If asked the question “who is your favorite writer?” I think my answer would be 20th century female American author Willa Cather. Her most famous novel “My Antonia” isn’t even my favorite. I actually prefer her short stories. However I just like her prose style. It’s visual without limiting the reader. Something I’m realizing about myself both as a reader and as a writer is that I’m very visual. When I read a story or even a non-fiction account I play it in my head like a movie. So I really appreciate writers who write with a visual sense. Cather definitely strikes me as that way.
I remember first really falling in love with her writing when I was in college. I had already read her most famous novel “My Antonia” and remember liking it but it hadn’t been filed away as a “favorite book.” My Mom directed me towards one of Cather’s short stories when I had to find something to adapt into a screenplay for a college project. She either gave me Cather’s collection of short stories called “The Troll Garden” or just gave me the one story I ended up using “The Sculptor’s Funeral” (I can’t remember). This was for my one and only screenwriting class I took in college (I think the one and only screenwriting class my college offered). I interestingly fell in love with screenwriting at the same time I fell in love with Cather’s writing. (I still feel like I may end up writing a real [as in not a class assignment] screenplay someday.) I adapted “The Sculptor’s Funeral” and there was something so easy about it. As I mentioned before, Cather writes so visually.
As someone from the Midwest, I really appreciate how she writes about the plains of the Midwest. She was born in Virginia but her family moved to Nebraska when she was 9. It was the plains of Nebraska that most influenced the young Cather and permeated all of her writings for the remainder of her life. Once she graduated college from the University of Nebraska, she left Nebraska to work as a magazine writer in Philadelphia. She then eventually moved to New York City and began publishing her writing. In 1923 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “One of Ours.” In later years her writing fell out of favor of some critics. She didn’t take this well and added a provision to her will that forbade the publication of her letters.
As I was looking up information about her for this post, I decided I want to go back and read everything she’s written. I thought I read everything but I think there’s plenty I haven’t. I took a class on Cather in graduate school and I’m surprised that I didn’t cover everything in that class. I suppose that’s a silly statement when you consider classes are made up of not just writing by a single author (even if the class is about a single author).
I hope that this post inspires more people to check out Willa Cather. And maybe someday I’ll actually make something of that “Sculptor’s Funeral” screenplay.
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