I'm originally from North Carolina, but I live and teach now, for the last twelve years, in central Virginia. Found me a little stone house out in the trees that I share with the youngest of my three kids, two dogs, an ornery cat, and generation after generation of deer who let us share the woods.
Why do you write?
Because I'm miserable if I don't. Story is how I think I've always understood the world. The family laughs about how when I was a little bitty girl, I would climb up on the table to tell stories, make up rhymes and songs. I spent part of my twenties talking myself out of writing, but I was so unhappy until I came back to it. I write where I come from: poverty, the trailer park, tobacco fields, the jobs I've done, waiting tables, cleaning hotel rooms, factory lines. I write a lot of people who are treated as if they're invisible. I've been that cashier, that waitress, that factory worker and housekeeper. I've been invisible. But I wouldn't change anywhere I've been, because I've also seen the wonder of that world, the honor, the humor, the music, the community and its bonds, the strength, the nobility of survival, in the people I come from. I want you to see them too.
What other creative activities are you involved in?
I weave some, paint badly, sing even worse. Other than writing the most important creative activities for me are gardening and cooking. I have a crazy little hippie garden, and every year, I can't wait to spend my spring and summer growing and preserving food the old ways, canning and drying, jellies and jams and pickles and relishes. As I'm writing this, there's a massive pot of homemade ketchup cooking down and the house smells like cloves and cinnamon and vinegar. Food, growing it, cooking it, preserving it, teaching other people about it, is not only critically creative for me, it's one of the ways I pray.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Hmmm, favorite? That's tough. Writers who made me want to write? Adrienne Rich, Margaret Atwood, Linda Hogan, Gwendolyn Brooks. Writers who made me brave: Jill McCorkle, James Applewhite, Larry Brown, Sharon Olds, Dorothy Allison, Jan Beatty. Writers who made me jump up and down on the bed because I can't read them sitting still? James Wright, Cormac McCarthy. :-) This is a list that never ends.
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
Mechanics depends on genre. For poetry, it's always pen and paper first. Prose I write on an old electric typewriter, then retype into the computer. Barry Hannah told me to buy a typewriter, that I needed to slow my hands down so the story could catch up. Screenwriting insists on a weird combination of all three. I draft really quickly, manically even, then spend a really long time revising. I always have a paper draft of whatever I'm working on right then folded up with me all the time, hidden somewhere on me, in a pocket, shoved in my waistband. If I carry it around long enough, it eventually gives up its music :-) and its secrets :-)
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
That little fish I named for a soap opera character who would not die, John Dixon, the fish too, refused to give up, wished, decided, determined, to live, no matter what, no matter the betas who hated (read ate) all roommates, no matter the cleaning lye spilled into the bowl by the ex, no matter the cat claws dipping in without relief, my John Dixon (the fish, not the actor with a penchant for faking his own demise), kept me believing, that I too, no matter what, could eventually outgrow the limits they gave me, that strange little carp leading me to the strength that would save me.
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