Jeannette Walls on writing “The Glass Castle”

A new movie, “The Glass Castle,” is based on a memoir that touched millions of readers. Martha Teichner reports: 


The last time Jeannette Walls was here was right after her inspiring, best-selling memoir, “The Glass Castle,” came out in 2005. “The house is gone, the foundations are gone. I can see the remnants of what used to be the stairs, but I found some things,” she said. “I’m pretty sure that this was my mom’s art supplies.”

It was how she overcame the poverty, the chaos of her childhood, here on a hillside above Welch, a struggling coal mining town in southern West Virginia, that the book (and now a film based on it) portrays.

“I will never forget it. I tried!” Walls laughed. “I tried and it didn’t work. So you remember, not out of anger, but out of gratitude, that you can start at a place like that and make your way out.”

In spite of her parents, and because of them.

“My father, Rex, was one of the most charismatic human beings I’ve ever known, and also one of the most brilliant. He was also a desperate alcoholic,” said Walls.   

A 1961 Walls family photo. From left: Rose Mary, Brian, Lori, Rex and Jeannette. 

Ed Cline

“My mother, Rose Mary, is also brilliant, creative, and I don’t think has a maternal bone in her body.”

Played in the movie by Naomi Watts, Rose Mary Walls preferred painting to tending her four children, or working. 

Rex Walls, played by Woody Harrelson, couldn’t keep a job, but dreamed big, of building a fabulous, solar-powered Glass Castle.

Jeannette was a true believer, until the foundation she helped dig became a garbage pit. “I didn’t have indoor plumbing. I’d go to school dirty.  I didn’t have lunches.”

“And you literally went through the garbage to forage food?” Teichner asked.

“Yes. Once I became the editor of the school newspaper, I had a key to the school, and I went to the school cafeteria and just took the food they threw away.”

Jeannette Walls, author of the memoir “The Glass Castle,” with correspondent Martha Teichner.

CBS News

She put together the school paper at the offices of the Welch Daily News. The experience was transformative. “It was the portal out for me,” she said. “It was the time and place that I realized I had a future.”

When Walls was 17, she ran…

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