Monday, April 23, 2018

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Ruth Zavitz

I won first prize in the London (Ontario) Writers' Society in-house short story contest.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Notes For April 20th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On April 20th, 1953, the famous English writer Sebastian Faulks was born in Newbury, England. His father Peter Faulks was a lawyer and decorated World War II veteran who became a judge. His maternal grandfather was a decorated veteran of World War I.

Sebastian Faulks would not follow in the family tradition and become a lawyer or a judge. His first ambition was to be a taxi driver.

Then, at the age of fifteen, he read George Orwell and determined to become a novelist. He first attended Wellington College, then studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he would later be elected as an honorary fellow.

After university, Faulks took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School. He also took up journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.

Later, he would be recruited as Literary Editor by The Independent, then become Deputy Editor of its Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday. He would also write columns for The Guardian and The Evening Standard.

Sebastian Faulks' first published novel was released in 1984. It was titled A Trick of the Light. Had it not been published, Faulks claimed he would have given up on writing, as two previous novels had been rejected.

While A Trick of the Light wasn't hugely successful, it did get the author noticed. His next novel, The Girl at the Lion d'Or (1989), made his name as a writer.

The first in a trilogy of novels - the French Trilogy - The Girl at the Lion d'Or was set in 1930s France. It told the story of Anne Louvert, a French girl left orphaned and homeless when her legal guardian abandons her after she refuses to be his mistress.

This so-called guardian was a Nazi sympathizer who moved to America, deserting his right wing comrades as well as Anne. She finds work at the village inn, The Lion d'Or, where she meets Charles Hartmann, a kind, sensitive, wealthy older Jewish man.

Hartmann is a decorated veteran of the Great War, where Anne's father was executed for mutiny, an event that drove her mother to suicide. Although Hartmann is married, he and Anne fall in love and have a passionate affair.

When Hartmann ends the affair, Anne is devastated but refuses to commit suicide like her mother did. Instead, she courageously faces the dark days ahead, as the rise of the Nazis threatens France.

The second novel in Sebastian Faulks' French Trilogy, Birdsong (1993), proved to be a huge commercial success, selling three million copies. Ten years after its publication, it would be ranked at #13 on the BBC's "Big Read" list of Britain's 200 best loved novels.

Birdsong told the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman living in France just before the outbreak of World War I, as his granddaughter Elizabeth researches his experiences during the Great War.

The third volume of the French Trilogy, Charlotte Gray, was published in 1998. The tale of a young Scotswoman's involvement with the French Resistance during World War II was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 2001, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.

Faulks' 2001 novel On Green Dolphin Street was a Cold War drama set in the 1950s. The main character, Mary van der Linden, is the wife of a British diplomat stationed in Washington. Her husband Charlie is a talented and effective diplomat.

Unfortunately, he's also a self-loathing alcoholic suffering from existential angst. When Mary meets American journalist Frank Renzo at a party, he becomes attracted to her. They have an affair, which troubles Mary deeply, as she still loves her husband. She finds herself torn between both men.

Faulks continues to write great novels. In 2007, he was commissioned by the trustees of the Ian Fleming estate to write an official James Bond novel. The result, Devil May Care, was published in 2008 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Fleming's birth.

Set in the 1960s, the novel pitted the legendary British secret agent against the evil Dr. Gorner, a manufacturer of legitimate pharmaceuticals who plans to flood Europe with cheap narcotics and launch a terrorist attack against the Soviet Union, the retaliation for which would devastate the UK.

Faulks' most recent novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat, was released in January of 2016. Set in London circa 1980, it tells the story of Dr. Robert Hendricks, a psychiatrist and writer who has plunged into a quagmire of loneliness and depression.

Then he receives a letter from Dr. Alexander Pereira, a neurologist and World War I veteran, who proclaims his admiration for Hendricks' published work. Hendricks travels to Pereira's home on a secluded island off the South of France to meet him.

There, Hendricks is forced to confront his traumatic memories of the carnage and injury he experienced as a young British officer during World War II and of the Italian woman he met and fell deeply in love with during the conflict. Confronting these memories could lead Hendricks to redemption - or insanity.

