The University extended sanctuary to some shady characters — Jazz Age bootleggers, sexual obsessives and high-rolling grifters among them — when acclaimed writer Craig Holden donated his personal papers to the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections in Carlson Library.Holden, who grew up in Toledo and took his UT bachelor’s degree in psychology, biology and philosophy in 1983, is the author of faced-paced novels that include The River Sorrow (1993), Four Corners of Night (1999), The Jazz Bird (2001), The Narcissist’s Daughter (2004) and Matala (2007).
Holden’s papers provide a remarkably complete look at his development as a writer, according to Barbara Floyd, director of the Canaday Center. “The collection includes everything from early writing from his days as a student at Rogers High School in Toledo, through his undergraduate years at UT, and from his time in graduate studies in creative writing at the University of Montana at Missoula,” she said. “The collection also includes multiple drafts of his novels, which document how his creative processes work.”
Floyd first asked about the papers some years ago when Holden was teaching writing classes at UT, said the author, who’s now on the English faculty at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. The process of moving from Michigan to New Mexico proved to be the impetus for the transfer, he explained from his new home: “I cleaned everything out that was stored in a loft over the garage, and in my office. My mom had boxes of stuff as well. I wasn’t going to move it all down here, so I talked to Barbara again and the bulk of it went down to UT last summer.”
Holden admitted that the career-spanning contents had gotten away from him: “I wasn’t in a place in my life where I could sit down and organize everything, but Barbara said they would, which is wonderful. To have it all in one place appealed to me. When I took more things down this summer, I had a look at what they had organized and filed.”
The collection should prove interesting to UT students seeking their own careers as authors, Floyd noted. “To see how someone takes a plot idea and develops it through draft after draft is fascinating,” she said. “This collection allows a researcher to get into the mind of the creator in a way that is rarely possible.”
For Holden, now deeply into the process of creating his next novel — a multi-generation family saga set partly in Europe and partly in the Michigan he knows so well — being part of a historical record is a new sensation.
“Yeah, it’s a strange thing — I’m archived,” he said, then laughed. “In a way it’s weird, but it makes me happy to think about the records sitting in a nice temperature-controlled placed where they’re not going to get lost.
“I don’t have to worry about them anymore and I can visit whenever I want.”