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Lisa Alther:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Alther, Lisa, 1944-
Title: Lisa Alther Papers
Dates: 1944-2021, undated (bulk 1975-2015)
Extent: 55 document boxes (23.10 linear feet), 5 oversize boxes (osb), 1 oversize folder (osf), 1 galley file (gf)
Abstract: The professional and personal papers of Lisa Alther consist of drafts of published and unpublished novels and books, essays, short stories, and book reviews, as well as marketing material, contracts, royalty statements, reviews, and related material. Correspondence and email, calendars, notebooks, photographs, and childhood memorabilia document the life and career of this bestselling American author.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-54177
Language: English, Danish, French, German, and Swedish
Access: Open for research. Documents containing personal information, such as social security and credit card numbers are restricted due to privacy concerns during the lifetime of individuals mentioned in the documents; in many instances, these documents have been replaced with redacted photocopies. Two letters from Doris Lessing and one letter from Robyn "Robbie" Davidson are restricted until 20 October 2046. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted. Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation: Lisa Alther Papers (Manuscript Collection MS-54177). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchase, 2021 (21-09-016-P)
Processed by: Amy E. Armstrong

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Lisa Alther (pronounced LIE-zuh ALL-thur) was born Elisabeth Greene Reed in the working-class industrial East Tennessee town of Kingsport on July 23, 1944, to John Shelton Reed and Alice Greene Reed. Her father was a second-generation town doctor and her mother, from upstate New York, had been an English teacher, but once married stayed at home to raise Alther and her three brothers and sister. The family also owned a tobacco and dairy farm just outside of Kingsport.
Alther graduated from Wellesley College in 1966 with a B.A. in English Literature. While in college, Alther met Cornell University undergraduate Richard Alther and the two married that summer. During this time, she completed a certificate in Publishing Procedures from Radcliffe College and after a short period living in Cincinnati, the couple moved to New York City in 1967 where Alther worked as an editorial assistant and secretary for Atheneum Publishers while Richard worked in advertising. Influenced by the "back-to-the-land" movement, she and her husband moved to Hinesburg, Vermont later that year where she began working as a freelance journalist and on her first novel, while also growing food, raising animals, and renovating their 1800s farmhouse. Alther was twenty-four when her daughter, Sara Halsey Alther, was born on November 15, 1968. Alther continued pursuing publication of her short stories, articles, and first two novels and received encouragement from many editors including C. Michael Curtis of The Atlantic Monthly (though he declined offering a contract on Alther's first two novels). As a writer and mother, it was difficult to find time to write, so Alther regularly rented an apartment in Montreal, Canada in order to focus on writing her third novel.
In 1969, Alther wrote a fan letter to author Doris Lessing and the women began a regular correspondence after Alther visited Lessing in England in 1970. Lessing was unaware that Alther was a writer and once she learned this, asked to read her novel, which in 1974, was under contract. Alther allowed Lessing to read what would become Kinflicks, and upon learning that the editors wanted to cut crucial parts of the novel, she recommended it to her own publisher Robert Gottlieb at Knopf. It was published in 1976 to great critical attention, and became a New York Times Best Seller. Soon after, she began working on her second novel and in 1977, the Althers moved to London, England, where she and Lessing continued their close friendship. In 1979, the family returned to Vermont and Lisa and Richard began living separately in the same farmhouse. Knopf published her second book, Original Sins (1981) which also became a bestseller, as well as her next two books Other Women (1984) and Bedrock (1990).
As of 2022, Alther has published twelve books, including two memoirs, a short story collection, and a historical study of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Critics and readers have categorized Alther's novels as "feminist," "lesbian," "gay," "Southern," and "Appalachian," but Alther has said fundamentally she explores identity in all of her works. Her books have been nominated for several awards, translated into eighteen languages, and four were New York Times Best Sellers
In 1980, Alther taught a course at St. Michael's College in Vermont and in 1999 she was appointed the Wayne G. Basler Chair of Excellence at East Tennessee State University where she taught a course about Southern women writers. She was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Knoxville's Friends of Literacy in 2012. In 2019, Alther was named a recipient of an award from the Idries Shah Foundation for her contributions to literature. She is a sought-after speaker at universities, book festivals, conferences, and workshops around the world.
After both coming out as gay, Alther and her husband divorced in 1989, but have remained close friends. Alther previously lived in England and France and in her later life has divided her time in Vermont, New York City, and Eastern Tennessee.


