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BETTY KOCH ERWIN PAPERS

de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
The University of Southern Mississippi


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Creator: Betty Koch Erwin
Title: Betty Koch Erwin Papers
Dates: 1950-1998
Dates: [bulk ca. 1955-ca. 1976]
Quantity: 3.90 cubic feet (13 boxes)
Identification: DG1198

Abstract: The Betty Koch Erwin Papers contain manuscripts, typescripts, galleys, correspondence, contracts, photographs, and clippings created and accumulated by Betty Koch Erwin and her children between 1950 and 1998. Erwin's papers were created from her composition of six published children's books and several unpublished novels, short stories, and essays for both children and adults. A consciously realistic writer, Erwin explored numerous serious issues in American life in the 1960s and 1970s: the lives of poor urban African Americans, dysfunctional families, fear of nuclear weapons, urban decay, and decline in public schools.

Biographical Note

Betty Koch Erwin was born in 1922 in Whitehall, Wisconsin to H. C. Koch, M.D., and his wife, Iolyn Chester. The family moved to Berlin, Wisconsin in 1936, immediately before she entered high school. She attended Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and then the University of Wisconsin where she earned a B.A. in history and an M.D. She externed in Chicago, interned in Jersey City, New Jersey, and completed a residency in anesthesia at the University of Minnesota. While living in Minneapolis in 1950 she began to submit short stories for publication in periodicals. The two that she sold were outnumbered by rejection slips. In late 1950 she married Grant W. Erwin Jr., a flight navigator for Northwest Airlines, which moved the couple to Seattle in 1952. They remained in Seattle, where her husband became a mathematician for Boeing, from 1958 to 1986. They lived with their children on Capitol Hill, an older section of Seattle.

Erwin wrote stories for the amusement of her six children: Alice, Grant, Victoria, Anne, Daniel, and Helen. Encouraged by the family, she combined these stories into a fantasy novel, Aggie, Maggie, and Tish, in 1965. She used her children and three older women she had known in Whitehall as loose models for the characters. She also set the book in Wisconsin, using Whitehall as a model for the fictitious town, to teach her children about her childhood home. Erwin composed the manuscript using her children's names, changing them only before publication. Where's Aggie?, a sequel, appeared in 1967.

Erwin frequently turned to familiar sites and experiences for her writing. She placed The Summer Sleigh Ride (1966) and its sequels, Who Is Victoria? (1973) and The Stairway in the Tree (unpublished), in the same pastoral Wisconsin setting as her other fantasy novels. The plot of Go to the Room of the Eyes (1969) transpired in an older Seattle house closely modeled after the Erwin home. The book won the Dorothy Canfield Fisher award in 1971. Similarly, Erwin drew from her experience as a medical student in Chicago for portions of Behind the Magic Line (1969), a novel about an African-American family living in the slums of Chicago.

Erwin attempted to write as realistically as possible and, consequently, explored numerous serious issues in American life in the 1960s and 1970s. Her dismay over the limited portrayal of black families in children's literature motivated her composition of Behind the Magic Line. Her unpublished writings covered a wide range of modern problems: dysfunctional families, fear of nuclear weapons, urban decay, and decline in public schools. The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator, the unpublished sequel to Go to the Room of the Eyes, explored teen angst in the early '70s and reflected the Erwin family's own troubles and the decline of the Capitol Hill section of Seattle. Similarly, the characters of March to the Dead Hills inhabit a post apocalyptic wasteland imposed by human conflict, greed, and indifference.

Erwin failed to publish anything after Who Is Victoria? in 1973, despite writing several children's novels, short stories, and a romance novel. She died of lung cancer in 1989.

Sources:
Compiled from sources within the Betty Koch Erwin Papers.


Scope and Content Note

The Betty Koch Erwin Papers contain manuscripts, typescripts, galleys, correspondence, contracts, photographs, and clippings created and accumulated by Betty Koch Erwin and her children between 1950 and 1998. Erwin's papers were created from her composition of six published children's books and several unpublished novels, short stories, and essays for both children and adults. The material is organized into three series: books, unpublished works, and personal papers.

The papers in the books series are arranged alphabetically by title and the material for each book is arranged chronologically in order of creation when known. Erwin wrote almost all of her manuscripts in a rather haphazard manner in spiral bound notebooks. Each notebook usually contains manuscript drafts for two or more works. Likewise, the manuscript for a single novel may span two or three notebooks. Notebooks containing manuscript material for a published novel have been placed with the papers of the novel in question; otherwise, notebooks are filed according to the bulk of their contents. Erwin's notebooks also contain drafts of letters that she composed and presumably sent to editors, fans, and others. Prominent in both her draft and actual correspondence are three children's book editors at Little, Brown & Co.: Helen Jones, Caroline Soule, and Casey Cameron.

