Category Archives: Writers

Doris Betts, a Greyhound Bus, and an Academy Award

Did you know that one of Doris Betts’ short stories was adapted into an Academy Award-winning short film?
In 1969, the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts was published in the Red Clay Reader, an annual magazine focusing on the work of southern authors and artists.  Betts, a UNC English professor, was also an award-winning author short stories, novels, plays, and poetry.  “The Ugliest Pilgrim” told the story of a disfigured young woman named Violet who travels by bus from her home in Spruce Pine, North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the hopes of being healed by a televangelist.

Ugliest Pilgrim

“The Ugliest Pilgrim,” published in the Red Clay Reader, 1969. From folder 176 in the Doris Betts Papers, #4695.

 

In 1981, “The Ugliest Pilgrim” was adapted into a short film titled Violet, which in 1982 garnered the Academy Award for Best Short Film.  The film starred Didi Conn in the title role, otherwise known for her portrayal of “Frenchy” in the film Grease. UNC celebrated the success of the adaptation with a screening at the Carolina Fall Festival that year.

Carolina Fall Festival Program, 1982, featuring a screening of “Violet.” From folder 177 in the Doris Betts Papers #4695

“The Ugliest Pilgrim” was later adapted into a musical (also titled Violet), by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, which has been performed across the country, including a production by Playmakers Repertory Company.  A one-act adaptation starring Sutton Foster will debut on Broadway this month.

Productions of "Violet" by Playwrights Horizons (New York, NY) and Playmakers Repertory Company (UNC-Chapel Hill). From folder 179 in the Doris Betts Papers, #4695.

Productions of “Violet” by Playwrights Horizons (New York, NY) and Playmakers Repertory Company (UNC-Chapel Hill). From folder 179 in the Doris Betts Papers, #4695.

 

From the Doris Betts Papers #4695, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

“It’s a honey of a play…”: Playmakers Exhibit in Progress

Opening tomorrow, The North Carolina Collection Gallery will present “Making a People’s Theater: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers” from February 21st to May 31st. This exhibit demonstrates Frederick Koch’s involvement with the Carolina Playmakers, as well as the Playmakers’ contributions to student and regional theater in North Carolina throughout the 20th century.
The photo below features a few items contributed by the Southern Historical Collection to a section on the student-authored musical, “Spring For Sure.”
SFS_Case

Clockwise from top right:

Poster, Spring for Sure, 1952. - Lynn Gault Papers (#4987), Southern Historical Collection.

Letter, Loren MacKinney to Lillian Hughes Prince, circa 1952. – William Meade Prince and Lillian Hughes Prince Papers (#3660), Southern Historical Collection.  

Photograph, Production of Spring For Sure, 1950, Chapel Hill, N.C. – Photographic Laboratory Collection (#P0031), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives. 

Playbill, Spring for Sure, 1952. – William Meade Prince and Lillian Hughes Prince Papers (#3660), Southern Historical Collection.  

Photographs, Playmakers touring Spring for Sure, 1952. – Department of Dramatic Art Photographs and Related Materials (#P0035), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives. 

“May a Good Christmas Be Yours!”: Seasonal Greetings from Paul and Elizabeth Green

Paul Green, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Carolina alum, was known for writing “The Lost Colony” and many other outdoor dramas. However, during the holidays he and his wife Elizabeth put their creative genius to a specifically festive use.  Each year, the Greens crafted a Christmas card featuring lyrics, and sometimes sheet music, to seasonally-themed songs.  Some of the tunes were borrowed, but the words were the Greens’ own writing, sometimes featuring songs from Paul’s published plays. Check out a few of these cards below:

MayAGoodXmas

Lost Colony

1945poem

1955poem

1969music

1979music

MaryPoemStar

From the Paul Green Papers, #3693, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Creator of the Month…John Harden

John William Harden (1903-1985) of Greensboro, N.C., was a journalist, newspaper editor, author, advisor to North Carolina governors and textile executives, and founder of the state’s first full-service public relations company. The collection contains materials, 1914-1986, including business records, correspondence, writings, speeches and speech materials, administrative records, newspaper clippings, diaries, scrapbooks, photograph albums, family papers, sound recordings, and videocassettes relating to John Harden.

Correspondence and other papers includes items relating to each of John Harden’s published books. Harden published The Devil’s Tramping Ground and Other North Carolina Mystery Stories in 1949 and Tar Heel Ghosts in 1954. These books present stories gathered by Harden that deal with North Carolina locales, myths, and stories. Devil’s Tramping Ground grew out of a weekly radio program, entitled Tales of Tarheelia, presented over eighteen months on station WPTF in Raleigh in 1946-1947. Both books were illustrated by Lindsey McAlister, an acquaintance of Harden’s daughter Glenn Abbott, and were published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Here are some interesting items and images that can be found within the writings series that highlight Harden’s interest in the strange and unknown. Since Halloween is fast approaching, we hope that you will find items in this collection fascinating and ghoulish.

Creator of the Month: Walker Percy

Walker Percy as a student at UNC (from 1937 Yackety Yack - UNCs student yearbook)

Walker Percy as a student at UNC (from 1937 "Yackety Yack" - UNC's student yearbook)

In conjunction with the current exhibit “Four from between the Wars,” the creator of the month for September is Walker Percy. A UNC alum and celebrated Southern author, Percy’s works include The Moviegoer, which won the 1962 National Book Award for fiction, The Last Gentleman (1966), Love in the Ruins (1971), Lancelot (1977), The Second Coming (1980), and The Thanatos Syndrome (1987). He published two works of non-fiction, The Message in the Bottle (1975) and Lost in the Cosmos (1983).