In addition to material in the collection, the following sources were used:
Alther, Lisa. Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007).
Clark, Alice, Sarah Delmas, Nicole Moulinoux, Gérald Préher and Frédérique Spill, ""… trying to find out how to balance tragedy and comedy": an Interview with Lisa Alther", Journal of the Short Story in English, Autumn 2016.
Flora, Joseph M. and Amber Vogel. "Lisa Alther." Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary. Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Project MUSE.
The Iron Mountain Review. Lisa Alther Issue, Spring 2001.
Levy, Barbara. "Lisa Alther: Playing for the Laugh: Comic Control in Kinflicks." Ladies Laughing: Wit as Control in Contemporary American Women Writers (Amsterdam: Overseas Publishers Association, 1997).

Scope and Contents

The professional and personal papers of Lisa Alther consist of drafts of published and unpublished novels and books, essays, short stories, and book reviews, as well as marketing material, contracts, royalty statements, reviews, and related material. Correspondence and email, calendars, notebooks, photographs, and childhood memorabilia document the life and career of this bestselling American author. The papers are arranged in four series: I. Works, 1944-2021, undated (bulk 1970s-2020); II. Correspondence, 1954-2021, undated (bulk 1970s-2000s); III. Personal and Professional Material, 1944-2020, undated (bulk 1976-2020); and IV. Works About Alther, circa 1970s-2019. Included in the materials are over 1,200 computer files with drafts, proofs, marketing material, contracts, royalty statements, and email.
The arrangement of the material closely reflects Alther's own organization of her papers, as received at the Ransom Center. Where Alther provided a meaningful label for a grouping of material, that wording is used in the container list and is indicated in single quotation marks.
Series I. Works forms the bulk of the material and consists of 55 boxes, 5 oversize boxes, 1 galley file, and 1 oversize folder. The works are arranged into two subseries: A. Books, 1944-2021, undated (bulk 1975-2021); and B. Short Works, circa 1967-2019, undated.
Subseries A. Books includes drafts and related material for all of Alther's published books, as well as her first two unpublished novels, and are listed in alphabetical order. Within each title, the material generally follows the chronological order of literary production, from research and notes to publication proofs. When present, related material such as editorial correspondence, marketing material, adaptations, and later editions follow the original proofs. Alther arranged this material and identified the draft sequence (e.g., "final draft") which she wrote in marker on the first pages. This label is indicated by single quotes in the container list. For most of Alther's novels and books, all working and early drafts are composite drafts (contain both handwritten and typed pages) and are extensively revised. Alther constantly reworked the text and made revisions and additions throughout, written in the margins and on the back, added pages, as well as cut and taped pages. She has said in interviews that she often writes the first draft in pencil and then writes four or five subsequent drafts.
The 'first drafts and notes' are present for most books and were organized into large tied parcels of stacked sheets by Alther. For the most part, these are not complete drafts; rather, they are segments and fragments and are often not in continuous chapter order. The pages are intermixed, unnumbered or renumbered; chapters move and are reordered or renumbered and there is often more than one draft of the same chapter with different revisions. Consequently, it is difficult to determine if pages are misfiled or intentionally moved; therefore, pages remain in their original order and consecutive pages that appear to be a discrete chapter or a cohesive segment are sleeved together in clear mylar folders to aid the researcher. The large volume of pages required multiple folders for each draft, but the folder divisions do not indicate any original groupings; rather, they are arbitrary and follow natural breaks. Alther frequently reused paper for early drafts and the back of some pages contain drafts of previous works, previous drafts of the identified work, or other content.
If an individual work has corresponding electronic files, an entry for the files is included in the container list within the material associated with that title and includes a brief description, the number of files, the file formats, and the timestamp. These dates do not necessarily reflect precisely when the file was created or last saved by Alther.
More detailed information about specific works in this subseries:
