Author Barbara Kingsolver has been chosen as this year's winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's lifetime achievement award for use of the written word in promoting peace. Born in Annapolis, Md., and raised in rural Carlisle, Ky., the 56-year-old writer's prolific works include novels, nonfiction, essays and poetry on a broad range of issues and topics.
In a telephone interview this week with The Associated Press, she discussed writing goals, the future of novels, and her family's Virginia farm where they try to grow and eat local foods. Some excerpts:
Q: The award you have won recognizes the power of literature in promoting peace; when you are writing about the social, political and environmental issues that you do, what impact are you seeking to have?
A: It doesn't work like that for me. I think impact is created elsewhere, not in my writing office. When I'm writing, I'm thinking about craft, I'm thinking about story, about character, and the narrative art. I know, to stand back and watch, you might think that a writer is sort of directing an arrow straight into another person's heart, but that's not how it goes at all. It is so much more complicated than that.
I create stories of a place and a world as I see it, and when readers enter that story, they bring their own emotional and intellectual experiences, and they make the impact. I'm not manipulating them; they're making choices for themselves. Literary writers don't do that at all. We can't; if we did that, we would pretty much be run out of the field on a rail. You can't make a living as an artist by trying to manipulate people.
Q: What is the future of the novel in the digital and the social media world?
Digital books and delivering them to people in modes of other than ink on paper, I think that's wonderful, that people have choices. If people prefer to read books electronically and adjust the print size, and get books from far away without using jet fuel to transport them and don't involve cutting down trees, that's great. I think it's probably the wave of the future. I like to read e-books ...
(Social media) is definitely changing certain things about the ways people interact, but that's not my business, that doesn't affect literature. The novel as a form has persisted for hundreds and hundreds of years, and so, there's something about story and a certain length of story and the way a novel presents itself that seems very stable and very desirable to people.
If people just wanted a snack, instead of the full-course meal, it would have been curtains for the novel some time ago.
Q: How is your next project going? What can you tell us about it?
A: Very happily ... that it will probably be out next year. Too early to start talking about it.
Q: And how is the garden doing this year?
A: The refrigerator is completely stuffed with cucumbers, zucchini and eggplants. My daughter and I spent all Saturday making pickles. Now we're into the giving-away-to-neighbors mode.