One Writer's Beginnings

One Writer's Beginnings

by Eudora Welty


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Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a metaphor for her mother's sturdy independence, Eudora's earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture. She has recreated this vanished world with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction.

Even if Eudora Welty were not a major writer, her description of growing up in the South--of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the public they taught--would he notable. That she is a splendid writer of fiction gives her own experience a family likeness to others in the generation of young Southerners that produced a literary renaissance. Until publication of this book, she had discouraged biographical investigations. It undoubtedly was not easy for this shy and reticent lady to undertake her own literary biography, to relive her own memories (painful as well as pleasant), to go through letters and photographs of her parents and grandparents. But we are in her debt, for the distillation of experience she offers us is a rare pleasure for her admirers, a treat to everyone who loves good writing and anyone who is interested in the seeds of creativity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780848806590
Publisher: Amereon LTD.
Publication date: 02/28/1983
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Eudora Welty's many honors include the Pulitzer Prize; the American Book Award for fiction; and the Gold Medal for the Novel, given by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for her entire work in fiction.

Date of Birth:

April 13, 1909

Date of Death:

July 23, 2001

Place of Birth:

Jackson, Mississippi

Place of Death:

Jackson, Mississippi


University of Wisconsin

Table of Contents

I. Listening

II. Learning To See

III. Finding A Voice

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One Writer's Beginnings 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
melydia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I confess, I have not read any of Ms. Welty's stories. The only reason I'd even heard of this book was because some famous author listed it as required reading for all aspiring writers. Having read it, I'm not entirely sure why. Sure, it's a lovely painting of life in early 20th century Mississippi, but besides making the point of "good writers can come from any background" there isn't much to be gained in terms of writing advice. So while I may recommend it as a descriptive and nostalgic memoir, I would not include it in my personal list of a writer's essential texts.
dmsteyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came to this short book through a friend of my mother¿s, who, knowing that I am interested in writing, thought that I might enjoy a peek into the creative maturing of one of her favourite writers. And enjoy it I did, despite not having read any of Welty¿s novels or short stories. The book had its origins in three lectures to inaugurate the William E. Massey lecture series in 1983 at Harvard, which explains its length. It is a bit of a non-fictional Künstlerroman, with its focus on how Welty¿s childhood and her family influenced the development of her creative writing. It is very well-written, which one would expect, but it is also quite touching ¿ Welty¿s evocations of her family¿s day-to-day life in early twentieth-century America are poignant and deeply felt, with a touch of sadness that never drops into sentimentality. Growing up in the South (Jackson, Mississippi, to be precise) had a large influence on Welty, but the memoir is more concerned with the personal aspects of family life than public affairs. For instance, Welty mentions the furore caused by Faulkner¿s Sanctuary only in passing (in fact, she does not even mention Faulkner¿s name), and she says little about racial tensions, that other elephant in the room. I had little trouble with this, as the scope of the book is so personal, with little room for extraneous detail.Because of this focus on family and personal experiences, the book can seem a bit parochial, but this is a minor caveat. I also found Welty¿s densely-knotted family relations somewhat confusing at times. Not because the different people she remembers are not all memorable characters in their own right; I would just like a family tree at the beginning of the book. What I really did enjoy is Welty¿s recounting of her and her family¿s reading habits. Her mother seems to have been the main influence on Welty¿s reading: she once ran into a burning house to save her complete collection of Dickens. And, despite her father¿s disdain for fiction (because, unlike fact, it was not `true¿) he did not stand in Welty¿s way of becoming a writer. Unfortunately, he died before she became published, which leads to a sense of regret throughout the book.Welty¿s development as an author is reflected in the titles of the book¿s segments: `Listening¿, `Learning to See¿, and `Finding a Voice¿, and is given concrete form through her reflections on events in her young life. How she managed to remember so much in her seventies is beyond me, but it led to a wonderful little book, which I read in two sittings. I think anyone can find something resonant in it, but the book is especially insightful for those bitten by the bugs of reading and writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author lead us through her life, from beginning to end, in a thoughtful, introspective way
