04/13/11 — Author shares 'hometown' stories

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Author shares 'hometown' stories

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 13, 2011 1:46 PM


Author Moira Crone, a Goldsboro native, autographs one of her books after delivering the annual Belk Lecture before the Goldsboro Rotary Club at the Goldsboro Country Club on Tuesday.

Although most of her stories are not set in Goldsboro or eastern North Carolina, author Moira Crone says she relies heavily on her memories of growing up here when she writes.

Growing up on the corner of Beech and Lionel streets in the 1950s and '60s, she said the tenor of the times has had a strong influence on her writing -- the changing of race relations, the changing role of women in society, and the way in which many things were left unsaid and unspoken, but the undercurrent was unmistakably there.

Appearing before the Goldsboro Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon as this year's featured speaker for the annual Henry Belk Lecture, Ms. Crone, 58, discussed how these experiences and these memories have shaped her award-winning career as an author.

"I've been away a very long time from this place, but this place has not left me," she said. "Things are more resonant for me here. I feel things more powerfully here."

Describing her memory as a path she often travels down, she explained how her stories explore that time just before and just after society cracked with the upheavals of the Civil Rights Movement and the Sexual Revolution, and in particular how those fractures affected life in the South.

And in that way, she said, she considers her works similar to others of Southern, 20th century writers. Her work, which has won her the Robert Penn Warren Award for fiction in 2009 from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, has been compared to that of Flannery O'Connor and Sherwood Anderson.

"In many ways, they do not paint a pretty picture, but they do not preach ... they instruct the heart," Ms. Crone said.

Similarly, she said, writing fiction allows her more freedom to do this than if she was writing nonfiction.

"The whole point of writing fiction is to get to the truths that with nonfiction, you would have to hedge," she said.

And so, as a demonstration of that, she read an excerpt from her the story that won her the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, "The Ice Garden," from her 2007 book "What Gets Into Us."

It was, she said afterward, the first time she had ever read one of her stories in her hometown -- a unique experience because so many of the people in the audience had shared her experiences.

"It was kind of like preaching to the choir. It was kind of glorious. There was a resonance," she said.

She said that growing up she knew she wanted to be an artist of some sort, but that through high school and into college she leaned more toward the visual arts, doing a lot of painting. It was not until well into her years at Smith College in Massachusetts and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland that she began seriously writing, publishing her first story, "Kudzu," as a graduate student in 1976-77.

"The first thing I wrote was set here, and by the time I started writing in college, I knew I would be writing about this world," she said.

Today, Ms. Crone, who taught for 28 years at Louisiana State University, lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow writer and poet, Roger Kamenetz. Together they have two daughters, Anya and Kezia. She has published four books of her stories: "The Winnebago Mysteries," "A Period of Confinement," "Dream State" and "What Gets Into Us," which she said is the one that pulls most strongly from her eastern North Carolina roots.

For Jane Rustin, director of the Wayne County Public Library, having such a literary figure and a Goldsboro native, was a perfect match for the Henry Belk Lecture Series, named for the former editor of the News-Argus, who served from 1929 to 1968 and who served as editor emeritus until his death in 1972.

Mrs. Rustin explained that during his years at the News-Argus, Belk had been the driving force behind a program held each year during National Library Week to present interesting literary figures in the community -- one that with the help of John Kerr, the Rotary Club and the library had revived several years ago.

"This is a cultural and literary high point for the community," Mrs. Rustin said.

And having Moira Crone speak had been a goal for several years.

"We've sort of followed her from afar, and this it was able to work out," she said. "I thought the talk was wonderful. I thought it was fascinating. I could have listened to her for a long, long time. I felt I could really understand a little bit about her writing process listening to her."

Ms. Crone's books are available at the Wayne County Public Library.