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
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