Letisha More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty has honed her craft into an effortless culmination of beauty in every sentence. You are all at once bombarded with the deliciousness of her writing; seeing, hearing, tasting all that is said and smiling all the way through because her wit is fierce. A highly recommended writer's companion for all those aspiring to sharpen their mighty pens.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty has a gift with words. She tells the story of her life in a creative way. She takes the reader through her life as a child, a young adult, and a mature adult. She tells us how she developed as both a person and a writer. She began as a listener, absorbing all she could learn from her surroundings. She utilized this knowledge and formed her own opinions of life and relationships. She then created her voice to share her thoughts and memories through her writings. The novel brings us through Welty's life as she blossoms into the person she becomes. I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty¿s One Writer¿s Beginnings was a pleasant surprise. It is filled with charming memories but does not fail to make its mark though deep and meaningful aphorisms that shaped her life as a rising author. Each childhood tale is descriptive and presented in a confident manner, unlike other unsure authors who attempt at retelling the prime moments of their youth. Every account somehow relates to ultimate theme of becoming a writer but they vary enough to provide the reader with new, interesting material. This is a must-read for any Southern girl, aspiring writer, or lover of words, just like Welty herself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty¿s One Writer¿s Beginnings is an insightful ¿window¿ into the life and formation of a writer. Written from the heart, Welty painstakingly describes and analyzes many of the details in her life which made her into the incredible writer she is remembered as. Broken up into three distinct chapters, each chapter includes the chronology of Welty¿s life as well as background information regarding the life of her parents and ancestors. A truly inspirational novel for all aspiring writers, advising that ¿all serious daring starts from within,¿ this novel takes readers on a journey from which a southern girl is transformed into an artist and her works transformed into a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is full of emotion and wisdom. One can tell by all that Welty documents that she has had a full life and has learned a great deal from the generations before her. She writes about how she began writing, kept it up and finished. It is full of imagination and makes one have a whole new outlook on life. One quote can sum up the idea behind her writings , 'As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover;'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings is a book for children of all ages. Written entirely from a child's point of view, her language, concepts, and intentions are clear to the reader. Although each chapter may seem to be blatantly named mostly for senses, as in 'Listening' and 'Learning to See', the titles hold deeper, more complex meanings for the reader who looks beyond her reptition of the verbs 'listen' and 'see'. Throughout the first chapter, Welty associates sweet childhood memories with the act of listening. For example, she and her brother listen to the victrola. Through this chapter, she also divulges the secret to being an author--one must be able to listen and learn from his surroundings in order to put his skills to good use. The next chapter, 'Learning to See' persuades Welty's readers that 'seeing is not always believing', and she shows how important her family connections have been in her writing career. In the last chapter, she comments on the novel as a whole, stating that it is a sequence of scenes from her life, a combination of all the events and their effect on her. She 'finding [finds] a [her] voice' through past experiences and learning how to listen and see. 'As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys convulge.' Welty utilizes what she has already acquired, as well as her family, to uncover her own style and her own stand in modern liturature. Her ultimate 'beginning' stemmed from learning how to listen and see.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was quite enjoyable to read in its uniqueness. Although it is an autobiography, it mainly focuses on the events throughout Welty's entire lifetime that influenced her works as a fiction author yet still personally acquaints the reader with Welty. She includes entertaining stories of her childhood that strengthen the novel so that it does not simply list her inspirations but delves into her life as a child. The reader witnesses the evolution of Welty¿s mind as she matures from childhood to adulthood. The autobiography includes deep insights from Welty herself including one on the progression of her mental state as she grows. Welty states, ¿It is our inward journey that leads us through time- forward or back, seldom in a straight line, most often spiraling. Each of us is moving, changing, with respect to others. As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge¿ (102). For those aspiring to be authors, reading One Writer¿s Beginnings is an excellent autobiography to read in order to understand the process as well as how the mind works and creates material. Even for those who do not want to pursue a writing career, Eudora Welty¿s work is a great book for simply understanding how childhood affects who people become; and the deep insights Welty provides throughout the piece are wonderful ideas to retain for thought.