AN INTERVIEW WITH SHANNON RAVENEL

Today’s bonanza: Amy Hempel’s COLLECTED STORIES; Wells Towers’s EVERYTHING RAVAGED, EVERYTHING BURNED; the 25th anniversary edition of NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH; and three Algonquin titles of your choosing. Just leave a comment on our Facebook page to enter; or, if you’re not on Facebook, here on our blog.

Today is our final post for this week’s series celebrating NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH. If you’re in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, or if you’re even somewhat nearby, please head over to Quail Ridge Books to hear series editor Kathy Pories and contributors Wells Tower and Aaron Gwyn read from/discuss the book on MONDAY, AUGUST 30th, at 7:30 pm. The event is free and sure to be absolutely fantastic. We will be there–will you???

Today’s interview is with founding series editor Shannon Ravenel, who shares with us, among other things, her favorite stories from the first twenty years of NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH. Have any favorite Southern stories of your own?

1. Where do you do your best editing? At home? At work? At a coffee shop?

Since I’m now more or less retired and working as “editor at large,” I do all my editing at home, which I like.

2. What does a Southern story mean to you?

I wrote some Forewords to the early volumes of New Stories from the South trying to define “Southern Stories.” For me, it boils down to the setting—if the story is set in the U.S. South, it’s “Southern.”

3. You were the series editor for New Stories from the South for twenty years. Were there any major surprises along the way? Any particular stories that stand out as your favorites?

I started the series in 1986 and edited it (without guest editors) until 2005—so my stint was 20 years. For the first five of those, I was also Series Editor of Best American Short Stories for Houghton.

Stand out stories:  Lewis Nordan’s “Sugar, the Eunuchs and Big G.B.” (1987), Larry Brown’s “Facing the Music” (1988), Robert Olen Butler’s “Relic” (1991), Heather Sellers’s “Fla. Boys” (1999), William Gay’s “The Paper Hanger” (2001)

4. What’s the last non-work-related book you read that stopped you in your tracks?

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

5. What’s the last book you loaned out that you regret giving away?

In Richard’s World, by William Barnwell (HMCo. 1968)

6. On what basis did you choose stories to include in the anthology?

As for technical aspects, only two: That the story is set mainly in the American South, and that it was published first serially in the year preceding our annual volume. As for the rest of my criteria: Would it be too evasive to say simply that the stories I selected were the ones I wanted to read again, for my own enjoyment?

7. What does the South mean to you?

Home

8. What is your favorite place in the South?

Camden, South Carolina

9. More importantly, please describe your favorite meal in the South.

Hoppin’ John and Ham on New Year’s Day

10. In her introduction as guest editor to New Stories from the South: 2010, Amy Hempel writes, “Much of what I read from the contemporary South has a soundtrack.” As a North Carolinian resident, what is your current Southern soundtrack?

I’m one of those very rare Southerners who is, as Lee Smith once put it, musically impaired. I listen to whatever my husband listens to, which is mostly bluegrass. But I could live without it.

*Bonus question: You are stranded on a desert island with any celebrity, living only. Who would you choose?

Barack Obama

Interview by
Megan Fishmann,
Publicist

19 Comments On This Post:

August 20, 2010
10:01 am
Genevieve says...

What a fun interview! I’m def. going to have to check out Olive Kitterage now, this is like the third time I’ve heard it mentioned by someone I trust!

I hope I win the book haul!

August 20, 2010
10:02 am
Lynne says...

Having collected books from both series, I call myself a Sharon Ravenel fan. Please enter my name in today’s contest. Thank you!

August 20, 2010
10:06 am
Lydia says...

The South has produced so many great writers and continues to do so – I’d love to be entered in today’s contest!

August 20, 2010
10:25 am
Regina says...

Love Algonquin Books, love this interview with Shannon Ravenel, who is a national as well as a regional treasure. Enter me in today’s contest, please.

August 20, 2010
10:29 am
Jana J. Hanson says...

Thank you for the interview! I’ve been reading New Stories from the South since my college days, and I’ve loved each edition.

August 20, 2010
10:36 am
Robert Burdock says...

Please include me in the draw. i’ve been saying all week that the prizes have ben getting better every day, and today you’ve really just topped yourself. Good luck to all entrants.
Warmest
Rob

August 20, 2010
11:23 am
Susan Mulder says...

I grew up with Hoppin’ John on New Years! Not many folks know what that is-what a treat to see that Ms. Ravenel loves it too!

August 20, 2010
1:05 pm
Kulot says...

Please sign me up for the giveaways! :D

akosikulot@gmail.com

August 20, 2010
1:12 pm
Jeanie Brown says...

Love the phrase musically impaired pretty much describes me. I love Marshall Chapman everything else not so much!

August 20, 2010
1:20 pm
Liz Barrett says...

Great blog, Algonquin! Love this series you have going on this week. I agree about Olive Kitteridge. What a read!

August 20, 2010
1:24 pm
Jessica Anderson says...

I would love some new books!!!
And great article. Thanks.

August 20, 2010
2:34 pm
Meg says...

Am googling Hoppin’ John & Ham recipes as I type — southern cooking is as diverse & delicious as its authors!

August 20, 2010
2:47 pm
Attic Salt says...

“Olive Kitteridge” is a terrific read! I’d love to win today’s prize pack, since I read and loved “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned,” and could pass on a copy for someone else to love.

August 20, 2010
3:59 pm
Doni Molony says...

I’m in. I can’t believe it’s been 25 years of New Stories from the South. Enjoyed reading the interview with Shannon Ravenel.

August 20, 2010
5:40 pm
shari says...

perhaps the fourth time is a charm? would love to be entered into the giveaway. thanks for a week of great interviews.

August 21, 2010
12:21 am
Herman says...

Shannon, “Facing the Music” is one of my favorite stories. Larry is my writing hero (like Harry Crews was for Larry) Billy Ray is a friend, and I drink his milk. To anyone who has read “Billy Ray’s Farm–“the boy made it, he has his dad’s determination.

Would love me some books

August 21, 2010
3:20 am
Joe Melia says...

Great to see Robert Olen Butler mentioned, brilliant writer! Ace interview, as ever. Please may one be considered for the fantastic free books!

August 22, 2010
9:57 pm
Steve Boettinger says...

Please include me in the draw.

October 24, 2010
10:07 pm
Allison Bell says...

I think most interviewers miss the point when they interview Shannon Ravenel. She is a Ravenel of Charleston, which, I think, means she is almost like a princess in exile who had to deal with people who had no idea what a Ravenel is. The typical fiction editor lives a realist life and edits romantic novels; she’s sort of the opposite n

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