Interviews | August 05, 2019

Janet Burroway, Lawton Distinguished Professor Emerita at Florida State University and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for writing by the Florida Humanities Council, is the author of eight novels including Eyes, The Buzzards, Raw Silk, Opening Nights, Cutting Stone, and Bridge of Sand in addition to collected poetry and essays. Her plays include Medea with Child, Sweepstakes, Parts of Speech, and most recently Headshots. She has published the children’s books The Truck on the Track, The Giant Jam Sandwich, and The Perfect Pig, all of which have been scored for orchestra. Her most recent book is the memoir Losing Tim: The Life and Death of an American Contractor in Iraq. Her widely used textbooks are Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft and Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. She is married to film and Utopian scholar Peter Ruppert.

This interview was conducted by email between September 2018 and February 2019.

JOCELYN CULLITY: You were born in Tucson and raised in Phoenix but never felt quite at home.

JANET BURROWAY: Mine was a very ’40s/’50s childhood, with much emphasis on being a pretty girl and a good Christian. Really, I was neither, and these failures were a grief to my mother and consequently a grief to me. On the looks side, I had stubbornly straight hair, poor posture, and I was what was then called “stocky.” By the time I grew up and slimmed down, and the still later time straight hair came into fashion, the damage had been done. I was socially awkward, fretful and fearful of failure. I was no better at goodness than prettiness. What I mainly remember about church were the pink wintergreens my grandmother slipped me to keep me from fidgeting during the sermon, and how untouchably hot the car was when we got in it to go home— it having sat in the hundred-degree Arizona sun for a few hours. I was both pious and rebellious, a very difficult combination for my parents.

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