Alternate Arts: What’s your earliest writing experience?Chuck: The earliest one that I remember was winning $5 in an essay contest when I was in the fifth grade. That was second place; I was shooting for first place. It paid $10. I wrote for the student newspaper all through high school. The newspaper was a junior class project, but there was nobody else who could up with enough synonyms to write the sports column. The first time I actually received a paycheck for writing was when I was 19 and writing for the local weekly.
Alternate Arts: What’s the first thing you remember reading?
Chuck: I spent much of my childhood in the local library. The first book I remember from there was Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott). At that point in my life (cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians), a knight was a hero I could identify with.
Alternate Arts: Who has influenced your writing the most?
Chuck: I had two identifiable and significant influences. The first was my mother. She wasn’t a writer. However, she was a voracious reader. We were encouraged to read pretty much anything. Largely because of my mother, our family produced two writers who managed to make a living for many years by stringing words together.
The second was Josefina Niggli, who ran the Professional Writing program at Western Carolina. She contended that she couldn’t teach anyone to write, but she could teach us to make a living at it. For years after I was graduated, I sent my work to Josifina, and she would mark it up and send it back.
(For a more detailed account of Josefina and her influence, see this post at Chuck’s website.)
Alternate Arts: Who or what inspires you now?
Chuck: At my age, it may be a little grandiose to call it inspired, but I’m engaged by a number of things. I’ve been married sixty years, and it’s a challenge to keep a marriage fresh for so long. I have four grandchildren, and I want to be an influence in their lives. And I fear for our country in its current political climate. I guess that goes back to the grandchildren. I want them to have the country I had to grow up in, but better...