Welty, Eudora

eudora welty

Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was a thoughtful writer whose work spanned several genres. Much of her writing focused on realistic human relationships — conflict, community,  interaction, and influence.Welty published her first short story, “The Death of a Traveling Salesman” in 1936; after that she found it easier to sell her stories to various publications. Her story also caught the attention of Katherine Anne Porter, who became a mentor to Welty. Her first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, was published in 1941. A sense of place is an important theme running though her work, as is true for others termed “Southern writers.”

In addition to writing she had books of her photography published, which highlighted people of different economic and social classes during the Great Depression. Welty won many awards for her writing, among them are: a Pulitzer Prize, an American Book Award, and six-time winner of the O. Henry Award for Short Stories.

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Eudora Welty Quotes

Eudora Welty“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.” (On Writing, 2002)

“Any room in our house at any time in the day was there to read in or to be read to.”

“The mystery in how little we know of other people is no greater than the mystery of how much, Laurel thought.” (The Optimist’s Daughter, 1972)

“It’s all right, I want to say to the students who write to me, for things to be what they appear to be, and for words to mean what they say. It’s all right, too, for words and appearances to mean more than one thing–ambiguity is a fact of life.” (On Writing, 2002)

“My main disappointment was always that a book had to end. And then what? But I don’t think I was ever disappointed by the books. I must have been what any author would consider an ideal reader. I felt every pain and pleasure suffered or enjoyed by all the characters. Oh, but I identified!”

“Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page.”

“Never think you’ve seen the last of anything.”

“My continuing passion is to part a curtain, that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.”

“Art is never the voice of a country, it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, a novel.” (On Writing, 2002)

“I read library books as fast as I could go, rushing them home in the basket of my bicycle. From the minute I reached our house, I started to read. Every book I seized on, from “Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue at Camp Rest-a-While” to “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” stood for the devouring wish to read being instantly granted. I knew this was bliss, knew it at the time. Taste isn’t nearly so important; it comes in its own time.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“Human life is fiction’s only theme.” (On Writing, 2002)

“Southerners love a good tale. They are born reciters, great memory retainers, diary keepers, letter exchangers . . . great talkers.”

“The novelist works neither to correct nor to condone, not at all to comfort, but to make what’s told alive.” (On Writing, 2002)

“One place understood helps us understand all places better.”

“All serious daring starts from within.” (On Writing, 2002)

“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 of themselves like grass.”

“But how much better, in any case, to wonder than not to wonder, to dance with astonishment and go spinning in praise, than not to know enough to dance or praise at all; to be blessed with more imagination than you might know at the given moment what to do with than to be cursed with too little to give you — and other people — any trouble.”

“To imagine yourself inside another person… is what a storywriter does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last too, I suppose.”

“Writing a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer’s own life.”

“Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists.”

“Great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually, it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience.” (On Writing, 2002)

“Making reality real is art’s responsibility. It is a practical assignment, then, a self-assignment: to achieve, by a cultivated sensitivity for observing life, a capacity for receiving impressions, a lonely, unremitting, unaided, unaidable vision, and transferring this vision without distortion to it onto the pages of a novel, where, if the reader is so persuaded, it will turn into the reader’s illusion.” (On Writing, 2002)

“Henry James said there isn’t any difference between “the English novel” and “the American novel” since there are only two kinds of novels at all, the good and the bad.” (On Writing, 2002)

“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.”

“Write about what you don’t know about what you know.”Eudora Welty by Helena Arden

“Life is lived in a private place; Where it means anything is inside the mind and heart.”

“We are the breakers of our own hearts.”