Betty Erwin's unpublished works are organized into three subseries: novels, short stories, and essays. In each subseries, the papers are arranged alphabetically by title and the material for each composition is arranged chronologically in order of creation when known. Untitled works have been described by the processor to give a simple but adequate knowledge of their contents. The jumbled state of the manuscripts described for published works applies for unpublished works as well. Furthermore, Erwin's children occasionally wrote and drew in their mother's notebooks. The majority of Erwin's short stories and essays are undated and impossible to estimate a date of composition within a decade. Nevertheless, they do seem to span the whole of Erwin's writing life. The essays probably date from the 1970s and 1980s and are rich in autobiographical information.

The series of personal papers contains correspondence, royalty statements, clippings, and other records of Betty Erwin and her daughter, Helen Erwin Schinske. The correspondence passed primarily between Betty Erwin and her editors and between Helen Erwin Schinske and the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection.


Series and Subseries

A. Books (1965-1973)
B. Unpublished Works (ca. 1950-early 1980s)

1. Novels

2. Short Stories

3. Essays

C. Personal Papers (1950-1998)


Restrictions

Restrictions on Use

Noncirculating; available for research.

Copyright Restrictions

The collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials, other than that noted above.


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

(Identify the item and cite the series), Betty Koch Erwin Papers, de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

Provenance

These papers were donated to the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection of the University of Southern Mississippi by Grant W. Erwin Jr. and Helen Erwin Schinske in 2000. After Betty Erwin's death, her daughter, Helen Erwin Schinske, arranged for June Hamilton, a library school student at the University of Washington, to organize the majority of the papers (see folder 13/15). The student's separation of published from unpublished works and novels from short stories among the unpublished works has been preserved, although unpublished essays now have been segregated and misidentified manuscripts now are in their proper places.

Processing Information

Processed by Hans Rasmussen, October 2001. Encoded into EAD Version 1.0 by Danielle L. Bishop. This finding aid is the product of a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Container Listing

Box/Folder

.

