Zilpha Keatly Snyder

by Kayla from Selden Middle School

Zilpha Keatley Snyder now (
Zilpha Keatley Snyder now (

Why Zilpha Keatley Snyder is my hero

An old friend of mine who always recommended good books to me one day showed me a book in the 6th grade. She first described in great detail how good the book was and how I should check it out. I was very skeptical at first, mostly because I never heard about the author, and the other fact was I normally only read books that are above my grade level. After my friend let me see the book and let me read the back of it I decided to read it. I was surprised at how much the book sparked my interest, being a fact that I was bored with the books I was reading at that time and was trying to find something new. “Witches of Worm” was the first book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder I have ever read, and was the best book I have ever read from her. Her books made my writing go from plain and ordinary, to interesting and extraordinary. I then went on to read all of her books out of my school library. I read “The Headless Cupid” and “The Egyptian Game”. My friend began reading “The Unseen”, which was a new book by Zilpha at the time. I only started to read it this year, and I am excited to finish it. I hope to read all 38 of her books and still coming. Since our school stopped doing any kind of creative writing after the 6th grade and began just preparing for our exams, I haven’t written since, but during my peak writing year, Zilpha Keatley Snyder was my biggest influence and my favorite writing hero!

Zilpha, the current

Today Zilpha has 38 books and counting currently. Her first novel, published in 1964, is “The Season of Ponies”, which according to this excerpt from her autobiography is what she received when she sent in her first manuscript of the story.
“What I received was a long letter, two full pages, telling me what was wrong with my story. It was only at the very end that the editor, Jean Karl, stated that if I were going to be working on it some more she would like to see it again. I remember telling my husband that either she was slightly interested or I had just received the world's longest rejection slip”
Zilpha then rewrote the whole story 3 times until it was published. She is now working on “The Bronze Pen”, which will be published in 2008. She got many awards for her books. Zilpha Keatley Snyder's three Newbery Honor books are The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm.

Zilpha and her sister with her parents (
Zilpha and her sister with her parents (

Zilpha, The early years

Zilpha Keatly Snyder was born and raised in California in 1927, in the country. She had no television and not many movies to view. Zilpha liked to fill her childhood with whimsical things such as animals, games, and books! She said she was practically born reading. Her family’s animals where her closest companions, along with the library. When she wasn’t reading or playing with animals she would make up games to entertain herself. Her parents used to always tell stories of their childhood to her, kind of what my mom does with me now. She began story telling at a young age, but unlike her parents when she would story tell she says she had,
"an irresistible urge to make it worth telling. And without the rich and rather lengthy past that my parents had to draw on, I was forced to rely on the one commodity of which I had an adequate supply--imagination."

Zilpha, in college

She went to Whittier College in South California where she says she "grew physically and socially as well as intellectually." She says she learned a lot at college,
“facts, ideas, and essences. Many of the facts have faded, as elusive as seven times eight, but I remember that Whittier taught me how little I knew; a startling concept to any new high school graduate. And even more important--how little anyone knew.”
She also owes meeting her husband, Larry Snyder, while she was in college.
“We met first in the Campus Inn where we both waited on tables, and when I first saw him he was playing the piano. Six-foot-five with curly black hair and blue eyes, Larry was a music major who was also an athlete, a charismatic extrovert who was--and still is--a natural scholar, and a small- town boy who was born with a Ulysses-like yearning for new horizons. I liked him a lot. I still do.”
She wanted to be a writer who worked in New York City writing serious novels, for serious people. She was glad she didn’t, she says she didn’t have a lot of self-preservation and basically no sophistication. She thinks New York would have eaten her alive. So she took another job, She decided to teach school. She actually liked her temporary job a great deal. She found teaching to be rewarding and demanding at the same time. She taught in the upper elementary grades for 9 years in total, three of them as a master teacher for the University of California at Berkeley, where her classroom was being observed by teachers in training most of the time.

Zilpha and Larry Snyder, June 18, 1950 (
Zilpha and Larry Snyder, June 18, 1950 (

Zilpha, her family

Zilpha and Larry Snyder were married in June 18th, 1950. The next ten years they moved 15 times. She taught school in New York, Washington, Alaska and California, and she had 3 children. Her first child was born in 1952, but died in 2 days after his birth. Her daughter, Susan Melissa, was born in 1954 in Rome, New York and her son Douglas was born in Alaska in 1956. Not until 10 years later in 1966 did their foster son come to live with them. Ben was born in Kowloon, China and when he became a part of their family he was eleven years old and spoke no English. In the eight grade though, he was at the head of his English class. In the early sixties was when they stopped moving around so much. Larry was out of school and teaching at the College of Marin north of San Francisco, and her children were in school, Doug was in kindergarten. In the early seventies was when their family made almost yearly trips to Europe,
“During those years Larry became Dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and we began to make almost yearly trips to Europe. In 1970 we spent a month touring France with our three children, who were sixteen, fifteen and thirteen at the time. Melissa chose the day we arrived in France to announce that she had just become a strict vegetarian; Ben, who had been working hard at being a typical American teenager, perfected an admirably authentic teenage griping technique; and Doug showed little interest in French culture other than patisseries, pigeons and stray cats. With the five of us cooped up together daily in a small rental car, Larry and I came to the conclusion that early teenagers, like fine wines, do not travel well. It was not until some years later that all three of them began to tell us how much they enjoyed that summer in France and how much it had meant to them.”

In Conclusion..

This is why I think Zilpha Keatley Snyder is my hero. Her dedication and perseverance really moved me as a creative writer.

Page created on 11/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 11/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

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Extra Info


Zilpha’s autobiography

Fantastic Fiction on Zilpha Keatly Snyder