Monday, December 29, 2008

There’s That Word Again!

I was enjoying Why I Live at the P.O. when out of the blue Sister uses the N word. Not only does she address the little girl with the word, she also tells the girl to do her bidding. Sister did not ask if she could borrow the wagon or if the girl had other errands to run, but said, “Come help me haul these things down the hill.”

Sister’s need to control something has her ordering around a little black girl. I get the concept without the word. The girl took nine trips up and down the hill, and Uncle Ronda is the one to throw her a nickel for her troubles. Does Sister offer her any compensation? No. The child is merely her slave for a day.

Last summer, I spent time reading all of Flannery O’Connor’s work for the Southern Reading Challenge. At first I did not like her. Not one iota! Her benign use of the N word set me off. Just as Welty, I got the point without all the word usage, but then I realized she wasn’t trying to make a point. The N word was just a vocabulary choice and not meant to set my teeth. I went back and reread O’Connor’s work and these are my thoughts at the time, and this is my copy written for the newspapers that following week.

JenClair, a bloggie friend, had the same complaint (scroll down to the Hey Maggie post) upon reading O’Connor. Her source of relief came in the form of O’Connor’s book, Letters of Flannery O'Connor: The Habit of Being. I decided to look in Suzanne Marrs’ Eudora Welty: A Biography for answers.

Editor John Ferrone recalled her request: “Eudora wrote to correct a typo in the story ‘Powerhouse’ and another in ‘Ladies in Spring.’ Then she said there was a third change, not due to a typesetter’s error but a ‘way of speech forty years ago.’ She wanted the word ‘nigger’ to be deleted from ‘Why I Live at the P.O.’ In a later letter, she asked to have it deleted wherever it appeared, explaining that while it cropped up naturally in conversation in the older stories, 1980s readers might find it ‘throbbing with associations not then part of it.’ She decided instead to review the offensive word case by case, because in the end it was dealt with in several ways.” (452)

Marrs continues in the same paragraph: “In Eudora’s stories, narrative voice was seldom unitary, and in the 1930s and 1940s, it at times shifted into voices of white characters for whom nigger was a culturally inherited concept and who unselfconsciously and obtusely used the term without thought of or care for its effect. Given the political climate of 1980, however, Eudora feared that such characters might seem more bullying than benighted and that her stories might be misconstrued.” (453)

Can you as reader guess my question? Miss Welty intentionally left the offending words in Sister’s speech. I saw Sister using them in a bullying fashion, but given the silliness of Sister’s character, I must be wrong. Did I fall into the 1980s reader of which Miss Welty spoke? ~ Maggie

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Natchez Trip Photos

I have just posted photos to our Flickr group: The 4Ws. Don't forget to join and post photos you took on the trip!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all of the participants of the 4Ws Writing Institute and the followers of the 4Ws Writing Institute Blog! May you and your family have a wonderful holiday and a prosperous New Year! I hope you avoid writer's block after the long awaited vacation is over!

*Image obtained from

Literary Conversation Series

The Literary Conversation Series focuses on collecting interviews with notable writers. Check out these collections of interviews from some of my favorite authors and noteworthy authors!

Interviews with Richard Wright

Keneth Kinnamon’s book, Conversations with Richard Wright (Literary Conversations Series) is a collection of interviews with Richard Wright. Allowing the reader to escape into the mind and thoughts of Richard Wright, it is a must-read. You can purchase it online at What would you have asked Richard Wright, if you had the opportunity to interview? How would you have prepared for an interview with Richard Wright?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NewTube Your Classroom!

YouTube is everywhere. Kids watch diet colas spurt into the air after adding one, little candy Mentos. Coworkers sit mesmerized through a ton of pass-along e-mails such as this Christmas favorite. Sheri, our Natchez videographer, is working on placing her work on Teacher Tube for the classroom. Even I—the book person—sat through an hour long lecture on my laptop instead of buying The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

Streaming video is the future, and I am pleased to present a website that provides this service. Films on Demand is a sub-group of the Meridian Films Media Group that provide films on VHS, DVD, DVD and 3-year streaming , or 3-year streaming. It is expensive, $149.95, but the cost includes public performance rights. The librarian or media specialist can pay through the library’s budget, and provide one with a laptop and display monitor. All a teacher needs is a blank wall or screen and the willingness to teach.

On this website I found: Africa to America to Paris: The Migration of Black Writers (53min) that includes Richard Wright for 12th graders or college freshmen, Tennessee Williams and the American South (45min) for grades 11 & 12, and Eudora Welty’s A Worn Path (32min) for grades 9 & 10. An interview with Miss Welty by Beth Henley concludes the short film. ~ Maggie

Note: The photograph is a still from the film. Notice the details like the sunken Natchez Trace, her lack of coat, and the umbrella skeleton. ~ Maggie

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Mystic Years

Don't you love this term Dr. Harrison introduced in her presentation!