Books

Aggie, Maggie, and Tish by Betty K. Erwin, illustrated by Paul E. Kennedy (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1965).
1/1Notebook containing manuscript of chapter 1 (pp. 3-27) & chapter 3 (pp. 57-59); manuscript of short story with a Dr. MacPherson as protagonist; manuscript of short story on medical confidentiality
1/2Notebook containing manuscript of chapter 7 (pp. 126-138); incomplete manuscript of untitled short story about a being made from cancer cells
1/3Notebook containing manuscript of alternate introduction later used in chapter 1 (pp. 27 ff.), manuscripts of chapter 8 (pp. 140-154) & chapter 2 (pp. 31-51); draft of letter sent to Helen Jones; manuscript of chapter 1 (pp. 10-11, 27)
1/4Typescript of chapters 1, 3-8
1/5Typescripts of alternate introduction (2 versions); typescript of chapter 2 (pp. 31-53); scattered typescript pages, (16 pp.)
1/6Clipping from Seattle Post-Intelligence, 2 September 1965; letter received from Sister Miriam Kathleen, 27 September 1965
1/7Photographs of locales in Whitehall, Wisconsin, mentioned in Aggie, Maggie, and Tish, collected for a display on Betty Erwin for National Library Week at the Sunset Elementary School in Whitehall, 16-22 April 1972 (also see folders 13/10 & 13/12)
1/8Play adapted from Aggie, Maggie, and Tish by students of the Leal School in Urbana, Illinois, 1983 (13 pp.) with correspondence (2 items)
Behind the Magic Line by Betty K. Erwin, illustrated by Julia Iltis (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1969).
1/9Notebook containing manuscript of chapters 1, 2, 4-13; draft of letter sent to Helen Jones describing Erwin's feelings of her depiction of blacks in the novel
Handwritten letter (draft) from Erwin to Helen Jones (3 pp.)
1/10Notebook containing manuscript of pp. 36-135; manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator version B; children's crayon drawings; draft of letter sent from Helen Erwin to Mary, 1971; drafts of letters sent to Caroline Soule
2/1First typescript of chapters 1-13 (pp. 4-173), edited
2/2Pages removed from first typescript during editing, (23 pp.)
2/3Second typescript, copy edited, (150 pp.)
2/4Contract between Betty K. Erwin and Little, Brown & Co. for Behind the Magic Line, 1968
2/5Galleys
2/6Letters received concerning revision and anthologizing, 1967, 1972, (5 items)
Go to the Room of the Eyes by Betty K. Erwin, illustrated by Irene Burns (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1969).
2/7Notebook containing brief manuscript passages for Aggie, Maggie, and Tish stories; manuscript for Where's Aggie? (pp. 30-40); manuscripts for three short stories about the Chandos, Betteridge, and Eliot families each moving to Seattle, Washington; manuscript of chapters 1-10 (pp. 3-113) of Go to the Room of the Eyes
3/1Typescript, copy edited, (141 pp.)
3/2Letter received from Helen Jones concerning revision, 1967
3/3Contract between Betty K. Erwin and Little, Brown & Co. for Untitled book about the Seattle children (i.e., Go to the Room of the Eyes), 1967
3/4Galleys
The Summer Sleigh Ride by Betty K. Erwin, illustrated by Paul E. Kennedy (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1966).
3/5Notebook containing first manuscript including portions of chapter 3; manuscript of The Noisy Children, [ca. 1964]
3/6Notebook containing second manuscript including chapters 4-13 (pp. 39-154) & 1-2 (pp. 3-24)
3/7Typescript, edited, [ca. 1964], (78 pp.)
4/1Contract between Betty K. Erwin and Little, Brown & Co. for The [Summer] Sleigh Ride, 1965
4/2Galleys
4/3Correspondence concerning publication and anthologizing, 1965, 1966, 1975, (7 items)
Where's Aggie? by Betty K. Erwin, illustrated by Paul E. Kennedy (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1967).
4/4Notebook containing manuscript of chapters 1-8 of Where's Aggie?; manuscript of short story about protagonist Jane spending a summer with her grandparents; drafts of letters sent to Helen Jones, a fan, a nun, and Sister Miriam Kathleen concerning the publication of Aggie, Maggie, and Tish and the completion of Where's Aggie?, [1965]
4/5First typescript, edited, (107 pp.)
4/6Second typescript, (104 pp.)
4/7Third typescript, copy edited, (106 pp.)
5/1Contract between Betty K. Erwin and Little, Brown & Co. for Sequel to Aggie, Maggie, and Tish (i.e., Where's Aggie?), 1966
5/2Galleys
Who Is Victoria? by Betty K. Erwin, illustrated by Kathleen Anderson (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1973).
5/3Notebook containing manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator version B; draft of letter sent to attorney (loose); draft of letter sent to Caroline Soule on The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator; manuscript of chapters 1-3 (pp. 3-38), 5 (pp. 49-62) & 7-10 (pp. 75-124) of Who Is Victoria?; fragment of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator; assorted unidentified fragments
5/4Notebook containing drafts of letters sent to fans; draft of letter sent and essay about son, Grant; manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator version B; manuscript of epilogue (pp. 133-134), chapter 4 (pp. 39-47) & chapter 6 (pp. 63-74) of Who Is Victoria?; drafts of letters sent to Caroline Soule [1972] and a hospital staff; manuscript of Statesan; manuscript of obituary for Dr. H. C. Koch; draft of letter sent to Casey Cameron on The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator; draft of letter sent to Caroline Soule on Who Is Victoria?; outline of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator; manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator version B; draft of letter sent to John G. Keller on The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator; assorted unidentified fragments; drafts of letters sent to fans
5/5Typescript, (86 pp.)
6/1Galleys
6/2Letters received from editors at Little, Brown & Co. concerning publication, 1972-1973, (7 items)



.

