Norman Lavers (1935–)
aka: Cecil Norman Lavers
Throughout his career, Norman Lavers has been an award-winning author of several books and short stories, an English and creative writing professor at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), an avid nature instructor/photographer/blogger, and winner of Arkansas’s annual Porter Prize.
Cecil Norman Lavers was born in Berkeley, California, on April 21, 1935, to attorney Cecil Lavers and homemaker Mary Parker Lavers. He has two sisters. When Lavers was nine years old, he won first prize from the Young Author’s Club for a story published in the Berkeley Daily Gazette. His major influence for writing came from his grandfather, who was a successful short-story writer. Later in life, Lavers would write Growing Up in Berkeley with the Bomb (Summer House Books, 1998). The book is composed of essays written about his childhood during the 1940s and 1950s.
Lavers graduated from Berkeley High School and went on to attend San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California, where he received a BA (1959) and an MA (1963) in English literature. He continued his education at the University of Iowa (1966–1969) and received a fiction fellowship from the university’s writers’ workshop (the first creative-writing program in the country) while earning his PhD in English literature and creative writing.
Before arriving at ASU, he taught English at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, from 1970 to 1976. Lavers taught at ASU from August 1976 until his retirement in 2000. He and his colleague Richard McGhee (then director of Arts and Science at ASU) brought the Kansas Quarterly, an international literary magazine, to the university. They changed the name to the Arkansas Review, and Lavers served as the first editor.
Lavers had several short stories published in the North American Review, the first literary magazine in the United States, and in the Missouri Review, Kansas Quarterly, North Country Anvil, Ohio Review, Western Humanities Review, and other magazines and anthologies. Lavers published his first novel, The Northwest Passage (Fiction Collective), in 1984; in this novel, “the journals of a member of an eighteenth-century expedition in search of the Northwest Passage are edited by a twentieth-century teacher and a scholar in the distant future.” Other books written by Lavers include: Mark Harris (Twayne Publishers, 1978), Jerzy Kosinski (Twayne Publishers, 1982), and Pop Culture Into Art: The Novels of Manuel Puig (University of Missouri Press, 1988). He is also the author of two e-books, The White Robin (2011) and The Telegraph Relay Station: A Collection of Short Stories (2011).
While a student at the University of Iowa, Lavers married Cheryl Dicks of Porthcawl, South Wales. They have one son, Gawain. Their combined interest in nature led to their contribution of articles and photographs to Birdwatcher’s Digest. Together, they have directed workshops on natural history for adults interested in insect ecology. The workshops, which were open to the public, were sponsored by the Arkansas Audubon Society (AAS) and other organizations. They continue to photograph and study nature in northeastern Arkansas, specifically the Crowley’s Ridge and Delta areas.
Lavers is the author of an illustrated field guide, “The Robber Flies of Crowley’s Ridge, Arkansas” (2007). Lavers wrote, “Although our focus of study is a small area of northeastern Arkansas, in fact the majority of species here are found throughout Arkansas.” As far as he knows, “this is the first attempt by anyone to create a guide to the identification of Robber Flies in the field.” The intention of the guide is not only for identification purposes but “to make you aware of those fearless and fascinating predators that are all around you.” In 2018, he and his wife published 100 Insects of Arkansas and the Midsouth. Shortly after that, they moved to Tuscon, Arizona.
Joining other volunteers, Lavers participated in the 2005–2006 search for the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker at the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.
Lavers has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982) and has received a Fulbright Award to teach in Thailand (1985) and the O. Henry Award (1987) for his short story “Big Dog,” which was initially published in the North American Review. The Porter Prize was awarded to Lavers in 1995. It is a prize given annually to an Arkansas writer “who has accomplished a substantial and impressive body of work that merits enhanced recognition.”
For additional information:
Lavers, Norman. Growing Up in Berkeley with the Bomb. Alpine, WY: Summer House Books, 1998.
The Robber Flies of Crowley’s Ridge, Arkansas (An Illustrated Field Guide). http://www.normanlavers.net (accessed September 10, 2020).
Sweating the Small Stuff. http://normanlavers.blogspot.com/ (accessed September 10, 2020).
T. French Adams
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I’m from WWU mid-seventies. You team-taught a Shakespeare class with Marjorie Donker and gentleman George Muldrow. Probably the best class I had in college. Good group of kids, timing in my life for Shakespeare was just right. Met a couple nice girls in that group. Ended up going to Ashland festival five years in a row. I remember Lavers had a place on Samish Island. I lived for five years at Gooseberry point. Mount Baker snow capped, pink reflection off Bellingham Bay.