PRESTON BROWNING, co-director of Wellspring House, is a retired English professor. For almost 35 years he taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in twentieth-century American fiction. He is the author of Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir, published in 2009, and of Flannery O’Connor, published in 1975 by Southern Illinois University Press and reissued in 2009 by Wipf and Stock Publishers under the title Flannery O'Connor: The Coincidence of the Holy and the Demonic in O'Connor's Fiction. He has written several articles on O'Connor and other contemporary writers, including the "black humorists" of the fifties and sixties and Walker Percy. His poetry has been published in Phase & Cycle, Poetry East, The Lyric, Collision, Pikestaff Forum, Thorny Locust and Mother Earth News, and his translations of Guatemalan and Nicaraguan poetry have appeared in several journals, including Mother Earth News and Collision. Two recently published essays are "American Global Hegemony Versus the Quest for a New Humanity," which appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of The Ecozoic Reader and "Struggling for the Soul of One's Country: American Pathologies and the Response of Faith" Cross/Currents (Winter 2005).
With a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago, Preston has interests ranging from contemporary writing about spiritual quest (Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace, is a favorite), to the fiction of such writers as Tillie Olsen, Flannery O'Connnor, Louise Erdrich, and Ursula LeGuin (one of his most popular courses at UIC was entitled "Love and Sexuality in 20th Century American Women Writers"), to American diplomatic history. He recently completed a book entitled Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir while working on several short stories, one of which is based on a play he wrote in the 90's about the U.S. and Nicaragua during the Reagan years.
Twice in the eighties and four times since moving to Ashfield, Preston has visited Nicaragua, also visiting Guatemala on numerous occasions since 1999. In the early seventies Preston and Ann spent an academic year in a small village in the southwest of France, where their two older daughters attended the local school, and during the academic year 1977-78 their entire family (three daughters and a son) was in Macedonia, then a part of Yugoslavia, where Preston was a Fulbright lecturer in American literature at the university in Skopje. (Again their children attended local schools and learned to read, write and speak Macedonian, a south Slavic language.)
Preston has a new book, Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir, out November 2, 2009, from iUniverse.
" 'Fierce with reality': The phrase comes from Florida Scott Maxwell's The Measure of My Days, a journal she published in her eighties about laying claim to the events of her life. Preston Browning's Virginia memoir appears late in his life and it, too, achieves much of that lovely ferocity. Reading Affection and Estrangement makes us, too, 'fierce with reality,' thanks to the memoirist and his stunning stories." - Janet Varner Gunn, author of Autobiography: Toward a Poetics of Experience and Second Life: A West Bank Memoir.
"Preston Browning's family memoir is warm and evocative. The heart of it lies in Browning's reflections on that vanished way of life, and on his mother and father. When the author is actively present on the page, either in characterizing himself in those days, or in probing the mystery of his parents' relationship (that ultimate mystery for us all) or explicitly interpreting Southern culture--that's when the book really comes alive. The final chapter, 'Legacy: The Land That Formed Me,' is noteworthy for its nuance in examining that culture--more than nuance, complexity, a willingness not to discount the force of either side of a paradox." - Richard Todd, author of The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity.
"I was immediately engrossed by Preston Browning's Affection and Estrangement. It is beautifully written, compelling, full of the wonder of old times, childhood horrors, the lasting/perpetual crisis of human life. From the final chapter, 'Legacy: The Land That Formed Me,' I learned a great deal about the South, about my mother's family, and about myself." - Elaine Neil Orr, teacher in the MFA Program in Writing at North Carolina State in Raleigh and author of Gods of Noonday: A White Girl's African Life.
Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir is available from iUniverse (1-800-288-4677), Barnes & Noble or Amazon and is priced at $20.95.
ANN HUTT BROWNING was an architect, a published poet, the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of five. With an undergraduate degree in English literature from Radcliffe College, she held two master's degrees, one in psychology from the Claremont Graduate School, and one in architecture from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. In Virginia, in the 1980's, she designed new houses using passive solar technology, created many designs for additions and renovations, often working on 18th century houses. She also supervised the repair and restoration of a one-hundred-year old church. In Chicago, in the 1990's, she worked with other architects, mainly on apartment house renovations. Before studying architecture, Ann had a variety of work experiences in Chicago: at a settlement house in a largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood, as director of a family camp for groups from the inner city, as director of a department at the Health and Hospitals Governing Commission of Cook County, focussing on support for health and medical education, and as associate director of University Health Services at the University of Chicago. In the 1970's she served for eight years on the board of directors of a Montessori school and was on the vestry of her Episcopal church. In the 1990's she worked with community groups on appropriate architectural designs for an urban setting and on a co-housing project. She was one of the key creators of an inner-city “small school” funded by the Chicago Board of Education.
In the winter of 1999, Ann studied Spanish in Guatemala and started working, with the design staff, on a housing project in Ocotal, Nicaragua, for 300 families made homeless by Hurricane Mitch. She returned to Nicaragua in the winter of 2000 to spend two weeks working on this project, and also spent another week in the islands of Solentiname, planning for future solar energy projects. She returned to the Solentiname Islands virtually every year thereafter, and designed a large workshop for the local artists and artisans there, which now serves as a focal point for the community. Ann also had oversight of the condition and needed repairs of the seven schools on the islands. Ann, along with Preston, was an active member of the Solentiname, Nicaragua Friendship Group of Western Massachusetts, building solidarity with the people on the islands. In Ashfield, Ann was active in the community, serving as warden in the local Episcopal church, and was a member of the town Finance Committee. She served on the Town Center Planning Committee, and was in charge of raising funds for buying privately held open land, now the Town Common. Ann was a published poet. Her work has appeared in the Carolina Quarterly, the Dalhousie Review, Salamander, Out of Line and many other journals.
Ann's book of poems, Deep Landscape Turning, was published in August, 2009, by the Ibbetson Street Press (email@example.com).
"To read this book from front to back is to experience the profound turning of a life lived with intention and grace. . . . The triumph of this poet's spirit, and of this elegant and remarkable book, is to have arrived, at the end of the journey, at the bedrock of acceptance and gratitude." - Patricia Lee Lewis, author of A Kind of Yellow and leader of writing retreats at Patchwork Farm in western Massachusetts and at sacred sites in Wales and Guatemala.
"It is very seldom that I really fall in love with a book, but Deep Landscape Turning is one of those books . . . that you put down and it keeps pursuing you, won't let you get away. . . . the whole masterful, varies background is in every word." - Hugh Fox, a founding editor of the Pushcart Prize.
"Reading this book is like walking into a well-ordered room where each object is the perfect embodiment of a moment in time--distinct and whole, able to arrest you with its beauty, intensity, and form. The themes of Ann's life over the past four decades are present in these poems--the themes of global connectedness, social consciousness, the healing power of the natural world, deep childhood pain, the writer's muscle, and a loving soul." - Susan Todd, The Ashfield News.
Ann died in 2011 and is lovingly remembered by family and friends, and by all who knew her. It was the inspiration and vision of Ann Browning which led to the creation of Wellspring House, continuing to this day to inspire poets, artists, and all who visit this special place.
“Waddaya know? Here's this wonderful house in this friendly town run by two lovely, generous souls who by some strange sorcery came to know exactly what was needed to snap me out of my doldrums and remind me why I got into this writing racket in the first place.” - Joe Fox