Sebastian Faulks has also written nonfiction works. He remains one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom.

Quote Of The Day

"The difference between a peasant community in fourteenth-century Iran and modern London, though, is that if with their meager resources the villagers occasionally slipped backward, it was not for lack of trying. But with us, here in England, it was a positive choice. We chose to know less." - Sebastian Faulks

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Sebastian Faulks reading from and discussing his most recent novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat on BBC Newsnight. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Notes For April 19th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On April 19th, 1824, the legendary English poet Lord Byron died in Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece, at the age of 36. Born George Gordon Byron in January of 1788 in Dover, England, he established himself as one of the greatest English Romantic poets of all time.

He was also a master of dramatic verse, and his epic poems, such as The Corsair (1813), The Siege of Corinth (1816), and the unfinished Don Juan (1819-1824), are among his most memorable works.

In life, Byron proved to be as romantic and flamboyant as his poetry. He was brilliant, most likely bipolar, and an agnostic. Although a nobleman himself, he had little use for the British aristocracy and even less use for the monarchy.

He once gave a stirring speech before Parliament condemning the Church of England (the official clerical body of the British Empire) for its intolerance of other faiths.

An outspoken liberal and libertine, Byron's intellect, literary talent, charisma, flamboyance, excesses, and scandals made him a huge celebrity - a rock star of his time. Openly bisexual though he preferred women, Byron criticized the persecution of homosexuals by British law.

He also condemned the pro-Christian legal system's discrimination against atheists. His best friend, the legendary poet Percy Shelley, was denied custody of his children because he didn't believe in God.

Of his many female lovers, Lord Byron's most notorious relationship was with the married Lady Caroline Lamb, who had famously described him as "mad, bad and dangerous to know" - yet it was she who went mad after Byron ended their relationship.

Refusing to take no for an answer, she began stalking him, both privately and publicly, resulting in a huge scandal. It wouldn't be the only scandal to plague Byron.

He was also accused of homosexuality (considered both a disgrace and a crime in 19th century England) and having an incestuous affair with his older half-sister Augusta Leigh, resulting in her pregnancy.

While Byron was openly bisexual, the idea that he had an affair with his half-sister, to whom he was very close, is highly debatable. When he wasn't writing poetry, Lord Byron dedicated himself to political causes.

In 1809, he took a seat in Parliament's House of Lords, which he used to strongly advocate for social reform. He opposed capital punishment and laws that compromised one's civil liberties and / or encroached on the private lives of British subjects.

An animal lover, Byron kept many exotic pets, including a fox, an eagle, a crocodile, and an Egyptian crane. He kept a bear as a pet while studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, in response to the college's prohibition of keeping dogs as pets.

He publicly suggested that the bear should apply for a fellowship at Trinity. Byron's favorite pet was his dog - a Newfoundland called Boatswain.

When the dog contracted rabies, Byron nursed him until he died, unafraid of contracting the disease himself. He eulogized Boatswain in a poem called Epitaph to a Dog (1808).

By 1816, embittered and plagued with scandal, (thanks to Lady Caroline Lamb's public smear campaign) Byron left England and lived throughout Europe, mostly in Italy and Greece, until his death in 1824.

A year earlier, Byron had left his home in Genoa to join the famous Greek statesman Alexandros Mavrokordatos in his fight for Greece's independence from the Ottoman Empire. It would not be Byron's first voyage to Greece or his first conflict with the Ottoman Empire.

Byron had visited Athens several years earlier, interested in both Greek culture and the country's acceptance of homosexuality. While staying there, he met a handsome French boy named Nicolo Giraud who became his friend, traveling companion, and lover.

While living in Venice in 1816, Byron became acquainted with a Mechitarist (Armenian Catholic) priest who introduced him to Armenian culture. Fascinated, Byron attended lectures on Armenian history and learned the Armenian language.

He would help introduce Armenian culture to Western Europe and publicly support Armenia's struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire. Since the Armenians were largely Christian, the Muslim Ottomans oppressed them ruthlessly.

