Jill McCorkle on Nostalgia

First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.

In this episode, Mitzi talks to Jill McCorkle about her new story collection, Old Crimes.

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From the episode:

Mitzi Rapkin: I saw a lot of nostalgia in your stories, not necessarily in the stories but the impact on the reader.  Most of your characters seem to be wistful or have important memories of times before cell phones and of Esso gas stations and you brought up Charlotte’s Web a few times and those first indelible memories that help shape us.  

Jill McCorkle: I think there is this longing for the purity of those early beliefs and hopes and dreams. Obviously, there are a lot of schoolteachers and librarians along the way. And you know, I do go back again and again to some of the earliest memories in life. I often tell my students that when you’re trying to evoke a certain emotion on the page or to give feeling to a character, I think one of the best things we can do as writers is to reach back into our own memories and maybe not the most recent experience of an emotion but to go all the way back to when it is so pure and so clear and not cluttered with all we know.  As a kid you really know joy and you know, sadness.  I always use the analogy of like the Crayola box of crayons, you know, those primary colors, there’s no denying what the color is or what you’re feeling in those early, early memories. So, I find myself looking back to childhood, a lot and what was learned in fairy tales and those scary, scary stories that serve a very good purpose.


Jill McCorkle is the author of four short story collections and seven novels including the New York Times bestseller Life After Life.  Five of her books have been New York Times Notable books and her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories.  She has written for The New York Times Book ReviewThe Washington PostThe Boston GlobeGarden and GunThe Atlantic, and other publications. She is currently a faculty member at the Bennington College Writing Seminars and is affiliated with the MFA program at North Carolina State University.  Her new short story collection is called Old Crimes.

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