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Flashbacks: Echoes of Past Issues

SHANNON RAVENEL is a founding editor of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill and now directs her Algonquin imprint, Shannon Ravenel Books. She was a long-time editor of New Stories from the South and before that of Best American Short Stories for Houghton Mifflin. Watch Ravenel’s presentation of McCorkle on the North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Youtube.



there is no filter on their honesty and sense of truth. They are just getting started and running full speed ahead and blinded by the light of all the possibilities and dreams up ahead. They haven’t yet learned all those complicated compromises and barters and conditionals of the fat, greedy, and needy middle of life tangles and entrapments. Now, no doubt all those tangles and entrapments are worth hearing about and much of literature centers on the messy conflicts of life, but I also like finding a clear-eyed voice of truth. Children have that even when told they should be seen and not heard (actually that tends to raise the inner voice to an even higher volume). Even when calling out fifty years later, they are powerful. Tennessee Williams said that “the object of art is to make eternal the desperately fleeting moment.” Obviously, many such moments are guarded by our younger selves – the keepers of the faith. But, then who better to assemble them but the voices at the other end of life, because time and knowledge and wisdom have bought them the freedom to once again throw away the filters and claim “I sit down to write and what is rightfully theirs and return to no matter where I am that pure clear voice living, I am there in of childhood. I think the beauty of each Lumberton, NC, in passing year is the the backyard of a house way we continue to I haven’t been in in recognize and understand things we’ve twenty-five years.” always been aware of. —Jill McCorkle I was fortunate to grow up spending a lot of time with my grandmother and the various people populating her world, in the place, Robeson County, where my parents grew up and my sister, Jan, and I grew up. My childhood was filled with the memories of others that by way of listening became my memories as well. I sit down to write and no matter where I am living, I am there in Lumberton, NC, in the backyard of a house I haven’t been in in twenty-five years. I know every inch of that yard and can trace my way all over the neighborhood, who lives where. I know the light and the weather and the trees outside


my bedroom window. I know my bedroom furniture and the quilt my grandmother made with squares she identified as this or that, my aunt’s dress, my grandfather’s suit. Pinhole knots that look like things: a deer, an elf. I know there is a diary, locked and in that never suspected place under the mattress. I go there often. I see things I had forgotten. I see things differently by way of experience. I do believe we are all eight years old in the heart and that the people and places who entered our lives and fed that inner voice remain there. I imagined many things as an eight-year-old: ballerina, Olympic diver, veterinarian or zoo owner, woman with hair all the way to her feet like Rapunzel. I got lost in such reverie, but I never imagined standing here at Weymouth in the company of people I so deeply admire with people I love in the audience. However, if I could have looked down a path to the future, I certainly would have. And I will for certain always have it as a point to look back on with great pride and gratitud for all that growing up in this state has brought to me – from my family and teachers to UNC Chapel Hill where I met Lee Smith and Louis Rubin – a man who absolutely changed the course of my life and introduced me to Shannon Ravenel, who I now thank for over thirty years of an amazing relationship. I stand here because of her influence as well as that of Louis and the many others who have fed my life. I am very grateful to all and so appreciative of this honor today. n

ABOVE Jill McCorkle at the induction ceremony, Weymouth Center

of Arts & Humanities, Southern Pines, NC, 7 Oct. 2018 (Watch her acceptance remarks on the North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Youtube.)

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.