Monday, April 23, 2007

A Gift of Pearls

I'm really excited today to introduce the Q&A with Judith Bader Jones. This woman has such a wonderful writing talent and voice. And if you've never heard her give a reading before, you're missing out on something very special. I'm very proud to tell the rest of the world this morning that she has won the fiction award for the 2007 William Rockhill Nelson contest, a very prestigious literary award here in Kansas City. There's no one I can think of that's more deserving. As you might have guessed, I not only consider Judith a great writer, but a friend as well. And as for Delta Pearls, it truly is a a remarkable collection. I gave my mom the book last summer and she kept it on her side table and with her throughout her illness. She just loved the yarns told by Judith - and my mother consumed books like most people consume food. Anything she felt worth reading over and over again is worth the read. And in this Q&A, Judith teaches us as writers, that patience is worth the wait. It took her 20 years to accumulate and give us the gift of Pearls:

Tell us about yourself and describe your book:
Delta Pearls is a collection of short fiction set in the Missouri Bootheel. My formative years were spent on a farm near Caruthersville, Missouri, in the 1940’s. This land was settled by my pioneer great-grandfather, an immigrant from Germany, circa 1847. I often choose southeast Missouri along the Mississippi River for the setting in my fiction. I write to make sense of my world. The setting in these Delta Pearl stories becomes a character. The stories are sparse; the characters bring heart to the telling.

Why did you decide to take characters and some incidents from your past and write fictional short stories?
The characters are drawn from the blood and bones of people I knew and loved in childhood. Memory is not a neat package-deal. A writer takes the skeleton and fleshes out what the mind forgets. Some of the stories in this collection are memoir, some are fiction. .

How long did it take you to accumulate your short stories?
Twenty or more years. Many of these short pieces appeared in small press before they were put into the collection.

How did you find your publisher?
A writing colleague attended the Missouri Writers Guild conference and heard a speaker introduce Sweetgum Press of Warrensburg, Missouri. The publisher / editor Rose Marie Kinder was looking for a manuscript from a Missouri writer, or a writer with stories set in the Bootheel. My friend facilitated this connection. I put my stories together and submitted the manuscript within a few days. Delta Pearls was published in part because the editor believed my voice was authentic to this section of Missouri.

Your book is a 2007 William Rockhill Nelson fiction award finalist. Congratulations! Was this the first time you entered this contest?
Yes. This annual award is given by The Writers Place and The Kansas City Star and has been in existence for five years. It is given for literary excellence to Missouri and Kansas writers for book length works of poetry, fiction and non-fiction

What made you decide to enter?
Writer friends suggested that I enter this book. I spoke with my publisher. Three copies of the book were submitted. After a screening process, three finalists were selected in each category and sent to judges out of the Kansas City area. (Judith has since been named the winner)

How did you feel being named a finalist? Pleased and validated for years of writing. I hope my stories encourage others to write what they know, write stories from their own lives.

Describe a writing day for you.
I arise at seven, drink tea with my husband, eat fruit and toast and go to the computer. Emails get answered first. I write poetry when I feel passionate about something. I like to work off and on throughout the day, sandwich in household tasks and gardening with writing. I prefer reading and writing literary fiction, character driven stories. Poetry draws me because a good poem requires attention be given to each word choice. Closure / last lines are the most difficult for me. My grandmother used to tape a different word on our medicine cabinet each day during my teen years. She taught me the art of knitting, the art of story telling and the value and meaning of words.

Do you have any writing quirks?
I write alone, shut out the rest of the world. Writing on command with groups of people in class room settings proves to be difficult for me. The natural world with blue skies fuels my writing. At night my dream world often reflects a piece of fiction I am working on. I never plot my stories; they evolve at their own pace. Rewriting is a necessary requirement to refine anything I write. Poems get working titles, but at times I find the title slips away from my memory and I search through files to locate last weeks poem. One word titles appeal to my sense of exploration, can entice a reader.

Where can people find your book?
Borders, or through
My web site is


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