Lee Smith (b. 1944) is a North Carolinian and has been since 1974, but her home country runs from Hindman and Hazard, Kentucky, east and northeast to Roanoke, Virginia. After coming to Chapel Hill with her first husband, poet James Seay, Lee Smith taught at Carolina Friends School, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Duke University’s Evening College, and for nineteen years in the writing program at North Carolina State University.
Novelist and short-story writer Jill McCorkle was a student in Smith’s first class and recalls that, “[She] taught [me] that being from a small town wasn’t such a disadvantage in writing. She told me all I had to do was to know and recognize everyday situations. She gave me an enormous amount of confidence and encouragement. She made you feel safe even when you were feeling shy about what you had written that week. She was broad minded and full of respect.”
The author of thirteen novels, one memoir, and four collections of short stories, Smith’s work has been made into the musical drama Good Ol’ Girls, and there are three one-woman shows that dramatize her fiction, centering on her characters Ivy Rowe and Molly Petree, plus the characters from the musical drama. Her awards include the 1979 and 1981 O. Henry Awards; the 1984 North Carolina Award in Fiction; the John Dos Passos Award for Literature (1987); two Sir Walter Raleigh Awards of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association (1983 and 1989); a Lyndhurst Grant (1990-92); the Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction (1991); and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award.
She has written several articles and has a helpful, interesting website, www.leesmith.com. She and Hal have two children, Page and Amity, and three grandchildren.
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Watch DG Martin interview Lee Smith about her story collection, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, on UNC-TV’s “Bookwatch”:
(Courtesy of UNC-TV)
Watch Lee Smith talk about the influence of natural landscape on her work:
(Courtesy of the Southern Environmental Law Center)
Listen to Lee Smith give the John Hersey Memorial Address to open the second session of the 2008 Key West Literary Seminar:
(Courtesy of the Key West Literary Seminar, Key West, Florida, 2008).