Many fiction writers get their inspiration from their daily lives and surroundings, their work often becoming thinly veiled autobiographical sketches. Eudora Welty once said that her imagination was fueled by her experiences from her “living world.”
Within driving distance of Atlanta are many famous 20th-century writers’ homes along the newly created Southern Literary Trail, a collaboration of 18 towns in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi that recognizes significant writers’ residences and towns.
Some sights along the trail are not open to the public and are merely recognized with historical markers, but others are museums that welcome visitors to poke around the inner sanctums of their favorite writers.
- MILLEDGEVILLE , GEORGIA
Andalusia is the 554-acre farm owned by Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964), novelist, short-story writer and essayist. O’Connor lived in the 19th-century Plantation-style house with her mother from 1951 until her death at age 39 of lupus. The house contains many original furnishings and artifacts, including her typewriter and desk, as well as her crutches. The barn on the grounds served as inspiration for a scene in her short story “Good Country People.” A photography exhibit of the farm by Nancy Marshall is currently on display at the Georgia College & State University Museum (also in Milledgeville) through May 10. A newly published biography of O’Connor, “Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor” by Brad Gooch, includes a detailed description of Andalusia, where she famously raised peacocks.
For another glimpse into her life, visit O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah, a row house also included on the trail; inside are her baby carriage, cradle and bedroom furniture.
- COLUMBUS , GEORGIA
Born Lula Carson Smith, Carson McCullers (1917-1967), novelist, playwright and short-story writer, lived in this Craftsman-style house in the Wildwood Circle/Hillcrest Historic District during her childhood. Today it’s home to the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, affiliated with nearby Columbus State University. Best known for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” McCullers wrote five novels, two plays and 20 short stories. The center seeks to preserve McCullers’ legacy and offers fellowships to American writers and musicians. These fellowships allow students to reside in the home during their tenure, however, visitors can schedule a tour of the home. Representative period furnishings fill the house, which contains some original objects from McCullers’ life, including her typewriter. The tour includes rare video footage of McCullers, photographs and text panels detailing her life and work. You can find additional McCullers materials nearby in the archives at the university’s Simon Schwob Memorial Library.
- JACKSON , MISSISSIPPI
Eudora Welty House
Eudora Welty (1909-2001), novelist and short-story writer, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1973 for “The Optimist’s Daughter.” She lived in this Tudor revival home from 1925 until her death. Today it contains thousands of Welty’s books and remains intact as it was in 1986 when she bequeathed it to the state of Mississippi. April 13 is the centennial of Welty’s birth, which is being celebrated with statewide events including concerts, lectures and stage productions of her works. There’s also a local photography exhibit, which includes portraits of Welty and images representing her home or characters.
Plan a visit to coincide with the Southern Literary Festival at Jackson’s Millsaps College in mid-April. The college collaborated with the Eudora Welty Foundation, Eudora Welty Society, Mississippi Museum of Art and Mississippi Symphony Orchestra to commemorate Welty’s centennial. Included will be readings, panel discussions and writing workshops. See www.millsaps.edu/slf for details.
- OXFORD , MISSISSIPPI
William Faulkner (1897-1967), novelist, poet, screenwriter and short-story writer, called Rowan Oak home for 37 years. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1955 (for “A Fable”) and 1963 (for “The Reivers”). Built in 1844, Rowan Oak, a Greek Revival house, was renovated extensively by Faulkner, who lived there from 1930 until his death. It remains much as it did during his lifetime. Perhaps most notable in the house: Faulkner’s handwritten plot outline for “A Fable,” which appears in red pencil on the walls of his office.
A talented artist, Faulkner’s mother painted a portrait of her son, which hangs in the library. In 1972, Faulkner’s daughter, Jill, sold the house to the University of Mississippi, which will hold its annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference in July, featuring lectures, panel presentations and a picnic at Rowan Oak. The University’s John Davis Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia. Registration required. For details see www.outreach.olemiss.edu/events
- MONTGOMERY , ALABAMA
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald House
The home of F. Scott (1896-1940) and Zelda (1900-1948) Fitzgerald, novelists, in the Old Cloverdale section of Montgomery is the only remaining residence of the Fitzgeralds and the only museum dedicated to the famous couple. Scott met and married Zelda while he was stationed in Montgomery during World War I, and they lived in the house during fall 1931. Perhaps best known for “The Great Gatsby” (1925), Scott began his novel “Tender is the Night” (1934) at the Montgomery house; Zelda penned the novel “Save Me the Waltz” (1932) while living in the house. Zelda also painted extensively, and several of her works hang in the home. The museum contains two marble-topped tables owned by the Fitzgeralds and a sofa given to them by Zelda’s aunt.
IF YOU GO:
Southern Literary Trail. www.southernliterarytrail.org for a complete list of authors and events.
Andalusia. Self-guided tours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Free. 2628 U.S. 441 North, Milledgeville; 478-454-4029, www.andalusiafarm.org.
Georgia College & State University Museum. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Free. 221 N. Clarke St., Milledgeville; 478-445-4391, www.artmuseumtouring.com/GCSU.html.
O’Connor Childhood Home. 1-4 p.m. daily, except Thursdays. Adults $5, children free. 207 E. Charlton St., Savannah; 912-233-6014, www.flanneryoconnorhome.org.
Columbus State University Simon Schwob Memorial Library. Archive hours noon-5 p.m. daily. 4225 University Ave., Columbus; 706-562-1492, http://library.colstate.edu/index.asp.
Eudora Welty House. Reservations required. Check in at Education & Visitors Center before tour (1109 Pinehurst St., Jackson, Miss.). 9 and 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays. Adults $5, students $3, children younger than 6 free. Free admission on April 13. 1119 Pinehurst St., Columbus; 601-353-7762, www.eudorawelty.org.
Rowan Oak. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Grounds open until dusk. Adults $5, students 18 and younger free. Free admission on Wednesdays. Group tours available by request. Old Taylor Road, Oxford, Miss.; 662-234-3284, http://tinyurl.com/cyxbge
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald House. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 1-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Free. 919 Felder Ave., Montgomery; 334-264-4222, www.fitzgeraldmuseum.net