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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cather: America's writing daughter

“To note an artist’s limitations is but to define her talent.  A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to her view, but a creative writer can do her best only with what lies within the range and character of her deepest sympathies.” – Willa Cather

Born in Virginia in December 1873, Cather was raised on the prairies of Nebraska.  She always said her writing was greatly affected by her “growing up years” and the vastness of the prairieland that surrounded her – experiences she used extensively in her novels and short stories.

She started as a reporter for the Nebraska State Journal and did a stint on the magazine Home Monthly before serving as drama critic and telegraph editor for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Leader.  After moving on to McClure’s in New York City, she got serious about her creative writing and in the 19-teens did her famous “Prairie Trilogy” of O Pioneers!, Song of the Lark, and My Antonia, some of the best realism written about the life and blend of people on the Great Plains.

She won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, and then wrote what I’ve always thought was one of her best, Death Comes for the Archbishop.   “There are only two or three human stories,” Cather once said, “and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”           “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

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