- Angel’s Rest (2009)
- Elizabeth’s Choice (2004)
- Angels in the Dust (2002)
by Heather Walker (SHS)
Mary Edwards is a great woman and a well-respected writer. Mrs. Edwards was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on March 7, 1923. She was born into the Jeffcoat family. Her parents were James Arthur and Eula Mae Jeffcoat. They were later divorced and both remarried. She had six sisters, two of whom are now deceased.
Edwards says she went to junior high school in Jackson, Mississippi, but she fails to remember the exact name of the school. Her stepfather was injured while Edwards was still in high school. Due to her father’s injury, Edwards was not able to finish school because she had to work to help earn a living for her family. Many years later, she earned her GED.
When she was twenty-four years old , she moved to Monroe, Louisiana, with her first husband. Some years later, she got a divorced . She then met and married Howard D. Edwards, and they had five children: three sons and two daughters.
When Edwards was in her fifties, she decided to go back to school. She took some creative writing classes under Berry Morgan and Ellen Douglas at ULM in Monroe, Louisiana. Edwards says that these two woman rekindled her desire to write again. Unfortunately, she was late into her sixties before she began to pursue her writing career.
Her husband became very ill, and she stayed home to take care of him. While at home, she decided to finish her novel, Angels in the Dust, that she had started years before. As she continued to write, she would read each completed chapter of Angels in the Dust to her husband. Reading to her husband gave her great joy. Unfortunately, her husband died before Edwards finished Angels in the Dust.
After her husband passed away, she was determined to finish her novel partly because her husband had wanted so badly for her novel to be published. While searching for a publisher, she ran across Publish America. She mailed them a letter with part of her story in June of 2002. A few days later, she received an email saying they wanted her to send in her entire manuscript. She then received another email saying they had decided to publish Angels in the Dust. After signing her contracts, she requested her copyright. Her novel was finally released in January of 2003 (Edwards). Edwards finally became the published writer that she had always wanted to be just a few months before her 80th birthday (Wecsler).
Edwards is presently working on a new novel called Autumn’s Turning. She says,”It is about a man whose family was gone astray in a northern city. He returns home to Louisiana for his father’s funeral and is brought back to his roots. It is there that he realizes that hehas failed his children in not giving them the discipline that he received from his father. He makes the decision to keep the old home place and move his family back there with him. It is the story of his struggle to keep them off the streets and off drugs. He must fight their hatred of the place, his wife’s animosity, and his oldest son’s anger toward him. It is the story of a man who wishes to turn back the years and show his family the way that life was in his youth. With the return of love of his wife and children, his life comes full circle in the autumn of his years.”
Edwards is also a poet and songwriter. She has also written a poem to go in the front of her new novel (Edwards). Mary Edwards is a wonderful lady., who has lived a long and prosperous life. She knows now that it is never too late to realize a dream (Wecsler).
Mary Edwards continues to live and write in Monroe, Louisiana. She published Elizabeth’s Choice in 2004.
Review of Angels in the Dust
by Heather Walker (SHS)
Angels in the Dust is a great novel by Mary Edwards. She has a wonderful writing talent. The fact that she lives in the South has helped her writing become especially interesting to young readers from the South. While reading this novel, the reader feels as if she is actually walking down the gravel path in Mississippi taking everything in around her, such as the smells and the sounds of the South.
Angels in the Dust is about a Southern family that does not have enough money, food, and sometimes not even shelter. It is about a family not having so many of the things we take for granted. This small Southern family consists of Maggie Garett, the mother; Ezra Garett, the father; Bennie, the sister; and Pete, the foster brother. The Garett family faces many challenges, but it always seems to overcome the obstacles. When the Garett family is without suitable clothes and very little food, Pete travels to Louisiana to find work to help support his family. Before Pete departs for Louisiana, he discovers that he has strong feelings for his foster sister. Bennie feels the same about her foster brother. While Pete is away, he meets a girl named Marie. They get married and have baby. He hides Marie and the baby from his family because of his feelings for Bennie.
Mary Edwards brings in many aspects of old Mississippi such as the beautiful scenery and the hard times which people had to endure. Edwards has created a wonderful story. I recommend you read this novel. There is some vulgar language, but Edwards is only showing the Southern dialect with those chosen words,. Without the slang, the reader wouldn’t grasp the whole feeling of the South.
If you want to find out what happens with Bennie, Pete, and the rest of the Garett family, I highly recommend you read Angels in the Dust.
by Heather Walker (SHS)
Mrs. Edwards, I have been reading your book Angels in the Dust. I would like to ask you a few questions about yourself
Heather, I was thrilled to get your letter and to find that you chose me for your project. I will get each thing you asked for together and get it to you as soon as possible. I would like to take this time to say how much I admire all of the students at Starkville High and the truly worthwhile work that you do. I feel sure that the writers are all as grateful as I am for the recognition that you young people bestow on us. It feels good to include myself in the US of this letter. Thank you. You will hear back from me as soon as possible.
