Thursday, March 31, 2011
A Recent Questionnaire
Recently this article about me was in our Cambridge newspaper. Thought you might like to get to know me better.
TERRY L. WHITE
1. Tell us about yourself.
a. Where do you live? I have lived in Cambridge for 18 years.
b. Where are you from? I was born in Schenectady, NY. I was raised in the Appalachian mountains of northern Pennsylvania.
c. Anything noteworthy about your family that we should know? Mom died when I was five and I was the eldest child so I had to grow up fast. My father told me on his deathbed that we were Mohawk Indians. It was a big family secret. The native culture fascinates me, and it may be a factor in my fascination with beads and beading.
d. In what medium do you work? Life. I will try anything. Probably I am best known as a writer, but I have been a musician and worked in string and square dance bands on bass, rhythm guitar and vocalist. I make bead, sea glass and wire jewelry, and soft sculpture dolls. I paint a little.
e. What is important about you that people may not know? I grew up in Appalachia, the eldest of eight children. We were pretty poor and learned not to waste anything that came to hand. I think that sort of situation allows one to see the potentialities in leftovers, throwaways and natural materials. Dad wanted us to succeed – he bought Encyclopedia Britannica when I was about 12. I think I read all of it.
2. Tell us about your work.
a. What brought you to recognize your artistic talent? I found an essay I wrote in my grandfather’s wallet after he died. I believe he wanted me to see that I had some talent for writing. He left me a Hogarth print of a stack of books and a violin, all of which became elements in my life as the years went on – I always thought it was a message. He was a very spiritual person.
b. What were you doing when you first realized that you could paint/sculpt/etc. My father would paste our drawings on masonite board and cut them up into jigsaw puzzles for us to play with. He saw our work as valuable, so it was.
c. What life experience(s) have most affected your art? Everything in my life contributes to my writing. I have supported the craft for many years through various sorts of employment. The rest of my artistic output is busy work: things I do when not working at my writing. I have published 17 books and always have a couple of projects in the works. Everything that happens is interesting. The way people speak is music.
d. Do you still have some early work that you keep as reminders of the past? There are some old manuscripts hanging around. Some of the work was pretty bad, but I guess I got enough encouragement to keep going on. I collected and burned a huge stack of rejection letters and have come to believe they did not mean ‘no.’ They meant ‘not now.’
e. What is your favorite piece and what does it mean to you? I think my Chesapeake Heritage books are my best work to date – there are five novels in the series. They follow the settlement of the Eastern Shore and Dorchester County from colonization to the end of World War 1 – the history of one plantation and the woman who lived on it, offering a more feminine view of the events and people who shaped the Chesapeake area. (Also of note is Runaway Hearts, a series of long poems based on the history of the area in verse. People seem to like that one – even though most will say they don’t like poetry. It was read on Radio for the Blind.)
f. What inspires you? What keeps you motivated? I have no idea. There seem to be triggers that set off a project. I hope I am awake when the call comes and then I just sort of hang on for the ride.
g. How do you see your work in the world around you? I think my novels hold a lot of truth. Most people won’t buy a history book, but they will read novels and they identify with people who struggle for one reason or another. I know I learned a lot about people, history, and life from the novels I read, especially when I was a child.
h. What about your work benefits others? All of my heroines are strong women who did not give up under adverse situations. They all find happy endings, but not until they realize they must shape their own history and world and that the wine and roses scenario is often not what love is in expression.
3. Tell us about the future.
a. What are your artistic goals? I just want to keep writing and see what happens next. Of course, I would like to be noticed, but the world is full of writers hooked into technology. Anyone can get published without doing much work – especially if they have the funds to pay for promotion. “Paying your dues” is a whole new story for the publishing industry these days.
b. What do you expect to be happening in your “art life” x number of years from now? I try to live in the now – the future is a flighty bitch.
c. Tell us about your relationship with your community and/or with other artists? I belong to the Wednesday Morning Artists and have belonged to various writers’ groups, but I am not sure they are helpful. The immortal storytellers pretty much all worked alone.
a. How would you like to see things progress art-wise in Cambridge/Dorchester County? I would like to see the area be a destination where people can come to see and purchase art. I would like to see more diversity in the populations offering art.
b. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? Do the work! Editors do not check spelling and punctuation these days. There really are not any free rides. Support your art until your art can support you.
d. I have won awards for my journalism and for short fiction, but like any competition, it is not so much the excellence of your game but rather who shows up!
Thanks for reading and keep on the sunny side! Terry