Crumbs of Wisdom, a writing blog
Song: “Use the Back Door,” for Steve Mitchell’s Cloud Diary music project, April 2018
“The Mechanics of Hope: An Interview with Heather Bell Adams,” South Writ Large, November 2017
“Coming into the Present: An Interview with Nancy Kilgore,” Fiction Writers Review, October 2017
“M Train by Patti Smith, A Partial Index,” The Believer Logger, May 10, 2016
“Exactly What To Say,” The Sun Magazine, April 2016
In 1984, our last year together, there was still a big green open field behind the Mission Valley Shopping Center near our house in Raleigh, North Carolina. One Sunday you saw a man there inflating a hot-air balloon, and you went out to talk to him.
“Breezeway,” r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal, spring 2014
Wednesdays we go for counseling in a new white brick building designed by an architect. Every detail has been planned so that patients can come and go in private.
“Charles,” elsewhere magazine, 2014
I hid from him—leaned against walls, stood in shadows—but his camera always found me. Even when he pretended to aim at other people, there I was in every background, conspicuous in my homemade clothes. He liked me, Charles did, because I once said hello to him.
“Palm Trees,” EDNA, 2013
I have heard them compared to women: tall, exotic, shabbily elegant, of uncertain age, wind-tattered, scarred, seductive, waving their feathers and fans at anyone, at no one.
“World Without Columbo,” Redux, 2013; Shenandoah, 2004
After the hurricane, when our cable service was finally restored, we began picking up channels we hadn’t paid for. It’s been months now and the company still hasn’t caught on. My husband feels guilty, but I tell him to look at it this way: we’ve been given a gift, the best kind, one we didn’t expect or deserve, and we should make the most of it, especially since we know it can’t last forever. The truth is, I don’t want to lose my Columbo reruns.
“Cafeteria Lady,” Prime Number Magazine, 2011
Backlit, faintly glowing, she waves me to a booth by the window, one of the narrow ones she knows I like, with cushiony seats and natural light, good for reading. I have a book on my tray as always. I come in every Wednesday after therapy for the vegetable plate, $2.99 plus tax. Today I’m having lima beans, mashed potatoes and applesauce—soft foods, because my teeth are loose.
“Victuals,” Painted Bride Quarterly, 2010
Picture a man walking into a grocery store—Harris-Teeter, say. An old man in a corduroy coat, tufts of acrylic pile spilling out the sleeves. He stops between the automatic doors, feels around in his pockets, checks his wallet. No list.
“Museum of Hands,” Mississippi Review, 1998
A certain sculptor is known for his fragments—hands, ears, and noses he makes instead of whole bodies. Works of art in themselves, the critics proclaim; each fragment “reveals a whole character.”
Interview: Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August, Bloom
Anna Jean Mayhew’s first novel was published in 2011, when A.J. was 71 years old. She had worked on the novel for 18 years. The book is now in its tenth printing, and A.J. is a sought-after speaker on the Southern literary circuit. She is also working on her second novel, Tomorrow’s Bread. Last year, nervously awaiting publication of my own first novel, I went to A.J. for advice about strategies for promoting my book. We had never met before, though we had several friends in common. She took me under her wing and told me everything she knew about the book business. She continues to school me, and we’ve become friends.
Interview: Elaine Neil Orr, author of A Different Sun, Prime Number Magazine
What is the nature and source of faith? Can faith be taught and learned? What does faith demand of the faithful? These questions lie at the heart of Elaine Orr’s debut novel, A Different Sun, a vividly imagined account of one of the earliest Southern Baptist missions to West Africa. With this book, Orr joins such writers as Marilynne Robinson (Gilead) and Elizabeth Strout (Abide With Me) in crafting fully realized fiction that reflects on the vicissitudes and wonders and complexities of a life devoted to ministry.
Review: Guests on Earth by Lee Smith, Raleigh News & Observer
“The insane are always mere guests on earth,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to his daughter, “eternal strangers carrying around broken decalogues that they cannot read.” Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, was at the time a resident of Highland Hospital in Asheville, undergoing treatment for schizophrenia. In 1948, she and eight other women would die in a mysterious fire in the locked ward reserved for the hospital’s sickest patients.
Review: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, Raleigh News & Observer
Don’t ask me what else I did the summer I read Hardy. I must have had a job, kept house. I vaguely recall a vegetable garden, though my husband, I suspect, was the one who tended it. Mostly I remember sitting in the backyard every evening with a book in my lap. Come nightfall, my husband would light the Coleman lantern so that I wouldn’t have to move out of my lawn chair. I was that spellbound.