Betsy Barks Cox Returns to Baylor
Betsy Barks Cox (pictured above with Herb Barks, Jr. '51) received the Robert Penn Warren Medal for Fiction during the Arts and Education Council’s Conference on Southern Literature in April. While she was in Chattanooga, Cox visited Baylor’s campus, where she lived from 1942-1963.
by Carolyn Mitchell
A short story writer, novelist, and essayist, and a professor at Wofford College, Cox grew up on Baylor’s campus and says that when she was four, she would sneak out of the house, race to the Baylor library (above middle) and grab as many books as she could carry. She persisted despite her parents’ disapproval of her unauthorized book withdrawals. Since her selections were random, she often “checked out” history books. “I couldn’t read,” she says. “I enjoyed looking at the pictures.”
Today, Cox is an award-winning author whose poetry has appeared in The Southern Review, The Atlantic Monthly and The Oxford American.
Her first short story, “Land of Goshen,” was cited for excellence by Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Press. A later story, “Old Court,” was chosen for reading by NPR and anthologized in The Sound of Writing. Another story, “The Third of July,” was selected for the 1994 O. Henry Award Collection and has been anthologized in other collections. The story was read at Symphony Space in New York City by actress Joan Allen.
Cox’s stories have appeared in Antaeus, Story Magazine, American Short Fiction, The Crescent Review and The Rough Road Home: Stories by North Carolina Writers. In 2001 she completed a collection of short stories, Bargains in the Real World.
Cox has also published four novels: Familiar Ground, The Ragged Way People Fall Out of Love, Night Talk, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award from the Southern Regional Council, and her most recent novel, The Slow Moon, published by Random House in 2006.
Both her brothers, Herbert Jr. ’51 and Coleman ’55, are published poets and authors who have cited memories of growing up on Baylor's campus as inspiration for their writing. Cox says Baylor campus scenery influenced her later writing. “My home was set in a bowl of mountains,” she says. “Every morning when I awoke, my first act was to look at the mountains, island and river. Whenever I write about mountains or rivers, these images from my childhood are what I see.”