The people around Eatonton say it must be something in the soil. Their proud crop isn’t the sweet onion of Vidalia or the wine-producing grapes of north Georgia. No, this lovely area in central Georgia produces something even better: writers.
Want proof? Visit the Georgia Writers Museum in downtown Eatonton. In a charming building, the Museum celebrates, among other things, three noted authors: Joel Chandler Harris, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Walker, all of whom were born within 30 miles of Eatonton.
Harris, born in Eatonton in 1845, was a shy child who loved books and writing. A job on Turnwold Plantation was a turning point for him. While the owner, Joseph Turner, taught Harris about writing, enslaved people on the plantation told him stories and life lessons that would become the Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit tales. Harris went on to be an editor at the Atlanta Constitution, and gain worldwide fame for his stories. He died at his Atlanta home, the Wren’s Nest, in 1908.
O’Connor was born in Savannah in 1925 but moved with her family to Milledgeville when she was in high school. Various mentors encouraged her talent, and her dark and darkly humorous stories and novels were widely acclaimed, including “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” She died of lupus at the early age of 39.
Walker was born in Eatonton in 1944. The daughter of sharecroppers, she had a strong mother who encouraged Alice’s education in hopes of better opportunities. Her teachers noticed and encouraged her talent. After college, she worked in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and her experiences inform her writing. Her most famous work, the novel “The Color Purple,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. She lives, works and writes today in California.
The museum also displays information about the more than 60 members of Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, in partnership with the University of Georgia Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The university inducts the writers, and the museum exhibits their works.
But the museum doesn’t just dwell on deeds already accomplished. It is a center for encouraging current and emerging authors and an inspiration for readers of all ages. The museum holds frequent talks and programs. On the first Tuesday of each month, award-winning authors share their stories, inspirations, and tales of how and why they write. There are also programs especially for children.
The Georgia Writers Museum is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. It’s located at 109 S. Jefferson Ave, Eatonton, Ga 31024. (706)-991-5119. For more information: www.georgiawritersmuseum.org.