So, in August of 1823, when Byron learned of Greece's struggle against the Ottomans, he set sail for Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands. His first mission was to help rebuild the Greek naval fleet, and he spent £4000 of his own money (the equivalent of £72,000 in today's money) to prepare the fleet for war.

By December, he joined Alexandros Mavrokordatos, to whom the Greek military was loyal, in Messolonghi. After he and Mavrokordatos supervised the training of the troops, Byron was given command of a regiment. The plan was to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, located at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.

Before the fleet could set sail for Lepanto, Byron fell ill. Although the bloodletting treatment (it was thought that draining a patient of small quantities of blood would speed up the healing process) weakened him further, he began to recover. By April, he caught a nasty cold which was aggravated by more bloodletting.

Lord Byron lapsed into a violent fever and died on April 19th. He was 36 years old. It is believed that Byron contracted sepsis (blood poisoning) as the result of bloodletting treatments performed with unsterilized medical instruments.

After he died, Greece's national poet, Dionysios Solomos, wrote a poem in his honor called To the Death of Lord Byron. His body was embalmed, his heart and lungs were removed, and the rest of his remains were sent to England.

The fate of Byron's heart and lungs is unclear. An urn containing the ashes of both organs was supposedly lost when the city of Messolonghi was sacked by the Ottomans in 1825. Some believe that the urn only contained the ashes of Byron's lungs, and that his heart is still in Messolonghi.

To this day, he is considered a national hero in Greece. It has been said that had he lived and led his men to victory against the Ottomans, he might have become the King of Greece, but that's highly unlikely.

When news of Lord Byron's death reached England, people were shocked and saddened despite the scandals that had plagued him in life. Huge crowds came to pay their respects as he lay in state in London. Byron was denied a Christian burial at Westminster Abbey for reason of "questionable morality."

He would later be buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham. At her request, Ada Lovelace, the love child he never knew, was buried next to him.

Ada became famous in her own right for her collaboration with Charles Babbage on the analytical engine, a precursor to the computer.

After his burial, Byron's friends raised a thousand pounds for a statue of him to be made by legendary Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen - an admirer of Byron's.

The statue would languish in storage for ten years, as most British institutions refused to host it on their premises. Finally, his alma mater, Trinity College, Cambridge, agreed to place the statue in its library.

Quote Of The Day

"Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are slaves." - Lord Byron

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of Lord Byron's classic poem, Darkness. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Notes For April 18th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On April 18th, 1958, a federal court ruled that the famous American poet Ezra Pound be released from a hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, DC. It would mark the third act in a life drama of genius tempered by insanity - and ignorance.

Pound had been committed to the psychiatric hospital in 1946 after doctors found him not competent to stand trial for treason. During the war, Pound, who had lived in Italy for twenty years, had recorded propaganda radio broadcasts for the Mussolini regime.

After his arrest, Pound was sent to a brutal military prison where he was put in one of the "death cells" - a 6x6 foot cage perpetually lit by floodlights.

There, he spent three weeks in isolation, denied a bed, reading material, physical exercise, and communication with everyone but the chaplain. To prevent him from killing himself, his belt and shoelaces were confiscated.

Pound lost what little sanity he had left. Diagnosed as a schizophrenic with narcissistic personality disorder, he was sent back to the United States and committed to the St. Elizabeth hospital for the criminally insane, where he would languish for over a decade.

Ezra Pound was born in Idaho in 1885, but grew up in Pennsylvania. He came from a fiercely conservative Protestant family whose religion was steeped deep in anti-Semitism. His grandfather was a powerful Republican congressman.

As a boy, Pound attended military school, where the erratic, self-destructive pattern of behavior that governed his life took root. There, he learned well the importance of discipline and submission to authority for the greater good.

And yet, he was also an intelligent, conceited, and independent young man who believed that discipline and submission were tools with which to shape the unwashed, barely literate masses into a decent orderly society - not for superior people like him. He wanted to be a poet.

