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One Writer's Beginnings

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  2,499 Ratings  ·  227 Reviews
Now available as an audio CD, in Eudora Welty's own voice, or as a book.

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 res
Paperback, 104 pages
Published July 21st 1998 by Harvard University Press (first published 1983)
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Richard Derus
Jan 25, 2012 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 mountai
One Writer's Beginnings: Eudora Welty's Very Private Memoir

I take literary pilgrimages to Mississippi to very different worlds. There is the world of William Faulkner in the hard scrabble land around Oxford, New Albany, Holly Springs, and Pontotoc. Then there is Jackson, Mississippi. Considerably more urban. An emphasis on the awareness of society and appearances. The world of Eudora Welty. Although the stories told by her frequently are those of the isolated and the outcast.

For years I have bee
As my initial comment on re-reading One Writer's Beginnings, I will say that I have found Welty's thoughts on family (and especially her parents' influences) and her personal theories of writing even more interesting on this second reading. So many sections seemed to jump out for me---her relationship with her mother, in particular, and her slowly developing thoughts on being a writer.

As I had just read/viewed her book, Country Churchyards, this quote was especially meaningful for me.

Nov 24, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it
Eudora Welty delivered three lectures at Harvard University in 1983 which were developed into her charming memoir, "One Writer's Beginnings". She explored events in her own life that were important in becoming a writer.

In the first section, "Listening", she tells about the importance of books in her childhood home, her parents teaching her to read, singing, and listening to the stories of the ladies in Jackson, Mississippi. Welty writes, "Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. List
Diane Barnes
Nov 30, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing
This was not written as an autobiography, but rather as 3 short speeches given at Harvard University in 1983. But taken together, they form what in my mind all autobiographies should be: a reminiscence of early youth and impressions, recollections of family and friends, and acknowledgement of what formed the writer and why. No name dropping, no sordid tell-all, no getting back at people who hurt you. This slim little volume of 114 pages told me all I needed to know about Miss Welty and her world ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These speeches-turned-into-print should be of interest to writers and to those who love Eudora Welty's writings, especially her short stories.

Like Eudora, I was born in the South and went to a university in Wisconsin (though she doesn't spend too much time talking of her time there), so there was a lot here to 'locate' (a word she uses twice in interesting ways) me. She was born in 1909, so of course there were differences too. But reading of the 'feel' of her summer trips in the family car (to
Shirley Showalter
Sep 14, 2013 Shirley Showalter rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I've read this book three times. Once as a young professor with an admiration for Eudora Welty. Next as a beginning memoirist myself. Last week I read the book again as a professor teaching memoir to honors students. Every reading has allowed me to notice new things about Welty.

This time I focused on the beautiful, dense sentences in this short book. It took as long to read the 100 pages of this book as many 300-page books take. The students recognized this density also, and we deconstructed the
Writer tips galore.

"The cadence, whatever it is, " Eudora Welty wrote, "that asks you to believe, the feeling that resides in the printed word, reaches me through the reader-voice." She goes on to talk about this voice she hears when she reads or writes and it's funny, because you hear her voice loud and clear when you read this memoir. I kept imagining her sitting on the front porch with a pitcher of iced tea.

Maybe I'm biased because I've lived in the Appalachian mountains and I've lived down
May 27, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it
I knew absolutely nothing about Eudora Welty when I picked up this book. I quite enjoyed her simple retelling of her past, and how she realized she wanted to be a writer. A quick, interesting read.
Jason Koivu
May 04, 2011 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
If you've never heard Eudora Welty speak, well then my friend, you've never heard Eudora Welty speak.

I found an audiobook copy of this at the library and, liking to hear authors read their own work or talk about their experiences, I picked up this aptly named title. One Writer's Beginnings is of Welty's beginnings in the deep south, early 20th century Mississippi. These lectures, performed by Welty toward in the latter part of her life for a Harvard audience, have a free-flow feel and yet they
Jun 27, 2013 Karima rated it it was amazing
A book to put in your treasure chest.

