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Interview with Luke Whisnant

The Lyrical Voice
Poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction: what do you write when you’re not writing narration?

Presented by Luke Whisnant, author of Down in the Flood (stories);Watching TV with the Red Chinese (novel); and two poetry chapbooks, Street and Above Floodstage.

He has served on the staff of Tar River Poetry since 1985, becoming editor in 2006. He also works in advertising and marketing, writing brochure and website copy and feature stories; a project he did for The Publicus Community won an Addy Award in 2014. Whisnant joined the ECU English faculty in 1982, and has twice won his department’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Luke Whisnant




Luke Whisnant


And now I’d like to share with you our interview with Luke Whisnant:

Question: Author, poet and teacher, which of these has been the most difficult?

Luke: Surely you jest. None of these is difficult in the least when you compare them to truly difficult things. Maybe a better answer, a more forthcoming answer, would be something like “the difficulty           involved in writing and teaching is offset by the happiness each one brings.”

Question: What has been the biggest change in literature during your career?

Luke:  I’d say the biggest change—and in my book the most welcome one—is the tremendous mainstream interest in, and acceptance of, work by women and writers of color. These writers were there all along, but until the past thirty years or so, they were mostly marginalized, forced to live in their own little gated neighborhoods. I’m happy to think that we’re finally past the point where we have to segregate people into “women writers” or “African-American writers” or “Latino/a writers” or “Chinese-American Lesbian Writers” or what have you. At least I hope we are.

The other big change has to do with marketing and production. The publishing industry is undergoing the same kind of change we’ve seen in the music industry and are seeing in cinema, in that the multinational corporations no longer control the sole means of production, the way they used to. Just as anyone can record a CD in his or her living room, or make a movie with $10,000 and a decent digital camera, any writer can easily self-publish a book nowadays. We inmates are in control of the asylum.

That’s not necessarily a good thing but it’s the way things are now.

Question. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve written? Is it finished or is it in the process of being completed?

Luke:  I don’t. I’m pretty fond of some of the stories in Down in the Flood, but I couldn’t choose a favorite.

Question: What have you recently read that you wish you’d written?

Luke:  My mind doesn’t really work that way. I don’t ever wish I’d written some other writer’s sentences. I do, of course, admire other writers’ sentences tremendously, and I steal from other writers constantly. But I steal and transform. It’s unrecognizable after I get done with it.

Question: Do you have a favorite genre to write in?

Luke:  I try not to think in terms of genre. For me that’s counterproductive.
I think a lot of the genre discussion is really about marketing decisions instead of being about writing. I cringe when beginning writers tell me something like “I want to write urban gothic dystopian novels.” I don’t think writing should be reduced to that kind of marketing formula.

Question: Is there another genre you haven’t tried but would like to?

Luke:  Probably not.

Question: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements in good writing?

Luke:  For me, fiction and poetry are not commodities or commercial enterprises. They are art forms. As such, the most important element of good writing is artistic integrity. Everything else depends on it…. That’s my opinion, since you asked. And it won’t hurt my feelings if people disagree.


Don’t forget to sign up for the 4th annual Pamlico Writers Conference and of course our Friday night Kick-off Event, March 18th & 19th. If you haven’t already signed up, go to our website before it’s too late and you miss it.

For more information visit our website: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pwconference2015/
Twitter page: https://twitter.com/PamlicoWritersC

We look forward to seeing all of you at the conference.

Kay Wilson


About Pamlico Writers Group

This is a publication of the Pamlico Writers Group, created to help promote and advance writers skills along with expanding our groups membership and reach. Our aim on this site is to keep you our readers and participants aware of upcoming events. Topics covered during the year will be news regarding our annual Pamlico Writers Conference and Competition, co-sponsored with Arts of the Pamlico, discussion of and from our conferences, participants and group news. PWG's Steering Committee has finalized details for our 5th Annual Pamlico Writers Conference on March 17 & 18th, 2017 at The Turnage Theatre, 150 W. Main St., Washington, NC. This year's theme is "Words," Image and Story". Our Friday night keynote speaker this year will be Author, Teacher, Speaker, and Director of Lavenson Studios, Zelda Lockhart. For more information on Ms. Lockhart visit her website at: http://www.zeldalockhart.com/. For a complete schedule of Friday night and Saturday events, go to our website at: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/. Be sure to check back often for more details of this and other events we have planned. The companion juried writing competition submissions opened on January 1, 2017. Winners are announced and an awards ceremony will be held during our Friday night Kick-Off Event. If you'd like more information on guidelines for entries, please go to our website: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/ All registrations for both conference and/or entry into the competition will be made through our web site: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/. Again, see site for complete details. Thank you for visiting! We hope to see you again soon. **If you are a writer interested in finding a critique group or other writers, we encourage you to come and join us. If you life at a distance please don't let that diswade you, we have several members who participate predominately on-line. Our meetings are the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 7:00 pm here in Washington, NC at the Turnage Theatre. We would love to hear from you regarding comments or ideas you have for the group. This blog is authored by members of our writer's group. Thank you for stopping by. See you soon, Kaylene Wilson Program Coordinator


One thought on “Interview with Luke Whisnant

  1. Very good, Kay.

    Sent from my iPad


    Posted by Doris Schneider | February 23, 2016, 5:22 pm

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