When it came to his own liberty, the young fascist in training took great pleasure in challenging authority. In 1907, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he taught Romance languages at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Although fiercely conservative himself and teaching at a conservative college, Pound described the conservative town of Crawfordsville as "the sixth circle of Hell" - he hated conservative small towns.

Pound's landladies caught him in flagrante delicto with a stranded chorus girl he'd invited to stay in his apartment and kicked him out. When word of his scandalous transgression got back to the college, he was fired.

Finding his own country hopelessly provincial, Pound went to Europe, which he loved. When he was thirteen, he'd gone on a European tour with his mother and aunt. On his return, he settled in London, where he struck up friendships with the great poets of the day.

Pound also burst onto the literary scene himself. Along with his old girlfriend, the famous poet Hilda Dolittle, he founded the Imagism movement, the opposite of Romantic poetry. He aimed for verse with clear imagery and devoid of unnecessary wordiness.

During the first world war, Pound championed the works of James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and other authors whose works were considered too experimental for publication. He helped get Joyce's classic debut novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man published.

Pound also began writing his most famous work - an unfinished epic poem called The Cantos, the first volume of which was published in 1924. It's rightfully considered one of the most important works of 20th century modernist poetry - and one of the most controversial.

The horrors of the Great War led Pound, who was already an anti-Semite, to believe in the anti-Semitic mythology spawned by the conflict. Pound believed that the war had been engineered and manipulated - on both sides - by Jewish bankers.

Regarding the English as the willing slaves of the Jews, he moved to Paris in 1921. There, he connected with the great writers of the Lost Generation, including Tristan Tzara and Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway and Pound became good friends.

Like most of Ezra Pound's literary friends, Hemingway admired his talent and liked him as a friend, but had no use for his politics. Another of Pound's friends, the famous poet Marianne Moore - who was herself conservative - also deplored his fascism.

After living in Paris for three years, Pound's physical health was deteriorating, and he had suffered what Hemingway called "a small nervous breakdown," He moved to the warmer climate of Italy, where he became enamored with dictator Benito Mussolini.

In 1927, Pound launched his own literary magazine, which would feature the works of his friends, including Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, and William Butler Yeats. Yet, the magazine ultimately flopped because of Pound's own writings.

As his mental state worsened, so did his writing. His editorials were often rambling, incoherent, and just plain bizarre. The man who championed fascism also praised Lenin and Confucius in his editorials!

When war came to Europe again, Ezra Pound, now totally demented and paranoid, believed that if the Allies won, the world would be enslaved by the Jews. So, he wrote and recorded propaganda radio broadcasts for which he was paid well.

These ten-minute broadcasts, filled with anti-Semitism and paranoid rants, aired on English language radio stations in Italy and Germany. After Mussolini was overthrown and executed, Pound and his mistress were seized by armed partisans, but later released.

Fearing for their lives, they turned themselves in at a nearby U.S. military post. While Pound awaited trial in a military prison, a reporter for the Philadelphia Record managed to get an interview with him.

Pound described Mussolini as an "imperfect character who lost his head" and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who had just committed suicide following Germany's defeat, as a modern day male Joan of Arc - "a saint."

Ezra Pound's release from the psychiatric hospital in 1958 came about mostly due to letter writing campaigns launched by his friends, including Ernest Hemingway, who used his clout as a recent Nobel Prize winner.

Pound's friends all agreed that he was just a poor, sick, nasty yet harmless old man who should be pitied. The psychiatrists agreed that he was no longer a danger to himself or others. After his release, he moved to Naples. When he arrived, he gave the press the fascist salute.

Prior to his release, Pound publicly claimed to have renounced his anti-Semitism, but privately, he had corresponded with John Kasper, a prominent Ku Klux Klan leader who was later jailed for bombing a school because it allowed a black girl to attend.

In his later years, Pound tried to finish his magnum opus, The Cantos, but found that his talent had dried up. He couldn't write anymore, so he abandoned the work. One of the finest poets of his time, yet his legacy was forever tarnished.