This book is based on a series of lectures (three) given at Harvard in 1983, when Welty was 74 years old. The three sections are titled: LISTENING, LEARNING TO SEE, and FINDING A VOICE.
Here's a snippet from an opening paragraph:

When I was young enough to still spend a long time buttoning my shoes in the morning, I'd listen toward the hall; Daddy upstairs
was shaving in the bathroom and Mother downstairs was frying the bacon. They would begin whistling back
Mar 28, 2017 Isabel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017

P. 125- "Escrever uma história ou um romance é um modo de descobrir "sequência" na experiência, de encontrar a causa e o efeito nas ocorrências da própria vida do escritor."

P. 126- "Escrever ficção desenvolveu em mim um respeito duradouro pelo desconhecido na vida de um ser humano e uma capacidade de saber onde procurar pelos fios, como seguir, como ligar, encontrar na espessura do emaranhado a linha clara que persiste. As partes estão todas lá: para a memória nada pode realmente perder-se."
May 30, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This little book is a gem for writers, writer wannabes (like me) and lovers of Southern Fiction and the deep south (Jackson, MS!). Eudora Welty's autobiographical storytelling seemed effortless, and it flowed more interestingly than a lot of novels I've read. I loved how she examined little puzzle pieces (poignant vignettes from her growing up years and family history) and put them together to reveal the big picture of her life's work--her fully realized passion for writing. I envy her perspecti ...more
I painlessly came to realize that the reverence I felt for the holiness of life is not ever likely to be entirely at home in organized religion. It was later, when I was able to travel farther, that the presence of holiness and mystery seemed, as far as my vision was able to see, to descend into the windows of Chartres, the stone peasant figures in the capitals of Autun, the tall sheets of gold on the walls of Torcello that reflected the light of the sea; in the frescoes of Piero, of Giotto; in ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Shelby rated it it was ok
Shelves: schoolwork
To be fair: I hadn't read any of Eudora Welty's fiction before reading this book, her autobiography. That being said, I still don't think many of the stories told in this book would be of interest to casual readers. Some of the details given are interesting in how they present/discuss an early-20th century lifestyle, and Welty does present a few interesting ideas - for example, "one secret is liable to be revealed in the place of another that is harder to tell, and the substitute secret when nak ...more
Jan Priddy
Mar 09, 2016 Jan Priddy rated it really liked it
More than twenty years ago I purchased a copy of this little book. A student and I had determined that since neither of us could afford to take a writing class in the summer and both of us wanted to write, we would teach ourselves how to write a novella. We ended the summer with novels and a new understanding of our own writing processes. My partner read this book, but I never had till now.

It is a dear thing, tender and subtle and ultimately wise and deep about the way we come to writing.

I cou
Apr 22, 2013 Michele rated it liked it
This little booklet serves as a chronicle of Eudora Welty's literary beginnings. I liked how she separated her progress as a writer into sections beginning with "Listening," progressing to "Learning to See," and finally "Finding a Voice." Welty was born in 1909 and came of age in the Twenties, a favorite time period for me, so I enjoyed reading about how her experiences growing up in Mississippi influenced her writing. That said, the book itself didn't capture me and if it weren't for the clever ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Welty or classic southern fiction
Read this for a recent trip to Jackson, Mississippi, home of Eudora Welty. I have been on a kick about classic southern authors this past year and after hearing her comments on William Faulkner and reading several of her short stories, I wanted to know more about her life. This is a very short book, just over a hundred pages, but I found out more about her personal feelings and influences from this short volume than I have while carefully digging through several lengthy biographies. This is a gr ...more
Jean Carlton
Jan 24, 2015 Jean Carlton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love writing
Shelves: on-writing, recommend
I love reading books about writing. (I'm afraid I have used it to postpone actually doing my own writing!) Some are better than others, of course. Many contain 'exercises' or prompts to help you get started, break a writer's 'block' or improve your writing overall. This one has three sections: Listening, Learning to See and Finding a Voice. In each, one gets the idea of what that means and how she does it. How she listened, observed and found her voice as well as the voices of her characters. He ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Francesca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Memorias literarias de Eudora Welty. De una forma brillante y emotiva la autora nos rebela el secreto de su forma de escribir en tres capítulos: 1. Escuchar; 2. Aprender a ver y 3. Encontrar una voz.
Es además un texto emotivo en el que Welty habla de sus recuerdos, sus sueños y de como ambos se combinaron desde el primer momento en sus relatos.
De lectura imprescindible.

