I was heartened the other day when I pulled off a pamphlet from the shelf, Great Grapes: Grow the Best Ever, on how to grow and maintain grape vines in the home garden (a Storey Publishing "Country Wisdom" pamphlet in Vermont). I had bought it in the mid-1980s for my, then future, husband Temple who was planting his famous grape arbor here in Hancock (well, famous to our friends who like the jam when we've been able to make it!). The byline? Annie Proulx, the very same Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News and the story behind the movie Brokeback Mountain (based on one of her short stories).
A few years ago, Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet, republished an essay by Annie Proulx called "The Garlic Wars" which had been sent over the transom, as it were, in the 1970s, and became Proulx's first published essay.
Proulx really didn't start writing regularly until her late 50s when she became a published novelist and short story writer. This excerpt is from a New York Times article that appeared in 1994:
E. Annie Proulx -- E is for Edna, which she never uses, and Proulx rhymes with true -- is 58. She has lived hard, even recklessly, the way she has wanted. She has been married and divorced three times and has raised three sons alone. She was a waitress, a postal worker and then, for 19 years, a writer of magazine articles on everything from chili growers to canoeing to mice.
She earned two degrees in history, lived in New York City and the Far East and 13 different towns in Vermont, founded a small-town newspaper (The Vershire Behind the Times), drifted through out-of-the-way places in her pickup truck, learned fly fishing, fiddling, partridge hunting and how to build a house. Once in a while, she wrote a short story. She was past 50 when she found out that what she had become was a novelist.
And now, she declared one recent afternoon: "I'm desperate to write. I'm crazy to write. I want to write." ***
This is one cool woman.
*** [from "At Home with E. Annie Proulx-at Midlife a Novelist is Born," by Sara Rimer, New York Times, June 23, 1994]