Introduction

Introduction

What is one thing that Laura Ingalls Wilder, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, Sara Teasdale, Robert Heinlein, Fannie Hurst, Jack Conroy, Kate Chopin, and Tennessee Williams have in common with Mark Twain?

All of them lived in Missouri. All are part of Missouri's literary heritage.

Centuries before these writers were born, the mystery and majesty of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers drew explorers who recorded their discoveries in journals and letters. Soon after the founding of St. Louis in 1764, word of the vast western prairies and the Ozarks wilderness brought travelers to the lands beyond the Mississippi. Later, reports and letters sent back east or across the Atlantic described frontier St. Louis, pioneer settlements along the Missouri River, and wagon trails west. Throughout the 19th century, European and American writers visited Missouri and often found inspiration in the life of the frontier. From its earliest days, Missouri has captured the imaginations of writers drawn to its natural and cultural landscape.


For present-day travelers, superhighways stretch across Missouri, linking major cities and rural towns. State and county roads, the kind forever symbolized by Missouri writer William Least Heat-Moon as "blue highways," lead to smaller cities and towns, past the farms, lakes, and wild places that make up the beauty and variety of the Show-Me State. 

A traveler can experience Missouri by following its trails, roads, and highways or by reading the printed words of its writers. Stories, poems, histories, biographies, and essays by authors from every region of the state show us Missouri or take us beyond the state to worlds real or imagined. The writings that make up Missouri's literary heritage give us unique and irreplaceable ways to look into our past and present and to explore imagined future worlds.

Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, is known throughout the world as Mark Twain's literary homeland--the place from which his fictional world emerged. Hannibal is Missouri's famous literary landmark, but Jack Conroy's Moberly, Harold Bell Wright's Ozarks hill country, the Eugene Field Museum in St. Louis, and the Mansfield home of Laura Ingalls Wilder also draw travelers and readers to Missouri.

Today, writers from all parts of the state continue to inspire, inform, and entertain readers everywhere. Some work to document or interpret the Missouri experience for friends, neighbors, and travelers. Others have gained national and international publication, recognition, and acclaim. This booklet highlights some of those writers who celebrate Missouri life and some whose vision encompasses the world.