In 1991 Penelope “Penny” Niven’s biography of American poet and author Carl Sandburg was released. This year, the 800+ page work will be reprinted by Carryn Golden at Eastern National Publishing. The work was a combination of 15 years of Niven’s volunteer work, research, interviews, and writing, writing, writing.

In 1976 Niven took a trip to Connemara, the 246-acre rural estate of Carl Sandburg located in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Carl Sandburg and his wife, Lilian “Paula” Sandburg, sister of photographer Edward Steichen (also biographed by Niven) purchased the estate in 1945. Sandburg passed away in 1967 and one year later Lilian sold the home and grounds the United States Department of Interior. During her visit, Niven was in awe of the Sandburg home with the author’s papers and manuscripts still in the house. Nearly ten years after Lilian Steichen offered Connemara to the government, Penny Niven made her own offer to the National Park Service that would have her spending the next nine summers combing the house and acquiring thousands of letters, journal notes, and unpublished manuscripts.

Written in four parts, “Carl Sandburg: a biography” is a thorough examination of Sandburg’s life starting during his childhood and adolescence through adulthood and his final years at Connemara with each chapter named after a poem, chapter or quote penned by Sandburg throughout his career. Niven not only worked very closely with the Sandburg family, but she also reached out to dozens of close acquaintances and experts close to the Sandburg’s to create a collection of formal interviews that were part of the Carl Sandburg Oral History Project.

Niven was an elegant and engaging writer, and her biography of Carl Sandburg was released to high praise and favorable reviews. Niven spent her time writing the Sandburg biography in Hendersonville, North Carolina, only about ten miles from the Connemara historic site. Many of the papers in Niven’s SCA manuscript collection serve as documents of record of not only the arduous and rewarding research that goes into the craft of writing biographies, but they provide insight into the continued work once the writing is complete and the book has been bound and, on a shelf, ready for purchase. Niven was invited to participate in literary festivals and lecture at other speaking engagements for academics and casual literature lovers alike. Niven wrote letters and shared drafts of her manuscript with many friends and acquaintances who served as her trusted advisors during the writing process – the overall endeavor she referred to as a “labor of love”.

The winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, Sandburg was a Socialist who used his writing to reflect the experiences of the everyday American citizen during the early half of the 20th century. SCA’s retention of the research files that Niven maintained would be useful for a wide range of research interests.