Ezra Pound finally found clarity of thought and genuine repentance in his old age. In 1967, at the age of 82, he met with legendary poet Allen Ginsberg in Venice. During their talk, Pound summed up his personal and artistic failings:

My own work does not make sense. A mess... my writing, stupidity and ignorance all the way through... the intention was bad, anything I've done has been an accident, in spite of my spoiled intentions the preoccupation with stupid and irrelevant matters... but my worst mistake was the stupid suburban anti-Semitic prejudice, all along that spoiled everything... I found after 70 years that I was not a lunatic but a moron. I should have been able to do better... it’s all doubletalk... it’s all tags and patches ... a mess.

Quote Of The Day

"Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree." - Ezra Pound

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a rare recording of Ezra Pound reading from his classic epic poem, The Cantos. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Notes For April 17th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On April 17th, 1981, the original, unexpurgated version of Sister Carrie, the classic, controversial novel by the famous American writer Theodore Dreiser, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dreiser, then 28 years old, wrote the original manuscript of Sister Carrie in eight months, between 1899 and 1900. The first publisher he approached found his writing "[Not] sufficiently delicate to depict without offense to the reader the continued illicit relations of the heroine."

Fearing the novel would never be published in its original version, Dreiser began work on a major rewrite. With help from his wife and his friend and fellow writer Arthur Henry, he cut 40,000 words and made other changes, including an alternate ending.

When Dreiser approached publisher Doubleday, Page and Company with his new manuscript, junior partner Walter Page loved the novel and accepted it for publication, offering the author a verbal contract. Unfortunately, senior partner Frank Doubleday had a different reaction.

Doubleday found Sister Carrie extremely distasteful and unsuitable for publication, but Page's contract with Dreiser was binding, so he couldn't cancel it. So, he decided to sabotage the novel instead. He refused to promote the book in any way.

Not only that, Doubleday gave it a bland, red cover, with only the names of the novel and the author on it. Less than 500 copies were sold. When Doubleday's wife complained that the novel was too sordid, he withdrew it from circulation completely.

Theodore Dreiser earned only $68.40 from the ill-fated first publication of Sister Carrie. The ordeal drove the writer to a nervous breakdown and turned him off writing for ten years. Ironically, it also ended up saving his life.

In 1912, Dreiser had originally planned to book passage home from England on the Titanic. Unable to afford tickets for the ill-fated luxury ocean liner, he sailed home earlier on a less expensive passenger ship.

Sister Carrie was later republished when Frank Norris, a reader for Doubleday, sent a few copies to reviewers who raved about it. All future editions of the novel would come from the edited version of the manuscript.

Still controversial even in its edited version, the novel told the story of 18-year-old Caroline "Carrie" Meeber, a young girl living an unhappy life in rural Wisconsin. So, Carrie takes a train to Chicago, where she has made arrangements to move in with her older sister Minnie and her brother-in-law, Sven.

On the train, Carrie meets a traveling salesman named Charles Drouet. He is attracted to her and they exchange information. Carrie finds life at her sister's apartment not much happier than it was in Wisconsin. To earn her keep, Carrie takes a job at a shoe factory.

She finds her co-workers (both male and female) vulgar and the working conditions squalid, and the job takes a toll on her health. After getting sick, Carrie loses her job. She is reunited with Charles Drouet, who is still attracted to her.

He takes her to dinner, where he asks her to move in with him, lavishing her with money. Tired of living with her sister and brother-in-law, Carrie agrees to be Drouet's kept woman. Later, Drouet introduces Carrie to George Hurstwood, the manager of his favorite bar.

Hurstwood, an unhappily married man, falls in love with Carrie, and they have an affair. But she returns to Drouet because Hurstwood can't provide for her financially. So, Hurstwood embezzles a large sum of money from the bar and persuades Carrie to run away with him to Canada.

In Montreal, Hurstwood is trapped by both his guilty conscience and a private detective and returns most of the stolen money. He agrees to marry Carrie and the couple move to New York City, where they live under the assumed names George and Carrie Wheeler.

Carrie believes she may have finally found happiness, but then she and George grow apart. After George loses his source of income and gambles away the couple's savings, Carrie, who has been trying to build a career in the theater, leaves him.

