KIMBERLY GREENE ANGLE ON HUMMINGBIRD
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
The idea for Hummingbird was inspired by a tiny article I found in a nature magazine. It wasn’t more than a short paragraph or two—seventy-five words, at most. In it, someone had written to ask about a ruby-throated hummingbird that had neglected its usual migratory journey and stayed over the winter. “Was I wrong to leave the feeder out?” the concerned person asked. “Oh, no,” the ornithologist (bird scientist) answered, “No amount of food will keep a bird from migrating. Something else kept that little bird at your place.” Hummingbird is my imagined story about what that “something else” might have been.
One reason I took note of that article is that, like many writers, I am always gathering quotes and snippets of conversations and funny-sounding names that I might use in my writing. I keep these clippings and quips in files and journals that I loosely call my “writer’s notebook.” Every once in a while, I look back over my collection and see what still tugs at me or intrigues me, and I try to write about it. Keeping a writer’s notebook has become more than just a gathering tool for me; the notebook reminds me to be alert, to keep watch for truth and beauty, and to not just consume, but to reflect and respond to the world.
What about hemidemisemiquaver?
I found that impossibly long and marvelous word in the dictionary one day when I was looking up something else. Sometimes, when I go to look up one word, my eyes are compulsively drawn to other words on the adjoining pages—especially unfamiliar words. I loved hemidemisemiquaver the moment I discovered it, and I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and put it in my one of my “notebook” folders. Several years later, while writing Hummingbird, I remembered the word, looked it up in my folder, and realized that it was my character Grenna’s word all along.
How long did it take you to write this book?
The writing of Hummingbird is a testament to the “process” of writing—and to patience. This book began as a picture book of the Christmas scenes. I only caught a vision for its potential as a novel when I was in a children’s literature course during my doctoral studies at the University of South Carolina—about six years after the original composition of the picture book. After that vision, the first draft of the book flowed out in about six months. I then continued to revise it on my own and with my editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux for another year or so.
Hummingbird, I like to say, is the story the Georgia farmland and forests of my youth gave to me. It is a story about the grace and even joy that can abide within and beyond the realities of pain and loss. It is a story about survival and grief, but it is also a celebration of friendship and all living things.
Thank you for your interest in Hummingbird, my first book. I was blessed in the writing of it, and it is my dearest hope that you will be blessed in the reading.