That little girl in the picture is me when I was in the first grade. I grew up in South Carolina, a beautiful state with mountains, beaches, and lots of interesting stuff in between. I love the South. In the summer, the air is thick and damp and the road gets so hot that it melts right off onto your feet. There are towns with names like Travelers Rest and Pumpkintown. Along the roadside, kudzu vines grow so fast they cover up signs and telephone poles and even whole barns.
As a child, I loved dogs, salamanders, tap dancing and school. My father could eat more hot peppers than anyone else in town, my mother made doll cradles from oatmeal boxes, and my sister would play paper dolls with me whenever I asked her. I knew I was lucky.
My grandfather grew peanuts in his garden and my grandmother always kept a big pot of them boiling on the stove. If you’ve never eaten a boiled peanut, I advise you to try it at least once in your life. You may not like it, but at least you can say you ate it!
On Sundays, my family often drove to the Smoky Mountains. The higher we got, the more the road twisted around and around. Sometimes we stopped the car and gazed out at the view below. I remember one spot where you could see five states (although I could never remember which states they were.)
When it was time for me to go to college, it never occurred to me to leave the South. But after graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in English, I decided it was time to see the rest of the country. I headed west to California, where only a few peculiar people eat boiled peanuts (including me).
After that, I went to New England, where nobody eats boiled peanuts (except me). After 26 very snowy winters there, I headed back to the South.
I now live in Asheville, North Carolina, with my husband and two dogs. I have one grown son.
I love being a writer. I get to sit at my desk and pour my memories of my Southern childhood into my stories. Sometimes my characters eat boiled peanuts. Sometimes they go to the Smoky Mountains. Maybe they see kudzu vines covering up barns or listen to church music on the radio inside their trailers. They might catch crawfish in an icy cold stream or eat pickled okra from a jar. My stories have pieces of me in them – all mixed in with the made-up parts. That’s what writers do – mix in the real stuff with the made-up stuff. And they can wear their pajamas all day long if they want to. What could be better than that?
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