Unpublished Works

Novels
The Druid's Dragon Path [ca. 1976] (also see folder 8/4)
6/3Typescript, Chapters 1-10, (82 pp.)
6/4Photocopy of the typescript in folder 6/3, Chapters 1-10, (80 pp.)
6/5Typescript pages numbered 1-34 (includes chapters 12-14 and epilogue)
6/6Letter received from Casey Cameron concerning rejection of novel, 1976
The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator [early 1970s]
(Note: As best I can tell, Betty Erwin composed two versions of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator, here referred to as versions A and B. Version B probably followed version A, but this chronology is not entirely certain. Portions of the manuscripts for both versions are found scattered across five manuscript notebooks, filed in folders 1/10, 5/3, 5/4, 8/3, and 10/2. The notebook in folder 8/3 contains chapters identified as belonging to version A. The notebooks in folders 1/10, 5/3, and 5/4 contain chapters identified as belonging to version B. The passages in the notebook in folder 10/2 come from an unidentified version. The manuscript chapters in all of the notebooks do not follow the same chapter numeration as in the typescripts and are interspersed with unidentified passages. Anyone wishing to study the creation of this unpublished novel should be prepared to spend a great deal of time examining the manuscript sources. - H.R.)
6/7Typescript of version A, edited, (95 pp.)
6/8First typescript of version B, edited, (124 pp.)
7/1Second typescript of version B, (157 pp.)
7/2Assorted typescript pages from version B and unidentified, (9 pp.)
March to the Dead Hills [ca. 1975]
7/3
7/4First typescript, [ca. 1975], edited by Molly Seibert [ca. 1990], (154 pp.)
7/5Second typescript, [ca. 1975], 153 pp. (pp. 24-150 are photocopied from first typescript)
8/1Assorted typescript pages, [ca. 1975], 28 pp. (pp. 3-23 are photocopied from second typescript)
8/2Correspondence among Betty Erwin, Casey Cameron, Helen Erwin, and others concerning March to the Dead Hills and The Stairway in the Tree, 1975, 1990, (5 items)
The Stairway in the Tree [early 1970s] (also see folder 8/2)
8/3Notebook containing manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator version A; manuscript of The Stairway in the Tree (ts. pp. 1-9, 23-30, 39-67, 78-86); draft of letter sent to Casey Cameron concerning Stairway in the Tree; manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator version A; draft letter and notes on Who Is Victoria? and The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator
8/4Notebook containing manuscript of The Stairway in the Tree (ts. pp. 11-21, 31-38); manuscript of The Druid's Dragon Path; short essay on Helen Erwin
8/5Notebook containing science class notes; manuscript of The Stairway in the Tree (ts. pp. 68-77); list of notes on Who Is Victoria?; short essay on writing from memory (loose); drafts of letters sent to Ms. Lewis, a publisher, and Casey Cameron
8/6Typescript, lightly edited, [ca. 1975], (86 pp. + 7 assorted pages)
8/7Photocopy of typescript in folder 8/6, [ca. 1975], (86 pp.)
Theater of Love (with Mary Braund) [early 1980s]
9/1Notebook containing manuscript of short story about police; manuscript of Theater of Love; loose flyer for program at the University of Washington School of Medicine, 1981; brief summaries of books
9/2First typescript of chapters 1-2 (ts. pp. 1-33); photocopy of chapter 1 (ts. pp.1-19); assorted typescript pages
9/3Typescripts of two alternate versions of chapter 1 (13 pp., 14 pp.)
9/4First typescript of chapters 4-5 (ts. pp. 54-84); 2 photocopies of chapter 5 (ts. pp. 68-84)
9/5Second typescript, edited, of chapters 1-6 (ts. pp. 1-106); photocopy of chapter 5 (ts. pp. 69-81); synopsis of remaining chapters (7 pp.); synopsis of sub plot (3 pp.)
9/6Third typescript of chapters 1-6 (ts. pp.1-131) incorporating editing to second typescript; synopsis of remaining chapters, 7 pp.; letter sent by Mary Braund (Morgan) to Florence Feiler, a literary agent, 1982
9/7Photocopy of second typescript, further edited beyond earlier changes incorporated into third typescript, chapters 1-5 (ts. pp. 1-81)
10/1Notes on authors; proposal; blurb; synopsis of main plot, 3 pp.; sensuous scene I, 3 pp.; sensuous scene II, 3 pp.; synopsis of sub plot, 3 pp.; major and minor character sketches, (6 pp.)
Untitled Ghost Story [ca. 1973]
10/2Notebook containing manuscript of The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator unknown version; draft of letter sent to fan, [1973]; manuscript of Untitled Ghost Story; draft of letter sent to fan, 1974; unidentified prose piece; drafts of letters sent to fans; draft of letter sent to Casey Cameron, 1974
