Gabrielle Burton, Novelist Who Decided to Attend AFI Film School at Age 56, Dies at 76

Author Gabrielle Burton, known for her groundbreaking and award-winning novels and memoirs “I’m Running Away From Home but I’m Not Allowed to Cross the Street: A Primer of Women’s Liberation,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Impatient With Desire” and “Searching for Tamsen Donner” as well as the screenplay for the MGM film “Manna From Heaven” died in her home on September 3, 2015, after battling stage-four pancreatic cancer for 15 months. She was 76.

Burton decided to attend AFI film school at age 56, and went on to win AFI’s Mary Pickford Prize for top screenplay. Her subsequent honors include a Nicholl Fellowship through the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her 2003 film “Manna From Heaven” was invited to screen for Congress at the MPAA offices in Washington, D.C., hosted by Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Karen McCarthy and MPAA president Jack Valenti.

Burton’s articles, essays, and reviews appeared in national publications including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Family Circle and Ms. magazine. She was a columnist for the nationally syndicated “One Woman’s Voice.” Online, she was a blogger for the Huffington Post and the Nervous Breakdown. A witty wordsmith, she was on the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary.

She was invited to speak at colleges, conferences and seminars around the world, and was a fellow at the Aspen Institute Leadership Seminar, the IFP Screenwriting Lab, Equinox Screenwriting Conference in Bordeaux, Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, Ossabaw Island Project, Yaddo and the McDowell Colony.

Her many awards included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Nicholl Fellowship, the Maxwell Perkins Prize for outstanding first novel, the Austin Film Festival feature screenplay grand prize, the Western Heritage Rangler Award for outstanding novel, and the American Film Institute’s Mary Pickford Prize for Screenwriting.

Burton was active in campaigning for social justice and human rights throughout her life. She was a delegate in Washington, D.C., for Shirley Chisholm’s run for president, a compatriot of Gloria Steinem working for equal rights in the ’70s, an advocate of peace and thoughtful global engagement.

She recently finished a manuscript of “Don’t Sit Down Yet,” a book about aging and living fully until you die, and she was working on a coda called “Tales From Cancer Town” following her diagnosis.

Burton is survived by her husband of 53 years, Roger Burton; her daughters Maria, Jennifer, Ursula, Gabrielle and Charity Burton; and eight grandchildren.

More about Burton on her website: GabrielleBurton.com


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