HomeLibraryLibrary EducationSetting and Specificity: We Will Meet You There, a guest post by...

Setting and Specificity: We Will Meet You There, a guest post by Polly Farquhar

I grew up in a small upstate New York town in the northern-most reaches of Appalachia, hills and villages and dairy cows between my small town, the county seat, and anything else.  Anything else, in any direction, was at least an hour’s drive away.  (Anything else being things like a city someone might have heard of, a highway, or a mall.)  It was a wonderful place to live and grow up, but all the same (and perhaps unfairly), to me it felt like a place to grow out of.  I’d always thought of myself as a writer, and I wondered if my small town, its people, and my experience of living there was what I should be writing about. Were the frosty hills worth writing about? The way shotgun blasts from deer hunters echoed across the hills and through the town in hunting season? The old houses?  The smell of the farms? Woodsmoke? Most of the so-called big and important books I read as an aspiring author weren’t about any of those things. Should I be writing about Paris? New York City? Did where I live matter? Was I allowed to write about it, if I was a “real” writer?   If I did, would it count?

Barbara Kingsolver says in a January 6, 2023 story in the Financial Times:  “’If a novel takes place between eight square blocks of Manhattan, it’s universal,’” she says, mystified. “’And if it happens in Kentucky, it’s regional.’”