Thinking Outside the Box
Sarah Blackman simply looks at the world around her to find inspiration for her short stories. She sees a man picketing outside the school in front of a cemetery and wonders if he’s picketing the cemetery or death in general. “I think that guy is fantastic. He’s somebody I would write about. Somebody that protests a cemetery is concretely real but is also the stuff that very strange stories are made from,” she said.
Mrs. Blackman is a poet, fiction and creative non-fiction author. She teaches creative writing at Greenville’s Fine Arts Center, where she tells students to closely observe the world around them. As they analyze classic literature, she encourages them to “smell the odor that rises up from the ashes” and to pick through the clues found in the story. “Why is there a bicycle pump in the garden? Was it left behind, forgotten, discarded?” she asked.
Blackman wants her students to think outside the box. “Look at the choices people make, like the clothes they chose to wear that day. Think about how they present themselves, how they protect themselves, how they expose themselves. And ultimately, think of the stories behind those decisions,” she said.
“My inspiration comes from everyday travels around Greenville. I am an observer. I think even despite the fact that my characters are doing things like giving birth to foxes, I don’t think of myself as a super imaginative writer. I think that the real world is very strange, so that’s all the inspiration that I need,” she explained.
Blackman’s story collection Mother Box was the winner of the 2011 Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize and was published by FC2 in 2013. She’s currently working on her second novel called Hex. She gives a sneak preview, saying, “It is set in Western North Carolina about a character named Alice who is friends with a girl named Ingrid but she calls her Thingy. They were born the same day they’ve been friends since birth. Thingy has died and Alice is raising Thingy’s daughter and it’s the stories that Alice is telling her.”
Originally from Washington D.C., Mrs. Blackman graduated from Washington College with a BA in English, minor Creative Writing, and earned her MFA from the University of Alabama. Her poetry and prose have been published in a number of journals and magazines.