2011 Notable Authors

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Barbara Joosse
Bette Pesetsky

Barbara Joosse, 1949-

Barbara Joosse was born in Grafton, Wisconsin, in 1949, and has lived in the state her entire life.  She currently resides in Cedarburg with her husband; she has three adult children and thrives in her new role as grandma.

Joosse has written over 35 picture books and has a Wild Willie Mystery series for older readers. Her books for young children focus on the everyday fears and life battles of children as she weaves seemingly common events into entertaining stories. Joosse’s books for children have received numerous honors and awards, including a 1997 Best Book designation by the Association of Booksellers for Children, a Parents' magazine Best Book designation, and a Child magazine Best Book designation for I Love You the Purplest.In 2001, Houseful of Christmas was aCCBC Choice book and in 2003, Stars in the Darkness received a Golden Kite Award Honor for picture book text and a New York Times Top Ten Best Illustrated Picture Book designation.  One of Joosse’s most popular books, Mama, Do You Love Me?, is setin the Inuit culture of Northern Alaska and Horn Book reviewer Carolyn K. Jenks dubbed it “…a beautiful combination of a rich culture and a universal theme."

 

Bette Pesetsky, 1932-

Bette Pesetsky, whose maiden name was Bette Block, was born in 1932 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although her father had been a successful small business owner, the Depression reduced the family’s economic circumstances and Pesetsky grew up in what she called a “tough working-class neighborhood in Socialist Milwaukee.”1 When she was in high school, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Pesetsky’s intelligence, interest in reading and intellectual curiosity were evident from an early age and led her to a wide range of studies. At Washington University in St. Louis, she double majored in chemistry and English, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1954. In 1956, she married Irwin Pesetsky, later a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York. Continuing her education, Pesetsky went on to study at the renowned University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and received her master of fine arts in 1959. She spent many years working as a medical writer, technical writer and scientific editor before returning to her creative writing work.

Stories up to a Point (1981), a collection of short stories, was Pesetsky’s first major work to receive national attention and introduced her unique writing style to a wide audience. She expanded the structural scope of her writing with the novels Author from a Savage People (1983), about a ghostwriter, and Digs (1984), about a couple who moves to a new home and the husband’s obsession with digging in the backyard. Her next novel, Midnight Sweets (1988), was named a noteworthy book of the year by the New York Times. It is the intimate first person narrative of Theodora Waite, a woman who built a successful cookie business, but struggled in all other areas of her life. In his November 27, 1988, review of the book, Richard Eder of the Los Angeles Times noted, “Bette Pesetsky gives voices of discouraged buoyancy to people who must find tactics of deflection to tell you of their humanity.”2

Pesetsky’s complex writing is difficult to summarize and the qualities that characterize her fiction are often contradictory. Her writing, for example, is composed of clear, crisp sentences, but these direct sentences form stories that are often haphazard in structure. Her characters have vividly intense voices that engage readers, but the characters are frequently emotionally isolated and adrift. And, while the disappointments populating the stories can seem unrelenting, the characters describe their experiences with sly humor. It is this unusual combination of contradictions that gives power and personality to Pesetsky’s work.

In 1980, Pesetsky received a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and, in 1981, was awarded a writing grant from the New York Council of the Arts. She has taught creative writing at institutions such as University of California, Irvine; Wichita State University; the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; and the University of Miami.  Her stories have been published in periodicals and literary journals, including the Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Ontario Review. Pesetsky also contributed literature reviews to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

The Literary Awards Committee is pleased to draw attention to the works of Bette Pesetsky and celebrates her accomplishments as a notable Wisconsin author.

Major Works

Short story collections:

Stories up to a Point (1981)

Confessions of a Bad Girl (1989)

Novels:

Author from a Savage People (1983)

Digs (1984)

Midnight Sweets (1988)

The Late Night Muse (1991)

Cast a Spell (1993)

1.  Orodenker, Richard. "Bette Pesetsky." American Short-Story Writers Since World War II. Ed. Patrick Meanor. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 130. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 July 2011.

2.  Eder, Richard. “Tough Cookies: Midnight Sweets by Bette Pesetsky.” Los Angeles Times, 27 Nov. 1988. (http://articles.latimes.com/1988-11-27/books/bk-737_1_midnight-sweets). Accessed online, 6 July 2011.