I very much appreciate Dr. Harrison's historical prespective presentation since I grew up in middle Tennessee. It was a refresher which placed things in a timeline that I had missed since my Mississippi history comes piecemeal from books read.

While discussing this brief era of enlightenment after the Civil War, I was reminded of a book I read last summer. The title is Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann. Author Lemann presents an unbias account of this time period by writing as if he were there watching it unfold. Readers will get both sides of each turning point such as the Easter Sunday Massacre of 1873 in Colfax, Louisiana, where a genteel, white lady writes of her knowledge versus actual interviews conducted with the surviving black families. I consider the book enjoyable narrative nonfiction of heart-wrenching events.

As if you need more to read! *smiles* ~ Maggie

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mississippi Civil Rights Timeline

The format for Dr. Harrison's timeline was changed in order to fit within this post. Blogger is not a big fan of tables. The dates appear in the left margin with national events centered in red and the Mississippi events in blue on the right margin. Please leave a comment if I need to change something.


April - Gladys Noel Bates files suit for equal pay
Brown vs. Wade
July - White Citizen Council formed
September - Medgar Evers denied into U. of MS Law School
December - Evers becomes NAACP Field Secretary
Montgomery Bus Boycott
May - Rev. George Lee shot and killed
August - Lamar Smith shot in Brookhaven
August - Emmett Till murdered
State Legislative Session establishes and funds MS State Sovereignty Commission
Little Rock Crisis
Clyde Kennard attempts to enroll at the U. of S. MS
April - Mack Charles Parker killed and no one tried
April - Gilbert Mason, Sr. led a wade-in of Biloxi beaches
Civil Rights Act
Sit-ins at Greensboro, NC
Election of JFK
Freedom Rides
March - Arrest of Tougaloo 9
September - Murder of Hubert Lee
October – McComb HS students jailed
Anniston bus bombing
September – University of Mississippi Riot
MLK arrested in Birmingham
March on Washington
Birmingham church bombing
Assassination of JFK
May - Tougaloo students attacked for sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counter
June - Assassination of Medgar Evers
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Democratic Ntl Convention
Freedom Summer
June - Neshoba County killings
Assassination of Malcolm X
Bloody Sunday Selma, AL
Voting Rights Act
Black Power Movement
Black Panther Party formed
January - Murder of Vernon Dahmer
June - Meredith March
Thurgood Marshall appointed 1st black Supreme Court Justice
Robert Clark becomes first black to be elected
to the MS House of Representatives since Reconstruction
Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Meridian church bombing
Integration of Highland Park Pool in Meridian
Desegregation of Public Facilities in multiple communities
School Desegregation

After typing this timeline, I was reminded of my town's embarrassing history. The 1970 desegregation of schools apparently scared community members and a decision to tear down the beautiful school was made. Some of the school's bricks now fill in the foundation of our 1873 home. A building to educate Mississippians now holds up one house; although, I think the recycling is nice I would rather see the school intact. ~ Maggie

Friday, December 19, 2008

Haiku Friday!


While plucking the goose,
A feather flew wildly off
To look for snowflakes.

Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright
Where is This (2008) by Mississippi artist Ellen Langford
Click artist name to see website. ~Maggie

Monday, December 15, 2008

Knowing Eudora Welty

I Just Read Why I Live At the P.O. again. It is still just as funny as the first time I read it. I can see my family everytime. Who is your Papa Daddy?

To have met and known Ms. Welty must be a treasure. I guess her stories are as close as I will ever get this side, but her stories make me feel as if I do know her.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thank Y'all!

I've been having so much fun at our sessions! It's great to be with like-minded people who love to read and to think about what they have read. Having studied autobiography theory, I am particularly intrigued by various concepts of self-construction. I'm also fascinated by writers' uses of different types of perspectives and narration in their fiction and non-fiction. I'm looking forward to our next session. I'm also looking forward to learning more about each of you. I am so grateful for this opportunity to study and to grow with you! ~ Josephine Neill-Browning

Friday, December 12, 2008

Haiku Friday!


In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white.

Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright (Arcade, 1998)

Note: Artwork is from the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Reflections

After building a fire in my fireplace today, I sat directly in front of it and watched the wood blaze from the continuing consumption of the fire. Immediately, I thought of Jason and Sara Morton, characters from Eudora Welty's short story, The Whistle. Remembering the silence of their understood relationship, I drifted into another world. I understood why Jason would quickly scrimmage to remove wood items from the household and place them in the fireplace, in order to continue the warmth, escaping from the fireplace to swallow the cold air. Understanding how the fire fed Sara's appetite for warmth, I am sympathetic to Sara drawing her legs up to her chest to preserve the memory of the warmth. The fireplace for me is a symbol of removal. As the fire burns, Jason and Sara remover their differences and become enveloped in the resilience of each flame. The burning of the wood swept away their current economic status. Igniting their memories of a flourishing past, the fire amazingly burns a hole into their current gloom and illuminates the prosperity they once held. Being snapped back to my current reality, I am once again aware of the golden image of each flame. As pray for the removal of my current grief and sorrow, I remember Jason and Sara Morton.

Halley Came to Jackson

During the movie last Saturday, we caught a glimpse of the children's book Halley Came to Jackson by Mary Chapin Carpenter and illustrated by Dan Andreasen. I picked up a copy from the library and have fallen in love with the artwork and Carpenter's rhyming verse!

In the "Author's Note" Carpenter explains her reason for writing the song:

"Almost ten years ago, a friend suggested I read Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, a collection of Ms. Welty's essays about growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, and the experiences that nurtured her ambition as a young adult to become a writer. Since that first reading, I have returned to the book countless times, for wisdom and inspiration, and for the rewards it offers to anyone who has ever felt the spark of creativity. It was a family story of her father bringing the infant Eudora over to the window to witness the comet Halley's 1910 visit that inspired the song "Halley Came to Jackson." The song thereafter appeared on my 1990 album, Shooting Straight in the Dark."

Click the green arrow on the podbean and enjoy the song sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Miss Welty at 83

Dr. Harrison asked if someone would post pictures of Eudora Welty as she looked in 1983 when One Writer's Beginnings was published. I found a picture of her taken by Tannen Maury for the Associated Press in 1992 that would be nine years after her autobiography. Does anyone else have a picture they would like to share? A personal one would be grand!

I found this picture at my favorite blog for book news, Shelf Life.

Before She was Famous

During Dr. Prenshaw’s presentation she mentioned limericks Miss Welty wrote for a friend traveling from Jackson to Chicago then on to New Jersey. That friend was Frank Lyell and she did this little fun exercise for him in 1933. She surprised him with a limerick for each stop such as the one below for Winona, MS.

There was an old girl of Winona
Who lived in a pongee Kimono-
When the Lion’s Club came thru
She politely withdrew,
That delicate gal of Winona.

Here’s an opportunity to teach limericks to a class of youngsters. One could introduce Miss Welty’s work found in Early Escapes, edited by Patti Carr Black (133), and then assign them the task of writing one from a plethora of Mississippi towns.

If anyone sponsors a yearbook or school newspaper club, Early Escapes might again come in handy. Editor Black writes, “…Eudora contributed poetry, short fiction and nonfiction pieces, and pen-and-ink drawings to The Quadruplane, the school annual, and the school paper, Jackson Hi-Life. Her first work published in The Quadruplane appeared in 1922, her freshman year.” (12) The book is filled with everything Black mentions, and if used as an example, might inspire the next great Mississippi writer.

You can read my Book Talk written for this book here and a review by Tracy Carr (pdf 26) for the Mississippi Libraries here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Websites for Educators on Eudora Welty

Here is a list of websites available to continue using works of Eudora Welty in the classroom. Obtained from the American Collection website, these websites have actually been reviewed by other teachers throughout the country. Feel free to give your feedback about the information and how helpful it was for you to implement in the classroom. Please remember that the Internet is forever changing, so some of the links may not work. Try Google to obtain the latest hyperlink for the mentioned sites.

NCTE Ideas - Joseph Campbell, Cinderella, and Eudora Welty: Using the Journal of a Hero to Explore "A Worn Path"
(The Website requires a username and password)

The American Short Story: A Selective Chronology -

Documenting the American South -

Eudora Welty -

Eudora Welty -

Eudora Welty Newsletter -

"Why I Live at the P.O." -

A Conversation with Tim Gautreaux -

Eudora: How a Southern writer came to lend her name to a computer program -

The Idea of the South

Thumbnail Book Review: One Writer's Beginning -

Thumbnail Book Review: The Ponder Heart -

Eudora Welty (1909 - 2001)

Short Story Collections
  • Death of a Traveling Salesman (pub. as short story, 1936)

  • A Worn Path (pub. as short story, 1940)

  • A Curtain of Green (1941)

  • The Wide Net and Other Stories (1943)

  • Music from Spain (1948)

  • The Golden Apples (1949)

  • Selected Stories (1954)

