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E. Annie Proulx

August 22, 1935, witnessed the birth of an extraordinary--and an  extraordinarily nosy--woman.  Edna Annie Proulx of Norwich, Connecticut, supported herself for years by writing nonfiction books about how to make things such as apple cider, custard, cheese, mead, pop, a house, and a salad garden.  Her freelance writing jobs taught her how to research almost anything, and she used that ability to launch a successful career writing fiction based on extensive research.  She said, "I just sort of have an inborn nosiness about everything. When you're a child, the world seems composed of vast secrets.  I always had a fondness for digging."

To write her book, Postcards (1951), she traveled back and forth across America, spending time in all the places that her homeless main character worked and lived. After finishing that novel, she came across a map of Newfoundland and thought the area looked interesting. 

"Each place-name had a story," she said."  Dead Man's Cove, Seldom Come Bay and Bay of Despair, Exploits River, Plunder Beach.  I knew I had to go there, and within 10 minutes of arriving, I'd fallen in love."  She explored the island, studied maps, and went to bed every night with a Newfoundland vernacular dictionary.  The result was her novel, The Shipping News (1993), which became a best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

For her book, Accordion Crimes (1996), Proulx studied a stack of court cases involving accordions and consulted with nearly two dozen accordion scholars, manufacturers, and musicians.  One told her that it is possible to hide money in an accordion, and she made that fact a centerpiece of her novel. 

Today, E. Annie Proulx lives and works in Wyoming, where she writes about ranchers. Her most recent book is Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories (Scribner 2004).

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