November 5, 2019

Could You Do What Caroline Gordon Did?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine  

There was a movement in the 1920’s and 1930’s in Southern literature.  Some say it emerged with the appearance of writers such as William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Tennessee Williams, and Caroline Gordon to name a few.

William Faulkner, a Nobel Prize–winning novelist of the American South wrote such well known novels as The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.

Thomas Wolfe, an American novelist during this period is best know for his novel, Look Homeward, Angel.

Tennessee Williams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. He is best known for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on A Hot Tin Roof.

While obviously I am most interested in the works of these three men, I am intrigued with Caroline Gordon. She was a notable American novelist and literary critic who, while still in her thirties, was the recipient of two prestigious literary awards, a 1932 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 1934 O. Henry AwardGordon was born on her grandmother’s farm in Kentucky and educated by her father who taught the classics at an all-boys academy in southern Tennessee. The only female there.

After growing up, her friend William Penn Warren, introduced her to poet Allen Tate, and they married in 1924. Their circle of friends consisted of other writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein to mention a few. Can you imagine having these authors as friends?

While in Paris, in 1929, she worked as a secretary to her good friend and mentor Ford Madox FordFord was an English novelist, poet, critic and editor whose journals The English Review and The Transatlantic Review were instrumental in the development of early 20th-century English literature.Ford urged Caroline to complete her first novel, Penhally which was released in 1931. Ford even typed parts of her manuscript. Can you imagine having Ford Madux Ford type some of your manuscript? The interesting thing about this was he required her to dictate to him 5,000 words per day while he typed.

My question to myself and to other writers’ is could we write 5,000 words a day? Not every other day or once a week, but every day? To be truthful, not sure I could every day. However, it did present me with a question. Am I giving my writing my all or just parts of me?

Maybe this is a question each writer should ask themselves periodically. It might keep us focused or help us to refocus our writing goals.

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