Friday, August 23, 2013

Becky Mushko, Author

retty, witty and wise; frolicking in the green hills of Penhook, Virginia, USA, Becky Mushko is a retired Roanoke City school teacher and 2006-07 writer-in-residence for Roanoke County Schools, currently serving as literary coordinator for the Mountain Spirits Festival in Rocky Mount and serves on the board of trustees for the Franklin County Library. 

Becky resides in the quiet Virginia countryside with her husband, an old horse, four dogs, and a dozen cats. Her published works include Patches on the Same Quilt, Peevish Advice, More Peevish Advice, The Girl Who Raced Mules & Other Stories, Where There’s A Will, Ferradiddledumday, Stuck), to name a few.

A three-time winner of the Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest and five-time winner of the Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest, she is best known for her wins in the infamous Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest, for her stories —Worst Western (1998) and Vile Pun (2008).

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or was there something else you wanted to do as a career?
I never thought about becoming a writer, although I wrote some stories when I was a kid (see Becky’s blog for stories). I think my earliest career choice was cowgirl. Then I wanted to work in a store downtown. Finally I decided to become a teacher so I’d have a steady income and the summers off. I was always an avid reader, but I didn’t start writing until the mid-90s—unless you count some really bad poetry I wrote in college. I don’t really consider myself “A Writer.” Writing is mostly a hobby.

What is the first book that you remember reading?
One of C.W. Anderson’s Billy and Blaze books that I checked out of the Huff Lane Elementary School library. I remember it had wonderful pencil drawings of the pony.

Who is your favorite author?
Lee Smith, closely followed by Sharyn McCrumb and Silas House. I like Appalachian writers.

. . . favorite poet?
Robert Frost—and my favorite poem is The Road Not Taken. Second favorite is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

What books have you written?
Patches on the Same Quilt (novel, adult) 2001

Peevish Advice (adult, redneck humor) 2001—a collection of humor columns I’d written for Blue Ridge Traditions and The Smith Mountain Eagle

The Girl Who Raced Mules & Other Stories (short story collection, adult) 2003—a collection of my mostly winning stories

Where There’s A Will (short story collection, children) 2005

More Peevish Advice (adult, redneck humor) 2007. Another collection of later humor columns

Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian retelling of folktale, children)

Stuck (middle-grade novel) 2011.  

I am curious about Ferradiddledumday. Tell more...
Ferradiddledumday began as an oral presentation about the culture of the Blue Ridge Parkway that several friends and I were doing in 1997-99. I wrote Ferradiddledumday to showcase the spinning and knitting skills of a member of our group. People kept asking if I had a book; I didn’t. After Ferradiddledumday went through several revisions, I submitted it to Cedar Creek Publishing and it was accepted. An early version is on the Ferrum College AppLit website: The story has changed a lot since the AppLit posting. Recently, Ferradiddledumday was mentioned in an essay by Tina Hanlon in Appalachia in the Classroom, published in 2013 by Ohio University Press.

What is it like living in the Blue Ridge Mountains?
I don’t live in the mountain so much as I live surrounded by them. No matter where I look from my property, I see mountains. From my study window, I see the Peaks of Otter to the north. From my deck, I see Turkeycock Mountain to the south, where my husband and I own some acreage on the western slope. From my driveway, I see Smith Mountain, where the dam is that formed Smith Mountain Lake. The lake actually covered some land that was owned by my great-great-great-grandfather, John Smith. From my pasture, I see Jack’s Mountain, only a few miles away to the west. Jack’s Mountain, named for a bear that used to roam there many years ago, is being quarried. Some days I can hear the machines pounding as the mountain is ground to gravel. Further away to the west, on a clear day, I can see the mountains in Floyd County. These Blue Ridge Mountains form an edge to my world. They do indeed inspire me.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
I blog. I keep notes on my computer (a five-year-old iMac—I love Macs!) I used to keep journals until my handwriting got so bad I could hardly read it.

What are you currently writing?
I have parts of three novels in my computer, but I don’t know if I’ll ever finish them. I try to blog at least twice a week on my Peevish Pen Blog. I have two other blogs about frugal living, and another about my Nace ancestors, but I rarely update those.

List 10 random facts about yourself that not many people know...
This is a toughie, because lots of people know some of these things—but not everyone knows all of them, so here goes:

I’m an internationally ranked bad writer, having won divisions of the Bulwer-Lytton contest in 1996 and 2008.

I was 32 before I got my first horse. (I’d compressed a couple of vertebrae in a fall from a school horse, and bought my own horse as soon as the doctor said I could start riding again.) I blogged about it here;

I’ve bought my own tombstone—twice, because the first one was stolen from my family cemetery. I blogged about the theft;

A man once appeared at my door and told me he was a dowser and that I had treasure buried in my woods. He said he’d tell me where to dig if I’d give him part of it. I didn’t dig up the woods to search for it, though. I like the woods the way they are. You can read the full story;

I lost 25 pounds after I stopped eating wheat.

I’m a diabetic, but I have no faith in the American Diabetes Association because they give wrong information.

I wrote most of Patches on the Same Quilt during the 22 months I had chronic Epstein Barre. I was too tired to do much else than tell myself stories.

When I was a kid, I wished that someday I’d have a houseful of cats. If I’d known then that my wish would come true, I’d have been a little more thoughtful what I wished for.

I’m tone deaf.

I’ve never been to Europe or even wanted to go. I figure my ancestors must have left for good reasons.

Connect with Becky…

Becky's mare Melody


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