Supper at Six to feature author Godwin

Award-winning writer to discuss the evolution of some female characters

April 11, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Award-winning author Gail Godwin is scheduled to be the featured speaker at Howard County Library's annual Supper at Six.

The writer will be guest of honor at the dinner to be held tomorrow at Cedar Ridge Conference Center. Godwin said she will discuss the evolution of some of the female characters in her novels.

"I've been asked to speak on the development of a woman as it has been dramatized in my novels," Godwin said recently during a telephone interview from her Woodstock, N.Y., home. "I'm going to go through some of my books and pick turning points for some of the characters and discuss those."

Her career has spanned 30 years, during which Godwin has won critical acclaim for several books, including "A Mother and Two Daughters," published in 1982, and "The Finishing School," published in 1985. Her latest book, "Evensong," was published last year and has been released in paperback.

Recalling her past, Godwin, 63, speaks with a slight Southern drawl that envelops the listener and hints at engaging stories to come. Godwin said she developed her love of writing from her mother, Kathleen Godwin, who was a newspaper reporter and also wrote romances.

"I suppose I watched her face when she was at the typewriter, and there was a transformation that occurred," Godwin said. "That made me think that I also wanted to be a writer."

Growing up in Asheville, N.C., Godwin learned the Southern art of telling tales and began composing stories as a child. Unable to write, she dictated her stories to her mother, who typed the mini-manuscripts for her daughter.

"That's actually how I learned to read," Godwin recalled. "I would read my typewritten stories."

A two-year stint as a reporter at the Miami Herald ended in 1960 when Godwin was fired, partly because of her habit of "embellishing" her stories. At 30, she entered a graduate writing program at the University of Iowa, where she studied with novelist Kurt Vonnegut.

These days, Godwin is awaiting the publication of "Heart: The History of An Idea," a nonfiction book she wrote that is scheduled to be released on Valentine's Day. She is also researching for her next work of fiction, "Queen of the Underworld," about a young female reporter in Miami in 1959 who is searching for the story that will make her career.

"At the same time, she doesn't realize that she's in the middle of a huge story," Godwin said. "It's a love story and it's a mystery. It's a side of myself that I haven't explored before that I now feel ready to explore."

Pat Bates, coordinator of the Maryland Center for the Book at Howard Library, said Godwin's books appeal to many readers.

"She is a favorite author with serious readers of contemporary literature," Bates said. "Her novels, for me, are about a journey of self-realization and that's something that everyone can relate to."

Joan Fox, coordinator of community outreach for the library, said the Supper at Six series seeks to bring nationally recognized writers to Howard to speak. After last year's sold-out dinner, participants selected Godwin as an author they would like to include in the event, Fox said.

"She's a popular book-club author," Fox said. "Her books explore the depth of human relationships."

Godwin applauds the boom in book clubs and said she wishes she had time to participate in one. "It's amazing how different individuals are and what they bring from their readings," she said.

Tickets for the dinner, which will be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Cedar Ridge Conference Center, 2410 Spencerville Road, are $35 a person or $280 for a table of eight. Information: 410-313-7750.

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