Diane Ackerman

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  • Topic: Diane Ackerman, New York City, Cornell University
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  • Published : April 19, 2013
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“I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well” (Quoteopia).
Diane Ackerman was born in 1948. She considers herself a poet, a naturalist, and an essayist. She spent a year at Boston University in the late 1960s and transferred to Pennsylvania State University. She intended to study physiological psychology, but a computer error during transfer had her major listed as English. She accepted this mistake as fate. She received MFA, MA, PhD from Cornell University and taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Washington, University, New York University, Cornell, and Columbia.

Diane Ackerman was not comfortable as a child with her creativity or her expression never being encouraged. She was considered strange with her gift of very keen senses and a need to write her experiences down. She worried neighbors by talking to herself, she was reprimanded for coloring trees that weren't green, she proposed experiments to determine whether people could fly, she imagined that the dark fruits in a nearby plum orchard were really bats. 
"I was ashamed because I had a secret world. Children are the biggest conformists: They don't want to be different, they want to be like their chums" (Veslany, “Conversation”).

She continued secretly writing for herself. It was not until she met her partner, novelist Paul West, that encouragement came. Ackerman studied English literature at Penn State under West who tutored her informally in prose writing for nearly 10 years.
When Ackerman began to publish her work in graduate school and get some response to it, she was stunned. "It was amazing to me that people would actually praise me for and enjoy what I was most ashamed of for so many years of my life. It made me part of a community spread out in time and in country: a community of writers, some of whom were dead - some of whom I felt closest to were dead." Such feelings of kinship extended to John...
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