“Since we must and do write each in our own way, we may during actual writing get more lasting instruction not from another’s work, whatever its blessings, however better it is than ours, but from our own poor scratched-over pages. For these we can hold up to life. That is, we are born with a mind and heart to hold each page up to and ask: Is it valid?” (On Writing, 2002)

“[Being a writer] comes from inside, and is in the lap of the gods.” (In a lecture to young writers, April 23, 1985)

“If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” (“Petrified Man”, 1941)

“For the source of the short story is usually lyrical. And all writers speak from, and speak to, emotions eternally the same in all of us: love, pity, terror do not show favorites or leave any of us out.” (On Writing, 2002)

“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.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“Beauty is not a means, not a way of furthering a thing in the world. It is a result; it belongs to ordering, to form, to aftereffect.”

“The story and its analyses are not mirror-opposites of each other. They are not reflections, either one. Criticism indeed is an art, as a story is, but only the story is to some degree a vision; there is no explanation outside fiction for what the writer is learning to do.”

“People give pain, are callous and insensitive, empty and cruel…but place heals the hurt, soothes the outrage, fills the terrible vacuum that these human beings make.”

“The first act of insight is throw away the labels. In fiction, while we do not necessarily write about ourselves, we write out of ourselves, using ourselves; what we learn from, what we are sensitive to, what we feel strongly about–these become our characters and go to make our plots. Characters in fiction are conceived from within, and they have, accordingly, their own interior life; they are individuals every time.” (On Writing, 2002)

“All experience is an enrichment rather than an impoverishment.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“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.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.” (On Writing, 2002)

“The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy.”

“It doesn t matter if it takes a long time getting there; the point is to have a destination.”

“Writers and travelers are mesmerized alike by the knowing of their destination.”

“There is absolutely everything in great fiction but a clear answer.”

“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“People are mostly layers of violence and tenderness wrapped like bulbs, and it is difficult to say what makes them onions or hyacinths.”

“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. Our living experience at those meeting points is one of the charged dramatic fields of fiction.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“I wanted to read immediately. The only fear was that of books coming to an end.”

“If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written.”

“Children, like animals use all their senses to discover the world. Then artists come along and discover it the same way…Or now and then we’ll hear from an artisit who’s never lost it.”

“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.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

“Writing is an expression of the writer’s own peculiar personality, could not help being so. Yet in reading great works one feels that the finished piece transcends the personal. All writers great and small must sometimes have felt that they have become part of what they wrote even more than it still remains a part of them.” (On Writing, 2002)

“Both reading and writing are experiences–lifelong– in the course of which we who encounter words used in certain ways are persuaded by them to be brought mind and heart within the presence, the power, of the imagination.”

“Fiction shows us the past as well as the present moment in mortal light; it is an art served by the indelibility of our memory, and one empowered by a sharp and prophetic awareness of what is ephemeral. It is by the ephemeral that our feeling is so strongly aroused for what endures, or strives to endure.” (On Writing, 2002)

“We do need to bring to our writing, over and over again, all the abundance we possess. To be able, to be ready, to enter into the minds and hearts of our own people, all of them, to comprehend them (us) and then to make characters and plots in stories that in honesty and with honesty reveal them (ourselves) to us, in whatever situation we live through in our own times: this is the continuing job, and it’s no harder now than it ever was, I suppose. Every writer, like everybody else, thinks he’s living through the crisis of the ages. To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most.” (On Writing, 2002)

“The challenge to writers today, I think, is not to disown any part of our heritage. Whatever our theme in writing, it is old and tried. Whatever our place, it has been visited by the stranger, it will never be new again. It is only the vision that can be new; but that is enough.” (On Writing, 2002)

“It’s the form it takes when it comes out the other side, of course, that gives a story something unique–its life. The story, in the way it has arrived at what it is on the page, has been something learned, by dint of the story’s challenge and the work that rises to meet it–a process as uncharted for the writer as if it had never been attempted before.” (On Writing, 2002)

“I don’t know whether I could do either one, reading or writing, without the other.” (One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984)

Eudora Welty and author Katherine Anne Porter, a mentor

Eudora Welty and author Katherine Anne Porter, a mentor

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