Authors Assisting Authors

Susan Glaspell

Last week I discussed writers being influenced by other writers. This week, I’ll talk about writers who helped other writers get published, discovered, or rediscovered.

Novelist, journalist, actress, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Susan Glaspell (1874-1948) is unfortunately almost forgotten these days. She’s best known for her powerful feminist play Trifles that she also turned into a short story called “A Jury of Her Peers,” and for co-founding the Provincetown Players theatrical organization that launched the career ofโ€ฆEugene O’Neill.

A mesmerizing, superbly acted, half-hour screen version of “A Jury of Her Peers” from 1980:

Poet and shipping-line heiress Nancy Cunard (1896-1965) established The Hours Press — which gave playwright, novelist, and poet Samuel Beckett a major early break by publishing a poem of his. Later, in 1934, Cunard edited and published a massive collection of African-American writers that featured Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, W.E.B Du Bois, and others. (Many in the collection were already known.)

Walker Percy made his name with novels such as The Moviegoer, but is also remembered for helping get John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces posthumously published in 1980. That was after Toole’s mother Thelma’s Herculean years-long effort to get her son’s manuscript noticed following his 1969 suicide. The novel went on to win the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

In the 19th century, Charles Dickens gave a big assist to a pre-famous Wilkie Collins by running a Collins short story in Dickens’ literary magazine Household Words. Collins and the 12-years-older Dickens became close friends.

One writer can also help another writer posthumously. Alice Walker revived interest in the aforementioned mostly forgotten Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) in various ways — including her 1975 piece about Hurston in Ms. magazine. Walker even replaced the headstone on the uncared-for grave of the Their Eyes Were Watching God author.

Of course, various authors review the work of other authors — with several commenters here doing that so ably on their WordPress blogs. ๐Ÿ™‚

Any examples or thoughts relating to this topic?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for every Thursday. The latest piece — about a rude Township Council and more — is here.

61 thoughts on “Authors Assisting Authors

  1. Scottish author James Macpherson (1736-1796) claimed to have translated Ossian’s ancient Gaelic poems into English, and published them. Subsequently, Ossian’s works had a great influence on the Romantics throughout Europe, though it later turned out that ‘Ossian’ was most likely a fictional creation of Macpherson’s, as were his poems.

    So here’s an example of one author helping another– who was himself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jacquie! I heard about that collaboration between Louise Penney (a great author) and Hillary Rodham Clinton. I guess they were helping each other in a way (with their respective areas of expertise — novel-writing and politics), which is one of the good things about collaborations. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Unfortunately, Dave, neither can I think of any writers, who helped other writers publishing their works, but I would like to thank you for having written this interesting post about that topic and to all your readers with their various proposals.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dave, it is interesting to know that authors have always helped other writers and authors. I find many people in this community to be very supportive and helpful. I can’t say I know of any famous cases of authors supporting other authors and I thought it was great that Charles Dickens had a small part in getting Wilkie Collins launched.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Dave, thanks for reminding us of the great difference that successful writers make in helping other writers. I owe my achievements, however small, to the help I obtained from successful published authors in the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Rosaliene! Wonderful that you received valuable help from GLAWS authors! A really nice thing when writers are there for each other. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve experienced a version of that from my membership in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (which, despite its name, is more an association of online writers — including bloggers — these days).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A famous assist: Ezra Pound fearlessly edited TS Eliot’s poem, “The Wasteland”, even to the extent of cutting an entire section of heroic couplets, because Alexander Pope did it better than anyone else could, or should try to do. Last time I looked, the editing was well-favored by author and critics alike.

    from wikipedia: Pound also “was responsible for the 1914 serialization of Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, the 1915 publication of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and the serialization from 1918 of Joyce’s “Ulysses”.”

    In a funny way, you could say Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, etc., assisted in the financial underpinnings of “The Smart Set”– in the period in which it was edited by HL Mencken and George Jean Nathan– and the authors that publication promoted and printed, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Theodore Dreiser, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Sinclair Lewis, and Eugene O’Neill. “Black Mask”, which published mainly crime fiction (and premiered the efforts of Hammett and Chandler), was started by Mencken and Nathan to help pay for the cost of printing and distributing “The Smart Set”.

    In another field of creative endeavor, Muddy Waters heard an acetate recording made by a hairdresser from East St. Louis when the latter visited Chicago in pursuit if a recording contract. He thought what he heard had promise, and referred the young man to his own label, Chess Records. The rest is history, rock and roll history, anyway.

    Although he thought his slow blues, “In the Wee Wee Hours” was the hit, his new label thought more of the quicker novelty number about a car chase on the other side, titled, then, “Ida Red”. The promo man for the label showed the song to Allen Freed, Cleveland disc jockey, who suggested a make-up manufacturer and sponsor’s name as a better title– and Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” was on its way to the top of the r&b charts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, jhNY! Wow — I didn’t know Ezra Pound had all that notable experience helping some notable writers! Great mention!

