The tobacco farmerís daughter
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Growing up on a tobacco farm inspires enough memories in this author to fill a bookótwo books in fact.
Like most people who have grown up on a farm, Linda Hamlett Childress isnít afraid of a little hard work. In addition to working full time and pursuing a bachelorís degree in dental hygiene, sheís now added twice-published author to her resume.
Childress has followed up her first book, A Tobacco Farmerís Daughter, with another collection of stories about growing up on a southern Virginia tobacco farm.
The success of her last book, which has sold about 5,000 copies, and hundreds of letters from fans encouraged her to try her hand at writing again. The second book, Rural Route 2: A collection of stories from the Tobacco Farmerís Daughter, was published in September.
Tobacco Farm Quarterly caught up with Childress and asked her about her latest work.
TFQ: Whatís your favorite memory from growing up on the farm?
Childress: A bunch of things. The old-fashioned Christmases for one. Where I used to go out to the pasture and find a Christmas treeóit was usually an old cedar tree.
Singing in the back of the truck at the end of a long workday.
And prom day. One particular year, we were flipping out, because we were supposed to be getting ready for the prom, but Daddy said we had to finish planting the tobacco before we could go get ready. We were planting one, throwing away three, planting one, throwing away threeóDaddy didnít find out about that until many years later. We finished and ran back to the house, dirty and barefoot and guess who was there? Our two prom dates waiting with flowers.
TFQ: Rural Route 2 has an excerpt from a novel you are working on, titled The Tobacco Row Girl. The book says itís a story of a young defiant girl who longs to escape the pain of growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Could you tell us more about it?
Childress: Iíve been working on it for a while. I actually started that before Rural Route 2. To me, [the main character, Caitlin] is a real character, a real person.
A writer in Danville [Va.] contacted me after I wrote the first book and said it had the feel of fiction. She asked me if I wanted to try it sometime.
I said ĎI canít do fiction, I can only write what about I know.í
She told me that fiction is just nonfiction embellished and to give it a try Ö.
Iím not sure when the novel will be finished. Because of classes and research, Iím not doing any pleasure writing right now.
But when Iím finished, there will be a little bit of romance in it, but thereís also going to be a lot of family healing. I think that it might even help some people.
TFQ: Why do you write?
Childress: I wrote the first book by accident. I started writing because I have a very good memory. I just started writing my stories down on paper, because someone told me I might start to lose some of those memories as I age Ö.
My mom started sending in the stories to the local newspapers and they started publishing them.
The second book came about because people started asking that I write some more of my stories down after the first [book]. Even after the second book, I still have many more stories in my head that I havenít written down yet.
Other than that, I donít know why exactly I started writing the second one.
I didnít expect to gain anythingóexcept maybe more chances to do things with Momma and Daddy Ö. I get back to the farm more often now, at least once a month.
I have no set pattern. If I have an idea for a story, I just work on it until itís done. I write it longhand and then type it up.
Iíve had a blast writing these two. The best part of both books is that it brings back memories.
When you move away, you start to lose some of those memories of growing up Ö [writing the books] brought me home again.
Returning back home to work on the books has helped me learn a few things. You are not how much money you make, maybe I was pretending a little bit. Iím still a farm girl Ö what you see is what you get, I donít try to be anybody else anymore.
Iím just a plain old country girl with a story.