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00:00:03 - Introduction to interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an oral history interview with Billy Curtis Clark being conducted by Linda Beattie for the Kentucky Writers Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer and interviewee are introduced and the date and location of the interview are given.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Billy C. Clark; Billy Curtis Clark; Catlettsburg (Ky.); Kentucky writers

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

00:00:24 - Family history

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Partial Transcript: What is your full name and where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about his family: his parents and what he admired about them; his grandparents--which one he knew, one who was Shawnee Native American; and his siblings--of which he was the youngest boy.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.)

Subjects: Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis)

00:06:13 - Childhood / moving away from home at age 11

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Partial Transcript: What was your childhood like?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his atypical childhood in small-town Kentucky during the Great Depression, which he calls hard, but ultimately happy. Despite his intelligent parents' lack of education, he wanted to go "as far as he could go" in school, and so he moved out at age eleven to provide for himself with a job, live in the city building, and attend the town high school.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Great Depression

Subjects: Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Depressions--1929--Kentucky

00:09:35 - Desire to get an education / parents' education

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Partial Transcript: Where do you think that determination came from?

Segment Synopsis: Clark further discusses his reasons for getting an education--he simply doesn't know whether it was out of the pure joy of learning or to prove that someone like him could do it.

Keywords: Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Great Depression

Subjects: Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Education.

00:14:33 - Working at age 11 during the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: Now, when you left home, to continue your education at age eleven, why age eleven?

Segment Synopsis: Clark elaborates on his leaving home for work and education at age 11, the various jobs he had, and what it was like living on the third floor of the city building.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Great Depression

Subjects: Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Education

00:20:30 - Personal life during adolescence / military service

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Partial Transcript: Um, and so you, um--did you have friends that came to--I mean, did you ever get to play while you were out on your own?

Segment Synopsis: When asked about playing as a child, Clark explains that he never really did, but was very involved with athletics in high school, earning four letters, and was visited a lot in town by his mother. He also talks about his time in the service in the South Pacific, because he'd felt the need to follow in his WWII veteran older brother's footsteps.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Military

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Military.

00:23:17 - Writing "Song of the River"

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Partial Transcript: Um, I just read the book that has just been re-released from--by the Jesse Stuart Foundation, "Song of the River."

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about writing his book "Song of the River" at age 14, his simplicity and innocence of the world at large at the time, and that he thinks that he could not rewrite it due to the very unique circumstances.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

00:27:13 - Other early writing / getting published

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Partial Transcript: When did you start writing on your own, not school assignments, but just because you wanted to write?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his early experiences with publishing while at the University of Kentucky, encouraged by a professor and writer named Hollis Summers upon getting a poem in the school newspaper, eventually getting three books published in one year.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Kentucky writers; Lexington (Ky.); Literature; Publishing; University of Kentucky

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Publishers and publishing.; Summers, Hollis, 1916-1987; University of Kentucky

00:35:40 - Early reading and writing / the nature of creativity

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Partial Transcript: Do you think writ--or, uh, reading when you were young, helped give you a sense of the language?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about how his interest in writing occurred almost entirely by itself, without having read much of anything. This leads to a discussion of his thoughts on the nature of creativity, where it comes from, whether in literature, music, or whatever.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Summers, Hollis, 1916-1987

00:39:51 - Teacher feedback at the University of Kentucky / teaching English

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, you've talked about, uh, going to the University of Kentucky. Did you major in English there?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about how he chose to major in English when he started attending the University of Kentucky, how he was often mistaken for an engineering major, and fiascos with the freshman composition class. The last one leads to a discussion of the troubles with teaching English, how teachers often "scare off" students and the need for exposing kids to good literature.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Education; Kentucky writers; Lexington (Ky.); Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; University of Kentucky

00:45:47 - The importance of learning form in the arts

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Partial Transcript: The, the tragedy is that we--the great tragedy in poetry in the educational systems is we, we're supposedly teaching poetry without teaching form.

Segment Synopsis: Clark gives his thoughts on the necessity of learning form when it comes to art education, whether it be poetry or art, you must first learn from the masters. He supports this with examples of Rembrandt, who spent his first five years as an apprentice mixing paint for the master, and Picasso, who despite breaking all the rules of art, had in fact, learned the rules at a very young age.

