Collection ASM0107 - Laura Kalpakian papers

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Laura Kalpakian papers


  • 1975-1988 (Creation)
  • 1985-1988 (Creation)


20 Boxes

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Biographical history

Author Laura Kalpakian, described by some critics as one of the "most unheralded, brightest talents" in the country, has published several novels and short story collections, novellas, short stories, essays and interviews for magazines and newspapers including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Hawaii Review.

Born on June 28, 1945, in Long Beach, California, Kalpakian grew up in Southern California. Before she "took to the typewriter seriously" in the 1970s, she graduated from the University of California, Riverside, and worked briefly as a social worker. She continued her education and obtained the M.A. degree from the University of Delaware, and completed graduate work at the University of California, San Diego. Kalpakian taught English at several universities including the University of Redlands and Western Washington University.

Kalpakian's earliest works include several short stories which she developed into novels. Critics praised her first novel, Beggars and Choosers (1978), as "fast-paced and humorous, "comparing it to Alison Lurie's "The War between the Tates." Kalpakian's novel These Latter Days (1985) traces a family history, moving from Liverpool to Idaho, California and Utah between 1893 and 1972. The work, considered "a cut above most family sagas," received praise for its characterization and "descriptive flair." The "highly readable story line" and "raucous cast of characters" in Crescendo also appealed to reviewers. Kalpakian's most recent work Graced Land, appeared in 1992, received enthusiastic reviews and was filmed as a television movie, "The Woman Who Loved Elvis." Two collections of Kalpakian's short stories have also been published: Fair Augusto and Other Stories (1986) and Dark Continent and Other Stories (1989). Two of Kalpakian's works A Winter's Tales and Tiger Hill were published only in England.

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Author Laura Kalpakian, described by some critics as one of the "most unheralded, brightest talents" in the country, has published several novels and short story collections, novellas, short stories, essays and interviews for magazines and newspapers including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Hawaii Review. 

The Laura Kalpakian Papers contain manuscripts and drafts of stories, novels, and speeches. Correspondence relates to the creation and publication of several works. Writings are arranged in chronological order within three series: Novels, Short Stories and Other Writings, and Short Story Collections.

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Contains page proofs of Tiger Hill which Kalpakian wrote under a different name.  This Gothic novel, begun in 1975, was published in England in 1982.

Kalpakian published Crescendo, in the United States in 1987. She began the novel, originally titled Jerusalem's Curse, in February, 1985. Drafts of Part I are arranged by chapter, and a complete copy of Part I, the work upon which New York Times Books based their purchase of the novel, appears among the papers. Drafts of Part II, also arranged by chapter, were written during the summer of 1985. Revisions of individual chapters are dated September, 1985, through December, 1985, and the revised whole which Kalpakian turned into New York Times Books, is dated January, 1986. A copy of the novel as completed in January, 1986, is titled Jerusalem's Curse.

Based on the editor's suggestions of March, 1986, Kalpakian made revisions which appear in drafts of individual chapters dated April - May 1986, or labelled "Spring Revisions."  Kalpakian sent a final revision of the whole to New York in May, 1986; this work is entitled "Jerusalem Road." Accompanying this draft are the "revision statements" explaining alterations and responding to "editors queries." Page proofs for the English publication, entitled The Swallow Inheritance, also appear in this series.

Pressured to complete Ravenna Blue before her fall teaching duties began, Kalpakian completed the novel between June 29, 1987, and September, 1987. Drafts of Parts I-III written in August, 1987, are arranged in sections based on Kalpakian's daily work. A draft of Part IV completed August 16 - August 26, 1987, follows this material. A rewrite of the entire book completed during September, 1987, appears in the files. Two rewrites of Part I, the first completed in August, 1987, and the second in September are also arranged according to the work completed daily. Rewrites of parts II and III completed September 9 - September 17, 1987, are arranged in a similar manner. A complete final draft of the work in 1987 and a mock up follow the rewrites.

Although the novel failed to interest publishers, Kalpakian made revisions which are detailed in her letter of July 6, 1988. The papers contain the new prologue and daily revisions of parts I-II dated March, 1988. These rewrites are followed by a revision of the whole and a second to last mock up and final mock up for the June 16, 1988 printing.


Contains drafts of short stories arranged chronologically, based on the earliest dated draft. Most were revised for publication in two collections: Fair

Augusto and Other Stories and Dark Continent and Other Stories. Included in this series is a 1981 revision of "Bare Root Season," a story written in January, 1980 and published in Hawaii Review. The story, also published in England, was listed with "100 Distinguished Stories," of 1984, and with "Best Short Stories," of 1984.

Four rewrites of "Last Page" dated Winter, 1985, are arranged from the first to the final draft. Revisions of a story written in 1983, "Last Dream Before Waking," are dated May-June, 1986. Three rewrites and a final copy of "Habits" dated January, 1986, appear in this series. This story originally written in 1984 was first published the collection Fair Augusto and Other Stories. Another story "Youth in Asia" first appeared in print in the Fair Augusto collection. The papers contain five original drafts of the story from Fall, 1984.

