter’s own screenplay, and with a voice cast that included Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee. The film has established a huge following via subsequent cable, videotape, and DVD releases: since 2004 it has sold more than two million DVDs in America alone.

Peter also wrote the screenplay for the 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings, and the teleplay for “Sarek” a fan-favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

His other books include the novels The Folk of the Air, The Innkeeper’s Song, and Tamsin; the short story collections Giant Bones, The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche, The Line Between, We Never Talk About My Brother; Mirror Kingdoms, and Sleight of Hand; and the nonfiction books The California Feeling, The Lady and Her Tiger, In the Presence of Elephants, and The Garden of Earthly Delights. In 2002 he came roaring back on the scene with an extraordinary run of short fiction — over 60 stories, novelettes, and novellas — including a sequel to The Last Unicorn called “Two Hearts,” which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Now 72, he continues to write steadily and has more than a dozen books in the publishing pipeline, including new novels (Summerlong and I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons); new collections (The First Last Unicorn & Other Beginnings, Green-Eyed Boy, 6 Unicorns, and Four Years, Five Seasons); revised and updated editions of older works (The Innkeeper’s Song, The Magician of Karakosk, Avicenna); new nonfiction books (Sméagol, Déagol, and Beagle: Essays from the Headwaters of My Voice); plus his first two children’s books.

In April 2010, IDW Publishing began publishing Peter’s books in comic book and graphic novel form, starting with The Last Unicorn. Reviews for the first book in this six-issue series were universally over the roof, with more than one industry observer calling it a candidate for the best of the year. The collected graphic novel version was released in January 2011 and has so far spent nine weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Peter is also a gifted poet, lyricist, and singer/songwriter, with several recordings in the works. To celebrate his 70th birthday he launched the subscriber-only 52/50 Project, in which he wrote a new song lyric or poem every week for a year. All 53 pieces from that series are now being recorded by Peter himself and a startling mix of professional singers and musicians who are fans of his work.

Since late 2001 he has made his home in Oakland, California. For more information on Peter and his works, go to www.conlanpress.com.


 

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Last updated: 8/24/11
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