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Gloria Whelan used her imagination to write about a country she's never seen. But she never dreamed that Homeless Bird would win a National Book Award
WHEN GLORIA WHELAN VENTURED IN HER imagination halfway around the world to write Homeless Bird (HarperCollins, 2000), she captured the feeling of small-town India so clearly that her novel received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, in November. The book describes the life of Koly, a young Indian girl, widowed at 13 and abandoned in a holy city by her devious mother-in-law. [paragraph] The tale's far-flung setting was a departure for Whelan, who has often written about northern Michigan's woods, where she and her husband, Joseph, have lived for more than 20 years, beside a quiet lake. Long admired as a local writer, Whelan has also been honored as Michigan Author of the Year by the Michigan Library Association for her many novels, which include Goodbye, Vietnam (Knopf, 1992), The Indian School (HarperCollins, 1996), Forgive the River, Forgive the Sky (W. B. Eerdmans, 1998), and Miranda's Last Stand (HarperCollins, 1999). We spoke to the 77-year-old writer in December.
You've been waiting for many years. How did you get started?
I've been writing as long as I can remember. I used to dictate stories to my baby-sitter and she would type them up. When I was in college, I was going to write the great American novel. I wrote short stories for adults; I had a collection published by the University of Illinois Press. I also wrote poetry for quarterlies. …