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty tells a moving story about how her childhood helped her develop into the writer that she has become. She uses powerful quotes and words to emphasize her thoughts about her experiences. She provides the reader with a deeper meaning behind every story she relates. She said, 'I had to grow up and learn to listen for the unspoken as well as the spoken-and to know a truth, I had to recognize a lie' (15). This quote is an example of how Eudora Welty looked beyond what was right in front of her to find the more meaningful truth behind the story. Overall, this book was enjoyable. Many people can relate to her experiences and thoughts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I found the book to be rather boring, it taught me the value of family felt by the people of the early to mid 1900's. However, I felt that the text was too boring to be dragged so much, and it lost my attention early on. Welty believes that she 'became a wit and humorist (79)[,]' and also claims to be a humorous fictional writer. I have yet to read any of her other works, but do not see how she would be capable of writing 'humorous' fiction. However, her establishment of herself as a writer was impressive, beginning with her early childhood reading. The author does good in acknowledging her parents' role as well as her environment's role in her becoming a writer. But, I still would not regard this book as one of my favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the topics and ideas discussed and explored in this book. Eudora Welty¿s ability to describe to the reader how and why she has pursued writing is amazing. She employs a collection of personal stories from the past, as well as imagery, and past experiences to do so. She offers helpful hints to other writers through her experiences in the past. ¿[W]hen I reached my twenties [that] I found the world out there revealing, because (as with my father now) memory had become attached to seeing, love and added itself to discovery.¿ Welty¿s combination of autobiographical information, helpful hints for writers, and feelings and ideas are wonderfully insightful and entertaining at times; however, the construction and organization of the novel was not pleasing to me whatsoever. The chapters were so long and encompassed so much information, that at times the tone shifts between paragraphs were distractingly blatant, especially without proper transitions. Also, many family members were introduced and discussed simultaneously, and it was impossible to keep track of them all. I also felt as though the book followed no specific order. She spoke of the deaths of family members and then spoke of them as alive again. The disorganized and choppy construction of the novel greatly detracted from its many great qualities.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although Eudora Welty gives an excellent insight into her beginnings as a writer, I did not truly enjoy reading this novel. Welty has an extremely superior writing ability, and is a wonderful storyteller; however, I had a hard time distinguishing whether this was an autobiography or just an assortment of stories that describes, ¿One Writer¿s Beginnings.¿ I also thought that the organization of the book was rather strange. The chapters all focus on different times in her life and do not follow in chronological order. While I did not enjoy this novel that much, I do find that Welty had some extremely inspirational advice. One quote, which I felt was incredibly moving, is the following, ¿I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.¿ Although some people may not see her life as ¿daring,¿ Welty argues that she has lead a courageous life. This may not be my favorite book, but I do admire Welty for her genius and ability.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This autobiography by Eudora Welty offers an interesting and unique glimpse into the mind of a writer. Welty divides her life into three chapters that describe her childhood years through the start of her writing career and show how her experiences have affected her writing style and content. Though the organization of the autobiography is often abrupt and jumpy, it is, on the whole, beautifully written. I would recommend this book to any aspiring writers, as it provides an inside look at writing as a profession from a successful writer's perspective-- a great deal of her experiences are easy to relate to. Also interesting is to see what Welty learned after becoming a writer: 'What discoveries I've made in the course of writing stories all begin with the particular, never the general... What one story may have pointed out to me is of no avail in the writing of another. But 'avail' is not what I want; freedom ahead is what each story promises-- beginning anew... Each writer must find out for himself, I imagine, on what strange basis he lives with his own stories.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
For a required school book, 'One Writer's Beginnings' was not painful to say the least. At a first glance, the content is easy to understand; however, after taking a closer look, Welty has hidden countless metaphors and symbols that portray a completely new 'side' of the author. Through Welty's detailed imagery, readers can almost relate to her 'love for words upon words ... and the beautiful, sober, acceration of a sentence.' To any apsiring artists, writers of any kind, and poets, this is the book for you. In the pages of this novel, you can follow Welty's way-of-thinking and process of becoming the writer of a 'New York Times' bestseller.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Weltly is able to use her writing skills to connect a partial autobiography of her life to the way she developed as a writer. By telling humorous stories of her childhood, Weltly does not bore the reader, however she weaves her own insight into the story also. After finishing the book, the reader feels as though he has traveled along with Weltly throughout her life while also receiving insight to the world of a writer. Weltly writes, 'It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people.' To the reader, Weltly makes it clear that she is one of those people who writes the story books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would suggest Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings to anyone, especially someone who likes to write or wishes to pursue a career in writing. The book is a memoir of various stories from Welty's 'sheltered' childhood. These stories show how Welty grew up and the things that influenced