by student worker Elizabeth Konopka
Michael Fleming Parker is a former professor from the MFA Writing Program at UNCG. Over the course of his career, he’s published six novels, two short story anthologies, and countless articles. In processing the Michael Parker Papers, I’ve gotten to delve deeply into the journey of writing a novel and Parker’s life. His collection contains drafts of nearly all of his novels in various stages of the writing process. Not every draft was labeled, which turned me into an archival detective to match up character names and plot points to properly label the draft in its folder. Seeing these changes in his drafts over time was one of the most fascinating parts of processing.
One book may have changed titles three or four times, character names shifted, and through his handwritten edits on his drafts I could see where he changed plots and made new decisions. To then see the published copies on the shelves in the Jackson Library Stacks or at the Greensboro Public Library brought it all full circle. And amongst the many drafts and syllabi, there are still some surprises, such as a postcard addressed to Parker, signed by none other than Kurt Vonnegut. His papers don’t mention how he came to be in contact with Kurt Vonnegut, but the proof – and the signature – is in the archive.