Kurt Meyer’s ancestors preceded Hamlin Garland’s family in moving to and living in Mitchell County, Iowa, where Meyer now lives. Meyer has studied Garland’s life and work extensively, emphasizing the importance of Garland’s Iowa years, 1868–‘81, between the ages of 8 and 21. Meyer has published two books of essays on Garland, conceived and wrote the forward to “Prairie Visions,” (a book featuring Garland-related photographs), and presented Garland papers at four American Literature Association conferences. For eight years, Meyer has coordinated annual Garland poetry readings and he has delivered lectures on Garland in dozens of venues in seven states.
Before returning to Iowa, Meyer lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he first became interested in Edna Ferber, the community where the Ferber family moved after leaving Ottumwa. It led to an intense examination of Ferber’s life and times, her circle of friends (including the infamous “Algonquin Roundtable”), as well as her many diverse literary works. While their lives were dissimilar in many respects, Meyer finds familiar patterns in backgrounds and careers of these two authors—the first two Pulitzer Prize winners with links to Iowa.
Iowa’s Claim to Prize-Winning Authors
Among the distinguished authors with an Iowa connection are Pulitzer Prize winners Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) and Edna Ferber (1885–1968). Both spent significant childhood years in Iowa—Garland in northeast Iowa, and Ferber in Ottumwa. And both drew on their Iowa backgrounds throughout prolific writing careers.
Meyer’s presentation will introduce people to these two often-overlooked/forgotten authors: their lives, their major works, their pioneering careers, and their importance in the literary world, during their prime years as well as today. Although they led very different lives, Meyer will focus on shared talents that made them successful and the personal and professional qualities they held in common.
Using Garland and Ferber as examples, Meyer will also suggest informal ways that Iowans can encourage and promote future generations of Pulitzer Prize winners.
Please note: the fee for the first ten scheduled events for this program will be waived under the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Initiative.
This program is part of the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.
We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.