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Curtis, Jane

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Pen Name: Edna Flannigan

Comments from the author about writing:


In a dream, I saw myself publishing my novel PIGS MUST FLY under the pen name Edna Flannigan. Edna, in my mind’s eye, sprang from a photograph of my mother, Naomi, which I took several years before she died. She is wearing my leopard print reading glasses and I thought she looked like an author. So, to me, she became Edna Flannigan. I always thought my mother could have been a writer – or anything she might have wanted to be – but she was a product of the Great Depression and traditional Iowa. Having said that, you must also know that she was a rebel in her own way: irreverently humorous and, well, simply irreverent. So I came by the pen name naturally, to my way of thinking, even if it has stumped some of my friends who have responded this way: Edna?

I wrote PIGS MUST FLY more than a decade ago, and then sent it through the traditional rounds of agents, editors and anyone else I could get to read it. Along the way, I became depressed and discouraged and I know I must have whined a lot to certain unlucky people. But I was also wary, being trained as a journalist and having a past riddled with personal miseries (Is there any other kind?). So when agents did offer contracts, I balked. Once, an agency mailed me a contract to be signed, but with careful scrutiny I discovered that it was not the same contract the agency had emailed to me to preview. So I backed out. That same agency wanted me to rework PIGS, something I had done, maybe, a dozen times by then. I remember the agent said something like: “I guess you can keep Kitty Velour.” Kitty Velour was a pivotal character.

That same agent told me to make PIGS more like The Shipping News. This was because I had told her that an editor at St. Martin’s Press had read the first portion of the book before it was done and wanted it because, he said, it reminded him of The Shipping News. Then I finished the first draft and he hated it. I told that story to the agent, and right after her comment about making it more like The Shipping News she added, “Of course, I’ve never read The Shipping News.

The world of publishing does not inhabit the same intention that the world of writing inhabits. They overlap. One needs the other. I had to learn that, just like I had to learn that even if someone professed a desire to help me, their intent was likely less about helping me than it was to achieve their own agenda. A crucial lesson. Writers want to be published, and that makes them needy. And vulnerable.

PIGS MUST FLY was written after my first novel, FUNERAL FOOD. Fresh from winning a scholarship to the Wesleyan Writers Conference with it, I sat down and purged the seriousness that had propelled it. After all, it’s literary fiction. Kitty Velour had been living in my head for a long time by then. She (he) rose to the surface and graced the book. But the real trigger for the story goes back to my mother. Right after my father died, she decided to go to an Air Force reunion in Las Vegas. Alone, for the first time. Once there, she took a photograph of the Las Vegas night from her hotel room window with her Instamatic camera. It shows Mom in her hot pink nightgown, the flash of the camera in the window, and, ringing the photo’s edges, just a hint of what Vegas looks like after dark. From that photo, PIGS MUST FLY took flight.

Edna Flannigan (Jane Curtis)

Literary awards received and date received:

  • Jakobsen Scholarship for young writers of unusual promise, Wesleyan Writer's Conference, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

Book Types: Fiction

Audience Types: Adult

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Drama

Are you willing to do programs for schools, libraries, or other groups? Yes

If you are willing to do programs, will you charge a fee? Travel expenses and fees only when it is necessary. The fee will be negotiable. The traveling expenses will be based on the current IRS mileage rate.

E-mail Address:

Author's Web site:

County: Hamilton

Books By This Author


  • Pigs Must Fly, CreateSpace, North Charleston, SC, 2011.


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