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Vaunda Nelson Biography

About the Author

Born in the Keystone State in 1953, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson grew up, the youngest of five children, in the small town of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.

"My parents brought books into my life on the day I was born. My mother found my name in a novel she was reading," she says.

Nelson's first book, Always Gramma, was selected by the Children's Book Council as a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. Mayfield Crossing won the 27th Georgia Children's Book Award, and Beyond Mayfield received a Parents' Choice Gold Award. Almost to Freedom won a Coretta Scott King Honor for Colin Bootman's illustrations. In 2010, Who Will I Be, Lord? was cited as "highly commended" by the Charlotte Zolotow Award committee, and Nelson received the 2010 Coretta Scott King Author Award for Bad News for Outlaws. Bad News for Outlaws also received the 2010 Once Upon a World Children's Book Award from the Simon Weisenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance Library and Archives, a 2010 National Council for Social Studies Carter G. Woodson Honor Book Award, a 2010 Western Writers of America Spur Honor, and a New Mexico Book Award. It was a Washington Post best book of the year. Nelson's poetry has been published in Cricket and Cicada magazines.

Nelson has taught English and writing at the secondary and university levels. She has been a reporter for a daily newspaper, a bookseller, a school librarian, a member of the Randolph Caldecott Committee and twice a member of the John Newbery Award Committee.

Nelson holds master's degrees from The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College (Vermont) and from the University of Pittsburgh School of Library and Information Science, where she specialized in children's services. She received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Point Park University in Pittsburgh in conjunction with delivering the 2006 commencement address.

In addition to her work as an author, Nelson is a youth services librarian at the public library in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.