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Gilchrist, Ellen.

ARCHIVE: Editorial Correspondence with Little Brown, with typescripts and printed material.


Ellen Gilchrist to Her Editors
Gilchrist, Ellen. Letters to editors at Little, Brown and related material, 1982-1986.
A series of 6 letters (4 TLS and 2 ALS), typescript material, and printed material from writer Ellen Gilchrist to her editors at Little, Brown; 1982-1986, regarding her first novel, The Annunciation (1983). There are five letters to Roger Donald, and two typed letters to "Maureen" and "Ellen" who were likely secretaries or editorial assistants. Together with a memo to editor Ray Roberts, regarding Gilchrist; and a printed invitation from Lemuria Books to Roberts, inviting him to attend a book signing for Gilchrist's first novel, The Annunciation.
Provenance: from the collection of editor Ray Roberts.
Typescript material:
"Part II Exile" (from The Annunciation); corrected typescript; 16 pp., including cover page. Gilchrist's corrections are mostly word and sentence cross-outs; with an editorial emendation on the cover page, reading "Gilchrist/superseded." Together with an autograph letter from Gilchrist to Donald, explaining that this chapter should be exchanged for the one he already has.  
Two Stories; first proofs; 8 pp., typescript; some minor pencil emendations on pages 3, 4 and 7, likely done by an editor. The stories included in this collection are "Some Blue Hills at Sundown" and "The Man Who Kicked Cancer's Ass" and they were published in New York at the Albondocani Press (1988).  
Printed material:
Two dust-jackets for The Annunciation;
Dust-jacket for In the Land of Dreamy Dreams;
"Late Additions to the Spring 1985 catalogue"; printed announcement from Viking, folded to make four pages. Features Gilchrist's book, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, on the first page;
Victory Over Japan (1984), advance fact sheet; one leaf of Little, Brown letterhead; recto and verso;
Drunk on Love (1986); title fact sheet; one leaf of Little, Brown letterhead; recto and verso;  
Drunk on Love (1986); advance fact sheet; one leaf of Little, Brown letterhead; recto only;  
In the Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981); photocopy of title fact sheet; three leaves; rectos only;
Gilchrist writes to Donald in late 1982 - early 1983 regarding the publication of her first novel, The Annunication.  In her first letter, she discusses the title of the book with him; it was clear she was unhappy with the choice of The Annunciation, though the title remained nonetheless. The letter is written in red marker and she starts,
See this red pen. It is the color of my hearts' blood at dawn - sigh - Meanwhile, I believe that the novel should be called Cargo Exile and Dream and have the painting I sent you a photograph of as a cover. (or, more simply, Cargo) The Annunciation is an inept title for the book as it is now. It may work - we may not get by with it. I just want to go on record as telling you this. Many long thoughts about all this. I lead the reader to expect something that isn't going to be there - some sort of one on one ironies parallel to the Mary/Jesus story - Ah, well, this is just to show you all my cards. (September, 1982)
Two months later, Gilchrist was now accepting of the title of The Annunciation; this time she writes Donald a disclaimer about the characters that appear in the book:
they are products of my imagination. They are not real people or based on real people. There are characters in the novel who hold positions in life similar to real positions but the characters are not based on real people who hold those jobs. I have created these characters, not borrowed them from real life. (November 21, 1982)
Gilchrist continues,
I was appalled when people in New Orleans thought characters in some of my stories were based on real people. I thought I had gone to great lengths to make sure that wouldn't happen. I have been even more careful while writing this book because I certainly don't want to create a situation where anyone things I have invaded their privacy. I was never sued over the characters in In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, because I had indeed done a good job in seeing to it that no identification with real people was possible. (ibid.)
In her final letter to Donald, Gilchrist sends along a photograph or small poster (not included here) and instructs, "try resisting this as the cover of a book of short stories called victory over japan or the gauzy edge of paradise or jade buddhas, red bridges, fruits of love. and please send it back - my son likes to steal it from me and put it up over his desk. Show it to Ellen and Lydia and tell them Hello for me" (February, 1983). She also shares with Donald her inspiration for writing for the day:
I woke up this morning dreaming of writing without ego. I have a clear vision of it being possible to write without being driven by ego. By the time I was brushing my teeth I understood that Hemingway wrote in spite of his great and driving eago (sic) - not because of it - it disappeared when he was praising an old fisherman - he forgot himself in the praise. (ibid.)
Gilchrist, an American short story writer, poet and novelist, was born in Mississippi in 1935. She attended Millsaps College in Jackson, MI., where she studied under Eudora Welty. She has been married and divorced four times, although two of those unions were to the same man. She has three children. In the mid-1970s, Gilchrist worked as a reporter for the New Orleans newspaper, the Vieux Carre.
Her first book was a volume of poetry titled, The Land Surveyor's Daughter (1979), which was followed by a volume of short stories, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981). Dreams was published by the then newly-formed University of Arkansas Press, selling 10,000 copies in ten months. The high sales were a surprise considering the University of Arkansas did little to promote the book. The success of the book earned Gilchrist a publishing contract with Little, Brown, who published her novels The Annunciation (1983), The Anna Papers (1988), Net of Jewels (1992), Starcarbon: A Meditation of Love (1994), Sarah Conley (1997) and a collection of her journals, Falling Through Space (1987).  In addition to these, Gilchrist has published several short story collections, including the National Book Award winning Victory Over Japan (1984), Drunk With Love (1986), Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle (1989), The Courts of Love (1996) and Flights of Angels (1998).
Gilchrist also worked as a commenter on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, from 1984-1985. In 2001, she joined the creative writing faculty at the University of Arkansas, where she still teaches today.

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