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Meredith Sue Willis, Author, Papers

Collection Number: A&M 4448

Scope and Contents

Papers and manuscript drafts of Meredith Sue Willis, an author from Clarksburg, West Virginia. Willis is known for her fiction based in West Virginia (notably Higher Ground [1981], Only Great Changes [1985], and Trespassers [1997]) and her non-fiction writing guides.


Series 1. Fiction Manuscripts, Drafts, and Other Material (boxes 1-2), 1970-2014
Series 2. Children's Fiction Manuscripts, Drafts, and Other Material (box 2), 1994-1996
Series 3. Non-fiction Manuscripts, Drafts, and Other Material (box 2), 1989-2012


  • Creation: ca. 1979-2010

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical / Historical

Meredith Sue Willis is a novelist and teacher. She teaches novel writing at New York University's School of Professional Studies. Willis was educated in the public schools of Shinnston, West Virginia, where her father was her science teacher. Her mother was also trained as a teacher, and all four of her aunts and uncles on both sides of the family were teachers.

After attending Bucknell University for two years, MSW spent a year as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) in Norfolk, Virginia. She fictionalized this experience in the second book of her Blair Morgan trilogy, Only Great Changes (1985, 1997). After the year in VISTA, she transferred to Barnard College in New York City where she was involved in work against the Vietnam War as a member of the Students for a Democratic Society. She participated in the 1968 Columbia University anti-war sit-ins, fictionalized in Trespassers (1997).

She graduated from Barnard College Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude. She then took a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University, studying with Anthony Burgess, Lore Segal and others. The most important connection she made during her time at the Columbia School of the Arts was a program formed by Phillip Lopate at P.S. 75 that included Karen Hubert, Terry Mack, and others. This program, through Teachers & Writers Collaborative, was one of the earliest of the arts-in-education organizations. At the end of the 1970s, MSW had her first novel accepted for publication: A Space Apart (1979). It was followed by Higher Ground (1981, 1996), Only Great Changes (1985, 1997), and Trespassers (1997).

MSW has continued to work as a writer-in-the-schools through various arts organizations, including Teachers & Writers and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She has given workshops and keynote addresses to teachers and students from Massachusetts to New York, New Jersey, Texas, and California. Teachers & Writers publishes two of her books about writing and the teaching of writing: Personal Fiction Writing (1984; 2000) and Deep Revision (1993). Her other books about writing are Blazing Pencils (1990, 2013) and Ten Strategies to Write Your Novel (2012).

She has also written novels for children and young adults, including Billie of Fish House Lane, The Secret Super Powers of Marco (1994, 1995, 2001) and Marco's Monster (1996, 2001), and Meli's Way (2015). Other books include Oradell at Sea (2002), a collection of short stories, Dwight's House and Other Stories (2004), and a science fiction novel, The City Built of Starships (2004). Her recent Appalachian short stories are in Out of the Mountains (2010). Other recent books include Re-Visions: Stories from Stories (2011), Love Palace (2014), and Their Houses (2018).

MSW has given many workshops and performances of her writing and won many prizes including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She has participated in the Circuit Writers program of the West Virginia Humanities Council and presented at many workshops and conferences.

She received the Literary Award of the West Virginia Library Association and was the 1990 West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival Non-Italian Woman of the Year. In May 2004, she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from West Virginia University.

(Adapted from "Biography of Meredith Sue Willis." Meredith Sue Willis Author and Teacher. undated. Accessed February 13, 2020.


2.5 Linear Feet (2 ft. 6 in. (2 record cartons, 15 in. each))

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Meredith Sue Willis, Author, Papers
Grace Musgrave
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Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US