Potash Hill

Clear Writing

The Right Questions

My writing has always revolved around interpersonal relationships, whether romantic or familial, with a particular eye towards why people act and react in different ways under different circumstances. All writing springs from life in some way, and what often spurs me to write fiction is trying to think my way into someone else’s decision. If I have seen someone act in a particular way and I do not understand why, their action or emotional situation often works its way into a story.

By writing a compelling character who acts in a certain way, I gain access to the why behind the actions, or at least a plausible why. Sometimes the person whose actions I do not understand is myself, and by writing I am better able to untangle a conflicted ball of emotions. Words can only go so far in explaining people, but sometimes just being able to phrase a question can lead you towards an answer.

Taken as a whole, this collection of fiction shows a variety of women who are discovering how to define themselves and their needs, both outside of and within the context of their family structures and societal expectations. None of them reach the end of their journeys, but at least they begin to figure out what questions they need to ask and what they will carry forward into the next part of their life.

I see these stories as connected to the themes of family and duty that run through Nick Flynn’s work, particularly in respect to father-child relationships, and as growing naturally out of the questions of societal and familial expectations for women which I deal with in my critical writing about Faulkner’s novels. These stories all center on women who look at themselves and their worlds and ask, “Who am I?” Their answers are not always fully formed or definitive, but they are discovering the right questions to ask.

Excerpted from “And They Will Endure: Selfhood and family in the works of Faulkner and Flynn, and an original body of fiction,” a Plan of Concentration in writing and literature by Phoebe Lumley ’15. Read one of Phoebe’s stories, “Waiting Space." Photos by Dakota Walsh ’15