Lowney Handy, founder and namesake of the Marshall, Ill., Handy Writers' Colony, believed that the literary potential of writers could best be achieved by firmly controlling every facet of their creative and social lives. Many pupils left not long after arrival, unwilling to tolerate Handy's authoritarianism; others she was able to mold into award-winning novelists.
Her experiment — which lasted 15 years and has been the focus of a documentary and several magazine articles, including in IT [See C.D. Stelzer, "Lowney's Legacy," February 21] — is the subject of a new film to premier Thursday, Oct. 23, at 9 p.m. on local PBS stations WILL and WSEC.
Using flashbacks and interviews with Marshall residents, scholars and former members, Inside the Handy Writers' Colony examines life inside the colony and its eccentric leader, Handy. Dawn Shapiro, who wrote, directed, and produced the documentary, relied heavily on a unique collection housed at the University of Illinois at Springfield. University archivist Thomas Wood assisted Shapiro in gathering photographs, letters and other documents for the film, which was prescreened at UIS in June.
"It was very good. I was very impressed," Wood says.