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Welcome to Raleigh Review!

At the Intersection of Old and New:
An Interview with Marjorie Hudson

Marjorie Hudson is teaching a fiction workshop, The Secret Language of Fiction, February 14-15 and is giving a special Valentine's reading February 14. Get to know this Southern Recitations guest author in the detailed interview below, then enjoy some of her fiction.

You were born in Illinois and grew up in Washington DC before moving to Chatham County. As a transplant to North Carolina, can you give us some insight on your sense of self as a Southern writer, particularly since much of your work is deeply rooted in the South?

I rediscovered three essential passions when I moved South. I reconnected to my love of nature and my love of small communities, how people are powerfully connected over time. Then I rediscovered a passion for history. All elements, I think, of Southern writing.

When I was very young, my family had lived in a very small town in northwestern Illinois, where my father was the town’s Methodist minister. We lived in a parsonage next to the church and across from the courthouse, where there were cannons we would climb on and stacks of cannonballs we would try to lift. When I saw Pittsboro and visited Chatham County for the first time, I felt like I had come home. It’s just that the courthouse had a Confederate soldier facing north instead of Yankee cannons facing south. Chatham County was a place where I could live steeped in nature. That’s one of the great gifts of Southern rural places. This county has become my muse.

I felt a bit out of water when I first started writing here. I knew I was not a Southern writer in the same vein as those born and bred here, but I have a good ear, and I feel I can claim a special niche in Southern writing. My territory is the intersection of the old and new, culturally, emotionally, in the South. When I finally decided to acknowledge that, the result was the story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas. My creative nonfiction book, Searching for Virginia Dare, has some of those themes caught in it too, and the research process gave me the chance to explore back roads of North Carolina and Virginia, my own personal Blue Highways exploration. My novel-in-progress addresses themes I see as essential to the South: difficult history, powerful landscapes, and the intersection between old and new Southerners and their ways.

You write in a variety of forms, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and essays. How do you decide on a particular genre for a particular idea or image? How do you know when the content is best suited for nonfiction, fiction, and/or poetry?

It’s more intuition than decision, usually. Some subjects call for factual reporting—the facts themselves are so interesting that they want to be heard. Or perhaps a memory generates memoir that strives to be clear and honest. Clarity and honesty and vulnerability are called for. That generates creative nonfiction.

Fiction [on the other hand] is about human conflict, it’s a completely emotional form of language. The emotional signals of the subconscious come more into play. As fiction is written, the feelings and wisdom of the subconscious have a chance to emerge. You feel that as channeling a character. Words and worlds come out of you, often from someplace you did not know existed within.

Poetry begins with an image or a feeling or even an idea that I don’t quite understand, but feel strongly. The poem is an exploration of mystery, a codification in language of an attempt to clarify or shed light on mystery. It’s similar to fiction that way, but it distills in language play and form.

That said, there are subjects that have called to me to write about them in all three genres. I’m not sure if other fiction writers admit to this, but if the subject is too close, or it’s inspired by a story that’s too close to me, my inner censor struggles to find a form that both opens up to and shields me or others from the dangers of the vulnerability required. Invention can be a kind of shield as well as a blade to open up what’s under the skin.

How can creative nonfiction reveal history? Did you discover, as some of your reviewers noted, a new form, when you wrote Searching for Virginia Dare?

I love to write creative nonfiction that hovers around, digs into, plays with history, natural history, and personal history. I’ve become a student of form in creative nonfiction, and one of the forms I most enjoy is the mosaic—in which several “colors” of material are repeated thematically to make a whole, connected by the grout of a consistent, exploring voice. It’s a great form for history, because in our day and age, history is constantly being questioned: whose story is it? Are we being honest when we only reveal the stories of certain people? Literate people? The form can include the process of exploration, giving a context for the "facts."

With Searching for Virginia Dare, I discovered, as most creative non-fiction writers do, that the subject tells you the form.