– Mary Edwards
Here is the original letter I sent you but it came back as an error. I had attached the pictures. How will I be able to get the pictures to you? Please let me know if you get this.
When and where where you born?
I was born in Jackson, Mississippi on March 7, 1923
What are your parents’ names and your siblings’?
Eula Mae Anderson Jeffcoat and James Arthur Jeffcoat who were later divorced and remarried. I have six sisters from these marriages. Two of whom are now deceased.
Where did you go to high school and college?
I went to junior high school in Jackson, Mississippi, but it has been so long ago that the school name eludes me at this time. I have been trying to find out. If I can find out, I will get back to you on that one. I was unable to finish high school because my stepfather was injured, and I had to go to work to help make a living for the family. Years later I earned my GED.
Did you ever get married and have children?
I was 24 years old when I moved to Monroe, Louisiana, with my first husband. Later we divorced and I married Howard D. Edwards. I have 5 children: 3 sons and 2 daughters.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer? Was there something in particular that got you interested in writing?
After my children were married and gone, I decided to take creative writing classes under Berry Morgan and Ellen Douglas at ULM in Monroe, Louisiana. Back then it was known as Northeast Louisiana University. I was in my fifties when I took these classes. These two ladies rekindled my desire to write again after many years, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I was well into my late sixties before I began to pursue it in earnest.
I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was able to put words together for the stories I would tell my sisters. The person who got me interested in writing was a neighbor whom we called Grandma Cunningham. She lived on Oak Street next door to us in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She would call me over and put me at the table with cookies and sometimes milk. She would then bring me what she thought was a suitable book for a child. She would then tell me to write down what I thought of the books, and I am afraid that I embellished all the stories to suit myself. Sometime she would read what I wrote and laugh. She gave me about 20 beautiful first edition books that were later sold for food during the depression. When I cried about it, my mother told me that filling my stomach was more important than filling my head.
In your childhood memories was there anybody that really inspired your life?
My earliest childhood memories of storytelling are when we were lying in bed at night, and I would make up stories to lull my sisters to sleep. From there I began to use up all my school paper to write down all the stories in my head. When I went to Speed Street School in Vicksburg, I was in about the 5th grade. I had a wonderful teacher named Miss Bertie Reese. One day she came to my desk with a handful of tablets and some pencils. She told me she didn’t want me to stop writing, but I had to trade her my promise to write in the tablets she was giving me and keep my school books clean. She told me to come by her home on Washington Street and bring all my writings for her to see. She was an inspiration, and I have never forgotten that good lady. Some teachers have the ability to really inspire a person to become all that they can be, and to know that it is never too late to begin at working to fulfill your dreams. Another person I have never forgotten was the wonderful principal of George School in Jackson. His name was Mr. Whitney. He taught me in his kind way to always follow my heart and to never give up. I was in about the 2nd or 3rd grade when he came into my life. Back then life was hard for almost everyone, and we were very poor. Whitney taught me to love corn bread and cabbage, as that was almost the daily fare. He would tell us that we were lucky to have that vegetable and that good old cornbread. Now every time I have cornbread and cabbage I think of him. I wasn’t a great scholar in school because my head was always in the clouds. I did my work and passed from grade to grade and that is about all I can say about that.
How difficult was it to get your first book published? How did you go about it?
After sending out 3 manuscripts in the mail and having them returned to me after many months of waiting, I decided that at my age that was not the way to go. During this time my husband was terminally ill, and I was homebound taking care of him. I decided since I couldn’t leave the house that I would finish ANGELS IN THE DUST, a novel I had begun years before. During this time I would read it to my husband, and it proved to be great entertainment for him. He passed away before I got to finish it, so in his memory I got busy and finished it because he really wanted me to get it published. My niece gave me an old hand me down computer to do my writing on. While looking up publishers, I came across the web page for Publish America. I sent them a query letter in June of 2002, and then a synopsis at their request. A few days later I received an email to send them the entire manuscript. I did and then received another email telling me that they had decided to publish my novel. I received my contracts in the mail and sent for my copyright. My book was released in January of 2003.
Who is/are your favorite author/authors?
My favorite authors are Berry Morgan, Ellen Douglas, Eudora Welty, and Catherine Marshall. These ladies are good Southern writers and tell the kind of stories that I like to read, and Catherine Marshall is a wonderful inspirational writer. Her book CHRISTIE was one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I am also a big fan of John GRISHAM. John Steinbeck is the author who influenced me the most in my early years. He gave me a writer’s itch. The previously mentioned writers influenced me as well and helped me scratch it.
Are you currently working on a new book? What is it called? When will it be published? Do you a title for it yet? What is it about?
