This Goodly Land

Helen Norris (June 22, 1916–present)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Literary Awards

Biographical Information

Helen Norris was born in Miami, Fla. When she was a toddler, her family moved to a large farm near Montgomery, Ala. The farm lacked electricity and telephone service, and the family entertained itself with literature. Norris began writing stories as a child. She attended the University of Alabama, graduating with an AB in 1938. Her mentor, Hudson Strode, arranged a graduate fellowship for her at UA on the condition that she write a novel. Norris received an MA in 1940, and her thesis was a draft of the novel, Something More Than Earth, which was published the same year. After graduation, Norris married and moved to Birmingham. The family later settled in Sylacauga, Ala., when Norris’s husband became an executive with Avondale Mills.

Norris stopped writing while she was raising her children but began again in the late 1950s, writing two novels during this time. One, For the Glory of God, was published in 1958, but the other, More Than Seven Watchmen, was not published until 1985. Norris’s marriage ended in divorce in 1965, and she spent a year in graduate study at Duke University. In 1966, she returned to Montgomery, where she taught English at Huntingdon College until her retirement in 1979. Norris began writing and publishing short stories again after her retirement. During this time, she held residencies at the Yaddo and MacDowell colonies. Several collections of Norris’s stories have been published, and two of her stories have been made into television films: The Christmas Wife, shown on HBO in 1988, and The Cracker Man, shown on PBS in 1999. Norris published two books of poetry in the 1990s and was appointed Poet Laureate for the State of Alabama from 1999 to 2003. Norris lives in Black Mountain, N.C.

Interests and Themes

In her fiction, Helen Norris describes ordinary people dealing with loneliness and longing for love and community.

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Reference Book Chapters and Encyclopedia Entries

Photo by Robertson Photography; courtesy of the Alabama Writers' Forum.

Last updated on May 30, 2008.

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