10/3Typescript, (107 pp.)
10/4Correspondence with literary agent and publishers concerning rejection of text, 1974, 1976, ( 4 items)
Untitled Novel (protagonists Sophie and Ronie, a mother and daughter in Seattle)
10/5Notebook containing manuscript for Violence; manuscript for chapters 1-2 of untitled novel with Sophie and Ronie; manuscript for opening of Carlotta and the Red-Haired Woman; manuscript for chapters 2-8 of untitled novel with Sophie and Ronie; manuscript for later parts of Carlotta and the Red-Haired Woman
10/6Notebook containing manuscript for unidentified portion of untitled novel with Sophie and Ronie; medical notes
10/7Typescript, chapters 1-6, (80 pp.)
11/1Photocopy of typescript in folder 10/7
Untitled Novel (a ghost story)
11/2Notebook containing manuscript for untitled ghost story novel
Untitled Novel (protagonist Sybil Johnson, a child in the decayed inner city)
11/3Notebook containing poems copied in another hand; manuscript of untitled novel with Sybil
11/4Typescript of chapter 1, (9 pp.)
Short Stories
An Affair in a Laboratory [ca. 1955] (also see folder 13/10)
11/5Typescript, (13 pp.)
Carlotta and the Red-Haired Woman [ca. 1980] (also see folders 10/5 & 11/12)
11/6Typescript, (17 pp.)
The Castle [ca. 1955] (also see folder 13/10
11/7Three typescripts, 17pp., 16 pp., 14 pp.; letter received from literary agent, 1955
Commuter's Interlude [ca. 1957]
11/8Two typescripts, 10 pp., 9 pp.; letter received from literary agent, 1957; rejection slips
Druid Ruin [ca. 1955] (also see folder 13/10)
11/9Three typescripts, (12pp., 12pp., 12pp.)
Follow the Signs
11/10Manuscript, 6 pp.; typescripts, (8 pp., 9 pp.)
Haunt About
11/11Typescript, (8 pp.)
Lucky Annabelle [ca. 1980]
11/12Typescript, 14 pp.; letter received from literary agent on Lucky Annabelle and Carlotta and the Red-Haired Woman, 1980
The Man Who Tried to Get Away
11/13Typescript, (4 pp.)
Married by December
12/1Manuscript, 8 pp.; three typescripts, (14 pp., 18 pp., 25 pp.)
Possessed [ca. 1950]
12/2Typescript, (13 pp.)
Statesan (also see folder 5/4)
12/3Typescript, (25 pp.)
The Theme
12/4Typescript, (10 pp.)
The Usurper
12/5Typescript, (7 pp.)
Violence (also see folder 10/5)
12/6Typescript, 8 pp. (incomplete)
Untitled Short Story (protagonist Marcia Wehman)
12/7Manuscript, 2 pp. (incomplete); typescript, (12 pp.)
Untitled Short Story (about a being made from cancer cells) (also see folder 1/2)
12/8Typescript of the manuscript in folder 1/2, (11 pp.)
12/9Manuscript (14 pp.) and typescript (8 pp.) of alternate version of the short story in folder 12/8; description of Miss Shotta, a relaxation therapist, 2 pp.; literature on medical aspects of atomic warfare
Untitled Short Story (protagonists Letitia and her grandmother)
12/10Notebook containing first page of manuscript
Untitled Short Story (protagonists Harlan and his father, a doctor)
12/11Notebook containing drafts of letters sent to fans, [ca. 1973]; science notes; latter portion of an account of a fandango in California in another hand; chemical formulae; manuscript of untitled short story about Harlan and his father
Untitled Short Story (about artificial insemination)
12/12Manuscript, 5 pp.; typescript, 6 pp.
Essays
Art at a Low Level
13/1Typescript, (4 pp.)
Untitled Essay (a memoir of Erwin's hospital internship in Jersey City, New Jersey)
13/2Typescript, (13 pp.)
Untitled Essay (a reflection on nostalgia)
13/3Typescript, (5 pp.)
Untitled Essay (a reflection on changes in Wisconsin)
13/4Typescript, (5 pp. )
Untitled Essay (a memoir of her father)
13/5Typescript, (12 pp.)
Untitled Essay (a memoir of her house and children)
13/6Typescript, (12 pp.)
Untitled Essay (an essay on detective fiction)
13/7Typescript, (7 pp.)
Untitled Essay (a memoir of Wisconsin doctors)
13/8Typescript, (5 pp.)
Untitled Essay (an essay on men's and women's ideas of fashion)
13/9Manuscript, (1 p.)



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Personal Papers (1950-1998)

13/10Correspondence, 1950-1998, (18 items and 1 photograph)
13/11Royalty statements from Little, Brown & Co., 1970, 1980-1984
13/12Clippings, 1972, 2 items (also see folders 1/7 & 13/10)
13/13Erwin's copy of Your Book Contract: A Guide for the Use of Members of the Authors Guild in the Negotiation of Contracts with Book Publishers (1961)
13/14Assorted unidentified manuscript and typescript pages, (27 pp.)
13/15Records of the initial processing of the Betty Koch Erwin Papers by June W. Hamilton, 1989

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