Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: Biography, Books & Facts

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

You may have read or at least heard of the book ''Shiloh,'' but what do you know about its author? In this lesson, you will learn about the biography and works of the acclaimed American author, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Growing Up on the Move

For many authors, when and where they grew up has a significant impact on their writing. For Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, this is very true! She was born on January 4, 1933 during the Great Depression. While she was born in Anderson, Indiana, that's not the place she considered home. Growing up, her dad was a traveling salesman so the family had to move from one place to another. If you've ever moved as a kid, you know how challenging it can be. During the summers, Naylor spent time with both sets of grandparents. One set lived in Maryland and were very affectionate, while the other duo lived in Iowa and were stingier with their hugs and kisses.

A Literary Upbringing

Even though Naylor's family struggled financially, they were rich in love and literature. Her parents read to her nearly every night and opened her eyes to a world of fascinating characters and vibrant experiences. From a very young age, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor loved literature, but she struggled to learn how to read. Eventually, she overcame this obstacle and started writing her own imaginative stories. By the time she was 16, she had already published her first story in a local church magazine.

Adult Life

At just 18 years old, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor married her first husband. Today, most 18-year-olds are thinking about going to college or looking for a job after high school. Naylor graduated from Joliet Junior College in 1953 at the age of 20 and went to work in Chicago while her husband went to school full-time. Unfortunately, Naylor's husband became sick with a mental illness called paranoid schizophrenia. Because he could no longer work, Naylor was responsible for financially supporting the two of them. She turned to writing as a way to earn money on the side and began selling her stories. She also spent some time as a teacher and worked as an editorial assistant for a National Education Association publication.

By 1960, she had divorced her first husband and remarried a man named Rex. Soon after, Naylor went back to school to pursue a degree in clinical psychology. After she graduated from American University, however, she did not become a psychologist. Instead, she published her first book The Galloping Goat and Other Stories in 1965 and became a full-time writer.

Writing Career

For Naylor, The Galloping Goat and Other Stories was the first of over 100 books. Her writing is largely inspired by her own life experiences and the people she knows and meets. The time she spent with her grandparents has been especially impactful on her writing. Many of her books have been inspired by their homes in Maryland and Iowa, respectively. The stark difference in personality between her sets of grandparents also helped her come up with the inspiration for some of her various characters. She has a vivid imagination that she consistently puts to good use. At any given moment, she works on multiple projects and spends at least six hours a day writing. According to Naylor, if she doesn't write, the ideas build up inside of her, and the only way to release them is to put words on paper. Imagine a volcano with pressure building up inside, but instead of lava, it's the pressure of ideas and words!

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