I had a topic, the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, that included a missing child, a bereft family, a historical venture, an origin myth about English America – and that had many branches and many blind alleys. I decided to include the failures of my search – they were at least interesting failures, I hope—because the root of the story was a colossal failure of the colony. And I decided to include branching into my own fiction and imagining because the documented history on the subject has morphed into myths and imaginings about women, family, Native people, and survival. And because the story touched me deeply, and stirred memory, I decided to include memoir. Because the land and waters and back roads of eastern Carolina have a life of their own that drew me in, I also wanted to include lyric lines that captured a sense of place. I included contemporary Native culture and archeological research, because the story has stayed alive in those ways too.
Including all of those kinds of material required lots of care in weaving and balancing, so that each chapter had a form that reflected the overall shape.

Read samples from two of Marjorie Hudson's short stories here.

Upcoming Events

Please note the new location for the author readings: Quail Ridge Books & Music! (The workshops remain at Raleigh Review's office.)

Feb 14-15, 2014
Marjorie Hudson fiction workshop
Early-bird registration ends Jan 31!
410 N. Boylan Ave., Raleigh

Feb 14, 2015, 7pm
Marjorie Hudson & Michele Tracy Berger reading
FREE and open to the public
Quail Ridge Books & Music, Ridgewood Shopping Center,
3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh

Join us for our special Southern Recitations Valentine's event. While you could call it a reading, we call it a party--to celebrate love of writing and writers! Marjorie Hudson will be joined by emerging writer and student Michele Tracy Berger. Marjorie and Michele will read “love” selections from their fiction, talk about writers they love, and discuss how writers support each other in the writing and publishing process. And it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without chocolate, would it? Join Raleigh Review at Quail Ridge Books 7pm, Saturday, February 14.

Mar 14-15, 2015
Joseph Bathanti poetry workshop
Early-bird registration ends Feb 28!
410 N. Boylan Ave., Raleigh

Mar 14, 2015
Joseph Bathanti & Gilda Morina Syverson poetry reading
FREE and open to the public
Quail Ridge Books & Music, Ridgewood Shopping Center,
3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh

We're moving to
Quail Ridge!

We are excited to announce our Spring Southern Recitations author readings are moving to Quail Ridge Books & Music. Those of you from the area will be familiar with Raleigh's largest independent bookstore. Quail Ridge has been a longtime seller of Raleigh Review Literary & Arts Magazine, and we are delighted to team up with them on these events.

Thanks to our supporters!

Southern Recitations is supported in part by the NC Arts Council, the City of Raleigh based on the recommendations of the Raleigh Arts Commission, Caktus Group, the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

It is also supported by many individual donors including the following:
  • Kajsa Anderson
  • Harry Calhoun
  • Dr. Debi and Mrs. Mithu Chaudhuri
  • Bryce Emley
  • Rob Greene
  • Susan Hoss
  • Debra Kaufman
  • Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar
  • James McDaniel in honor of G. Ryan Spain
  • Ramesh Mehta
  • Susan Shah
  • David White
  • Karin Wiberg
  • Kjell Wiberg
  • Mary Wiberg
  • Catherine Woodard in honor of Betty Adcock

Submissions are OPEN for 2015 NC Poetry on the Bus!

April is National Poetry Month and with it comes Raleigh Review's fourth year of North Carolina Poetry on the Bus. If you're a poet who lives in the great state of North Carolina, read our guidelines and send us your poems by Feb 25!

"A wonderful reading experience"

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of Raleigh Review Vol. 4, No. 2, now's the time. We suspect you'll find it to be as lovely as we do. What's so gorgeous you ask?

How about the beautiful cover art by Geri Digiorno? Or the high quality paper stock? The full-color interior art by Pete Sack? The compelling fiction? The finely crafted poetry?

It all adds up to a lush reading experience--a literary oasis in a busy day.

"I just received my copy of the fall issue yesterday. What a wonderful reading experience. I read it cover to cover--several poems twice or more already--and the artwork complements the writing beautifully."

Not a subscriber yet? Subscribe here. And if you're inspired to get a few more copies to give as gifts, we'll be happy to oblige.