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Showing posts from 2007

Being Still

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I was a child of the woods. Growing up in Eastern Kentucky in the late 70s and early 80s, I was allowed to roam wherever I pleased.


My childhood best friend, Donna, and I spent most of our time on the high ridge that overlooked the little town of Lily. Atop this ridge was a clearing, enclosed on all four sides by thick woods. Spread out below us was the elementary school we attended, the winding Laurel River, the Lily Holiness Church, the Lily Baptist Church, Hoskins’ Grocery, the big sprawling nastiness of the coal mine. Also in our eye-range were about fifty homes, all of them populated by people were either kin to or knew well enough to consider them kin. We studied the homes, imagining what was going on inside each one. Often we guessed, plotting out elaborate soap operas for each household that were, in hindsight, most likely not too far from the truth. Or we lay back in the clover and watched for shapes in the clouds. More than once we were sure we had seen a UFO, and t…

Writing Stores

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I’ve been thinking a lot about stores lately. About stores and the way they make writers. Just about every writer I know of has a store of some kind in their past. Lee Smith—the Patron Saint of Southern Writers—often talks about the influence of growing up in her father’s five and dime in downtown Grundy, Virginia. Pamela Duncan talks about growing up listening to her grandmother, who was a wonderful store in her own right. Lots of Southern writers will tell you about grandmothers or Mamas or aunts being stores that taught them how to tell a story. One of my favorite writers, Thomas Hardy, soaked up much of the knowledge he would later use in his writing by attending the many square dances where his fiddler-father and uncles performed almost every week. Willa Cather’s most beautiful novels are the ones that were most heavily influenced by the store she lived in, a store populated by sad and beautiful immigrant women who would become the basis for such strong characters as Alexandra i…