Local poet and novelist Darnell Arnoult

Poet and novelist Darnell Arnoult will be joining us at the Spring Literary Festival on April 6, at 4 p.m. in the UC Theater and she will be reading from her collection of poems titled What Travels With Us and her fiction novel Sufficient Grace.

Poet and fiction writer Darnell Arnoult. Photo from Google Images

Poet and fiction writer Darnell Arnoult
Photo from Google Images

Arnoult was born and raised in Henry County, Virginia, but she lived in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, for over twenty years. She received a BA in American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA in English and Creative Writing from North Carolina State University. She also worked at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Her fiction and poetry have been published in a variety of journals such as Appalachian Heritage, Asheville Poetry Review, Nantahala Review, Now and Then, Sandhills Review, Southern Cultures, Southern Exposure, Southwest Review, and she has taught creative writing to adults for over fifteen years. She is a regular faculty member of the Duke Writers Workshop, Tennessee Young Writers Workshop, John C. Campell Folk School, and Learning Events.

She is also the writer-in-residence and co-director of the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN, and the co-editor of the literary magazine Draft Horse.

Arnoult has received many awards throughout her writing career including the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature, SIBA Poetry Book of the Year, Mary Frances Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters, and in 2007 she was named Tennessee Writer of the Year by the Tennessee Writers Alliance.

In an interview with JC Robertson, a writer for the Southern Literary Review, Arnoult was asked when she first started writing stories, and how she knew that she wanted to spend her life writing.

What Travels With Us: Poems by Darnell Arnoult Photo from Google Images

What Travels With Us: Poems by Darnell Arnoult
Photo from Google Images

“When I was young, I loved being read to, but I hated reading. I was a good student, but I read really slowly, and read only what I had to. In class we sometimes shared books, and my reading partner was always waiting for me to get to the end of a page. Large books intimidated me because of the time it would take me to wade through them. It was embarrassing. But in fifth grade I attended a boarding school where we could not get up before a certain time. I woke with the sun, so I would stay in bed and read in that early morning light. Like Mama Toot from Sufficient Grace, I would take out my book and look at the pages until I could make out the words. I don’t remember much about the books I read then, only that they kept me company during a lonely time when my mother was hospitalized and I was away from my family, and this changed my relationship with words on a page,” Arnoult answered honestly.

She continued to say that the books ultimately became a comfort. Later, when she realized she wanted to write, she read works by Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She added that one of her favorite books was Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

“When I think about writers that have influenced my work, as an adult, I think of writers like Lee Smith, Wendell Berry, Clyde Edgerton, Allan Gurganus, Michael Lee West, Jill McCorkle, Lewis Nordan, Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Kaye Gibbons, and poets Kathryn Stripling Byer, Robert Morgan, James Dickey, Mary Oliver, and again Wendell Berry,” Arnoult said.

Writers who, at the time, were still unpublished also influenced her work: Isabel Zuber, Tamara Baxter, Lynn York, and even WCU’s very own Pamela Duncan.