Lee Smith: A Dimestore Education for a Writer

lee smith childLee Smith’s writing has been published for 45 years, starting with what was her college thesis (The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed) and running through to the just-released Guests on Earth, but her education as a writer began in her father’s dimestore. Here’s what she told Michael Morris in their author-to-author interview for Southern Living:

As a little child, my job was ‘taking care of the dolls’ at my father’s Ben Franklin dimestore—-where I literally grew up. Not only did I comb their hair and fluff up their frocks, but I also made up long, complicated life stories for them, things that happened to them before they came to the dimestore, things that would happen to them after they left my care. I gave each of them three names: Mary Elizabeth Satterfield, for instance, or Baby Betsy Black.

Upstairs in my father’s office, I got to type on a typewriter, count money, observe the whole floor of the dimestore through the one-way glass window, reveling in my own power—-nobody can see me, but I can see EVERYBODY! I witnessed not only shoplifting, but fights and embraces as well. Thus I learned the position of the omniscient narrator, who sees and records everything, yet is never visible. It was the perfect early education for a fiction writer.

Click here to read the rest of their conversation.

 

 

 

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January 6, 2014
12:42 pm
Patricia says...

I’m a Dolly Parton fan too. I remember watching her on the Porter Waggoner show. It aired Saturdays in Arkansas. I still like her earthy Bluegrass recordings best. I didn’t know she promotes literacy but I do now.

I wonder how common it is that writers somehow find a perch for viewing life distantly all the way back to childhood? I sought out such hiding places too and now I’m fascinated by your story. Thanks for your candor.

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