Darlin' Neal is
a native Mississippian who spent her childhood traveling New Mexico and
attending 13 different grade schools. After completing degrees in
Psychology, Journalism and English at New Mexico State, she left Las
Cruces and headed for Tucson. Upon finishing her MFA at the University
of Arizona, she returned to Mississippi in search of her roots. In 2001
she completed a PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center
her awards are a fiction fellowship from the Mississippi Arts
Commission, a Henfield Transatlantic Award, New Mexico State
University’s Frank Waters Fiction Fellowship, and the Joan Johnson Award
from the Center for Writers. Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Puerto del Sol, Smokelong Quarterly, Eleven Eleven, The Rio Grande Review, and dozens of other magazines. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous anthologies including the Best of The Web 2009 and Online Writing: The Best of The First Ten Years. She holds an assistant professorship in the MFA program at The University of Central Florida.
She lives in Orlando and Jensen Beach, Florida with a calico named Maggie, her guy and a dog named Catfish.
with Darlin' Neal
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
of the stories in the collection were written nearly twenty years
ago. Some are very recent. None of them took twenty years though!
My stories don’t come to me in any one way. Some feel like a
breathless rush. Others take many, many revisions.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
lot of the stories were written with me exploring character and place
for a few novels I have in mind, especially some of the earlier
stories. So I did not have a collection in mind as I wrote, but
later as I began putting the work together, I did find recurring
characters and themes that made this feel like a collection as a
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
had so many stories gathered up over the years that what was most
difficult was deciding what to leave out. Finally, it was the title
that did it for me. It led me to a theme of shedding and renewal, of
cycles and nature, that helped me streamline what was included in
this particular book.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
means coming into a sense of the world. It means hearing my
grandmother’s voice on the porch and having my mind filled with
vivid images of people and the earth. It’s the way to give meaning
to any part of the world and experience, to make something to hold
onto from a moment or from loss. It means my father’s stories as
well, and the ones I want to continue to search out from my mother’s
life. It means my mother reading to me at night and giving me that
continuity and magic all through my childhood when everything else
was moving right on by.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
is something I was recently discussing with Dorothy Allison and
others at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. I remember how
books mesmerized me when I was a child and came to love reading and
continued to need it for sustenance. I think that first reader I
found inside myself early on who is a constant would be my reader. I
also think that presence changes a bit depending on a particular
story, but still it is a constant. That listener and dreamer.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
recently told me they shared a few of my stories with students in an
alternative school in New Mexico. They said the students were
riveted, students who had expressed earlier disdain for reading. I
was very moved by this. I’d like to hear from those students. I’m
not sure what I’d ask them, but I’d like to hear what they might
have to tell me. I’d like to know what they thought and what they
wished for. I hope they keep on reading as I think literature
transforms. I hope I see a few pieces of their own one day, and work
from not just my MFA students, which I know will happen, but from
students I taught in literacy sites in Mississippi. Hey, Jean Paul!
What are you writing lately? Pookie? Deborah? Demetrius? Sister
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
gratifying most especially to know my books are being read. I sure
wouldn’t mind selling them like crazy though.
What are you working on now?
have several projects happening at once, a novel I am trying to get
the final touches in place on, Wildflowers. I am working on a memoir
about my experiences growing up in New Mexico and Mississippi and
attending thirteen different grade schools, many of them on American
Indian Reservations, Roads I Once Traveled Down, and a second story
collection, Elegant Punk. I have another novel in the works too,
Farewell, Angelina, but I am wanting to get these other projects on
their way before I start revising that book.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
DN: Brad Watson’s Aliens In The Prime of Their Lives, Robert Boswell’s The Heyday of The Insensitive Bastards, and Kevin Canty’s Where The Money Went.
I realize these are all books written by men so ask me again in a few
weeks and I’ll tell you about some great collections I just read
written by women! Stefanie Freele and Becky Hagenston, for instance. The Collected Works of Deborah Eisenberg.