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Above: Katherine Anne Porter, one of Texas's literary lights and one of the few writers whose homes (right) tourists may visit. (Photos courtesy of Texas State University)
Below: Several of Porter's books were made into popular movies.
TEXAS TOP 10 BOOKISH DESTINATIONS 2015
Kyle and San Marcos are both in Hays County about ten miles apart. Both are twenty minutes from the Travis County line and Austin. They share a rich literary tradition that starts with Katherine Anne Porter but continues to wealth of archives of contemporary authors.
Katherine Anne Porter was born on May 15, 1890 in Indian Creek, Texas. When she was two years old, her mother, Mary Alice Jones Porter, died. Her father, Harrison Boone Porter, moved the family to Kyle to live with his mother, Catherine Ann Skaggs Porter. Porter lived in Kyle until 1901, when her grandmother passed away.
In 1906, at the age of sixteen, she married John Henry Koontz. The marriage ended soon after. She left Texas in 1915, moving to Chicago to start a career as a journalist and writer. Her first short story, "María Concepcíon," was published in 1922. Her first short-story collection, Flowering Judas and Other Stories, came out in 1930.
Her 1962 novel Ship of Fools made all of the bestseller lists for months and was successful in languages throughout the world. Reprint rights were sold for a record sum of $250,000. Movie rights were sold for $400,000, and Ship of Fools made her a millionaire.
Porter won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter in 1965. In all, she published five major collections of short stories in her lifetime.
Porter returned to Texas to visit her former homes in her later years. Upon her death in 1980, her ashes were interred next to her mother's grave in the Indian Creek Cemetery.
The Katherine Anne Porter House was designated as a National Literary Landmark on June 13, 2002 by the Friends of Libraries USA and the Library of Congress. First Lady Laura Bush was on hand at the dedication.
Visiting writers’ events are scheduled throughout Spring 2015. Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center readings are sponsored by Texas State University’s Department of English, the Lindsey Literary Series, the Burdine Johnson Foundation, and the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center.
In San Marcos, you’ll find The Wittliff Collections (above; photo courtesy of Texas State University), Texas State's literary and photographic archives from which they mount major exhibitions and host events with the authors whose papers they collect. They hold archives of Sarah Bird, Elizabeth Crook, Stephen Harrigan, Elmer Kelton, Joe R. Lansdale, Katherine Anne Porter, and the major papers of Cormac McCarthy, Sam Shepard, Rick Riordan, among many others.
Visitors can make an appointment to come in and peruse handwritten journals, early manuscripts, correspondence, and so much more. They've had researchers from as far away as Australia here to work with the McCarthy Archive.
If the name Wittliff sounds familiar to you, there’s good reason.
William D. Wittliff (b. 1940) is an award winning screenwriter, author and photographer who wrote the screenplays for The Perfect Storm (2000), Barbarosa (1982), Raggedy Man (1981), and many others.
Wittliff wrote screenplays for the Lonesome Dove miniseries (1989) for which he won a Writers Guild of America Award in 1990 for Season 1, Episode 1: "Leaving." and a Bronze Wrangler award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. In 1995, he won another Bronze Wrangler for Legends of the Fall (1994). Witliff also received Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award in 1996.
In 1986, Wittliff founded the Southwest Writers Collection at Texas State University, which featured work by authors and songwriters from Texas and the American Southwest. In 1996, he founded the Wittliff Collection of Southwestern and Mexican Photography at the university. The university's holdings, now renamed the Wittliff Collections, have grown to become one of the most extensive archives of Southwestern materials in the United States, a centerpiece being the papers of writer Cormac McCarthy. The archive also features an exhibition containing items from Lonesome Dove.
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