About Women is Alther's eleventh book and is a collaboration with French artist and long-time friend Françoise Gilot. The friendship began while Alther was living in Paris and writing a book with a female French character. Alther enjoyed and was intrigued by Gilot's French perspective, so the two met regularly and discussed the cultural differences between French and American women. Eventually, Alther began recording these conversations, which she later had transcribed. The early drafts for About Women are transcriptions of these conversations which Alther and Gilot exchanged and added their individual edits and reorganizations of the text. There are a large number of computer files with drafts, family and publicity photographs (some of the few family photos present in the collection), proofs, and email (mostly regarding publicity events). The original conversation cassette tapes are cataloged in a separate database.
There are many heavily revised working drafts for Alther's fourth novel Bedrock. The 'early drafts and notes' segment was arranged by Alther into a large tied parcel of stacked sheets. The pages are intermixed, unnumbered or renumbered, but there appears to be four groupings and each are listed in approximate order in the container list based on comparing the text in these drafts. Consecutive pages that appear to be a discrete chapter or a cohesive segment are sleeved to aid the researcher. 'Draft four' is not completely linear nor are some pages in sequence; however, in this case, it generally follows chapter order. It is difficult to determine if pages are misfiled or intentionally moved; therefore, pages remain in their original order. The back of some pages contain drafts of Other Women (some pages contain Alther's edits and comments from an unidentified person), discarded or copied pages of Bedrock, and information about sign language and deafness.
Birdman and the Dancer was the first collaboration with French artist Françoise Gilot--whose monotypes inspired the story--and is Alther's fifth published book. Unable to secure an American publisher, the novella was originally published in Denmark (1993), then Holland (1994) and Germany (1996). Some of these early attempts at securing an American publisher are documented with correspondence and a copy of each foreign edition is included with the bound volumes. The novella was published in Stormy Weather and Other Stories in 2012. Some computer files associated with this title are related to this later publication.
Blood Feud about the Hatfield-McCoy feud is Alther's ninth book and second work of non-fiction. Except for early notes and handwritten drafts, the bulk of material associated with Blood Feud are computer files (including numerous historical photographs, proofs, email, marketing material, and royalty statements).
There are many heavily revised working drafts for Alther's sixth book Five Minutes in Heaven. As for previous novels, the 'first drafts and notes' was arranged by Alther into a large tied parcel of stacked sheets. The pages are intermixed, unnumbered or renumbered; chapters move and are reordered or renumbered. It is difficult to determine if pages are misfiled or intentionally moved; therefore, pages remain in their original order and consecutive pages that appear to be a discrete chapter or a cohesive segment are sleeved to aid the researcher. The back of some pages contain drafts of Other Women, an unidentified report on Southern culture (possibly by Alther's brother sociologist John Reed), this novel, and poem "Leda and the Swan Song."
Kinflicks was actually Alther's third novel; however, this first published book—a surprise bestseller—established her reputation as a "Southern," "feminist," "humorist" author. Missing from this material are the 'early drafts and notes' that typically document Alther's early writing process and which are included with the drafts for almost all of her subsequent books. The title page of the draft submitted to Knopf is labeled Mandala Tattoo, but this is different from the unpublished novel of the same title found in the container list. This draft has relatively few edits, which is rare for Alther, as she tends to rework the text extensively. As this is a more complete draft, it is possible that the very first working drafts were not retained by Alther. The second manuscript draft contains Robert Gottlieb's edits.
The history of this work, from its inception and throughout various editions, is well-documented in the papers. Some notebooks in the third series contain research about hematology, psychosocial development, death and dying, and other salient topics. The Correspondence series has the earliest mentions in letters from Doris Lessing, including her willingness to pass the manuscript to Knopf editor Robert Gottlieb, and Alther's letters to her parents where she frequently describes her progress. Also filed in the Correspondence series are rejection letters from publishers; a small number mention this novel. Filed in box 15.5 are letters from Atlantic Monthly Press editor Michael Curtis, offering advice and edits. Also of interest, is the correspondence among Alther and her agents with editors at Little, Brown regarding the cover of the Virago Modern Classics 21st Anniversary edition which reuses the original cheerleader design from the 1977 Penguin edition. At the time, the cover caused a backlash from women who believed it was sexist and derogatory and Alther objects to its use over twenty years later.
