The kind of ghosts the first writer-in-residence at the Katherine Anne Porter House hopes to encounter and details on how to sign up for the Austin Public Library's Summer Reading Program.
KAP House Restored
When Melissa Falcon was an M.F.A. candidate in creative writing at Southwest Texas State, she and another student drove out to the house in which Katherine Anne Porter grew up in nearby Kyle. It was vacant then and "kind of in shambles," Falcon says, but still, they thought it might be useful to hook up a trailer behind the house "hoping to be haunted by a good-luck spirit." They didn't, and they weren't. Falcon has just graduated from SWT and doesn't need to hook up a trailer behind the Katherine Anne Porter house; she lives there now. She's the first writer-in-residence at the newly restored house on Center Street. She has far better acccess to good-luck Katherine Anne Porter totems than if she'd hooked up that trailer. Sitting on top of the computer she uses to finish the second draft of her first novel are a pair of black gloves that belonged to KAP herself. Falcon is now hoping that "some writer karma will rub off on [the computer]."
This summer, she'll teach creative writing at the house to summer school students from the Hays County Consolidated Independent School District in an effort to solve a situation that -- judging from what Porter had to say -- has been in existence since she lived there: a lack of cohesivness in the community. "It's a scattered school district," Falcon says, "because it's kids from different towns coming in all going to the same high school. There's this real sense of 'Oh, I live out behind the Conoco' like they're not a part of the community. And that was Katherine Anne Porter's ... a lot of the feeling that she had about Kyle was that she wanted a sense of community. And back then it was a small town and now it's kind of this space by Austin. When she was here, it was a railroad town and people were moving in and out." That's why Falcon is reading not only Janis P. Stout's biography Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times but a big book about the history of Kyle. The $2,000 worth of books already donated to the KAP House by Barnes & Noble should satisfy any of her other reading requirements; in addition to authors like Edgar Allen Poe are Marcel Theroux, Jorie Graham, and David Foster Wallace, among others.
"She described her home as a Southern plantation," Falcon says, "but this isn't a Southern plantation." It's a painstakingly restored small home with a new, large building in the back yard that will be used for teaching and readings. Falcon's bathroom, in fact, used to be sleeping quarters for all of the Porter children. "You know, she wanted so badly to be from a Southern plantation and I've always wondered what she would think if she were alive now," she says. "I think she'd be pretty tickled."
The Katherine Anne Porter House will be open to summer school students this summer and is scheduled to be open to the public in September, when Annie Proulx will speak there. This month, Porter fans can look for a new paperback edition of Ship of Fools from Back Bay Books.
Summer Reading Program
For more than 25 years, the Austin Public Library has encouraged children to maintain and improve their reading while school isn't in session by registering for an eight-week-long Summer Reading Program that runs this year from June 5 until July 29. Children and young adults can register at the John Henry Faulk Central Library or any one of 19 branch libraries. Participants are encouraged to visit the library weekly. Call 499-7465 for more information.