"Write to your fears. Pick out the thing that scares you the worst, and then go as straight as you can to the heart of it. Because there’s real energy in that."
A glimpse of Pinckney Benedict
Pinkney Benedict was raised on a dairy farm in Lewisburg, West Virginia.
He graduated from the Iowa Writers School and won the prestigious Steinbeck Award for writers.
He writes tough, funny, insightful, often-violent fiction about people who live on the edge. "I think it was the New York Times review of my novel, Dogs of God, that said something like, "One fears for the sanity of the writer who dared to look the devils in the eye' or something like that," he said. "I figured that, about the time that I've got people worried about my sanity, I must be doing something right."
There was a pit at his family's dairy farm where they tossed the cows that had died. "And in the garbage hole, there was an old car, full of bullet holes. And there were washing machines and lawn mowers ..." Pinckney’s stories are full of that same great jumble of tumbling physical images. He writes to music: rockabilly, early raw country, Pink Floyd, to get himself into that zone where the stories play through his mind.
Benedict says he tries to observes life through a clear eye. "The highest calling I can see for myself is to just observe truthfully and try not to lie about things and try not to shape things toward my own ideology or someone else's ideology or what-have-you. That said, of course, I'm making stuff up and writing fiction."
Pinckney Benedict is now Professor of Literature at Southern Illinois
University College of Liberal Arts.
Sample writing from "Booze," a short story in Town Smokes: a description
"He was a full-grown Duroc boar hog, white-haired and huge, with the nastiest yellow eyes you ever saw, as different from those Chester sows as a hunting knife is from a spoon. His hide was flawless, shiny pink under stiff white bristles, stretched tight over bones and muscle and sinew. He was Tobe's breeding boar, probably the finest, strongest thing Tobe had ever owned.
You could see how that old man swelled up when he looked at Booze, when he watched him go to rut on one of those sows, no match for his size, his weight, his immense strength and endurance. He was fierce, and the sows always ended up winded and bitten. One poor bitch had even lost an ear to him.
Two tusks, larger than his other teeth, jutted out on either side of his broad lower jaw, the size of Havana cigars. Six feet long, more than five hundred pounds, nearer six hundred, with his hunched back and massive haunches, Booze was awesome and terrifying..."
An activity to go with this writing sample:
Modeling helps you study Pinckney's sentence structure and the way he uses details.
Think of another animal you know. That animal is probably very different from Booze. Copy Pinckney's sentence structure, but change his details about Booze to your own details about the animal you're describing. An example: "She was a half-grown mutt, brown-and-white-haired and skinny, as different from my sister's poodle as a homeless kid is from a rich kid." Model the whole sample. Pay attention. You can learn a lot from doing this.
~ Go to the Activities page for other ideas like this. ~
Five ways to get the most from this program.
1. Listen to an hour-long entertaining visit with Pinckney Benedict. Enjoy Pinckney's voice, his advice about writing, childhood stories and readings from his work.
2. Read / download the program script. Read it as you listen. Mark passages you want to return to.
3. Read / download the Table of Contents. It will help you find the passages you want.
4. Find short tracks you can drop into presentations or classroom sessions. It's easy. Click here to find out how to do it.
5. Explore some activities that help you use this website to teach writing/storytelling skills or improve your own skills.