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September 12, 2003

Proulx was a late bloomer

Annie Proulx
Annie Proulx
Annie Proulx had been working as a freelance writer to pay the bills, raising children, living deep in the woods and involving herself in the back-to-the-land movement when she burst onto the literary scene in the 1990s.

She became the first woman to win the prestigious PEN/Faulkner book award after the publication of her first novel, Postcards, in 1992. She followed that in 1993 with The Shipping News, which won a National Book Award (1993) and the Pulitzer Prize (1994). The novel was made into a film, featuring actor Kevin Spacey.

The campus community is invited to spend "An Evening with Annie Proulx," beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, in the Memorial Union Great Hall.

Proulx didn't begin writing fiction until she was in her fifties. She grew up in Connecticut in the late '30s and '40s.

"There is a strong tradition of oral storytelling in my mother's family and, as a child, I heard thousands of tales and adventures made out of nothing more substantial than the sight of a man digging clams, an ant moving a straw, an empty shoe," she said in an online interview.

In the late 1980s, she made a trip to Newfoundland. "Rarely have I been so strongly moved by geography as I was during that first journey up the Great Northern Peninsula," she said. "The harsh climate, the grim history, the hard lives and the generous, warm characters of the outport fisherman and their families interested me deeply. Yet I could also see contemporary civilization rushing in on the island after its centuries of isolation, and the idea for The Shipping News began to form."

Proulx also has published two collections of short stories and essays (Heart Songs and Close Range, Wyoming Stories) and the novels Accordion Crimes and That Old Ace in the Hole. She is a contributor to many anthologies and periodicals, including Best American Short Stories 1997, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

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