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Interview with author Elizabeth Carroll Foster

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About Southern Winds They Are A' Changing

It is 1932, and racial prejudice is common in Deer Point, Arkansas, where the lives of two women—a white school teacher and an African American sharecropper—are destined to become forever entwined. As Allise DeWitt gives birth to her first child, her husband, Quent, rapes eighteen-year-old African American Maizee Colson on their cotton farm. Fearing that Quent will terrorize her forever, Maizee’s parents take her to Texas, where, nine months later, she gives birth to a son whom she names Nathaniel.

As Allise and Quent settle into life as new parents, she cannot shake the feeling that something is wedging its way between them. Financial troubles brought on by the Great Depression plague Quent, and he is forced to send his farmhands packing. Driven by the need to help and to do the right thing, Allise heads up a church project to donate clothing and other items to the sharecroppers. Years later, Quent is killed while fighting in World War ll, and Allise finds happiness in a second marriage to Dro McClure. Allise’s charitable journey continues, however, leading her through peril and prejudice and eventually bringing her to uncover a shocking truth that will change her life forever.
In this historical novel, an independent Quaker school marm attempts to overcome racial inequity in her small community, inextricably intertwining her life with an unlikely friend who proves that peace is attainable even in the darkest of times.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

When I wrote the first three chapters of the book in 1968, I was hopeful that the Civil Rights Movement was going to bring about a settled change in racial attitudes, and the working title became Winds Blew From The South. As the years of writing the book moved along, I realized there was much more attitudinal improvement needed, and it would not happen quickly but over decades of education and forgiveness. That it would be a slow progression of change, and I made the title Southern Winds A’ Changing.

What is your writing environment like?

I am a senior citizen of advanced years and a recent widow. For a number of years, I shared a downstairs office in our home with my husband. Some six years ago, I turned one of the upstairs bedrooms into my office. Two months ago, I moved into a Senior Living Facility here in the Village where I occupy a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment. My ell-shaped desk, with hutch top, takes one corner of my large living room. Two 4-drawer and one 2-drawer file cabinets rests at the end of one side of the desk. Bookcases share an opposite wall. I’ve thought of getting a screen to separate office from sitting area; however, friends tell me it is quite lovely as is, and I like the openness. It is very quiet here, and I have put out the word that I write in the afternoon, so that so far, I am not interrupted.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers?

Throughout my writing career, I have relied on writing groups and critiquers who will tell me, constructively, the problems with my work. There are loads of books to educate writers. And, there is endless information on the Internet today. A writer can Google a question to one or more sites and compare the answers they receive. The Internet is a helpful place for research as long as more than one source is consulted. One of the best sites that is often helpful, without paying for their courses, is Writer’s Digest Tutorials. The site is: TutorialsNewsletter@fwmedia.com. I get three, four or more messages from this source every day, giving information about their tutorials. I read about the courses and learn or reinforce already known knowledge every time.

What inspires you to write?

A person(s), a place, a situation, an overheard conversation often sparks the question: Can I make this into a story? Many of my short stories were inspired at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center—a writer’s week-long retreat in Piggott, Arkansas—when the facilitator asked for a paragraph or two about an object, a picture from a publication, a comment, or … My two paragraphs always turned into stories later. I have never had a problem with writer’s block, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen.

Did you learn anything while writing this book?

Yes, although I was behind the door when patience was endowed, I learned I had the discipline to write each weekday afternoon for four hours. Another important thing I came to understand was that a change in racial attitudes would need more than a movement. That changes would require education over many years.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

Well, this is a tricky question that I have never before given any thought. I think I can say it’s a quality that has evolved over many years, so that in my old age I can accept most people as they are. I can rationalize that some are at a point in their thinking, know that I do not agree with them, and say to myself, “All right, they are there, and I am here, and I hope they come to their senses.” The exception to this is in some cases of religion and today’s politics, which I find the most difficult to rationalize.

About Elizabeth Carroll Foster

Elizabeth Carroll Foster is an Arkansas native. As a journalist, she worked as a feature writer and editor for southern Maryland newspapers and as a freelancer for regional magazines. She is also the author of Follow Me and Musings, Mutterings, and Aw Shucks, as well as several other books. Elizabeth currently resides in Arkansas.

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