Jim McGarrah, co-editor with Tom Watson on the new Indiana Historical Society Press book Home Again, took time recently to answer questions about his role in the book of essays featuring some of Indiana's finest writers.
What prompted both of you to put together a book of essays on Indiana?
Tom and I were both writing some non-fiction essays at the time and exchanging them for editorial comments. One day we began talking about how many good writers actually wrote non-fiction that lived in Indiana and Tom came up with the idea of showcasing some of them in an anthology.
Describe your role as editors for the book?
Besides contributing essays to the project, Tom and I worked at laying out the order for the essays after collecting them, reading and re-reading them, suggesting changes and cuts in individual essays where we thought necessary, and proofreading drafts. Tom worked very hard at logistics as well, keeping all the authors connected and updated by e-mail and conversing with the Indiana Historical Society.
Was there a particular theme you wished to emphasize in the book?
Not at the beginning. However, as we collected essays, we noticed a theme developing. People were writing about Indiana as their home, someplace they moved to in order to establish some continuity in their lives, or moved away from and back to in a search for stability and harmony.
How did you go about recruiting authors for the essays?
Many of these authors we had met previously at writers' conferences throughout the country, or I had worked with some at RopeWalk Writers Retreat in New Harmony. A few, we just read and like their work. We either called , or mailed them and asked them to contribute to this project honoring Indiana.
At one time, Indiana enjoyed a great national reputation in literature.
How does the state fare today?
There is at least one world class writer still working who comes from this state, Kurt Vonnegut. And, their are some wonderful writers who still live and work here that enjoy well-deserved national reputations like Susan Neville, Scott Russell Sanders, Tony Ardizzone, and poets like Marianne Baruch and Kathy Bowman, just to name a few. This is in the literary arena. Some good genre writing (i.e. mystery, western, romance, etc.) and academic writing is also being produced. So, I would say Indiana can hold its own in the world of readable, and important literature.
Do you have a favorite essay?
I love Leisa Belleau's story about growing up around Rockport, Indiana, and I love the lyrical, almost poetic, language and rhythm in Patty Aakhus' essay about the chroral mass at St. Meinrad.
What projects are you working on now?
I have a memoir about my experiences in Vietnam, A Temporary Sort of Peace, which is due to be published in January of 2008 by your Press, and I am working on finding a publisher for my second collection of poetry, "Uneven Symmetry." Over this past summer, I began writing the draft of a sequel to my memoir.