She becomes a rich and famous actress, but finds that wealth and fame don't bring her happiness and that nothing will. Sister Carrie would be rightfully considered a classic American novel, and its author would finally be recognized as one of America's greatest novelists.

Dreiser would go on to write more classic novels, including his Trilogy of Desire - The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and The Stoic (1947) - and his masterpiece, An American Tragedy (1925).

For the rest of his life, Theodore Dreiser was haunted by the ordeal he suffered in getting Sister Carrie published. Like his anti-heroine, Dreiser had prostituted himself to survive. He died in 1945 at the age of 74.

Though he wouldn't live to see it, his original manuscript for Sister Carrie would finally be published - over eighty years after the edited version was released. In 1930, during his Nobel Prize Lecture, Sinclair Lewis said this about the novel and its author:

Dreiser's great first novel, Sister Carrie, which he dared to publish thirty long years ago and which I read twenty-five years ago, came to housebound and airless America like a great free Western wind, and to our stuffy domesticity gave us the first fresh air since Mark Twain and Whitman.

Quote Of The Day

"Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes." - Theodore Dreiser

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Theodore Dreiser's classic novel Sister Carrie. Enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2018

IWW Members' Publishing Successes

Mel Jacob


Breach of Containment (Central Corps) by Elizabeth Bonesteel Review by Mel Jacob

Harper Voyager Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062413680 October 2017 List Price $16.99

Elena Shaw works for a trader transporting cargo to various worlds. When she tries to deliver goods to Yakutsk, warring factions attack her shuttle. However, that merely foreshadows a much deeper plot by a major supplier of terraforming services and atmospheric systems that threatens the Earth.

She Murdered Me with Science (Noel R. Glass, #1) by David Boop Review by Mel Jacob

WordFire Press Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781614755623 April 2017 List Price $16.99

Conspiracies abound in David Boop's She Murdered Me with Science, including one for world domination. Boop mixes a noir setting with an alternate world and dangerous opponents who will stop at nothing to gain their ends.

Gumshoe Review:

Murder in the Bowery (Gaslight) by Victoria Thompson Review by Mel Jacob

Berkley Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101987131 April 2018 List Price $7.99

Set in 1899, the mystery centers on two murders. One is of a young socialite found in a trunk in a Bowery alley. The other death is of an orphan newsboy who discovered the body. Private detective Frank Molloy believes the two murders are connected.

Three Strikes, You're Dead (Eddie Shoes) by Elena Hartwell

Cover Artist: Design: Sabrina Sun Review by Mel Jacob Camel Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781603817271 April 2018 List Price $15.95

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes takes a hike in the woods, gets lost, and finds a badly injured man. He gives her a rosary and asks her to find Gabriella, his daughter. Eddie soon learns the daughter has disappeared, but no one knows where. However, this is only the first mystery among a nest of others.

Joanna M. Weston

I have a poem up at Sliver of Stone. It is actually an ekphrastic poem, from Lynn Blaikie's artwork. Many thanks to the Poetry List for their help, and to Phyllis Sanchez for suggesting this ezine.

Theresa A. Cancro

Three of my new haiku have been published in Presence, issue #60, a print journal based in the UK.

One haiku has been published today on Stanzaic Stylings.

One haiku of mine has been published in Chrysanthemum 23, with a German translation. Click on "download" then scroll to page 10.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Notes For April 13th, 2018

This Day In Literary History

On April 13th, 1909, the famous American writer Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Her parents were both schoolteachers. They didn't come from the Deep South.

Her father moved to Mississippi hoping to improve his fortunes, as a schoolteacher's salary was meager in those days. He tried his hand at bookkeeping and worked his way up, eventually becoming President of an insurance company.

Eudora Welty and her two brothers grew up in a happy, close-knit family. Her parents' favorite evening pastime was reading books aloud to each other.

The Weltys were a liberal, intellectual upper-middle class family living in the fiercely conservative, racially troubled Deep South, an experience that would have a profound effect on Eudora and her writings.

After completing her education in the Jackson public schools, Eudora Welty enrolled at the Mississippi State College for Women, then transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where she earned her Bachelor's degree in liberal arts.

