Copyright 2016 Maxine Davenport
Maxine Neely Davenport’s writing evokes the toughness and passion of Westerners born in the post-Steinbeck era, and portrays the struggles today's ranchers have with such problems as illegal migrant employees and cattle rustlers.
Davenport grew up riding horses in Oklahoma’s Hereford Heaven territory. In college, she won national awards as editor of the East Central Journal. At Colorado State University she received a master’s degree in literature, followed by a law degree from Oklahoma University. She began writing fiction following a career in law and has completed four novels and a number of prize-winning short stories.
While practicing law in Colorado Springs, she was active in Pikes Peak Writers and served as editor of The Pikes Peak Writer News Magazine. She traveled to China with other women lawyers and judges, the first People to People group allowed into that country. Later she accompanied a group of Heifer International personnel to Zimbabwe, Africa, where they visited farms and met with government officials. She spent one summer of law school at Queens College, Oxford, England, after touring Europe by automobile. Now living in Santa Fe, she keeps in touch with mountain-climbing friends who shared her hikes up twenty-six of Colorado’s fourteeners.
Davenport is the mother of three children, seven grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
My Writing Influences
I’m frequently asked if my short stories and novels are autobiographical, and I insist that they are not. However, I just finished reading THE NAIVE AND THE SENTIMENTAL NOVELIST written by Orhan Pamuk who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006 and I find myself less emphatic about that statement. All writers are taught to “write what you know.” It follows that what we know is what we’ve lived or learned while living. Authors “dip into the well of memory for tiny drops of truth” and expand that idea into a story which to the reader seems real. Pamuk says that readers want the novelist to keep this second life alive and this is why they want to follow the characters into second and third books. They naively belive the characters, the locations and emotions are real.
After reading THE NAIVE AND THE SENTIMENTAL NOVELIST, I picked up SATURDAY MATINEE, and found myself a little embarrased. The stories each had more biographical information in them than I had remembered.
I was born during the Great Depression, and my stories from that era may seem as if they really happened. As a novelist, I saw them as no more true than John Steinbeck’sGrapes of Wrath. This placeed them in the realm of historical fiction. I grew up on a farm near Ada, Oklahoma, a town that became the site of Robert Mayer’s book, The Dreams of Ada, which detailed the tragic errors made by local police and the judicial system in the pursuit of justice. John Grisham became interested in this story through reading Mayer’s book and later wrote the novel, The Innocent Man, Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. Both these books describe one small element of my history, and I can’t deny that my writing reflects whatever influence this history may have had on my development.
Ada provided my birth-through-college environment, but I had a life after that, also. Following my graduation from East Central University (then called East Central College in Ada), I married and moved to Colorado. Three children later, with a master’s degree from Colorado State University and a law degree from Oklahoma University, I retired and moved to Santa Fe, NM. I suspect this era is filled with many “drops of truth,” also. I was reminded of that when my daughter sent a Mother’s Day card last year that had a picture of a young girl contemplating running away from home. The message said, “Mom, there were times when running away from home seemed like a good idea . . .” (You can imagine my shock.) Inside, it read, “But you never did.” (I was even more taken aback.) She added in her own writing, “Thanks for your love and support—and for teaching me to hang in there.” I have that Mother’s Day card sitting on my desk, and it reminds me that things have never been so bad that I contemplated running away, and I’ve searched my mind for the person who taught me that lesson. Obviously, my mother, who also grew up around Ada, reluctantly moved to a farm because her husband loved it, and never ran away. Maybe someday someone will write her story.