Alther worked for over ten years on Kinfolks, a book about her genealogy and the origin of the Melungeons of Appalachia. Alther's research includes four folders of articles, book excerpts, notes, maps, travel literature, email, and internet research focusing on regional history, DNA, genealogy, and Melungeon ancestry. Many notebooks in the third series also cover these and similar topics. Alther also attended—and was a speaker—at the Melungeon Heritage Union meetings. There are several recordings of these proceedings which have been cataloged in a separate database. This research was also used for her later novel Washed in the Blood.
Original Sins is Alther's second book. As for previous novels, the 'first draft and notes' is very much a working draft with notes and fragments of text interspersed. It is handwritten with most pages unnumbered and this draft is not linear nor are pages in sequence; however, in this case, it seems to generally follow chapter order. The back of some sheets contain Kinflicks draft fragments, an essay about writing and critics, and portion of an outgoing letter. Some notebooks in the third series include notes about race and class, the Civil Rights movement, Southern culture, and other notes related to this novel.
There are many working drafts for Alther's third novel Other Women. As for previous novels, the 'first draft and notes' is very much a working draft with notes and fragments of text interspersed, unnumbered pages, and pages out of sequence. It is difficult to determine if pages are misfiled or intentionally moved; therefore, pages remain in their original order and consecutive pages that appear to be a discrete chapter or a cohesive segment are sleeved to aid the researcher. The back of some pages contain drafts of Original Sins and what appears to be text from the 1969 Danish novel Anna (I) Anna by Klaus Rifbjerg.
Alther labeled 'Early Draft[s]' on the first page of four bundles of manuscripts (one bundle contained two drafts) and these are listed in the Container List in approximate order of completion based upon comparison of the text. In order to aid in identification, the letters A through G were assigned during processing at the Ransom Center. 'Early Draft' [A] and [B] were bundled together and Draft [A] is mostly in page order with inserted pages sleeved throughout. Draft [B] is a photocopied typescript with edits from Draft [A] incorporated into the text and it is a clean copy (photocopied edits were made on an earlier version). Draft [C] is a composite draft (typed pages are copies of 'Early draft' [A] above) with extensive edits and added pages. Many pages were edited by taping segments over the existing text or on a clean sheet; these pages are sleeved in polyester sleeves for preservation purposes. Pages are in their original order.
Alther's recorded sessions and interviews with psychotherapist Nancy Magnus, which took place from August to October 1981, formed the basis of this novel. These cassette tapes are cataloged in a separate database. Also of interest in the third series, is at least one notebook with notes about psychotherapy and Alther's personal reflections related to the subject of this novel.
Stormy Weather and Other Short Stories collection contains eight previously published short stories and three published for the first time, as well as the novella Birdman and the Dancer. Alther wrote many of these stories in the mid-1960s through the 1970s and these early first drafts are arranged within Subseries B. Short Works. The material arranged within this title was used toward producing and publishing the final book in 2012 and the majority are computer files. See also the 'Rejection Slips' in Series II for Alther's early attempts at getting many of these stories published.
Swan Song is Alther's twelfth book and as for previous novels, the 'first draft and notes' is very much a working draft with notes and fragments of text interspersed, unnumbered pages, and pages out of sequence. It is difficult to determine if pages are misfiled or intentionally moved; therefore, pages remain in their original order and consecutive pages that appear to be a discrete chapter or a cohesive segment are sleeved to aid the researcher. There are numerous computer files including drafts, proofs, marketing material, and email which is mostly related to publicity events. The 'Zoom events' files are virtual marketing events held over various online meeting platforms to promote the novel during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when in-person events were not possible. Also included are two short essays used to promote the novel.
