Kimberly Greene Angle

Kimberly Greene Angle
Photo by Marshall Angle

            I grew up on a small farm in Powder Springs, Georgia.  We lived on a sandy dirt lane, and we had some chickens and three cows.  Once we had a horse, but it bucked off my older sister—so that was the end of horses.  My sisters, brother, and I have fond memories of gathering fresh eggs, being chased by cows, exploring swamps, and picking ripe strawberries that my mom would make into preserves in the firecracker-hot kitchen of a Georgia summer.  My grandparents lived on a small farm next to ours, and my grandmother would also make true Southern meals with fresh vegetables from my granddad’s garden. 

            My dad was also a significant figure in my childhood.  Dad is always living life on the adventurous side—skydiving, scuba diving, hot-air balloon flying—and he taught me about living into possibility and faith.  My mom immigrated to the U.S. at the age of fourteen from the Netherlands.  So, on this side, I am a first-generation American—living out the American dream of my grandparents who left everything behind to come to this country after experiencing the atrocities of World War II.  I was raised Southern Baptist and still rely on my faith and deep knowledge of the Bible in my writing and daily living. 

            One of the most significant aspects of my childhood was living on twenty acres of woods and pasture in a rural setting.  The land taught me so much about beauty, life, and spirituality.  Along with my paternal Scottish and maternal Dutch ancestors, there are a few drops of Cherokee blood in the family tree on my dad’s side—and I sometimes wonder if my love for nature and the land comes from my Cherokee forebears.  Either way, if I trace the taproot of my writing career it doesn’t begin with pencil and paper—it begins with golden sunsets sinking behind pine trees, green hardwood forests, a big rock at the edge of the woods overlooking a lake, the chants and chirps of crickets and frogs, the calls of whip-poor-wills heard from front porches—and the deep emotion and reverence I felt for it all.  One of my first impulses to write came from my desire to capture the intense beauty I found in nature and my need to express the love I felt for it all. 

            Another significant milestone in my writing journey came when my grandmother gave me a real diary—complete with a little lock and key—for my thirteenth birthday.  Into these pages I poured out my joys and loves and dreams and, of course, the inevitable pains of life.  I have been keeping a journal ever since.  I also remember waking up on Saturday mornings and writing poems and doing well on my papers in high school, and my friends telling me that I should be a writer.  My deep friendships—especially with my best friend, Linda—have been a constant subject and source of inspiration in my writing.  My stepmother, Nena, also encouraged and helped me to follow my dreams in so many ways.

            My love of words led me to major in English at Mercer University—where I met Marshall Angle, who became another best friend, then my boyfriend, and, after we graduated, my husband.  I went on to earn a master’s degree in English at Georgia State University.  After this stint in studying great literature, I realized that my true dream was to create some literature of my own.  So, with the support of my husband, family, and friends, I began writing articles, essays, and short stories.  Later I tried my hand at novels and children’s literature.  Some were published, others weren’t.  Some won awards, others didn’t.   Such is the way of writers.  I read once that a writer writes a thousand words for every hundred words published.  That may seem like a lot of wasted time and effort, but I’ve found that those thousands of unpublished words are important—they are the training ground, the proving ground for what comes next.   The most important thing I did as a writer was to simply keep writing into the faith that God had given me the desire to say something into the world—something that was good and worthy—and that He would help me to say it.   

            Along the way, I became the mother of a son and a daughter—Lochlan and Elaina—the purest sources of happiness in my life.  My children have inspired my writing—especially my children’s literature.  They have also taught me whole new dimensions of the meanings of love, fear, hope, dreams, and joy.

            After writing and raising my children for about ten years, I began my doctoral work at the University of South Carolina.  There I attained a Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric with an emphasis in creative writing.  Now I teach creative writing at Montreat College—a beautiful college nestled in the midst of mountains in North Carolina, where I live with my husband and children and our dog, Josie Bean.

            One of my favorite books about writing is Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write.  I highly recommend it to any aspiring writer.  Along with Ueland, I believe that “everybody is “talented, original, and has something important to say.”  It’s simply up to you to believe it for yourself and to work, work, work at getting it right.  Words are powerful.  They have the potential to change minds and hearts and, thus, the world.  So, if you have the dream, begin writing today.  Then write some more.  And, no matter what, keep writing 


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Q & A

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.
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Hummingbird

Kimberly Greene Angle
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Twelve-year-old March Anne Tanner’s life is tied to the simple rhythms and cycles of the watermelon farm in Jubilee, Georgia, that she has grown up on. Thanks...


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