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Writer Waking Up - A Publication Blog

On Letting Go...

Today's post concludes a three-part Q&A series I began a couple of months ago: I requested long-time writing friends to ask me the questions that came to mind when they read A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations. My interviewer for this post is Marjorie Hudson, author of the nonfiction narrative Searching for Virginia Dare and the story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas.

MH: How did you become a writer? What has writing brought you in your life?

CH: I only accidentally became a writer, but like many writers, I grew up with a big reading habit. Our little old house was stuffed with books, and I consumed them with the same enthusiasm I consumed candy. Really, those were similarly palliative obsessions. The house was packed full of tension and secrets, too, and curling up in a closet or a tree with a book was a sure-fire, temporary escape. All through my childhood my parents took us children to the public library every week. I checked out as many books as I was allowed and made sure to read them all before the next visit. I started with picture books, of course; I adored Dr. Suess--all that rhyming and lively language rhythm made me giddy. I developed an odd fascination with books that categorized things, especially animals. I devoured big picture books of facts on every breed of dog, cat, horse, chicken--seriously: chickens. At home, I was reading the World Book Encyclopedia cover to cover, a set of 25 volumes from the early 1950s with tiny print and black-and-white photos. I think I wanted to know everything there was to know without quite realizing that was my goal.  Read More 
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On the experience of launching...

The thirty days have passed. The book is launched. A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations is in the world: in the hands of friends and strangers, on booksellers' shelves, and--just a few days ago--mounded before me for signing at my local independent bookstore, Malaprop's in Asheville.

How do I feel? My whole face is one enormous, goofy grin in the photo from the book signing. One of the many congratulatory comments when I posted that photo on Facebook said, "You sure look happy."

I am happy. But I am also chagrinned by the attention. Yes, honestly, I am. Writers are known to be weird and one of the particular ways I'm weird is this combined compulsion to a) share my truths by writing about them while b) wishing to not impose myself on others. I want people to have the choice to read or not read my book, but to make that choice, people have to know the book exists, and thus, nowadays, it's part of my job as author to create that visibility.

To aspire to write a book and then to persevere in writing it to completion is an existential feat. And to get a book published is a huge lucky break after--usually-- another feat of perseverance and courage: a years-long search and dozens if not hundreds of rejections. That I've managed to achieve this twice (the memoir is my second book) is almost a miracle. So, yes, I am happy. I am amazed.

I am also transformed. Or at least transforming. Let me try to explain that.

One of the values I was raised with was never to be beholden to anybody. I'm not sure if this arose from my parents' Depression-era privations or the grit of their hard-scrabble Appalachian ancestors, but the message came down to me like this: Don't owe anyone anything. Avoiding indebtedness had to do with money, yes, but equally with favors or attention. Don't ask for help. Don't call attention to yourself. Keep quiet, keep your head down, and keep working. Read More 
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