When Flannery O’Connor (born in Georgia today in 1925) first met her teacher Paul Engle at the University of Iowa in 1946, because of her thick accent he had to ask her to write down what she wanted to say. She wrote, “My name is Flannery O’Connor. I am not a journalist. Can I come to the Writer’s Workshop?” Two years later, she had an agent and a story published in Mademoiselle. Many other stories, including her classic “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” followed.
Robert Penn Warren mentored her curiously powerful and Catholicism-haunted writing. On reviewing a collection of her short work, Evelyn Waugh noted that “If these stories are in fact the work of a young lady, they are indeed remarkable.” According to O’Connor’s biographer Brad Gooch, after the publication of her first novel—the twisted Gothic fable Wise Blood (1952)—at least one scandalized local in her hometown burned a copy in the backyard.