      “The Smart Set” had an incredible all-star lineup of literary talent connected with it.

      Fascinating other example, too, about Chuck Berry getting discovered and how “Maybellene” came about.


      • I may have mentioned this in an earlier comment, but the Black Mask/Smart Set connection is paralleled by another: the Kurosawa/ Godzilla connection. Toho Studios produced the Godzilla movies, which were an international box office phenomenon, earning Toho millions— millions which helped the studio absorb the cost of producing the less commercially successful films made by Kurosawa. Without that rubber-suited fellow knocking down toy buildings and blasting tanks into meltdown with his atomic breath, we may never have seen “The Seven Samurai”!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Re Ezra Pound: โ€œA miracle of ebulliency, gusto, and help,โ€ Joyce called him. Itโ€™s true that he was flamboyant, immodest, opinionated, tactless, a pinwheel of affectation; he made people crazy and he became crazy himself. Gertrude Steinโ€™s description of him is frequently invoked: โ€œA village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.โ€ In his devotion to the modernist avant garde, though, he was selfless. โ€œA bombastic galleon, palpably bound to, or from, the Spanish Main,โ€ Wyndham Lewis wrote about meeting Pound. โ€œGoing on board, I discovered beneath its skull and cross-bones, intertwined with fleurs de lys and spattered with preposterous starspangled oddities, a heart of gold.โ€ — Louis Menand

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As usual, I’m a bit off, approaching in a round about way. However, I think this is still in the ballpark.

    Francis Kroll Ring was hired to be F. Scott Fitzgerald’s private secretary in the last 20 months of his life. He was writing “The Last Tycoon”. It was about the film industry, and he wanted someone NOT connected, who knew nobody, and would not spill the beans about the book.
    The book was not finished when he died. Nonetheless Francis helped get the unfinished manuscript published.

    Later she wrote “Against The Current”, about her time with F. Scott. It was published in a flash, due to her most personal connection with F. Scott. (he helped her from the grave)

    The book was made into a movie. (starred Jeremy Irons, Sissy Spacek and Nev Campbell as Francis) The move is titled “Last Call”.

    I was the Costume Designer on that movie. Francis Kroll Ring was on set every day. We had many enlightening chats. I learned so much about F. Scott.

    My pride on that movie was – one day Nev (playing Francis) walked onto set in a dress I had designed and built from scratch for the character. Francis got misty eyed, turned to me and said, “I had that exact dress!”

    I hope this counts!
    About Francis –

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sincerely: WOW!!

      Don’t know how interested you are in the last period of Fitzgerald’s life, but Budd Schulberg wrote “The Disenchanted”(1950), a novelized (and fictionalized) account of a young screenwriter’s disastrous cross-country train trip in the company of (a diminished author everybody recognized as) Mr. Fitzgerald, culminating in their arrival at Dartmouth College for the ostensible purpose of picking up details and background for a light comedy– by which point the author was fully immersed in a binge, for which misdeed he was fired.

      The actual Fitzgerald, and the actual Schulberg had gone on just such a train journey in 1939 to prepare for the movie “Winter Carnival”– from which, for drunkenness, Fitzgerald was fired– so there’s more than a whiff of the real about the novel.

      Liked by 3 people

      • That’s really interesting, jhNY! Some novels indeed have plenty of real life about them. Fitzgerald definitely self-sabotaged during his time on the planet, including near the end of his life. What a waste to have died as young as 44.

        Liked by 1 person

        • We got the books we got from the author, flawed themselves occasionally, and made by a flawed man. But it’s impossible to know what he might have done had he not had the flaws he came in with and probably exacerbated over his life. For not a few artists, the art is a better face for the world to see them by than their own faces.

          After the Great War and the Spanish Flu, many thousands of young men drank heedlessly, to excess, and eventually to the ruin of their marriages, families and health. But only one wrote “The Great Gatsby”.

          In the field of jazz, people occasionally muse on what Charlie Parker, bona fide musical genius of the alto saxophone, might have achieved had he not been such a dedicated heroin addict. The answer may well been: nothing much, for all we know. He might have made a career in Kansas City, driving a cab and whistling along to the radio while awaiting his next fare.

          All we have is what such artists made within the circumstances of their lives. Other, better circumstances would not necessarily produce better books or solos.

          I do share your sense of Fitzgerald’s waste of his own life– but in the context of his immediate family. He abandoned Zelda to an institutionalized fate he helped engineer, and after, his daughter and he were mostly acquainted via letters and visits between terms of her boarding school. A great writer, but nobody’s idea of a great husband or father.

          Liked by 2 people

          • VERY true, jhNY, and eloquently put. If Fitzgerald were a different, more “responsible” person, his literary output would have been different — and perhaps not as good. But, yes, hardly an ideal husband or father.

            Liked by 1 person

      • “The Disenchanted” sounds interesting!

