To celebrate Joyce Maynard's birthday, we're featuring this adorable archival photo of Maynard at age two. She would grow up to become the bestselling author of eleven books of fiction and nonfiction. Born in Durham, New Hampshire, in 1953, Maynard began publishing her stories, essays, and poems when she was fourteen years old.
Maynard won numerous awards for her work before entering college at Yale University in 1971. During her freshman year, Maynard sent examples of her work to the New York Times, prompting an assignment: She was to write an article for them about growing up in the sixties. In April 1972 that article, “An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life,” graced the cover of the magazine, earning her widespread acclaim and instant fame.
Maynard’s story also caught the eye of reclusive author J. D. Salinger, then fifty-three years old, who wrote her a letter praising her work—launching a correspondence that ultimately led Maynard to drop out of college and move to New Hampshire to live with the author. Their relationship lasted ten months.
Maynard never returned to college. In 1973 she published her first memoir, Looking Back, a follow-up to her New York Times Magazine article published the year before. Having lived alone in New Hampshire in her early twenties, in 1976 she was offered a job as a reporter for the New York Times and moved to New York City. She left the newspaper in 1977 when she married Steve Bethel and returned to New Hampshire. The couple went on to have three children: Audrey, Charlie, and Wilson.
Maynard’s first novel, Baby Love, published in 1981, earned the praise of several renowned fiction writers including Anne Tyler, Joseph Heller, and Raymond Carver. Her next book, Domestic Affairs (1987)—a collection of her syndicated columns, which had run in newspapers across the country—reflected on her experiences as a wife and mother and further cemented Maynard’s status as one of the best-loved modern American memoirists.
Maynard maintains a very active author page on Facebook, garnering many followers and thoughtful comments, which are a testament to Maynard's amazing influence. For her birthday, we're delighted to share some of these heartfelt Facebook messages from her fans. Joyce, you are a true inspiration!
I loved Domestic Affairs! My friends and I all read it and we would sit around the pool during the summer when the kids were younger, and discuss our very similar adventures. —Karen Tkacik Cimms
I always wanted to be a writer (and am as is my mom) and 'cut my teeth' on Jean Kerr and Shirley Jackson but Domestic Affairs SO resonated with me more than anything I ever read about being a mother and writing. —Pam Andrews Hanson
I loved your column. Read it every single Saturday in The Oregonian. –Linda Atwell
I have columns that Joyce wrote 15+ years ago, yellowed and crumbled, saved and often re-read them. –Kimberly Thomas-Byram
I'm always eager to get my hands on new writing of yours, so now I can read some new old writing...but I'm still hoping for a new memoir! –Caren Lissner
We need more women like you to speak up, and vote. Thank you Joyce. –Beth Devine
You are so cool. —Anne Dodd