Tag Archives: interviews

The Drive


I took familiar roads; the routes I once used to drive to Kings Mountain and Belmont, North Carolina. The drive averaged 30 to 45 minutes depending on which former textile town I was driving to. I turned on the radio and changed stations. In the age of iPods and iPads, I still have the unhealthy habit of changing radio stations.

Kenny Chesney, Guns ‘N Roses, Eric Church, Usher, Michael Jackson, Queen or almost any pop with a slight techno beat pump me up. I am the 26-year-old mom you see dancing like the white girl she is, because I still get nervous despite six years of experience interviewing people.

The time I spend in my car is when words don’t have to make sense. I don’t have to know them. I just need to shake out nervous energy.

On Wednesday morning—my third road trip for freelance work this week—my son woke up with vomit in his bed. My husband said he would stay home for the morning, and I’d return after my two scheduled interviews to go to the doctor with Charles. I turned the radio on loud.

Perfect music for a 16-year-old girl going through her first break up; an 18-year-old who realizes a one night stand is a one night stand; or a guy who is trying to change his ways played all over the radio Wednesday morning. I could not find anything with a beat. I looked up at the indigo blue and gray filled sky and wondered What was going on with the radio stations today? If I thought too much into those songs, I would go buy some whiskey, pour a shot, and throw the empty glass at a Justin Bieber poster.

A drive helps clear my head whether I’m taking Charles to the park, or on my way to cover something. Cars drive by me. I wonder what is going on in their lives. Possible characters emerge, or I become a rock star in my semi private area.

Where do you go to clear your head? What do you do to calm your nerves before or after writing?

The Writer Asks

Words and Photos By Rebecca T. Dickinson

I did not believe I had much of a story from my childhood and youth. Sure my mom said there were family stories I could write. She didn’t understand those stories, to me, were inside jokes. An aunt told me I needed to experience life and one day I’d be an author … maybe, when I hit forty. Not much inspiration of my personal life reflected on early pages; at least not what I consider good stuff.


I developed a habit at an early age to ask people, who I felt were approachable, questions about where they came from, their family, and what growing up was like. I asked these questions because the friends I made, most of the time, were not main stream. To most who knew me, I did not suit the main stream of having nails done or anything in teen fashion. Most of my friends had something different about them whether they moved from another state, country or were just different in an awesome way. Something about them captured my attention.

When I asked those questions, I gained a skill essential to my career as a history student, journalist and now as a freelance writer. I later found the significance in my personal life. Believe me, I dug up a treasure trove, but the ability to ask questions gave me something some writers can lack if they are not careful: curiosity.

Writers should have curiosity, but it is sometimes lost when we focus on the pressure – which we place on ourselves - from the publishing industry or someone else we want to impress instead of first typing something on the page.


My grandmother told me, like many others, “Write what you know.” I have a lot experience; been many places; and I have some stories. I did not want to write a novel with a character semi based on me.

In a creative writing class in 2005, my teacher invited an author. I do not remember her name or the title of her book. It was a historical fiction novel about a Soviet botanist who was later purged by Stalin. She said a Russian reader was hesitant and doubtful about the work she—the American author—had done. She had never visited Russia, but she did research on the same island where the botanist had performed his research. The author forever changed my perception of writing.

She said you can use what you know, but write about what interests you. I’ve also been told write what you fear.

When I started my senior research paper about Kate Salley Palmer, I interviewed her and a former South Carolina representative—a female—who opposed the women’s rights movement. I heard the pain in Kate’s voice as she told detailed memories from college; girls who committed botched abortions.

I knew I could write, but I was also interested in writing about others or stories influenced by others. Yes, I experienced it through the very pain in their voices on my recorders. I heard the confessions, the nervousness in talking to me, and the setting. Who would know better than the person telling the story?

What was my job?

First, a historian. Ask questions.


“Honest history answers our questions only by asking something of us in return.”
~Edward L. Ayers

As a news staff writer, I told other people’s stories. Like an actor on the stage, I ceased to be myself. I wandered in their heads, pulled at their most sacred thoughts related to the story, and used the information for print.

Sons of the Edisto meant I had to ask my father a lot of questions. I interviewed other people about growing up in the Great Depression down to in what and how people bought their sugar. I took in every detail, and of course, double checked it.

I think writers must ask questions. They must ask each other questions, because that is the only way we learn. Where do you find your stories? Why are they important to you?

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