Subseries B. Short Works includes book contributions, book reviews, essays and interviews, short stories, speeches and lectures, and other writings such as blurbs, a poem, memorials, and unpublished stories and essays. The works are organized by genre and within that alphabetically, with the exception of Alther's articles for the Vermont Freeman, arranged chronologically from 1971 to 1974. These articles are her earliest published works in the archive, although an earlier work, the story "Squeamish" which Alther submitted for an English assignment at Wellesley in 1965 (see Series III), wasn't published until 1977. Notebook [B] in Series III contains a list of magazines and publishers where Alther submitted these articles and stories. Relatedly, the 'Rejection Slips' in Series II document Alther's early attempts at getting these pre-Kinflicks writings published.
"Silver Moon Bay" was first conceived of as a script for a graphic novel, but Alther later adapted it into a short story. This material includes an outline and character sketches.
Of interest is a booklet entitled How and Why Not to Have That Baby by Dr. David B. Van Vleck (box 41.13). Alther notes "ghostwritten by Lisa Alther" on the title page. There are no drafts for this 1971 Optimum Population Incorporated publication; however, in some of Alther's 1970-1972 letters to her family, she mentions working on this project. (Alther began volunteering at Planned Parenthood in 1970 and population control, contraception, abortion, and vasectomy clinics are also discussed in these same letters.)
Series II. Correspondence is relatively small in physical volume filling approximately three document boxes; however, there are approximately 1,000 PDF computer files which capture email related to Alther's publications and career as a writer. Email correspondence was selected and exported by Alther from her AOL email account and PDF files created. The October 22, 2021 date associated with the files is the date this occurred. Email attachments are often not included.
Correspondents are arranged alphabetically by name or subject, followed by rejection and fan letters, and then outgoing letters from Alther. Letters and emails are both personal and professional and from Alther's agents, editors, publishers, friends and acquaintances, many of whom are authors or artists including Doris Lessing, Rita Mae Brown, Robyn Davidson, Marilyn French, Françoise Gilot, Erica Jong, and Alice Walker.
The largest volume of letters is from writer Doris Lessing and span from 1969 to 2006 with the majority from the 1970s to 1980s; however, there are several years without any letters. Lessing's letters are often long and detailed about her own life and works, but she often addresses and responds to events and thoughts shared in Alther's letters providing insight into Alther's life during these periods. Lessing discusses a number of topics including Sufism and Idries Shah, motherhood, books, politics, stories from her life in Africa, her son Peter's mental illness, updates on author Jenny Diski (who lived for a time with Lessing), gardening and herbal remedies, English weather, brief updates on her own books and collaboration with Philip Glass, remarks regarding Kinflicks, the publishing business, her philanthropy, and common acquaintances (e.g. Robbie Davidson, Ellen Jaffe). Lessing was learning Russian and also provides updates on her progress. Access to abortion was an immense cultural and political topic in the early 1970s and it is a topic that the women discuss in several letters. See list in Box 42.10. There are a couple of original letters and transcriptions from Alther to Lessing also present.
Lessing came to know Alther's husband-at-the-time, Richard, and daughter Sara, through frequent visits to Vermont and New York City. There is also a small volume of letters from Lessing to Richard Alther which are less personal, but also refer to similar topics of gardening, English weather, her novels and their reception, common acquaintances, her sons and grandchildren, and food. There are also a few birthday letters to their daughter Sara. Letters from Lessing to and regarding Ellen Jaffe detail Alther's help facilitating an apartment swap between the two women while Lessing was visiting the United States for an extended stay. Email correspondence in the Martha Kaplan file folder shows that Alther asked Richard Alther and Jaffe for these third-party letters to include in her literary archive.
