Award-winning novelist Lee Smith, author of Meredith’s Summer Reading selection, Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, spoke at Meredith on October 12 about her experiences as a writer and storyteller.
The evening lecture began with a musical performance from bluegrass group The Improbable String Band, featuring Meredith faculty Michael Novak and Bill Schmidt.
During her visit to Meredith, Smith also visited classes and participated in other events, including a lunch gathering with English majors and minors, and a meet-and-greet with students.
Sarah Smerko,’18, who had the opportunity to attend the lunch, said that it was a unique experience to meet and interact with Smith in a small setting. “I enjoyed getting to personally tell her how much I enjoyed reading Dimestore and how I relate to some of the experiences she writes about in it,” said the English major.
During the lecture, Smith explained why she decided to write Dimestore, her first work of nonfiction. She shared that because of a flood control project taking place in her hometown, her father’s dimestore had to be demolished. This significant part of her childhood being taken away inspired her to write down the memories she had of the special place.
“I’ve always believed myself to be more of an oral storyteller rather than a writer,” she said, “so I started to write down everything I could remember about my father’s dimestore – the smells, the people, the stories – and before I knew it, I was writing nonfiction.”
Smith read excerpts from a few pieces of her work, including Dimestore, Fair and Tender Ladies, and Oral History; noting that she found a way to express herself through the characters in these books. “I have found that we express in our writing what is mute in our own lives,” she said.
One quote she particularly focused on in Dimestore reads “I never know what I think until I read what I’ve written.” She used this quote as a piece of advice for listeners, encouraging them to write in order to find out more about who they are.
Smith also encouraged young people to write in order to keep record of important memories.
“The things you remember about your life now won’t be as easy to recall in the future,” she said, “so take the time to write them down now.”
The guest lecture concluded with a question and answer session with the best-selling author. One student asked how to deal with doubtful parents of aspiring creative writers, to which Smith responded: “You don’t have to answer to anyone for your desire to write.”
By Cailyn Clymore, ’18