NC author Doris Betts dies at 79 of lung cancer

Apr 23, 2012, 12:04 AM

PITTSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Doris Betts, who wrote novels set in her native South and taught creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has died, her son said Sunday. She was 79.

Betts died at her Pittsboro home of lung cancer on Saturday, said Erskine Betts of Apex.

Betts’s seventh novel, “Souls Raised from the Dead,” won the Southern Book Award in 1995.

Betts broke out of her native region for her last novel, “The Sharp Teeth of Love,” which explored the prickly fellowship of three damaged people in contemporary Reno, Nev.

“Southern women writers literally are a hot topic, but as a result, you get typecast. You have expectations. There is a temptation to go on meeting those, doing the easy thing. Yeah, I wanted to do something different,” she told The Associated Press in 1997.

An only child of millworkers in Statesville in western North Carolina, she learned to read before first grade. She wrote poetry until she went to Women’s College in Greensboro _ now the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She switched to prose and immediately won recognition for her short stories.

“Gentle Insurrection,” her first collection of short stories, was published in 1954, and her first novel, “Tall Houses in Winter,” followed in 1957.

Betts was a contemporary of honored North Carolina authors including Lee Smith, Reynolds Price, Allan Gurganus, Tim McLaurin and Clyde Edgerton. She collected several teaching awards during three decades at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Betts told her writing students to expect disappointments if they wanted to become writers.

“You have to want it a whole lot. There are lots of easier things to do,” she said in 1997. “I simply was more stubborn than some people.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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NC author Doris Betts dies at 79 of lung cancer