  • The Bride of the Innisfallen and Other Stories (1955)

  • Thirteen Stories (1965)

  • The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1980)

  • Moon Lake and Other Stories (1980)

  • Morgana: Two Stories from The Golden Apples (1988)

  • The Robber Bridegroom (novella, 1942)

  • Delta Wedding (1946)

  • The Ponder Heart, (1954)

  • The Shoe Bird (1964)

  • Losing Battles (1970

  • The Optimist's Daughter (1972)
Literary Criticism and Nonfiction

  • Three Papers on Fiction (criticism, 1962)

  • The Eye of the Story (selected essays and reviews, 1978)

  • One Writer's Beginnings (autobiography, 1983)

  • The Norton Book of Friendship (editor, with Roland A. Sharp, 1991)

  • 3 Minutes or Less (selected essay, 2001)
Note: The photograph appears in a New York Times piece written August 14, 2005. The caption under the photo says, "Eudora Welty in the 1930's" and appears, "courtesy of James Patterson."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Eudora Welty

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion on Saturday. Scholars and participant teachers provided an excellent learning atmosphere.

Could someone post a couple of pictures of Eudora Welty that would show the way she looked when she wrote One Writer's Beginnings, circa (around) 1983, and the period of time about which she narrates in the book? Such picture images could help students to avoid anachronistic thinking.

Hi All -- Another Amazing Meeting!

I think we were all hanging on Peggy and Noel's every word. In fact, we were still talking at 4:30 and nobody was getting up to leave! I particularly loved the background information on ways to think about autobiographical writing. In my field we also think in terms of the narratives that people use to make sense of the world or even, you might say, to create their own lives. Folklorist Kathleen Stewart uses these background narratives -- the narratives we know -- to understand those moments when "things snap into place" and "suddenly, you get it." Or as songwriter Leonard Cohen says, "Everybody knows." I think many of us are struggling with translating those meanings for students who might not have the same background narratives or shared understandings. But y'all came up with some great classroom applications of Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, including 1) a creative writing project, 2) an essay project based on memory and photographs -- comparing a memory held by two different people, 3) a project exploring imagery and figurative language by trying to listen like Eudora Welty, and 4) making Welty's work more accessible by making her time period more "real" for the students through field trips.

We meet again January 10 at Tougaloo. For that meeting read the following short stories:

1. Why I Live at the P.O.
2. A Worn Path
3. Moon Lake
4. Kin
5. The Demonstrators
6. Lily Daw and the Three Ladies

The discussion of A Worn Path will be held from 11 - 12:30 p.m. We will first view a film of the short story, and then Noel and Peggy will lead a discussion. This film viewing and discussion will be open to the public and advertised. It will be a brown bag, and we'll break out our lunches after the public has gone. (This post was written by Shana not Maggie.)

Note: Eudora Alice Welty (1909 - 2001), oil on canvas, 1988, by Mildred Wolfe, hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Here is the copyright statement. Do you recognize the chair!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eudora Welty Session 1

Viewing "Eudora Welty: Confluence of Memories" then touring Eudora Welty's well-preserved home, we sat eager to listen to Dr. Polk and Dr. Prenshaw lead an interesting literary discussion on Miss Welty's texts today. Dr. Prenshaw gave insightful dialogue on the functions and components of an autobiography in regards to One Writer's Beginnings. Creating a social connection to self-portrait, Dr. Prenshaw identified the three selves: I the writer, I the narrator, and I the protagonist. Dr. Polk highlighted the significance of the title, The Memory, and the nosebleed in the story. Together Dr. Polk and Dr. Prenshaw contributed ideas and teaching applications for the folowing short stories:
  • The Whistle
  • The Key
  • Where is the Voice Coming From
  • A Memory

To reinforce the discussion, I have included a list of works mentioned today for outside reading.

  • The Liar's Club by Mary Karr
  • Agony at Galloway: One Church's Struggle with Social Change by W.J. Cunningham
  • The Yearling by Marjoire Kinnan Rawlings
  • Cross Creek by Marjoire Kinnan Rawlings
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman
Up for discussion at our next meeting are the following texts by Eudora Welty:
  • Why I live at P. O.
  • A Worn Path
  • Moon Lake
  • A Kin
  • The Demonstrators
  • Lily Daw

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What is your fondest memory?

The Memory by Eudora Welty is a wonderful story about the narrator’s first crush, which I have recently finished reading. The vivid description of setting and the characters bring to life the feelings of the narrator. Do you remember your first love or your first crush? Do you have a memory of a boyfriend/girlfriend, which takes you back down memory lane, taking care to remember the exact clothing and smells around you?