Virginia Butts Sturm Writer-in-Residence Valerie Boyd speaks on Hurston, Walker, and her love for research
On Monday, October 10th, Valerie Boyd, the 2016 Virginia Butts Sturm Writer-in-Residence, spoke about her writing and research process to a room of eager listeners in WVU’s Robinson Reading Room.
Boyd is the author of Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston and the forthcoming Spirits in the Dark: The Untold Story of Black Women in Hollywood. She spent the majority of the talk sharing her experience working on Wrapped in Rainbows in Sarasota, Florida, where Hurston wrote most of her books. Boyd read the opening pages of the book, telling the story of Hurston as a young child who wanted a horse so badly, she imagined one. Boyd made her own dreams a reality too when she embarked upon the journey of writing Wrapped in Rainbows after a previous biographer, Robert E. Hemenway, said at a festival that Hurston’s story needed to be written by a black woman.
While working on this book, Boyd had the opportunity to meet Alice Walker who agreed to blurb the Hurston biography. She then asked Boyd to work with her on her own project, compiling and editing Walker’s journals into a book which will be published next year entitled Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker. Boyd spoke with unabashed joy of the experience of wading through Walker’s journals. She read everything from Walker’s grocery lists to the handwritten opening to The Color Purple. When she asked Walker about depicting the darker moments of her life, Walker said, “A flawed humanity is the only kind of humanity I believe in.”
Boyd concluded the talk with a Q&A covering topics ranging from her note-taking process to her view on womanism and Black Lives Matter. She closed by returning again to the archives, telling us that it was there she learned what she wants to write about – simply, life, through other people’s eyes.
The Virginia Butts Sturm Writer-in-Residence leads a week-long workshop with selected graduate English students. The students selected for 2016 were:
Sarah Jordan Stout