Writing Life

UNC Asheville is the place for authors, with alum Wiley Cash back on campus as the writer-in-residence and host of a visiting writers series, and the Faith in Literature Festival organized by Rick Chess, poet and writer who is the Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Asheville, and Evan Gurney, assistant professor of English. UNC Asheville Magazine took a page from their books, asking a few of the writers on campus what inspires their creative work.

“I don’t wait for inspiration. I just write whenever I can. I work mostly indoors.”

Richard Chess
-Department Chair, Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies

“I feel most inspired in small, quiet spaces. At home in Wilmington, N.C., I rent a tiny office with one window: no comfy chair, no books, no internet. Just a desk and my laptop. It’s easier to create the world if I can shut it out.”

Wiley Cash
-Writer-in-Residence, Alumnus

“In general, I’m inspired when I’m outdoors. It’s where I feel most alive. One of the things I love about my work is that it allows me to get out and explore. Still, when I’m actually writing, I prefer to be completely sealed off, in silence. I love my office, but I could happily write in a broom closet.”

Leigh Ann Henion
-Visiting Author, Alumna

“I kind of think that I’m always around inspiration, but that sounds lame. Anything can actually inspire me, even when I’m not thinking about inspiration. Places do inspire me. I find that whenever I arrive in a place there’s a certain mental state I develop and the kind of writing that emerges of that place could be different to the kind of writing that comes out of say Uganda or when I’m in Seneca.”

Mildred Barya
-Assistant Professor

“I think what inspires me to write, and I think this is true probably for most artists, is an obsession, or a big question. What are you obsessed about? And that’s what you’re trying to figure out. My book came out last year and it deals a lot with identity and coming to my identity, dealing with my religious background and cultural background, being a New Yorker, my sexuality. So it’s sort of like an obsession, digging in and trying to figure out, it’s kind of like a puzzle.”

Lori Horvitz
-Professor, Director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program