In interviews, Alther often refers to her collection of over 200 'Rejection Slips' which she collected during her early attempts to sell her short stories and articles. These responses are from academic, literary journals and popular monthly magazines, as well as letters to agents requesting representation, the bulk dating from 1967 to 1977. These notes were not in any order, so they are arranged alphabetically by title of periodical/agent and—if dated—are in reverse chronological order. Correspondence ranges from pro forma printed "decline" slips to significant notes commenting on the submission in some detail; only the latter are included in the Index of Correspondents. The many letters from The Atlantic Monthly editor C. Michael Curtis provide constructive feedback; particularly for Kinflicks. A number of these notes reference Alther's novels "Mandala Tattoo" and "The Pollyannoiac." Some of these stories were later published in some form in Stormy Weather and Other Stories (2012).
Fan letters are grouped by decade and often refer to books published during that period. Of significance are the 1990s letters regarding Other Women, written by therapists and people who had been to therapy who remark on Alther's ability to convey that process so richly and accurately, as well as gay people who identify with the experiences of the characters. Likewise, a blood coagulation expert remarks on Alther's surprisingly thorough and accurate description of the blood disorder in Kinflicks.
There are eight folders of Alther's letters to her parents. They begin in 1954 when Alther was a youngster at camp and progress to the teenage years when working as a camp counselor-in-training, and early adulthood when she went to Wellesley in 1962. The letters during Alther's college years are very detailed—often multiple pages long—and provide descriptions of classes and grades, food and restaurants, friends, social activities, visits home and travel, and the customary collegiate requests for money. These provide an early example of Alther's buoyant humor and ability to describe events and people in what will become a hallmark of her later works. Crucial life events are described in these letters as Alther often wrote at least one letter a month to her parents from the 1960s through the 1980s. For example, an October 1963 letter notes that she "meets Rich", a Cornell student and in a January 1965 letter, she refers to their engagement. In discussing her stint as a journalist for the Wellesley College News, Alther confesses, "they've decided basically I am a humorist rather than a critic or reporter…." After her marriage, Alther discusses her writing and frequent rejections, several moves the family made first to Cincinnati and finally settling in Vermont, the birth of their daughter in 1968, and volunteering for Planned Parenthood. In later letters, Alther discusses her writing, vacations, family visits and ski trips, home renovations, playing basketball in a women's league, events in her daughter Sara's life, Richard's work and his art shows, and their divorce. A more detailed list of topics and corresponding letters is filed in box 44.
The Index of Correspondents at the end of this finding aid contains box and folder locations for the correspondence in the collection. Following that, is a list of correspondents included in Alther's email. It reflects the file directory structure created and organized by Alther and includes the identification number (2109016P_002), the folder name (most often the title of a book or type of material), the number of files in that folder, and then a list of names in alphabetical order. These are also integrated into the container list in the logical location (e.g. Robert Gottlieb's emails are listed with his paper letters). Threads of an email may appear in more than one file. All of the email is related to Alther's career as a writer.
Series III. Personal and Professional Material is of relatively small volume (approximately eight document boxes) and includes documents primarily relating to Alther's writing career. It is ordered alphabetically by theme or topic and contains material related to honors and awards, contracts, curriculum vitae and other biographical material, publicity material, royalty statements, and teaching files. Calendar books dating 1976, 1981-2019 (1993 is not present) provide a detailed look at Alther's professional and social engagements, appointments, as well as travel and visitors. Publishing contracts for all of Alther's books, often with foreign rights and reissues, as well as some book contributions date from 1975 to 2019. Some contracts contain Alther's social security number and those documents have been photocopied and replaced with a redacted copy.
Eleven notebooks mostly containing research and notes for Alther's novels are ordered by approximate date (circa 1970s to 2000s) based on the content. The archivist assigned each notebook a letter in order to aid in identification. Notebook [G] is probably the most personal as it includes notes related to psychotherapist Nancy Magnus; however, there are personal jottings, dream descriptions, and reflections sprinkled throughout the notebooks. There are a significant number of headshots and publicity photographs by a variety of American and foreign photographers, including Jill Krementz and Rollie McKenna, who are known for their author portraits. Alther's daughter, Sara Bostwick, also captured her for many of her later book jackets. The photos are arranged by photographer, followed by unidentified and more casual snapshots and candid events.
