Writers Series: Ernest James Gaines

Factsheet

  • born 1933
  • Education: Writing and American Literature in San Francisco and at Stanford University
  • First publication: a short story in 1956

Gaines was born on a plantation in Lousiana 1933. He says about himself that he started his training to become a writer when he was about 12 years old. He had to write letters for the old workers on the plantation, who didn’t know how to read or write. Since they had not much to say by themselves he wrote the letters for them. Part of it was his own imagination; part of it came from questioning them.

Aged 15, he moved to California and first entered a library. It is not that there had been no libraries in Lousiana – but they were only for white people. The saw the amount of books, however, none them delt with his people. So, he decided to write his own novel.

He wrote his first novel aged 17. It was rejected and he burned it.

He published his first piece, a short story, in 1956.


In short

He knew he wanted to be a writer from very early on and he followed that career path. He studied Literature and Creative Writing, he sent out manuscripts to publishers and he got a fellowship at Stanford University. In general, in was a very straight forward career path.

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