A Little About Paulette Alden
In “Blue Mountains,” one of the short stories in my first book, Feeding the Eagles, I wrote “I grew up in South Carolina where the rivers never freeze.” Greenville, South Carolina, to be precise. But I’ve spent most of my adult life in Minnesota, where not only the rivers freeze, but everything else. Including me.
In January of 2002 I was invited to teach a memoir workshop at the Key West Literary Seminar. Sitting on the curb waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport to fly back to Minnesota and sub-zero temps, I said to myself: “Hmm. I’m coming back here.” A few years later my husband Jeff and I bought a 430 square foot shotgun cottage near the historic seaport. Now (since Jeff retired) we spend about four months of the winter in Key West.
Around 2011 I began returning to Greenville to research a new novel, The Empty Cell. Growing up in Greenville in the ’50s and ’60s, I’d never heard of Willie Earle, a young black man who was taken from the Pickens County jail, beaten, stabbed and shot to death by a mob of white cab drivers. I learned of the lynching and trial, in which twenty-eight cabbies were acquitted by an all white jury, when I read “Opera in Greenville” by Rebecca West, whom The New Yorker had sent to Greenville to cover the trial. The Empty Cell is about four characters who are impacted by the lynching and trial. Each of these characters experiences the personal and political turmoil of the Jim Crow South, and each is transformed as Greenville lurches towards the civil rights movement in the early sixties.
In August 2016, I came full circle when Jeff and I sold our house in Minneapolis and I moved back to Greenville. We bought a townhouse near downtown, a happening place these days, and we love being near the mountains and ocean. While we miss many things about Minneapolis, especially our old friends there, we haven’t looked back.
Paulette Bates Alden is the author of two collections of autobiographical short stories: Feeding the Eagles and Unforgettable; a memoir, Crossing the Moon; and a novel, The Answer to Your Question, which won the Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Award in the suspense category. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Ploughshares, Mississippi Review, the Antioch Review and elsewhere. She’s the recipient of a Book of the Month Club Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship to Stanford University, a Bush Foundation grant, a Loft-McKnight Award, and several Minnesota State Arts Board grants.
Paulette taught as a Jones Lecturer in Stanford’s Creative Writing Department and for many years taught undergraduate and graduate level courses in fiction writing and memoir at the University of Minnesota, where she received a Distinguished Teaching Award. She also taught creative writing at Carleton College as a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor and at St. Olaf College, as well as many workshops for the Key West Literary Seminar and an online book-length memoir course for Stanford. Until 2016 she critiqued short stories, novels and book-length memoirs as a free-lance editor.
She lives with her husband Jeff Alden in Greenville, S.C. and Key West.