Alther is a sought-after speaker at universities, book festivals, conferences, and workshops around the world. Because her work is frequently categorized as "Southern," "Gay", and/or "Feminist," she is frequently invited to events centered around these topics, in venues both large and small. Material documenting her public appearances include programs, posters, flyers, some clippings (most clippings are filed with works about Alther in the fourth series) and are arranged by decade and then by year. Publicity material include documents referencing Alther and/or her work and includes clippings and magazine excerpts, crossword puzzles (she is listed as a clue), quotes of hers used on calendars and greeting cards, marketing material from publishers, and The Bisexual Resource Guide (lists her fiction). Royalty statements are arranged alphabetically by publisher and then book. Many statements contain more than one book and those with social security numbers were removed and replaced with a redacted photocopy. See also individual titles in the first series.
Alther taught a course on major American writers at St. Michael's College in Vermont in 1980 and later in 1999 was Wayne G. Basler Chair of Excellence at East Tennessee State University where she taught a course on Southern women writers. Since she used some of the same notes from St. Michael's in the later course, the notes are filed together. Documents specifically related to a particular course are filed with that course (e.g. assignments, course evaluations).
The small volume of personal material present includes report cards from the third through twelfth grades, high school graduation material and Alther's Salutatorian speech, and course papers completed at Wellesley, as well as some childhood clippings. One of Alther's earliest works appears to be the story "Squeamish" which she submitted for an English assignment in 1965. The only item representing Alther's interest in painting is a program for an art show in 1991.
Series IV. Works About Alther is divided into two subseries: A. Scholarly Works and B. Profiles, Mentions, Clippings. Alther's writing has received a great deal of scholarly attention and literary criticism of her work has been published in numerous American and international journals. In 2000, Emory and Henry College hosted the Lisa Alther Literary Festival and published the proceedings in The Iron Mountain Review (Spring 2001). Subseries A. contains typescripts, journals, offprints, papers, computer files, and a dissertation. One file, 'CriticalStudies' (2109016P_001), lists a bibliography of published articles about Alther's work. Subseries B. contains articles, clippings, and interviews that appeared in American and foreign popular periodicals (especially from Sweden and Denmark; often with English translations). It is arranged by decade.
Additionally, Alther's work has been published in numerous anthologies focusing on Southern writing, gay writing, women writers, Southern women writers, Appalachia, humor, sex, short stories, and food. Many of these volumes are cataloged in the Ransom Center Library.

Related Material

Other Ransom Center collections with materials related to Lisa Alther and her archive include the Doris Lessing Papers, Doris Lessing Collection, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records, and Carlton Lake Collection of Françoise Gilot Papers.

Separated Material

Non-commercial sound recordings containing interviews, lectures by Alther, Melungeon Heritage Union proceedings, an interview conducted by Doris Lessing, and similar content were transferred to the Center's Sound Recordings Collection and are cataloged in a separate database.
Six VHS tapes with Alther's talks about Melungeons and interviews about her books were transferred to the Center's Moving Image Collection and are cataloged in a separate database.
Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame medal, publicity t-shirts and bag, and carved wooden fish (from Doris Lessing) were transferred to the Personal Effects Collection.

Index Terms


Gilot, Françoise, 1921-
Lessing, Doris, 1919-2013.


American literature--Appalachian Region, Southern.
Authors, American--Southern States.
Authors, American--20th century.
Gays' writings, American.
Homosexuality and literature.
Humor in literature.
Lesbians' writings, American.
Sex in literature.
Women authors, American.


Appalachian Region, Southern.

Document Types

Calendars (documents).
Electronic documents.
Short stories.

Container List