        Yes, according to Francis he was a hard core boozer. One of her first duties for him was to dispose of a massive amount of bottles.
        That is in the movie. He got sober, but staying sober was the hard part.
        He would drink gallons of Coca Cola & eat lots of sugar foods. His fave was chocolate brownies.

        I have a copy of “The Case of the Velvet Claws”. I haven’t had a chance to read it, only the first several pages. It reads just like the “Perry Mason” TV show presents.
        I think you are the person I was talking about that with. I also watched the episode where he lost..but not really. I’m sure it’s not the one I heard about.
        If you are not the person…..never mind! Lol!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I am that person, and in the meantime, have found another Perry Mason episode in which he loses a case, after which his client is sentenced to death! It’s titled “The Case of the Deadly Verdict”, and features a Hitchcockian ending I won’t reveal, beyond assuring you that his client is innocent, and justice and truth finally win out.

          In our last exchange on the topic, I mentioned “The Case of the Terrified Typist”, the other episode in which Mason loses his case, and how– including how he didn’t actually lose.

          But now that you’ve replied, is there any way you could share a picture of that dress you designed that Ms. Ring thought looked one of her own? My wife is curious to see it, and so am I.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Okay, will check out โ€œThe Case of the Deadly Verdictโ€!

            Ohh, yes… the dress is in the movie.
            Don’t know if I have a pic?
            Will take me a bit to look if I can find & reply on this one.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Resa! Fabulous memory from your costume-designing career! I’m VERY impressed! Learning about F. Scott Fitzgerald almost firsthand sounds amazing, as does Frances Kroll Ring and her close brush with fame.

      I’ve read “The Last Tycoon” and think it was an excellent novel, albeit unfinished. It would really have been quite a book if Fitzgerald had been able to complete it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I should readThe Last Tycoon!
        Jeremy Irons, who played F. Scott gave me a wonderful book at the end of the shoot. He is such a delightful person to work with.
        The book is called “The Romantic Egoists”.
        It’s a pictorial autobiography from the scrapbooks and albums of F. Scott and Zelda. It is brilliant and fascinating.
        It’s even more than that…
        His daughter worked with a couple of editors on it.
        Mine is an original published in 1974.
        Jeremy inscribed it for me. … the end of his message is with Love and Admiration. Sigh!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I had been very interested in โ€œThe Hogarth Pressโ€ – a book publisher that was founded as an independent company in 1917 by British authors Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. It was named after their house in Richmond in which they began hand-printing books as a hobby during the interwar period.

    The Hogarth Press published many of the works of the Bloomsbury group and offered translations of foreign, especially Russian, works. Writers included Gertrude Stein, Katherine Mansfield, and E.M. Forster. The first UK book edition of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot was published by The Hogarth Press.

    I havenโ€™t had a chance to explore the materials that are held in this Archives. Maybe one dayโ€ฆ

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Rebecca! That’s a GREAT example of authors helping authors! Many famous talented names on both ends of The Hogarth Press (the founders and their “clients”).

      Now that I think about it, Mark Twain played a big part in getting Ulysses Grant’s memoirs published.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I did not know that, Dave. I have always wanted to know more about Ulysses Grant. I found โ€œThe personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. This is the blurb: โ€œThe Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is the autobiography of American President Ulysses S. Grant, focused mainly on the general’s actions during the American Civil War. Written as Grant was dying in 1885, the two-volume set was published by Mark Twain shortly after Grant’s death.โ€ Many thanks, Dave, for this introduction. How could any one complete such a huge project when feeling unwell? It sounds like a must read.

        Liked by 2 people

      • If memory serves, Twain published Grant’s memoirs, and achieved immediate success in that line. Which proved unfortunate– he attempted other such publications of the lives of the famous, none of which sold well, and eventually, Twain found himself in a precarious financial condition.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Rebecca, Although I’ve never gotten to Grant’s memoirs myself, I agree that it was probably quite a read. Not sure if Grant was any kind of prose stylist, but what a life he led. Plus Twain’s involvement in the project. Yes, writing something when one is dying can’t be easy. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


          • A great many people presumed Twain had a hand in the writing of the memoir– a presumption that would imply Grant was a pretty good prose stylist, presuming, as I think most scholars today do, that Grant had little editorial help or polishing up from his publisher Twain.

            Grant wrote daily, as long as his pain allowed him till he had finished, his throat cancer causing him unimaginable pain throughout. But he had his family’s financial future to vouchsafe, which sales of the book achieved.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Glad that Grant seemingly did all or most of the writing, despite the awful pain he was going through. And admirable and impressive that he had his family’s financial future in mind. Plus there was undoubtedly some urge to tell his life story — and what a story that was about his youth, leading the Union forces, his time in the White House, etc.


        • Thank you, jhNY! Yes, Twain’s record as a “businessman” left something to be desired. I think he also lost a lot of money investing in a new kind of printing press. As you probably know, he had to go on a worldwide lecture tour to become financially solvent again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s