Seven consecutive drafts of "Civilization and Its Discontents" written February, 1986, appear in the series, but in contrast to the other works had not yet been published as of July 2, 1988. Manila Bay, included in the Dark Continent collection is represented by only a final draft dated October, 1986. Drafts of "Bones of Contention" include several early drafts dated Spring, 1986, a second to last dated Fall, 1986, and an original final draft as well as three copies. "Wine, Women and Song" was first written in 1982 and published in England in Spring, 1986. A complete draft of the story is dated June, 1983. Subsequent revisions, a draft dated May, 1987, and a final draft completed in April also appear in the papers. Kalpakian expanded the work for a possible American Playhouse production.

"Delinquent Virgin" which Kalpakian wrote in December, 1986, remained unprinted as of July, 1988, but four drafts appear in the series. A final and second to last draft of "Sonnet" are dated December, 1986. Five drafts of "Dark Continent" from Fall, 1986, an author's final draft and typed final draft both completed in February, 1987 reveal changes made for publication in Dark Continent and Other Stories.

Notes, newspapers clippings and the earliest drafts of "Caveat Emptor" document the background of the story. Kalpakian based her main character Hank Beecham on "a man Hatfield who is famous (or infamous) in the San Diego area for having caused the 1916 floods." A last draft before mock up, mock up of November, 1987, rewrite and final draft dated January, 1988 show subsequent revisions. Kalpakian completed two original drafts, a "mark up" and final draft of a "Christmas Cordial" in December, 1987.

Drafts dated June 17-July 11, 1988, show the progression of "Lavee, Lagair, Lamore and Lamaird," into the final draft dated July 1988. Kalpakian planned a companion piece for this story, hoping to combine the two works with "Caveat" for a third collection of short fiction. A short, humorous work "How to Write

a Novel: A Textbook" also appears in this series, in addition to a speech and several letters.

A first and a final draft of "Unspoken Ambivalence, Unspeakable Experience, Undeclared Goods," a speech given by Kalpakian for a 1988 Armenian American Literature Conference at Columbia University provides insights into Kalpakian's background. In the speech, which was later condensed for publication, she

explains her use of her mother's maiden name: "I very consciously adopted this name...when I first approached the typewriter. My unmarried name is Johnson and I though this would be too easily lost. Moreover I chose not to use my married name on paper...I chose the name Kalpakian because the name and all its associations are personally important and intertwined with my very earliest life, with those memories that elude language altogether, with perceptions that are wholly associational, that connect with my grandfather's small neighborhood grocery store..."

Kalpakian also reveals the connections between her family background and her fiction. Her father and his ancestors who were Mormons inspired These Latter Days a story set among a mormon clan in the American west. A novella "A Child of Our Times" draws on the experiences of Kalpakian's grandparents, both "their early experience in the old country and in Los Angeles." Kalpakian explains that these stories represented her earliest undertakings as a writer and became "of those early stories the only ones (she) can still read with pleasure." Kalpakian also reveals her views on writing and on her work and discusses the evolution of "Hunters in the Fields of August" to illustrate the development of her stories.

The letters which Laura Kalpakian wrote between September, 1986, and July, 1988, describe the manuscripts and notes she sent to the University of Miami, explaining her organization of the materials. The letters also provide a record of the evolution of several works, dates for drafts and revisions, and information about title selections. In her letter of July 6, 1988, for example, Kalpakian reveals the various stages in the writing process of Ravenna Blue, and explains the changes she makes to the work and the influence these alterations will have on the characters and plot. Letters also distinguish which drafts of novels were selected for purchase.


Contains two complete drafts of Fair Augusto and Other Stories. The work published by Graywolf Press in 1986 won the PEN/LA Best Short Fiction Award in

1987 and was a finalist in the Boston Globe Literary Press Competition. Stories in the collection include "Veteran's Day," "Bare Root Season," "Land of Lucky Strike," "Habits," "A Time Change," "Hunters in the Fields of August," "Youth in Asia," "The Last Page," "Hairline Fractures," "Sonata in G Minor," "And Departing Leave Behind Us," "The Last Dream Before Waking," and "Fair Augusto."

This series also contains a complete typed copy of Dark Continent and Other Stories, published in 1989. In addition a copy of "Battle of Manila," from the second draft to last mock up, a mock up of the entire book and "removed changed pages" are included. Other stories from the collection include "Bones of Contention," "Wine, Women and Song" "Sonnet," "Dark Continent," "Christmas Cordial," and "Caveat Emptor."

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This collection is open for research, but is kept in an off campus storage facility. Please allow up to 72 hours for delivery of requested materials.

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Laura Kalpakian finding aid © 1993 University of Miami. Requests to reproduce or publish materials from this collection should be directed to

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  • English

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126.6 KiB


May 18, 2018 3:04 PM

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