What motivates you to write?
I write because I must. Even when I am not inspired to write a poem or a story, I am drawn to other modes of written expression, such as journal entries (I keep not one but three journals) and letters to friends. One journal is the “daybook” that I write in every morning, mostly about the mundane happenings of the previous day (a habit formed when I began keeping a diary in high school), and another is one that I write in occasionally, where I explore ideas and happenings in more depth. Then third is in the form of letters to a friend who died a few years ago. In these letters I tell her my latest news and my feelings about what is happening. And sometimes I use it as a way to address memories of the time we spent together during the 24 years of our friendship.
Who is an author who inspires you and why?
Two authors are great sources of inspiration for me: Charles Wright in poetry and Lee Smith in fiction. Charles Wright’s vivid and unusual imagery is compelling. The tone of his poetry is both complex and playful, and his work is securely grounded in constant attention to the seasons and the natural world.
Lee Smith and I both grew up in far southwestern Virginia. She writes novels and short stories set mostly in the Virginia and North Carolina, and her characters (the major ones are women) are people I recognize-they are always authentic. I often wanted to write “truly” about the Appalachian South (many authors do not, in my view), and I am glad that I discovered an author who does just that. Once I went a writer’s conference in Waco, Texas to meet her, and she is as marvelous in person as she is on the page.
What are you writing now?
I’ve been identified with poetry for many years, but I have written memoir pieces, short stories, and newspaper articles as well. Not to mention the technical writing I did in my day job before my retirement in 2000. Right now I’m trying my hand at a long piece of fiction (will it ever deserve to be called a novel?). It’s a story inspired by dramatic events that took place in the lives of two local women when I was growing up in Virginia in the 1940’s. I’m telling some of it in the first-person voices of the women, and other parts in the voice of a third-person narrator. Quite a challenge. The working title is The Sourwood Tree.