The Collected Wisdom of ‘Mixed-Up Files’ Author E.L. Konigsburg


This weekend, we were saddened to learn that From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler author E.L. Konigsburg, a two-time Newbery Medal winner and one of the most beloved children’s book writers ever, passed away at the age of 83. What she leaves behind is a monument of great literature and great wisdom on life, writing, and the importance of kindness, for which we are very grateful. To commemorate the great author, we’ve collected some of the greatest wisdom from her interviews and books after the jump — if we missed your favorite line or quip, please do add it to our list in the comments.

“I think it’s important to experience kindness, so that you can experience it more in the future. I believe that patterns of emotional behavior are set down before adolescence. And I think that if you have not observed kindness, you will not recognize it. You have to experience kindness in order to be kind.” — Interview with Scholastic

“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.” — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

“Never have a long conversation with anyone who says ‘between you and I.’” — Up From Jericho Tel

“I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out the let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.” — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

“Ninety percent of who you are is invisible.” — The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World

“Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It’s the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don’t pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home.” — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

“Sometimes silence is a habit that hurts.” — The View from Saturday

“Every now and then, a person must do something simply because he wants to, because it seems to him worth doing. And that does not make it worthless or a waste of time.” — The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

“I always give one word, and the word is: finish. The word is finish because I think the difference between being a person of talent and being a writer is the ability to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish.” — Interview with Scholastic

“Sometimes we even have to risk making fools of ourselves.” — The View from Saturday

“Silence does for thinking what a suspension bridge does for space — it makes connections.” — Silent to the Bone

“They are saying that if life has a structure, a staff, a sensible scaffold, we hang our nonsense on it. And they are saying that broken parts add color and music to the staff of life.” — The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

“Five minutes of planning are worth fifteen minutes of just looking.” — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

“Outsiders always have a fresh perspective.” — Interview with Renee Ambrosek

“When you hug someone, you learn something else about them. An important something else.” — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

“Before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That’s the hardest thing to find.” — Konigsburg’s advice to children.