Special Collections / Exhibits / Lee Smith / The Star of Grundy

The Star of Grundy: A Writer in the Making

Lee Smith's interest in writing began when she was very young; her first story was about Adlai Stevenson and Jane Russell heading west in a covered wagon to become Mormons. View Story written in 1956 (PDF Format) Smith says that the story contains themes that concern her even today: "religion and flight, staying in one place or not staying, containment or flight." The young author wrote stories and sold them to neighbors for five cents each.

Picture of Lee sitting on Santa's lap in 1964.

Lee Smith sitting on Santa's lap, 1964.

Her experiences growing up in Grundy, Virginia, influenced her writing significantly. In The Devil's Dream Katie Cocker describes her youth in the Virginia mountains: "Those were the most important years, and I didn't even know it." Certainly, Smith's early experiences shaped her career. Her novels reveal deep insight and empathy for the people and culture of Appalachia. Smith left Grundy to attend high school in Richmond, Virginia, and Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia. College provided her with an intellectually and socially stimulating environment. She says of her college days that she "had this kind of breakout period I just went wild." She became a go-go dancer for an all-girl rock band called the "Virginia Woolfs."

Picture of Coal Miner of Grundy, Virginia.

Cover of The Washington Post Magazine, 1982.

 

Hollins Girls preparing for raft trip.
While a student at Hollins College, Smith and fellow classmates, inspired by Mark Twain, decided to take a ride on a raft down the Mississippi River, c. 1967.
Lee Smith wading in river water.
Hollins Girls taking off down the Misssissippi.
Newspapers around the country covered the whimsical adventures of the "Hollins Girls."
Hollins Girls on boat.
Arrival after trip down Mississippi.

 

Lee's Brilliant Career Awards of Lee Smith
Bibliography

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