There are a lot of wonderful writers living in our state, some full-time, some part-time. As the Director of the NH Center for the Book I get the opportunity to talk to many of them. This interview series of Q&As with New Hampshire authors here on Book Notes lets me share that experience a bit with my blog readers.
If someone hasn't read your work yet, where should they start?
There are two sides to my writing self. I write essays about the eccentricities, difficulties and joys of living in the country, specifically on my place, which I call Mary's Farm. These are bucolic but hopefully not sappy or sentimental. And then there are my two memoirs, The Place He Made, about the death of my husband at the age of 39. And What There Was Not To Tell, based on the letters my parents exchanged during World War II, which included both of them coming to terms with the death, early in the war, of the man my mother hoped to marry, a man my father knew as well. My father had been determined to marry my mother since their early teens. Tom intervened. My parents married directly after the war ended when my mother returned from her service in San Diego. Both these books deal directly with loss and the grieving process, exposing the consequences of undying love and unshakable loyalty. So these memoirs show that other side of my writing. In both, the bottom line is honesty. Perhaps best to visit my website (http://www.edieclark.com) to experience the full spectrum. I also have many of my most popular journalism pieces posted there as well. They range from a five-part series on the Connecticut River, to a special report on the Christian Science Church, to an expose of the Catholic Bishop of Worcester, to a story about a man whose wife was killed by a hunter in Maine, just yards from her back door -- I have written hundreds of stories mostly for Yankee but also for the Boston Globe Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Hope, and the Hartford Courant Sunday Magazine.
When did you first think of yourself as a writer?
Probably when I was about nine. My grandmother was an unsuccessful novelist, which should have turned me away from the profession forevermore but she bought me beautiful books and gave me a small portable typewriter to get me started. I think I have always tried to compensate for her disappointments.
How did you end up living in NH?
I was an editor at a publishing company in Philadephia where my soon-to-be husband also worked. We were uneasy city dwellers so we decided to send our resumes out to two places where we felt we could live happily: Santa Fe and New England. Our agreement was that whichever one of us got the first job we'd move there. Michael got a job almost instantly in Brattleboro Vermont so we moved there. We didn't live there very long before figuring out that NH was a much better deal. We are divorced now, still good friends, and neither of us has ever looked back or regretted our decision.
Where do you like to write?
In my office, at a computer, in my house. I have no neighbors and enjoy almost complete silence and solitude. There could not be a better place to write or to be than here.
How important is place in your writing?
Extremely. It's the heart of all my writing.
What do you do when you aren't writing?
Write. No, seriously, it's almost my constant activity, even when I'm not working on a story, I write emails (usually quite long) or less often now, letters. I realize I write more than I read. I suppose it could be categorized as an addiction. But I also sing in a regional chorus, play tennis, swim and love to entertain (if you live alone, the only way to really cook a good meal is to invite people over.)
What’s the best piece of advice (writing or otherwise) you were ever given?
When I was 19, I wanted to take a year off from college and travel to Iceland, get a job and live there. I asked my uncle if I was making the right decision and his answer was: You cannot make the wrong decision. So I went to Iceland, which changed my life forever. (And I did return and finished my degree.)
What books do you love and what about them speaks to you?
This always depends on my particular mood at the time that question is asked. So many wonderful books in this world!! Willa Cather's My Antonia which I read at an early age and was amazed at her ability as a woman to write from the point of view of a man. Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. An amazing introduction to the western expansion from a personal point of view as well as the strange way we regard our own family history -- what is true and what is not true? Who's keeping the record. Apparently we'll never really know.
What are you working on now?
I've just gotten through a serious bout with Lyme Disease, which I've had for 13 years. I have written about the disease (another side to my writing is journalism. See my article on Lyme Disease in Yankee magazine, 2007. I have contemplated writing a book about Lyme for some time. Perhaps this is the time but first, I really need to recover, which is happening, slow but sure. This has been the first pause in my nonstop writing 35-year writing career.
What do you want to share that I neglected to ask about?
There is always more. I teach writing at the undergrad and graduate level. But I'm sure this is more than enough. I always share too much!