By Chelsy Polivchak
Stories come to mind in a variety of fashions. Sometimes they’re inspired by something heard or seen. Other times they seem to spring directly from one’s imagination.
No matter where they originate from, getting the words on the page is not just “writing a story” but rather it is “telling someone else’s story,” said Sherry Robinson, an English professor and special assistant to the provost at Eastern.
“Writing allows you to go into worlds that are otherwise unexplored by you,” Robinson said.
Robinson herself has done a lot of exploring of new terrain recently, which led to the publication of her first novel, titled My Secrets Cry Aloud. The experience of it all, Robinson said, has been the “culmination of a dream.”
Robinson’s novel explores the concept that all humans are the product of those who came before them. She said she was driven by her fascination with history, which led her to connect seven different women’s lives through nothing more than a single household, extending over a period of 200 years.
The lives of the women in the novel are all touched by the history that surrounds them, and they learn from one another through journal entries found in the attic that lay bare their deepest thoughts.
Although Robinson has only recently joined the ranks of published authors, she has long been a figure at Eastern, where she has worked for the past 15 years.
She hasn’t taught classes for a few years, but she said teaching was something she truly enjoyed. She taught classes such as Appalachian Literature, Southern Literature, as well as English 101. She said she feels her writing helps to add another dimension to the way she taught literature, as she could put herself in the place of the author.
Writing a novel is no easy task-it takes a lot of research and dedication. Robinson used a variety of sources for her novel, including the Lexington newspaper from the 1880s and University of Kentucky yearbooks from the 1920s.
Although time-consuming, writing to her is one of those things that when you get lost in the story it doesn’t feel like work. She said she found time late at night and on weekends to work on the story.
Once she really started working, it only took her eight months to complete the novel. She said she usually works both on a computer as well as by hand, piecing it all together and editing it as she goes along.
The novel, which was released in Dec. 2009, has already touched many who have read it. Another assistant to the provost, Candace Tate, who helped Robinson edit parts of her novel, said the book has a strong emotional appeal.
“Sherry has an immense well of natural, finely-honed talent as a writer,” Tate said. “Her characters come alive; their challenges, their heartbreaks, their victories, their losses, and even their scandals become real to you as you read them.”
Robinson’s novel has garnered high praise, on Amazon.com too, drawing positive reviews. Famed Kentucky author Silas House was among those who gave the book a rave review.
“Here is a beautifully written novel filled with wisdom and keen insights in a calm, clear voice, and a book that you will carry with you long after you’ve finished it,” Silas said in a review.
One of Robinson’s writing heroes, contemporary southern writer Lee Smith, who has written 12 novels of her own, wrote, “Sherry Robinson has the ability to go right to the heart of things; a family, a relationship, a personality. She does not gloss over or neglect the real complexity of life.”
Robinson said she is attracted to Smith’s writing style for her magnificent use ofvoices in her novels. Another hero of Robinson’s, Toni Morrison, is the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993. Robinson said she is drawn to literature that explores human nature and delves into the motivation of why humans do what they do.
Robinson is currently working on another novel, which she says explores the concept of perception and how other’s perception of ourselves is often quite different than we might think.
On March 30, Robinson is scheduled to do a reading from her novel as well as a book signing in the Grand Reading Room in the Crabbe Library. The reading is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m.