Walker Percy’s papers are held by the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library. The collection consists of material produced by Walker Percy while working on his six published novels, two published book-length works of non-fiction, various essays and reviews, and three unpublished long works–two fiction (one of which is not extant) and one non-fiction. A description of the materials can be found in the finding aid, here on the SHC website. The finding aid has been recently revised to make the materials more accessible. Additional materials relating to Walker Percy, including his working library, can be found in the Rare Book Collection

“Author to Author” Exhibit Features SHC Literary Correspondence

Examples of correspondence among some of the South’s best-known authors will be on display in the Southern Historical Collection on the fourth floor of UNC’s Wilson Library from Aug. 18 through Sept. 30.

The free, public exhibit, Author to Author: Literary Letters from the Southern Historical Collection, illuminates ties within the community of Southern writers during much of the twentieth century.

William Faulkner with arm around Milton Ab Abernethy, publisher of Contempo, in Chapel Hill, 1931. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

William Faulkner with arm around Milton "Ab" Abernethy, publisher of Contempo, in Chapel Hill, 1931. North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

On view will be original letters by authors including Clyde Edgerton, Gail Godwin, Langston Hughes and Erskine Caldwell. Photographs from the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) will also be included.

The letters show how the authors built and maintained community by writing to one another, even as many of them moved far from the South.  The correspondence also reveals the support and motivation—and sometimes friendly competition—that the writers provided to one another.

The exhibit also highlights the complex relationships and strong personalities of the figures involved. A 1932 “cease and desist” letter from William Faulkner instructs the Chapel Hill literary magazine Contempo not to list Faulkner as an associate publisher; a photograph from the same period shows Faulkner hugging Contempo‘s publisher, Milton “Ab” Abernethy.

Author to Author adds depth to the larger Wilson Library exhibit Four from between the Wars: Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Ruark, and Walker Percy, on view in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room on the third floor of Wilson Library through Sept. 30.

Both exhibits complement the North Carolina Literary Festival, hosted by the Library on the UNC campus Sept. 10-13.

Details:

Author to Author:
Literary Letters from the Southern Historical Collection

Fourth floor of Wilson Library
Aug. 18-Sept. 30, 2009
Free and open to the public
Exhibit information: Biff Hollingsworth, (919) 962-1345
In conjunction with the North Carolina Literary Festival, Sept. 10-13, 2009

Wilson Library Exhibit Honors Four Alumni Writers

The lives and legacies of four writers who attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the two world wars, will be the subject of an exhibit July 16 through Sept. 30 at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library.

The free, public exhibit, Four from between the Wars: Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Ruark, and Walker Percy, will be on view in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Room on the third floor of Wilson Library.

Four from between the Wars exhibit flier

"Four from between the Wars" exhibit flier

Approximately 75 historic photographs, rare printed items, and original documents illustrate the development of these students into some of the South’s best-known writers of the 20th century. The exhibit will also explore their literary circles and work of their protégés.

Among the items to be displayed is a copy of Wolfe’s autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel that he inscribed for his mother in 1929, and first editions of Wolfe’s novels. More fanciful items include a Thomas Wolfe T-shirt and a commemorative postage stamp.

First editions of the works of Ruark, a journalist and novelist, are on exhibit, along with cartoons he drew for campus publications as a student.

Green, a dramatist, teacher, and humanitarian, is represented with letters from fellow writers and collaborators including Richard Wright, Betty Smith, and Orson Welles. The exhibit also includes images and artifacts relating to the production of Green’s outdoor drama The Lost Colony (1937), which is still performed each summer on Roanoke Island, near North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“It was during the interwar period that UNC became a modern research university,” said Eileen McGrath, assistant curator of the North Carolina Collection and one of the exhibit organizers.

“These authors came to the University as young men, novice writers,” McGrath said. “Their experiences here enabled them to develop their understanding of themselves and the world.”

Four of Wilson’s special collections— the North Carolina Collection, the Rare Book Collection, the Southern Historical Collection and University Archives— are jointly sponsoring this exhibit as a contribution to the 2009 North Carolina Literary Festival. The biennial festival will take place on the University campus Sept. 10-13.

“The festival focuses on contemporary writers,” said Biff Hollingsworth, collecting and public programming archivist for the Southern Historical Collection. “We wanted to offer a space for people to come and reflect on the historical aspect of Southern writing.”

Details:

Four from between the Wars:
Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Ruark, and Walker Percy

Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room, Wilson Library
July 16-Sept. 30, 2009
Free and open to the public
Exhibit information: rbcref@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-1143
In conjunction with the North Carolina Literary Festival, Sept. 10-13, 2009

Creator of the Month… Guion Griffis Johnson

[Each month we feature a "creator" or one of the SHC's manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection's production, accumulation, or formation.]

Guion Griffis Johnson of Chapel Hill, N.C., was a professor, author, scholar, journalist, women’s advocate, and general civic leader. Johnson held a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina. She published three books: A Social History of the Sea Islands (1930), Antebellum North Carolina (1937), and Volunteers in Community Service (1967). Her husband was Guy Johnson, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the 1920s and 1930s, Johnson and her husband worked together at the Institute for Research in Social Science at University of North Carolina. Continue reading