Henderson, William Haywood
Henderson, William Haywood
During early career, worked variously as a chef, copyeditor, technical writer, landscape gardener, and caretaker on a ranch in Wyoming. Brown University, Providence, RI, writing teacher, 1988-89; University of Colorado, Denver, writing teacher, 1992- 93; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, writing teacher, 1994-95; Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Denver, CO, instructor, 2002—; University of Denver, Denver, CO, adjunct lecturer, 2006—.
Native, Dutton Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Rest of the Earth, Dutton Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Augusta Locke, Viking Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of short fiction and creative nonfiction to various periodicals, journals, and anthologies.
William Haywood Henderson's first novel, Native, tells the story of a young ranch foreman in Wyoming and the conflict he feels between his duty to his job and his attraction to one of the men working for him. A contributor for Publishers Weekly remarked that the book is "a bit too studied to succeed completely." Boston Globe contributors Amanda Heller and Katherine A. Powers, however, called the novel a "moody, near-mystical evocation of the Western heart."
In The Rest of the Earth, Henderson's next effort, he returns to Wyoming to tell the story of a young man's travels after the Civil War. While a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this disjointed tale lacks spark and surprise," Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer stated the exact opposite, calling the book "an astonishing novel that could not have been predicted." A bit more successful, according to reviewers, is Augusta Locke, in which Henderson again writes about the Midwestern part of the country. He follows the life of spunky Augusta Locke from her birth in 1903 rural Minnesota through her adventures in Colorado with her mother after her father proves unfaithful, and to her flight to Wyoming after her mother remarries. A contributor for Publishers Weekly remarked of this novel: "Saturated with details of the natural Midwest, Henderson's work etches in high relief the image of a solitary life among scenic riches." Rita Giordana, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer Online, also praised the book, calling it "uncommonly beautiful" and noting that "the writing is like prose poetry, ethereal and earthy at the same time."
Henderson told CA: "I keep writing mostly about a single corner of the country, so all of the research builds on itself. Some people think that writing about a single place must be limiting, but the more you delve into a place the more expansive it gets. You start creating your own histories, and then you follow the threads wherever they lead. In Augusta Locke, I got to find out what happened to Walker Avary after The Rest of the Earth, and I also got to explore the younger days of Gardelle Jankirk from Native.
"I'm always looking for the underlying emotional component of the landscape. Maybe it goes back to when I was a child and my mother read me a lot of books in which there was a magical component to the natural world, books like The Hollow Tree, The Wind in the Willows, and Brighty of the Grand Canyon. And she'd been a biology teacher, so she was always showing us the workings of the world, telling us the names of the flowers and trees, and then taking things a step farther, looking for fairy circles, showing us where an elf might live in a particularly beautiful thicket, tracing mysterious tracks along the edge of a creek. I don't really write about magic—though I suppose there's a magical component to Augusta Locke, concerning Gussie's interpretation of ravens' behaviors—but I think I'm always striving to make that magical sense of the world real for my readers, especially for those readers who haven't experienced the wilds. I like the sense that there are layers to the world that we can't quite perceive but that we feel deeply.
"I usually work on a chapter, get it close to done, and then move on to the next chapter. This allows me to get all of the various elements of the text working, like setting, imagery, action, and character, so that when I start the next chapter I already have a fairly wellrealized world in place. My process involves countless handwritten drafts, and then I type the text, print it, dissect it with scissors, write it out again longhand, and on and on. The ideas mostly create themselves out of the characters and the choices they make, and then I work to sharpen the ideas or make them consistent with the ideas in earlier chapters. And I've found that reading my work aloud to myself helps me find repetitions and awkward sentences. There are no shortcuts and no rules—I just keep grinding away."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2006, Debi Lewis, review of Augusta Locke, p. 65.
Boston Globe, March 28, 1993, Amanda Heller and Katherine A. Powers, review of Native; October 9, 1997, Richard Dyer, review of The Rest of the Earth.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, review of Augusta Locke, p. 149.
Library Journal, February 15, 2006, Maureen Neville, review of Augusta Locke, p. 107.
Publishers Weekly, December 28, 1992, review of Native, p. 57; June 30, 1997, review of The Rest of the Earth, p. 67; February 13, 2006, review of Augusta Locke, p. 62.
Lighthouse Writers Workshop.com, http://www.lighthousewriters.com (September 24, 2006), brief biography of William Haywood Henderson.
Philadelphia Inquirer Online, http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/ (May 28, 2006), Rita Giordano, review of Augusta Locke.
William Haywood Henderson Home page, http://www.williamhaywoodhenderson.com (September 24, 2006).