Novel accurately portrays High Plains region

Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist

“Desperate” and “Discouraged” she wrote in a Feb. 2, 1951, letter to Thomas H. Uzzell, an author who had written “The Technique of the Novel.”

“Dear Mr. Uzzell … One summer years ago I was a student at New Mexico A&M College. Mr. W. Earl Beem, head of the English department, urged me to write. Finally, about five years ago, without benefit of formal instruction, expert advice, or even more than a scant knowledge of grammar, I started to work. My first novel came straight from the family album; it was never submitted to a publisher. However, encouraged by friends who should have known better, I confidently set about to produce the great American novel. Mr. Beem, who was good enough to establish contacts with several publishers, sent it to Henry Holt & Co. I am enclosing a copy of their letter of rejection for what it is worth. And then (Mr. Beem) obtained for me your book on techniques of writing a novel.

“Even now, three years later, I have not completely recovered from the many shocks I received for it. It upset and changed every idea I had had. I had never thought in terms of “effect” or “viewpoint.” I had done everything wrong; committed every sin. I read it thoroughly not once, but several times. From the state library I obtained and studied many books you listed, including two on the subjects of psychology.

“By the time I had finished with them I was so confused and my self-confidence so shattered that I did not have the nerve to look at my typewriter for months. Then I tried to revise my first novel. Last year I tried to write another one. Certainly the time has come for me to seek expert advice.

“I should like to send you all my work. In this way you could determine what I had to go on, whether or not I have improved or learned anything, and advise me in regard to my future possibilities. However, out of deference to my bank account, I am afraid that this is out of the question.
“Therefore, what would you charge for an editorial appraisal for each of the following manuscripts: “Red Is My Color;” “Lost Enchantment,” a revision of the first novel; and “Adobe Twilight”?

“After digging all of the manuscripts out of my trunk, I find they are pretty ragged. If I were writing to one of those newspaper columnists who offers advice, I would sign myself “Desperate” or “Discouraged.” Believe me, I do hate to charge all of my work off to sweet experience and stop now. Very Truly Yours, Eula Bruce.” (She never mentioned getting a reply from Mr. Uzzell.)

Eula Bruce happens to be the late Eula Mae Edwards, for whom Eastern New Mexico University’s old Clovis school named a museum (The school is now the Clovis Community College.) Before she died in Tucumcari on Dec. 19, 1983, of cancer she willed the American Indian artifact collection from her museum in San Jon to CCC along with $45,490.16. She gave the money to maintain the artifact collection, which contained many priceless items.

Her cousin, the late Earnest Cooper of Melrose, was the executor of her will and named Sunny Dunning, Leona Head, and Harold Gore to see that the ENMU-Clovis carried out her wishes.

In the many boxes she had packed were the artifacts, her notes, drawings for her archaeological study and personal letters, some in shoe boxes all filed neatly away.

She threw nothing away. In one box were scattered sheets of faded typing paper with what looked like part of a manuscript. When the executor put them all together it was her unpublished novel “Red Is My Color.” (No sign of her other two manuscripts.)

This columnist read it and thought it merited publication, even as a novel. The story portrays the high plains area accurately and depicted characters that were typical of the area of our pioneering period. I asked to publish it myself and the college gave me permission. I printed it in 1988 at City Printing Inc. at my own expense. The 225-page,
soft-back book includes her history and also the inventory of artifacts she donated. A copy is located at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:
dmcalavy@telescopelab.com