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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

'Real Life' character development

  “I never thought it was unusual to write, and I've been writing or pretending to write since before I even started school.” – Ellen Gilchrist

Born in Mississippi on this date in 1935, Gilchrist “formally” got into writing in the 1970s and has been a successful novelist, short story writer and poet since, winning the National Book Award for her collection of short stories, Victory Over Japan.  Gilchrist also has won awards for her poetry, although it is her short fiction for which she is most well-known.

After studying creative writing under renowned writer Eudora Welty at Millsaps College (where she earned her bachelor’s degree), Gilchrist also studied for a time in the creative writing program at the University of Arkansas.      Her distinctive, wit-fueled tales have focused on women of the South and the small communities in which she has lived (she currently resides in Arkansas).  “I have lived most of my life in small towns,” she said, “and I'm in the habit of knowing and talking to everyone.”   Critics often praise her character development, and many of her characters reappear throughout her short story collections (13 to date).   

While she advocates keeping journals or “records” of things to aid in writing, she said her own technique is more unorthodox.  “Ever since I was a child, I've kept boxes and drawers and pages of things that I liked. I suppose that constitutes a journal of sorts, but it's not in a ledger or a notebook.”

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