I am now working on a novel called AUTUMNS’ TURNING. It is about a man whose family is going astray in a northern city. He returns home to Louisiana for his father’s funeral and is brought back to his roots. It is there that he realizes that he failed his children in not giving them the discipline that he received from his father. He makes the decision to keep the old home place and move his family back there with him. It is the story of his struggle to keep them off the streets and off of drugs. He must fight their hatred of the place, his wife’s animosity and his oldest son’s anger toward him. It is the story of a man who wishes to turn back the years and show his family the way life was in his youth. With the return of the love of his wife and children, his life comes full circle in the autumn of his years. I haven’t finished the book yet and don’t know when I will have it published. Hopefully someone will pick it up.
How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influence your writing?
My greatest memories are of growing up in Mississippi. I write about it because it is what I know and love. I lived it so therefore it is easy to write about it. Mississippi has always renewed my spirit because it is always the place I call home.When I describe a country road, I can see that country road because I walked it many a day as a child. When I talk about an old home place, I lived in that old home place. Living in Mississippi gives me the ability to reach back into my memory and weave a story of happier times.
Besides writing, what else do you like to do?
Besides my love of writing I also love to oil paint and do watercolors. If you could see my paintings, you would see Mississippi in all of them. I also love my flower gardens. To me there is nothing more beautiful in the morning than to see an iris or a rose blooming with the dew on the petals. I am an avid bird watcher and spend many hours watching the birds at my feeders. I also love to sculpt and make my own dolls out of cernit. I get my inspiration for song writing from my love of nature. I have written poetry for years and one of my favorites is one that I wrote for my husband before he passed away. It is also called Autumn’s Turning, and the only one I did not read to him. I am going to put it in the front of the book. I will send it to you for the web page if you would like it.
Do you have any advice for the future writers?
My advice for future writers is to write what you know about and pay attention to everything around you. Also never, never give up.
Do you have any advice for students today?
My advice to students today is to carry their education as far as they possibly can and to never stop learning. I am 80 years old, and I am still learning. I wasn’t fortunate enough to get a formal education, but I thirsted for knowledge and to this day I haven’t stopped. I tell every student to expand their reading habits to include a variety of materials. Don’t just read about one subject that holds your interest, but build a desire for knowledge of all things. Also be very grateful that the times are not too hard, and that you are able to go to school. In these times kids don’t have to quit school to work and help their parents.
Is Angels in the Dust, even though fiction, based on your life? Did you base the characters in the book Angels in the Dust on people you know or knew?
Some of the book is a part of my life, the part about being poor and Mother working as a domestic to better our lives. EZRA was no part of our lives, but he was a character that shoved his way into the story. The book is mostly fiction.
I hope this gives you enough of what you need, and again let me say how thrilled I am that you chose my book and me What a great honor. I am attaching a few pictures that you may use. In the school picture, I am the shortest one standing directly in front of Mr. Whitney, the principal of George School. He is the man standing on the back row. I am the short one with the short, straight hair. I am sending one also of a few of my sisters when they were young. The CD booklet is one that was sent to me by a man in England who did the CD on the Meteor Record Company that I had recorded a few of the songs I wrote on. I am sending you a recent picture of me also. There is a picture of me and my late husband Howard also. If you need anything else or other pictures, let me know. I hope you can open a zip file. If not let me know and I will send these to you one at a time.
Heather, I am sorry to cause a delay, but I am afraid to send the picture of Mr. Whitney and my schoolmates snail mail. It is seventy something years old and very fragile. I hope to have it redone if I can. I am the shortest girl standing in front of Mr. Whitney. I didn’t tell you that MS Johnson, a special person to me and my teacher, also is to the left of us on the end. Thank you again and let me know if you get the pictures. God Bless You.
Here is the poem that is going in the front of the book of my next novel, Autumn’s Turning. I hope I have sent you what you need. Let me know if I have sent the wrong things or not enough and I will see what else I can come up with. Please let me know if you got all this stuff and if you had any trouble downloading it.
AUTUMN’S TURNINGIt is here, love, the evening of our days
by Mary Edwards
How shall we spend it before the dark night laughs with autumn’s turning, and winter bids us come?
We loved each other well, didn’t we, in the morning of our youth?
We worked, we laughed and played and shared remembered heartaches.
As we walked into noon, a child’s laughter charmed the silence and together we looked upon the flower of our love.
But now the sun has gone to bed and we are sentenced to the night that runs on swiftly moving hours to claim our days
And wonder who will it be that waits to greet the other beyond that secret curtain
Would that we could go together and shorten the lonely journey while the night surrounds us
And autumn turns to winter and bids us sleep.
- Edwards, Mary. Angels in the Dust. Baltimore: Publish America, 2002.
- Edwards, Mary. Electronic mail interview. 6 May 2003.
- ____________. Electronic mail interview. 8 May 2003.
- ____________. Electronic mail interview. 12 May 2003.
- ____________. Electronic mail interview. 13 May 2003.
- Wecsler, Heather.”Wife writes book to comfort dying husband.” The News Star. 23 April 2003. Monroe: Gannett, 2003.<http://www.thenewsstar.com>.
- “Mary L Edwards.” Authorsden.com. 23 April 2003. <http://www.authorsden.com/maryedwards>.