Tragic Good News
When Lou Claire Rose died last year in New Braunfels at the age of 82, she bequeathed between $600,0000 and $650,000 to the MFA creative writing program at Southwest Texas State University. Beginning in the fall of 1999, one student will receive $25,000 from the Lou Claire Rose Fellowship to be used during the three years of the student's attendance at SWT, and that is "more money than just about any program offers in the country as a total package," according to Tom Grimes, who directs the MFA program.
Rose was the youngest freshman in the history of Oklahoma A&M University; she moved from Oklahoma to Houston during World War II and that's where she met her husband William Morgan Rose. He ran a shoe business in Houston. The couple never had children and Lou Claire's sister was killed tragically in a car accident when she was a teenager. "So Lou Claire Rose was pretty much an orphan in a lot of respects," Grimes says. "Her favorite author was Agatha Christie, she loved mysteries, Ed McBain, and that's what she wrote." What she wrote was eight unpublished novels with titles like Gringos Go Home!, Who Killed Luis Padilla?, and Justice Delayed, most of them set in Big Bend. ("They were mysteries with lots of drinking; everybody was always drinking. There was plenty of sex but nothing terribly salacious," Grimes reports.) It's unclear to what extent she tried to have the books published but an author who writes eight unpublished books before dying is a doggedly tenacious author, and from the biographical portrait of Lou Claire that Grimes draws, it's apparent that tenacity was one of the donor's strong suits.
"She was constantly writing letters to the editor. ... She was pretty big into environmental issues. ... She worked for the Republican party, she registered voters in the state, she volunteered at a battered women's shelter for a number of years," Grimes says. "She had gotten pretty ill and she was living alone and it was very sad. She had started giving away her personal possessions and that depressed her incredibly, as it would anyone, and there was a great deal of ambivalence about even getting involved with this because, you know, the woman's still alive and she's giving away things and she's basically preparing for her death and you're involved in it. And it's a strange contradiction because it's horrible, tragic good news. ... Basically what this lady Lou Claire Rose provided was one student who would not have the incentive or opportunity to write that very opportunity and that's really the best you can do, and then it's up to the writer."
In the Works
Word surfaces again that Borders is building a new location in South Austin. The man who would know, Dan Finn, the general manager of the one Borders in town, reiterates the store's previous position by saying, "We are committed to finding a second location. We are determined to put another Borders in Austin, the sooner the better," but adds, "I don't think it's a secret to say things are in the works. The logical place would be something south."
UT Press is sending eight of its authors to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve on Saturday, January 23 from 10am-4pm. Ten percent of sales will benefit the Preserve. The Austin Baroque Players will be performing and the event is free and open to the public. Call the Wilderness Preserve at 327-7622 for more information.
Mason West's short story "TITLE HERE" won honorable mention in the Chronicle's short story contest last year and now his short story "Alice by Day" is on All-Story Extra, Zoetrope's Web supplement. You can access his story at http://www.zoetrope-stories.com/extra/index.html