her life as a child. The book is filled with imagery and descriptions of things from her childhood and adolescence, which she explained, somehow, affected her style of writing. The book is grouped into three chapters, 'Listening,' 'Learning to See,' and 'Finding a Voice.' In the first chapter, 'Listening,' Welty describes her first recollection of her parents, her childhood, and her experiences with literature. Readers see that Welty takes precocious interest in reading and writing early in her life. In the second chapter, 'Learning to See,' readers find out how her parents met and learn about her family history. Welty describes the trips that she took as a young girl with her parents and how her childhood trips by car and train connect to her writing career. Welty writes, 'The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily - perhaps not possibly - chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation' (68-9). By the third chapter, Welty has grown and is developing herself as a writer, yet she still recalls her childhood stories. She finally ties together that only when a person has listened, learned to see, and found a voice, can he or she begin to develop as a writer. Overall, this short autobiography by Eudora Welty was insightful, enjoyable, and easy to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty's novel is a great read for anyone interested in the development of one of America¿s brilliant female writers. Welty¿s novel¿considered ¿part memoir, part essay, and part autobiography¿¿details the factors that influenced Welty to become an author, from her touching account of her mother reading to her as a small child to her love of diction. The novel is separated into three chapters, titled ¿Listening.¿ ¿Learning to See,¿ and ¿Finding a Voice.¿ Each chapter reveals bits of information that the reader can piece together to complete the puzzle of Welty¿s development as a writer; moreover, each chapter emphasizes Eudora Welty¿s belief that a successful author nurtures his or her creativity by building on past experiences and the wisdom of those geniuses who preceded him or her. As an extra treat, Welty includes insightful, witty aphorisms in her novel (¿A good snapshot stopped a moment from running away,¿) that amuse and challenge the reader. Eudora Welty presents an excellent novel that combines the elements of a memoir, an essay, and an autobiography perfectly to create an explanation of her development as a writer and give encouragement to budding writers, ¿[f]or all serious daring starts from within.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty¿s One Writer¿s Beginnings is an autobiographical novel about her childhood and how she became a writer. It¿s three main chapters, ¿Listening¿, ¿Learning to See¿, and ¿Finding a Voice¿ basically describe her path to her present occupation. Each chapter describes a different stage in her life. In the first chapter you are introduced to her early childhood and learning from her parents. ¿My parents draped the lampshade¿so that they could sit in their rockers¿they sat talking. What was thus dramatically made a present of to me was the secure sense of the hidden observer.¿ The following chapter, ¿Learning to See,¿ is about how she grows as an individual and the time period in her life where she traces her current writing styles back to. The third and final chapter, ¿Finding a Voice,¿ is about her path in becoming a writer. Through these chapters, you are placed in her shoes and are presented and consumed by her amazing passion for reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One Writer¿s Beginnings by Eudora Welty is a mix of both fiction and truth. The format of three simple chapters is a simple summarization of a complex theme. The reader follows Welty¿s life through minor anecdotes and scenes. These episodes portray her life including: her small childhood days, her school life, riding the train with her father, and her adult years. The title is quite fitting. She is able to portray her background through her family and social life. These two aspects were major impacts on her writing style and choice. The first chapter, titled ¿Listening¿, describes Eudora Welty as a child. It focuses on her first exposure to stories in general. She comments on how she ¿loves her alphabet.¿ This is an early sign of where life will lead her. The title of this chapter is appropriate because Welty discusses the fact that stories must be found by listening to others. She would find a story anywhere; she simply had to listen. In the next chapter, ¿Learning to See¿, Welty begins to focus on her family life. She describes all her family. She includes what her mother and father think. An example of this would be her grandfather, or her ¿Daddy¿s¿ father. To Welty¿s mother, Chessie, her grandfather appeared cold and impersonal. Welty¿s father, on the other hand, admired him as all children admire their father. Seeing her grandfather from different points of view allow Welty to grasp matters from a different angle. In a sense, she is ¿learning to see¿ things in many different ways. Finally, ¿Finding a Voice¿ concludes this compelling novel. The reader sees how Welty develops into a wonderful young adult and writer. She is able to think clearly and seems to achieve the ¿independence¿ she has longed for throughout. She includes a quote from one her books and ends on a positive note. Overall, this somewhat autobiography captures the reader from beginning to end. It is a lovely tale of the growth from child to adult that people from all generations can relate to. If you have not considered reading this book, I highly suggest it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book, the self-confident Welty presents her transition from curious child to mature author. She traces her family back to her grandparents, reliving her childhood with vivid anecdotes and in the end, relating them to her writing process. These memories of her childhood span all three lengthy chapters of the book, and even though it is obvious these colorful memories are precious to the author, it leaves the reader sometimes wondering, ¿Why is she telling me this?