If you have any literary affinity whatsoever, you're probably aware November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Each November, aspiring and established authors alike sit down to hammer out an entire draft for a novel in just one month. This November, Worthington Memory tips its hat at Worthington's many writers of both fiction and nonfiction through the decades.
For digging up historical tidbits about Worthington and Columbus, few books are as useful and just plain fun to leaf through as the four-volume series "Columbus Vignettes" by Bill Arter. Originally published as articles in the "Columbus Dispatch" Sunday magazine from March 1964 through July 1971, each page offers a short, entertaining history of sites of interest, accompanied by Arter's deftly rendered pen-and-watercolor drawings. Arter, who lived on Dover Court in Riverlea with his family, was also a creative director at Byer & Bowman advertising agency and taught journalism at The Ohio State University and Ohio Wesleyan. His life was cut tragically short by cancer at the age of 60, but his writings and art continue to inform and entertain decades later.
Another Worthington resident with both an interest in local history as well as a non-writing day job was Frank Corbin. Director of the S.E. Corbin Funeral Home, Corbin also served as a member of Worthington City Council, board member for the Worthington Public Library and historian for the Worthington Historical Society. His interest in Worthington's history is evident in his 1969 book "A Walking Tour of Old Worthington." The book offers brief, but carefully researched, histories of 46 sites of interest in the area of Worthington bounded by North, South, Morning and Evening streets. Over 50 years later, the book still offers insights for researchers of Worthington history.
Worthington's authors did not focus solely on local history, though the work of writer and illustrator Harriet Torrey Evatt was informed by a local landmark. Evatt began her career as a press agent for the Hartman, Southern and Colonial theatres, and wrote for pulp magazines. In 1940, she began writing children’s mysteries, including titles such as "The Red Canoe," "The Secret of the Ruby Locket" and "The Secret of the Old Coach Inn." The last of these titles was based on Worthington's Griswold Inn, which stood on the Village Green until 1964. In a November 26, 1953 interview with "The Columbus Dispatch," Evatt stated that she often rewrote the first chapter of a book up to 75 times, and that each of her works "first must pass a selection board on which sits a juvenile." In addition to her popular novels, Evatt was an accomplished illustrator and painter, and lived with her husband at 74 East Kanawha Avenue.
Another celebrated author was a teacher, and his award-winning memoir focused on his experiences in the classroom. Charles Rousculp’s "Chalk Dust on My Shoulder" was published in 1969 and went on to win the 1970 Ohioana Award for best nonfiction by an Ohio author. Rousculp served as a Marine in World War II, and was injured in intense fighting in Iwo Jima. He was haunted by his war experiences, and wrote of how he viewed teaching as a solace and a calling. He taught English for 35½ years for Worthington Schools, until his retirement in 1985 at age 61. In its February 15, 1969 issue, "The Columbus Dispatch" described "Chalk Dust on My Shoulder" as a "warm and human classroom memoir" and a "book of wide appeal to both the mind and the heart."
One Worthington resident was not the author, but instead a focus of the book, "Come Out Fighting: The Epic Tale of the 761st Tank Battalion 1942-1945." First published in 1945, the book was written by journalist Trezzvant W. Anderson, who had also served as part of the battalion. Worthington native George C. Blake was one of 11 men in the unit to be awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action against enemy forces. Blake's Silver Star Medal citation states on "9 December 1944, in the vicinity of Norville Les Vic, France. Private First Class Blake, seeing many of his comrades wounded by artillery and small arms fire, dismounted from his 1/4 ton truck, and under intense artillery and mortar fire, carried the wounded to his truck and evacuated them to a medical aid station. Private First Class Blake returned and remained in the field during the night to administer first aid and evacuate the wounded." Trezzvant W. Anderson reported widely on civil rights injustices of the Jim Crow South, working first as a desk reporter for the "Pittsburgh Courier" and then as a "Courier Roving Reporter" throughout the southeastern United States.
Another Worthington native has distinguished himself as an author of novels, short stories, poetry and screenplays. James Robison, a 1964 graduate of Worthington High School (WHS), is the author of the books "The Illustrator," and "Rumor and Other Stories," and has won the Pushcart Prize, the Whiting Award and the Rosenthal Award for Fiction. Robison has taught at universities, including the University of Houston, Loyola College of Maryland, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of North Dakota.
Claire Shipman is a WHS grad who has also received widespread acclaim for her work. A journalist, author and public speaker, Shipman covered the White House and the Clinton administration for NBC News, spent a decade covering the White House for CNN and spent 15 years at ABC News, reporting on politics, international affairs and social issues. She's the co-author, with the BBC's Katty Kay, of four "New York Times"-bestselling books: "The Confidence Code," "The Confidence Code for Girls," "Living the Confidence Code" and "Womenomics."
WHS has produced no shortage of bestselling authors: Jeff Smith, who graduated in 1978, is the artist and author of the comic book series "Bone." The self-published series follows the adventures of three cartoon cousins journeying across a fantastical landscape. The series, which ran from 1991 to 2004, received 10 Eisner Awards and 11 Harvey Awards, and in 2019 Netflix announced the series would be produced as an animated children's special.
Whether it's local history or faraway adventures, Worthington's writers (and artists!) have certainly found profound inspiration from the city where they grew up or lived throughout their lives. If you are an aspiring writer setting out on your own literary journey, take heart from their successes as you write your way through November.