de Grummond Collection

McCain Library and Archives
University Libraries
University of Southern Mississippi


Collection Number
Collection Dates
Collection Volume
1.20 cu.ft. (4 boxes)

Biographical Sketch | Scope & Content | Related Collections | Series & Subseries | Box Inventory


Material received from Ouida Sebestyen in 1983 and 1985.


Non-circulating; available for research.


This 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.

Biographical Sketch

Ouida Sebestyen was born in Vernon, Texas on February 13, 1924, and briefly attended the University of Colorado before World War II. She married Adam Sebestyen in 1960 and had one son, Corbin. Sebestyen began writing in high school and sent out her first novel when she was twenty. This was rejected, and so were three subsequent ones. In the following years, the sale of a few short stories to magazines encouraged her to keep writing. She wrote poems, plays, novels, articles and true confessions, almost all of which were rejected, before Words by Heart became an instant success after its publication in 1979. Sebestyen hopes that this "Cinderella" story encourages other struggling writers to keep trying.

Sebestyen writes primarily about the American West. To her, the West is bleak and harsh but also beautiful, dramatic and inspiring. Her first two published novels are set in Texas because she grew up there and is comfortable with the land. She lived in Colorado for sixteen years before she felt she knew the land well enough to use it as a setting for IOU's (1982).

Words by Heart, Sebestyen's first published novel, earned recognition from the Young Adult Services Division of American Library Association in 1979, an award from the International Reading Association in 1980, and an American Book Award for paperbacks in 1982. IOU's received an award from the Texas Institute of Letters in 1983.


Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence from Sebestyen to the de Grummond Collection, as well as a few letters she exchanged with two publishers. The collection contains material relating to four novels published between 1979 and 1985: Far From Home, IOU's, On Fire, and Words by Heart). For each of these the collection includes rough notes, a first draft, and a typescript. The novels are in alphabetical order, with material for each title organized in the probable order in which it was produced (e.g., rough notes, typescripts, galleys, page proofs). Sebestyen first drafts her novels in longhand so she is free to move from one room of her house to the next, following the sun from east to west during the day. Next she types drafts, over and over, making multiple revisions. This pattern of work is reflected in the materials contained in the collection.

Far from Home (1980) deals with the emotional problems of the inhabitants of a shabby boarding house. Sebestyen portrays the despair of these characters and also shows the hope they experience when they open up and allow others into their lives. The collection includes galleys for this title in addition to rough notes, a first draft, and typescript. For IOU's, a story about a single parent named Annie and her son Stowe, the collection includes two typescripts, as well as rough notes and a manuscript.

On Fire is the sequel to Words by Heart even though she had several intervening novels between the two. It focuses on Tater Haney, the boy who killed Lena's father in Words by Heart, and picks up the Haney family after it has fled Texas and settled in Colorado. For this title, the collection contains rough notes, a manuscript version, and two typescripts. Words by Heart, Sebestyen's first and most famous novel, is about Lena, a black girl living in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. The plot revolves around Lena's efforts to win a school contest in spite of the prejudices of an all white town. For this title, there are notes, a manuscript, and a typescript.

Series and Subseries

A. Correspondence, 1981-1984

B. Books

Box Inventory


A. Correspondence

1/1 From Sebestyen to the de Grummond Collection, 1984 and undated, 3 items; from the Atlantic Monthly Press and Little, Brown and Company to Sebestyen, 1981-1983, 5 items.

B. Books

FAR FROM HOME by Ouida Sebestyen (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980). 1/2-1/8 Notes, 21 pp., and incomplete manuscript, pp. 1-40. 1/2 Typescript, edited, 1/3 chapters 1-5, pp. 1-55; 1/4 chapters 6-8, pp. 56-98; 1/5 chapters 9-13, pp. 99-150; 1/6 chapters 14-17, pp. 151-155, 158-193; 1/7 chapters 18-21, pp. 194-235; 1/8 chapters 22-24, pp. 236-261; and additions, 7 pp. 1/9-2/2 Galleys, 1/9 front matter and pp. 3-45; 1/10 pp. 46-91; 2/1 pp. 92-127; 2/2 pp. 128-191. IOU'S by Ouida Sebestyen (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982). 2/3 Notes, 19 items, and incomplete manuscript, pp. 1-36. 2/4-2/6 Typescript, irregular pagination, 2/4 pp. 2-41; 2/5 pp. 42-120; 2/6 pp. 121-188. 2/7-3/2 Typescript, edited and marked for typesetter, 2/7 chapter 1, pp. 1-43; 2/8 chapters 2-3, pp. 44-93; 2/9 chapter 4, pp. 94-130; 3/1 chapter 5, pp. 131-189; 3/2 chapters 6-7, pp. 190-238. ON FIRE by Ouida Sebestyen (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985). 3/3 Notes, 31 pp., and incomplete manuscript, pp. 1-27. 3/4-3/6 Typescript, edited, irregular pagination, 3/4 pp. 1-48; 3/5 pp. 49-100; 3/6 pp. 101-137. 3/7-4/2 Typescript, edited, 3/7 chapters 1-5, pp. 1-52; 3/8 chapters 6-12, pp. 53-106; 4/1 chapters 13-18, pp. 107-159; 4/2 chapters 19-25, pp. 160-220. 4/3 Dust jacket and jacket copy, 5 items. WORDS BY HEART by Ouida Sebestyen (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979). 4/4 Notes, 13 pp., and incomplete manuscript, pp. 1-24. 4/5-4/10 Typescript, edited, irregular pagination, 4/5 chapters 1-2, pp. 4-24 with 164-169, 127-141, 144, on reverse; 4/6 chapters 3-4, pp. 29-61; 4/7 chapters 5-6, pp. 62-90; 4/8 chapters 7-8, pp. 91-120; 4/9 chapter 9, pp. 121-163, with pp. 25-44 on reverse; 4/10 chapters 12 (partial)-14, pp. 170-206 with miscellaneous typescript on reverse. 4/11-4/12 Galley, author's file copy, 4/11 cover sheet and pp. 1-28; 4/12 pp. 29-59.

Processed: March 1991
Revised: July 2001

Biographical Sketch | Scope & Content | Related Collections | Series & Subseries | Box Inventory
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The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection

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