¿ Her writing and story telling is jumpy, although extremely well written complete with strong imagery, clever metaphors, and emotional appeal to the family unit. In the last chapter, Welty takes the time to examine her own writing and analyzes several characters and situations in her fiction writing. Although this book got boring at times, the language with which it was created is exquisite and a wonderful example of the extent to which the English language can be used.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The title to this novel, 'One Writer's Beginnings,' perfectly sums up this entire novel because it is just that, the beginnings of a promising writer. Eudora Welty's insightful autobiography is both thought-provoking and interesting. It offers fascinating stories about her childhood and motivating quotes and themes. For example, ''Do what you ought, come what may,' and 'If we would be great, we must first learn to be good,'' is just two of the many up-lifting quotes included in this novel that help to both develop the plot and encourage the reader. The author will also excite all your senses with her very descriptive writing style that seems to rise off the page. In conclusion, while the title may be mundane, the story is far from ordinary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eudora Welty¿s autobiography leads readers through her life and her growth into the fiction writer she became. This book is a must read for anyone who aspires to be a writer, fiction or non-fiction. From her memories of her parents to her own experiences, Eudora utilizes every word to reach out to her readers and lead them to the place they need to be. This autobiography will please any writer who realizes that their work ¿is [their] treasure¿ and ¿the greatest confluence of all is that which makes up the human memory ¿ the individual human memory.¿ This book is Eudora¿s ¿individual memories¿ and her life¿s experiences that led to her fictional stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s not often that I come across reading that balances entertainment with insightfulness, facts with the abstract; but Eudora Welty in One Writer¿s Beginnings does just this for me, and I do feel as if she were doing it for me, documenting what my thoughts, though belonging only to an adolescent, have slowly unfolded as truth and at other times been revealed as in flashes of epiphany. But this isn¿t about me, rather, Welty¿s ability to capture this truth and reveal it so eloquently that I, on more than one occasion, re-read sentences, not because of lack of clarity on her part but because of the way she could clearly communicate ideas that, lacking the appropriate form, could otherwise be lost to a confused or disinterested reader. ¿Destination, when the train isn¿t moving, seems only a forgotten dream.¿ Because of her word choice, it¿s obvious that this isn¿t meant in the literal sense, though the preceding paragraphs dealt with train travel; but I still find myself highlighting it, reading it again, reflecting on the implications of this idea, how it relates to my life and my dreams, and wondering why such a sort sentence composed of a relatively simple idea would lead me into such deep thought. I think it¿s due to the tone of the book. Welty, in relating her `beginnings,¿ told of another story of growth, and within this the story of her development into an author, and eventually the merging of these into literature. Even as she describes her family and upbringing, significant events and travel, I find myself `reading into¿ the lines, searching for deeper meaning as she trains her reader to do; and it¿s all there. Just as she ties in her life¿s collection of wisdom with her characters and story lines, so does she, in the same way, document events in her life and relate them to truths regarding authorship or human tendencies or perhaps the importance of humor. It¿s a wonderful thing to a put piece of fiction beside its author¿s nonfiction and be able to point out the undertones, sources of subject, and the pieces of the author within it. Welty, among many other things in her book, allows the reader into this passage to observe her art and the way in which she pursues and perfects it, never ceasing to change or ignore the changing world around her. This she says in her words: ¿The frame through which I viewed the world changed too, with time. Greater than scene, I came to see, is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.¿ Bits of insightfulness are not scarce or hard to find. Maybe I enjoyed the book because I, at age sixteen, am at that age where I realize how young I am, how old I¿ll probably be someday, and that I¿ve got a long way to go to get from my current point A to that future point B. It¿s because of her that I can be excited about this trip, embrace it with a sense of humor not unfamiliar to her, and perhaps, if talent and luck prevail, capture it as she did through literature. I¿ve got a new friend in this lady. Even though she expresses no desire to teach, I¿ve learned much from her, dealing in areas helpful to aspiring authors, troubled teenagers, parents at midlife crisis, and all those in between. In case it isn¿t clear, any lover of reflection and words or wisdom and humor will thoroughly enjoy this read and probably feel as I did at its end, happy to have read it but sad to see its end. I¿ll attempt no great conclusion of my own but instead substitute hers as my own, as I believe it conveys what Welty (like memory) has done in my case: eliminate an age and generation barrier. ¿The memory is a living thing¿it too is in transit. But during its moment, all that is remembered joins and lives¿the old and the young, the past and the present, the living and the dead.¿