“Some people do crossword puzzles. I do books.” – Betty Smith
Born on Dec. 14, 1896, Smith never “officially” went beyond 8th grade in her formal education, but she became one of America’s most-read authors and journalists, penning such mega-bestsellers as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Joy in the Morning, both also made into award-winning movies.
Filled with boundless energy she put her husband through school while raising 2 daughters and then convinced the Dean at the University of Michigan to allow her to audit writing classes, which gave her the writing background she needed to hone skills in journalism and creative writing. Ultimately, in an era where entrance into the publishing world had been reserved for white men or upper-class women, she earned recognition as the first urban, working-class woman author.
Smith quickly found that she was among the most “listened to” students in her college classes, because her “voice” came from life experiences. Ultimately she earned Michigan’s Avery Hopwood Award, it’s most prestigious writing prize.
Smith started writing journalistically in 1928 and by the mid-1940s she was one of the most-read writers in the nation, both for her syndicated news stories and for her novels, several that took her years to complete because of her attention to life’s details within their pages. “It doesn’t take long to write things of which you know nothing,” she once said. “When you write of actual things, it takes longer, because you have to live them first.”
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