Diane Roberts read two pieces from her NPR broadcasts and a selection from a novel she is writing on Monday, April 11. The crowd laughed along with her as she told a story about finding Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the most expensive store in London. She entertained the audience with her writing and telling about the history of her family. The creative non-fiction writer later answered a few questions.
Cluster: What’s your educational background? (Undergrad, grad school, etc.)
Roberts: I have a B.A. and an M.A. (in creative writing) from FSU. Then I got a Marshall Scholarship to go to Oxford University in England, so I then got a second B.A. in English and a Ph.D. in literature. My first job was at Oxford teaching English Lit. I lived in England for 10 years total.
C: Where is your hometown, and what was it like to grow up there?
R: I was born in Tallahassee — my family hs lived in the vicinity since the 1830s and in Florida since 1799. I love Tallahassee, probably because I left it for a long time. I lived in England, then I got a job at the University of Alabama where I taught for 14 years. Finally I decided I wanted to go home — I write about Florida for newspapers and my last book, Dream State, is also about Florida, so I got a job at FSU. Tallahassee has the most beautiful springtime of anywhere in the world.
C: What made you want to become a writer?
R: I like to tell stories. And I feel it’s my job to tell stories about “lost worlds,” to remember things that are in danger of being forgotten, like how it was to live without cell phones and computers! I also want to tell about places that might be destroyed. If you can tell the story of a place — a forest, a town, a building — then it’s much harder for somebody to tear it down and turn it into a strip mall or parking lot. Maybe this is a particularly Florida problem!
C: What writers inspire you? Are there any who terrify you?
R: Lots of writers inspire me: Thomas Pynchon, Herman Melville, Charlotte Bronte, John Milton. William Faulkner both inspires and terrifies me!
C: What is your favorite thing to write about?
R: Politics! I love writing snarky newspaper columns about politicians I think are doing bad things.
C: What inspires you to write?
R: Anger, usually. But also love. I’ve just finished a novel about Oxford, a place I love like no other. I was there with people who are still so important to me. And the beauty of the place is imprinted on my brain.
C: Where do you like to write?
R: I like best to write on my very big, old dining room table here in Tallahassee. The table seats 14 people, so I have lots of room to spread out. I invite people over to dinner not only because I like to cook and I like to see my friends, but to make me clean off the table every once in a while! But, truth be told, I can write almost anywhere — on trains, on planes, whatever. I think I learned this skill by having to write in newsrooms. I used to work at the St. Petersburg Times newspaper and you couldn’t just go off somewhere and work; you had to do it with all this noise and activity around you. It’s good discipline.
C: Do you like to keep a daily journal?
R: No — I’m too lazy!