She had always dreamed of becoming a writer, but it was the Great Depression, and her father discouraged her from writing because he didn't believe she could make a decent living as a writer.

In 1921, when she was twelve years old, Eudora had entered an advertising jingle writing contest held by the Mackie Pine Oil company and won the $25 grand prize, so her father encouraged her to take up a career in advertising. She enrolled at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York City.

It was 1930, and the Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. Eudora and her friends danced to jazz at black nightclubs and went to black theaters to see plays and musicals. Her love of the theater led her to see plays and musicals throughout New York City, both on and off Broadway.

When her father died in 1931, Eudora returned to Jackson. She found a job as a journalist, copywriter, and photographer for the Works Program Administration.

The WPA helped writers find work during the Depression. Eudora's work as a photographer took her on assignments throughout Mississippi, experiences she would use as fodder for her short stories.

Her first published story Death of a Traveling Salesman appeared in the literary magazine Manuscript in June of 1936. Within a couple of years, her stories would be published by respected national publications such as the Atlantic Monthly and the Southern Review.

In 1941, Eudora's first book was published. It was a short story collection titled A Curtain of Green. It received rave reviews. Her next collection, The Wide Net and Other Stories (1943) received mixed reviews.

She spent the next few years developing her skill and style, the results of which - her third short story collection, The Golden Apples (1949) - established her as a master of the form. In 1954, she won the William Dean Howells Medal of the Academy of Arts and Letters for her novella, A Ponder Heart.

For the next fifteen years, from 1955-1970, Eudora's writing output slowed to nearly a grinding halt, as she became occupied with teaching, traveling, and lecturing. She also nursed her mother through a long, fatal illness. Tragedy would continue to befall her, as she lost both of her brothers.

She did find time to work on her first novel, Losing Battles, which would be published in 1970. Far from a comeback novel, it received mixed reviews. But her next novel would win her the Pulitzer Prize.

The Optimist's Daughter (1972) tells the story of Laurel Hand, a widow who leaves her home in Chicago and goes to New Orleans to care for her aging father, Judge Clint McKelva, whose health is deteriorating following complications from an eye operation.

Laurel had been estranged from her father since he remarried after her mother died. Judge McKelva's new wife, Fay, turned out to be younger than his daughter Laurel, who is his only child.

When she's not caring for her father and reading Dickens to him, Laurel rediscovers New Orleans, the city she grew up in, and finds love and friendship in her community. Meanwhile, her stepmother Fay's antagonistic personality is the polar opposite of the warmhearted people of New Orleans.

Fay is an outsider from Texas, and she shows her true colors as her husband's health fails. After she throws a violent fit in the hospital, Judge McKelva dies from the shock of her outburst.

Later, Laurel is stunned when Fay's mother, siblings, and other relatives show up to attend her husband's funeral - Fay always claimed to have no family. Eventually, Laurel confronts Fay about her lie, but finds that she can feel only pity for the lonely, sullen Fay, who decides to go back to Texas with her family.

Laurel spends a few more days in her father's house, remembering her parents and the life she once had. She gains a new understanding of life and what influences it the most - family and friends. Mostly, she comes to understand herself.

Eudora followed her Pulitzer Prize winning novel with The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1980), which renewed interest in her short fiction and brought her more praise. In the 1980s, Eudora lectured at Harvard and published several works of non-fiction, including an autobiography, One Writer's Beginnings.

She retired in the early 1990s. Around this time, American software designer Steve Dorner named his new, breakthrough Internet e-mail client software after her. He was inspired by her famous short story, Why I Live at the P.O.

Eudora Welty's last published book was Country Churchyards (2000), which contained excerpts from her writings, a collection of her photographs, and essays by other writers on her work.

Two months after it was published, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She died in July of 2001 at the age of 92.

Quote Of The Day

"Great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually, it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience." - Eudora Welty

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Eudora Welty reading her classic short story, Why I Live at the P.O. Enjoy!

The Craft of Writing in the Blogosphere


News from the World of Writing