Professor, poet, and North Carolina native Laura Patterson views her writing as an attempt to take a photograph with language. Here, The Written Wardrobe contributor dishes on where she gets her writing inspiration, how she fights writer’s block, and more in our newest interview series, Style & Story Collide.
Did your The Written Wardrobe piece, “Appalachian Lipstick,” begin with a particular idea or item?
My memories of own great-grandmother inspired me to write “Appalachian Lipstick.” I was fascinated by her desire to make a life on her own terms, one that was fulfilling, but also full of pretty things. She didn’t see a contradiction between being practical and headstrong and surrounding herself with beauty. I love the idea of unapologetically being oneself, but it’s harder than it looks, even today.
Glimpses of Laura’s writing space, and the author herself.
Does what you’re currently writing and reading ever influence your wardrobe?
Reading Southern women writers like Eudora Welty makes me want to put on a nice ladylike A-line dress and lockets that my grandmother and great-grandmother wore… Of course, sometimes the influences are more direct. I like to read body-positive style blogs like Already Pretty, and I find a lot of ideas for wearing things I already own in new ways.
If you hosted a dinner party with a favorite style icon and a favorite writer, who would you invite?
Eudora Welty, one of the greatest short story writers of the twentieth century, and Debra Messing, which sounds like a bizarre combination, I know. But Welty was a great storyteller and conversationalist, plus she reportedly had a wicked sense of humor. Messing seems to have Old Hollywood glamour combined with an urban funkiness, and she’s so funny. Plus, Welty and Messing share a musical theater background. I imagine that they would hit it off famously, and they’d be telling tales and laughing all night.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with aspiring writers?
I’ve mostly published literary criticism, so I’m excited to be returning to poetry and fiction. Since I’m an aspiring writer in this category, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to write something new and out of my comfort zone. I try to hang onto the weird images, the scenes I’ve observed that just won’t go away, even when they’re uncomfortable or icky. To fight writer’s block, I try to turn off the critical voices in my head and imagine that I’m writing for a sympathetic listener, someone who has a strong desire to understand the perspective I’m trying to convey and is likely to say “Yes, I know just what she means!”
Are you an aspiring writer looking to share your stories of style? Submit your work for possible inclusion in Issue 3 of The Written Wardrobe!