Born in Manhattan on April 20, 1939, Peter Soyer Beagle, son of Simon and Rebecca Soyer Beagle, was raised in the Bronx, New York. From an early age he was a voracious reader, and his parents encouraged him in his pursuit of the literary arts. As early as sixth grade he proclaimed that he was going to be a writer, and during his years at the Bronx High School of Science (Class of '55) he was a frequent contributor to the school literary magazine. It was in this period that his work caught the attention of the fiction editor at Seventeen Magazine, Bryna Ivins. She and her husband, the anthologist and literary scholar Louis Untermeyer, took Peter under their wing and introduced him to many leading writers and editors of the day, as well as the woman who would become his first literary agent, Elizabeth Otis, who at the time represented John Steinbeck and Harper Lee.
During his senior year of high school, Peter's English teacher submitted one of his poems — without Peter's knowledge —to the 1955 nationwide Scholastic Writing Awards Contest. When the poem won first place it changed his life, because the prize was a four-year scholarship to the Creative Writing program at the University of Pittsburgh.
In his sophomore year at U Pitt, one of his short stories, "Telephone Call," won first place in a Seventeen Magazine short story contest. During his senior year, while still only 19, he finished his first novel (A Fine and Private Place) and graduated with a degree in creative writing, a minor in Spanish, and a passion for writing and theater.
He then spent a year overseas, returning home when he found himself enrolled by his very capable agent in a special writing workshop at Stanford University, where, besides honing his writing skills, he met Enid, who would later become his first wife.
After his time at Stanford had ended he kicked around Ann Arbor, Michigan and the East Coast for a while, but when Enid gave birth to his son he decided he should join her in California. He and a friend made the journey west on motor scooters, a cross-country trip which he later memorialized in his book I See By My Outfit. After he married Enid and adopted her two children from previous marriages, he supported himself and his "instant family" as a freelance writer of magazine articles and nonfiction books. During that period he published only two pieces of fiction, the novelette "Lila the Werewolf," and his classic fantasy novel The Last Unicorn.
In the 1970's Beagle's writing increasingly turned towards television scripts and screenplays, including the animated versions of The Last Unicorn and The Lord of the Rings. He also performed as a folk singer, delighting audiences with songs in English, Yiddish, French, and German. According to him, "singing and dishwashing are the only other things than writing that I've done for money." Between 1973 and 1985 he played nearly every weekend at the restaurant/club L'Oustalou in Santa Cruz, California.
In 1980 his marriage to Enid ended, and in the summer of 1985, shortly before the publication of his novel The Folk of the Air, he moved to Seattle, Washington. During his time there he lived in the Queen Anne's Hill section of town and on Bainbridge Island, where he wrote "Sarek," a fan-favorite teleplay for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
After six years in the Northwest he decided he had had enough rain, so he moved back to California, landing in the university town of Davis. He also married again, this time to the Indian writer and artist Padma Hejmadi. Around this time he returned to fiction in a serious way, writing two novels (The Innkeeper's Song, Tamsin) , a young adult book (The Unicorn Sonata), and a collection of stories (Giant Bones).
In late 2001 Peter's second marriage ended, and he moved from Davis to Oakland to take care of his elderly mother (she died, aged 100, in 2006). The 2001 move also marked the start of Peter's business association with manager/editor/agent Connor Cochran, who got Peter out in public again, and nudged him to levels of productivity that would be extraordinary in any writer, let alone one in his fifth professional decade -- in the last eight years Peter has completed 60+ stories, three new novels, and three new nonfiction books, all of which are either already out or on their way to publication; and to celebrate his 70th birthday last April he launched on a subscription project which required that he write a new song lyric or poem every week for a year. As of this writing, he is 36 weeks in and hasn't missed a deadline yet.
When asked about his current remarkable output and demanding future plans, Peter tends to grin and quote George Burns: "I can't die, I'm booked!"