Oh glorious Eudora! A Southern treasure! Be sure to read about the set of Charles Dickens that her mother scrimped and saved to buy. And how, when the house caught on fire, heck with saving the children, Mama ran upstairs through the smoke and flames to save the books by throwing them out the window to safety...
Interesting at times especially a look into what it was like early turn of the 20th Century. Eudora Welty didn't spend much time on her early days as a writer but rather more about her parents and herself as a child.
Rebecca Einstein
Jun 03, 2010 Rebecca Einstein rated it really liked it
Oh my goodness -- I am just loving this book. I find myself lingering over certain passages, rereading them, trying to soak up the beautiful narrative.
Nov 20, 2014 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Under Acknowledgements, the origins of this book is the set of three lectures delivered at Harvard University in April, 1983 to inaugurate the William E. Massey lecture series in History. Harvard found the best writer in the twentieth century to perform these lectures which amount to an autobiography from birth to 30 years of age in Miss Eudora Welty. Miss Welty commends David Herbert Donald of the history department for his help, firm guidance and understanding in the presentation of the lectur ...more
Joan Foss
Feb 19, 2017 Joan Foss rated it really liked it
This little treasure got lost in my bookshelf. Years ago I purchased it when our book group was finished reading Eudora Welty. I'm not a writer, but, I especially enjoyed the latter portion where she is in her 70's and remembering her parents motivations, personalities and speculates on their reasons for their actions. She discovered a small keepskate written by her grandmother to her young son. I instantly related to the tiny book my grandmother wrote to my father as a young child. I received t ...more
Betsy Robinson
Oct 30, 2013 Betsy Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We were all wrapped by the long ride into some cocoon of our own," says Eudora Welty, describing a long family trip in a car.

In general, this is how I feel listening to Eudora Welty's voice; I've collected all of her recorded works because listening to her evokes in me an altered meditative state of bliss. But hearing her on this three-CD recording of her live reading of a memoir with contemplations on writing (Listening, Learning to See, and Finding a Voice) to an audience--well, it's beyond h
Jul 05, 2015 Malvina rated it it was amazing
I've enjoyed some of Eudora Welty's short stories; I've visited her house in Jackson, Mississippi (and eaten cheese straws on the porch) - and been lucky enough to meet her charming, gracious niece. It's very apparent that Miss Welty is a beloved Southern writer; her stories much enjoyed. Her house is now a terrific museum, well worth the visit.

I listened to Miss Welty herself reading this book as a series of three lectures, delivered at Harvard University in 1983. It was rich and and delightfu
Nov 14, 2016 Kaylie rated it really liked it
This book is an autobiography about Eudora Welty. It was intended as three lectures for Harvard University so it is very formal and educated. Welty provided several stories about her childhood and how she found her own voice and explained how they affected how she writes today. I think this was a very well written book because it was easy to understand and it was very descriptive. Not only did this teach me about how Eudora Welty got into writing, but it also taught me how I can follow her and i ...more
While there were some snippets of writing genius in One Writer's Beginnings - especially surrounding the idea of confluence - I felt that the majority of this book was dulled by details regarding Welty's winding family tree. Perhaps one would glean great insight in a discussion about this book but I would hesitate to recommend it based solely on its own merit. Ardent fans of Welty searching for more information about her life would love it though.
Nov 09, 2014 Princess rated it liked it
I haven't read any of Eudora Welty's works before, so I would say that this book wouldn't really be interesting enough to people who read books for fun or just pick something up to pass the time. I like her writing style and Welty seems like a person with a really nice personality, but that's all I can get from this. maybe if I was more accustomed to her writing, then I might have rated this higher.
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Eudora Alice Welty was an award-winning American author who wrote short stories and novels about the American South. Her book The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous awards. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America.

Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and lived a sig
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“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they come from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them -- with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself. Still illiterate, I was ready for them, committed to all the reading I could give them ...” 287 likes
“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.” 97 likes
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