MEET Mary lou

Weeding, what writers call revising, makes for an improved flowerbed and story. I learned this lesson early in my writing career when I wrote a lifestyle column for a business publication. I turned in more than four pages and my editor told me, “Pull the weeds.” Good advice for a writer.

When I studied with Ernest Gaines at Sewanee, he advised me to use the emotional heft of my life in my work. While betting on horses at Churchill Downs, Pat Conroy told me his writing celebrated the people he loved. In a workshop at Spalding, Silas House taught me the balance between mystery and information and that stories must be about love.

The words I write – novels, short stories, plays – come from the people and places I have met and visited along the way. I don't remember a time I wasn't writing. As a teenager and later as a wife and mother, I worked as a soda jerk, cement counter, and tuna checker, all of which taught me about character. I learned about conflict when I advocated for improvements to my urban neighborhood.While an advisor to two mayors, I earned my MFA from Spalding University and discovered how to think critically about my work.  Now, kids gone, work done, I write to make my stories about “great distances, and starlight” and to give the reader “deep delight,” advice to all writers from Robert Penn Warren in his poem, Tell Me A Story.