First Words: Earliest Writing from Favorite Contemporary Authors

Overview

Editor Paul Mandelbaum persuaded twenty-two authors to share their childhood writings and their treasured photographs. What he's collected is a fascinating revelation of young creative minds at work, wrestling with early versions of ideas that were to take hold of their writings in later years.

Of course, the young Michael Crichton would describe what goes on in a dissection lab. Of course, Madeleine L'Engle would wonder about space and the meaning of eternity. Margaret Atwood ...

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First Words: Earliest Writing from Favorite Contemporary Authors

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Overview

Editor Paul Mandelbaum persuaded twenty-two authors to share their childhood writings and their treasured photographs. What he's collected is a fascinating revelation of young creative minds at work, wrestling with early versions of ideas that were to take hold of their writings in later years.

Of course, the young Michael Crichton would describe what goes on in a dissection lab. Of course, Madeleine L'Engle would wonder about space and the meaning of eternity. Margaret Atwood would questions conventional female behavior, arguing for the right to smoke cigars. And Stephen King would write a macabre story of slicing and piercing at age nine.

First Words is an inspiration to budding writers, encouraging teachers, and just plain readers.

FIRST WORDS features the early works of: Margaret Atwood, Roy Blunt, Jr., Paul Bowles, Pat Conroy, Michael Crichton, Rita Dove, Clyde Edgerton, Gail Godwin, Allan Gurganus, Charles Johnson, Stephen King, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L'Engle, Jill McCorkle, Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, William Styron, Amy Tan, John Updike, Gore Vidal, Tobias Wolf

Asked if they had saved anything they had written as children, 42 writers responded--making a surprising collection from contributors who are still writing. Whimsically designed and accompanied by "then and now" photos, the book includes works by Asimov, Vidal, Updike, Oates, Auchincloss, and many other famour writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This anthology of juvenilia from 42 of America's most promising writers is valuable chiefly for the light it sheds on the wellsprings of inspiration from which many adult literary works have emerged. Mandelbaum provides a provocative introductory essay on the value of juvenilia, with notes throughout on the connections between an author's childhood writing and his or her later works. Although the reader may not always make the same connections, and although some of the excerpts, such as Vance Bourjaily's Not To Confound My Elders and John Updike's Untitled Mystery seem overly long, the commentary is knowledgeable and the selections highly original. Also, the book features photos of these current American writers, which include best-selling authors (Louis Auchincloss, Stephen King, Michael Crichton), black authors (Charles Johnson, Gloria Naylor), as well as such prominent figures as Isaac Asimov, Joyce Carol Oates, and William Styron. For general readers.-- Marie L. Lally, Alabama Sch . of Mathematics & Science, Mobile
Library Journal
Both of these anthologies introduce the early writings of a number of successful writers. Breaking into Print offers short stories--many the first the authors ever published--of 17 authors well known in literary circles (such as Tim O'Brien, Mona Simpson, and Carolyn Ferrell). The stories were originally published in the prestigious Ploughshares literary magazine. Alongside these wonderful stories, editor Henry (cofounder of Ploughshares) has included what he calls "Shoptalk," small excerpts from various sources on writing issues germane to the story at hand. Perhaps even more intriguing are the occasional introductions and comments from the authors themselves on the circumstances surrounding the creation of a particular story, as well as entertaining anecdotes from Henry on how a particular story was "discovered" at Ploughshares. First Words includes authors who are more recognizable to the general public: Rita Dove, Stephen King, John Updike, and 19 others. But the most striking difference between the anthologies is the age of the authors at the time: Here we have Norman Mailer at ten, Ursula Le Guin at four, Michael Crichton at 14. This material, along with photocopies of original handwritten pages and early manuscript revisions, is quite revealing from the standpoint of literary research. Be forewarned, however: many of the selections are high school newspaper articles or childhood fantasy stories and are not the type of reading with which most people would want to curl up. Both books are recommended for all types of libraries.--Angela Weiler, SUNY at Morrisville Lib. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565122727
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Mandelbaum grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. A freelance journalist and writer, he has taught magazine journalism at the University of Iowa and Drake University, was an editor at Baltimore magazine and Managing Editor for Story magazine. He has published fiction in numerous journals, including Prairie Schooner, DoubleTake, Black Warrior Review, and Poets and Writers. He lives in Culver City, California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction (ix)

Margaret Atwood (3)

Roy Blunt, Jr. (17)

Paul Bowles (27)

Pat Conroy (43)

Michael Crichton (47)

Rita Dove (67)

Clyde Edgerton (75)

Gail Godwin (83)

Allan Gurganus (99)

Charles Johnson (109)

Stephen King (117)

Maxine Hong Kingston (123)

Ursula K. Le Guin (133)

Madeleine L'Engle (137)

Jill McCorkle (145)

Norman Mailer (153)

Joyce Carol Oates (159)

William Styron (175)

Amy Tan (183)

John Updike (187)

Gore Vidal (215)

Tobias Wolf (227)

Appendix (231)

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