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Athol Fugard

Playwright, Novelist and Actor

Athol Fugard: It can be very exhausting, and there comes a moment in the writing of any play where you just wish, "Oh for God's sake, do I have to go on? Can't I just push this aside?" But you get back to it. And there's one sort of touchstone. If you know what you've put on that page is truthfully how you feel, what you understand about a character you're writing about, if it rings true, that's the only yardstick you've got. I phrased it once or twice in interviews as saying -- attempting -- to be a truly honest witness that will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
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Millard Fuller

Founder, Habitat for Humanity International

Clarence Jordan was a Bible scholar, and he pointed out to us that in the scriptures, it's taught very clearly that you should not charge interest to the poor. In fact, it's not only in the Christian scriptures, but the three great monotheistic religions of the world are Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and all three of the monotheistic religions of the world teach that you should not charge interest to the poor. And we were doing business with that concept of saying the poor can't afford anybody to be profiteering off of them. They need to be given a break, not become objects of charity, but we need to follow this ancient scriptural wisdom of taking the burden of interest away from them, and then they will be able to make it. Well, a lot of people in our area said, "Common sense will tell you that if you don't charge any interest, and you don't make any profit, it'll fail. This is a designed-to-fail program," and they said also, "It sounds communistic and un-American." And we said, "We got it out of the Bible," and they said, "But the Bible is for church and Sunday school. This is in the middle of the week. You can't expect to practice the Bible and what the Bible teaches in the middle of the week. This is the practical world."
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

I'm the first person, first male in the history of my family to go beyond high school, and what they wanted me to do was to become a teacher or become a business person or -- I don't know -- but not a writer, because no one knew anything about writers or writing. So I was not encouraged by my mother or my stepfather to be a writer, but that's all I wanted to do from the time I discovered the library and started reading all those books. So about a year after I'd been there in California, I tried to write a novel. Of course, it was a failure. I sent it to New York, and they sent it back, and then I burned it.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines: I tried to write that novel from the first person point of view, and that was from the Lou Dimes point of view. Lou Dimes is Candy's boyfriend, and he's a newspaper guy, and I wanted someone like that, I thought, to tell the story. But then I realized after writing maybe six months or a year -- well, I went through an entire draft, so it must have been more than a year -- from his point of view, I realized that this book was not -- I mean, his voice was not telling the story I wanted to tell. His voice could only tell what had happened, this guy had been killed, but he couldn't tell it from the point of view of the characters, whose voices I wanted to hear, and that is why I chose to write the story over from that multiple point of view, starting out with an innocent little boy who does not know what is going on, and then gradually going to older people and people who knew what had happened and why it had happened.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines: Longhand. Longhand on a canary-color paper. I like writing on yellow paper because -- it has to be a soft canary-color paper -- and with ballpoint pens, several. I'd get a box of them around the place, and I'd get two or three reams of paper and start writing. And once I have done that, then I'd type it on the canary-color paper, and then I'd go over it, change things around if I have to, and then I'd go to the white paper, and then I send it to New York. So I've really gone over it about three times by the time I send it to my editor and my agent. I've gone over it three times already. And as I said earlier, I went over Catherine Carmier about six or eight times. I must have gone over it 18 times or more, 20 times or more.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines: The first thing I tell my students when they ask me -- well, anyone who asks me what do you say to an aspiring writer, I said, "I have six words of advice, and I have eight words of advice. The six words of advice are read, read, read, write, write, write, and the eight words of advice is read, read, read, read, write, write, write, write." I said you have to read in order to be a writer. Oh, I have students who -- I teach creative writing at the university there, advanced creative writing, and I have students who write a draft, and they think they need an agent already, and I tell them, "No. It doesn't work that way." I graduated in '57 from San Francisco State, and I gave myself 10 years to prove that I could do it, and it was exactly what I -- my first book was published seven years later in '64. That would be Catherine Carmier, but hardly anybody read the book. I think 3,500 copies were printed, and 2,500 copies were sold. Then I went back to writing short stories, my Bloodline stories. I sent that to Dial, but my editor told me that he could not publish the stories by an unknown writer. I said, "But those stories will make me famous." He said, "Well, you're not famous yet. You have to get that novel out." So I decided to write a novel for him, and the novel was published in 1967, Of Love and Dust, and it was from that book I began to get recognition by the critics and others.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines: It's been a long time since I've written anything that's publishable. My latest novel is seven years ago now, almost eight years ago. I have something in mind. It's Louisiana again. I suppose by now, I could have written something about California. I've tried to write about California. I tried to write a ghost story. I tell people that it was so vivid that I scared myself, but that's not really true. It was just bad stuff. I tried to write Bohemian life, about my Bohemian life in San Francisco, but I was not very good at that because I couldn't take the sandwiches and the wine all the time. I've tried to write about my Army experience. I was stationed on Guam for a year, but I found that I was writing too much, or I was repeating Mr. Roberts or something like that. So I had to come back to Louisiana, and it's been sort of difficult to get a novel about Louisiana, but I think I have something in mind now that might eventually turn into a novel. It's about time. I know my agent is asking me, and some of my fans are asking me, and I know my editor is asking me, "When is the next one coming out?" I don't know when. I should hope that within the next couple of years at least. That would be exactly ten years since A Lesson Before Dying came out, but A Lesson Before Dying came out ten years after A Gathering of Old Men. So maybe I'm one of these every-ten-years publishing writers. There was a time when I wrote four books in ten years, but now it's much harder to do.
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