Keywords: Appalachia; Art; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature; Poetry

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Art.; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Poetry.

00:50:06 - Importance of studying literature, grammar, and storytelling to learning creative writing

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. It's frightening to me teaching creative writing or teaching freshman composition or teaching literature, and I teach all of those things at the community college level, uh, to find how many students want to be creative writers who have never read.

Segment Synopsis: Clark and the interviewer discuss their ideal of a balanced, holistic English teaching environment, where storytelling and grammar are taught together as integral parts of writing.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature; Poetry

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Poetry.

00:57:30 - Teaching the purpose of creative writing

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Partial Transcript: How do you think creative writing should be taught?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about teaching the purpose of creative writing--showing humanity and autobiographical elements. The necessity of and his enjoyment in rewriting is also discussed.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Poetry.

01:04:08 - The personal nature of reading / appreciating both story and writing

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Partial Transcript: This is why I, I often think, a year or two of, of literature should be required for anybody before they take req--creative writing.

Segment Synopsis: Clark and the interviewer discuss the fact many people just don't read, as well as appreciating story and writing both separately and together. The importance of reading on "the spirit" is also talked about.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature; Poetry

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:08:29 - A writer's legacy

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, and so, we ought to be encouraging that and I think we ought to be--really, I, I still think we should stick with the classics.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses the lasting nature of the classics and how they came to be that way, and then quotes Robert Frost's explanation of being unable to know how he or any other poet will be perceived later. This leads to Clark's idea that if something's good enough, it will be published by someone, somewhere.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature; Poetry; Robert Frost

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Frost, Robert, 1874-1963.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Poetry.

01:10:13 - Experiences reading at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, uh, back to your experience at University of Kentucky, um, you said that, in terms of the English classes--well, it seems to me you were probably too much advanced before you entered to, to, le--to have too much to learn in terms of writing.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about his exposures to reading and interpreting literature during his time at college.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:14:14 - Favorite books

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember books that you particularly liked, or authors?

Segment Synopsis: When asked, Clark talks about some of his favorite authors and works of literature, some of which he studied for classes, others he read on his own.

Keywords: Albert Stewart; Appalachia; Education; Herman Melville; Jesse Stuart; John Keats; John Milton; Kentucky writers; Literature; Mark Twain; Percy Shelley; Robert Frost; Robert Louis Stevenson; Rudyard Kipling; University of Kentucky; William Shakespeare

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; University of Kentucky.

01:17:16 - Thoughts on Kentucky writers / relationship with Jesse Stuart

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Partial Transcript: What about Kentucky writers?

Segment Synopsis: Clark is asked about Kentucky writers he likes and then about his friendship with Jesse Stuart and Stuart as both a human being and a writer.

Keywords: Albert Stewart; Appalachia; Jesse Stuart; Kentucky writers; Literature; Poetry; Robert Penn Warren

Subjects: American literature.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Poetry.

01:20:53 - Working at Ashland Oil after college / winding up at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, after you got out of college, what did you do then?

Segment Synopsis: Clark expands more on his college experience--how he had to occasionally leave to go help his mother and father, but did manage to graduate and get a job as a technical writer at Ashland Oil. Boston University wanted him to come as a writer-in-residence there, but he turned them down in favor of temporarily (in his mind) being a writer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Appalachia; Ashland (Ky.); Catlettsburg (Ky.); Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Boston University; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Publishers and publishing.; University of Kentucky

01:25:54 - Teaching around the state

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Partial Transcript: But I went there and then, uh, Dr. Dickey, um, uh, Dr. Dickey, uh, b--was there at--two years before I came there, Dr. Dickey took over the Southern Association of, uh, Accreditation.

Segment Synopsis: Clark tells the story of how he was persuaded to stay in Kentucky and not go to Boston, and to instead travel around the state teaching creative writing at community colleges.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Lexington (Ky.); Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:29:01 - Meeting his wife and marrying her

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Partial Transcript: Did you get married during this period?

Segment Synopsis: When asked, Clark talks about how he met his future wife, how he persuaded her to go out with him, and later to marry him. There was a period where she was helping him by typing up his manuscripts and selling his stories.

Keywords: Education; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:35:05 - Children and grandchildren

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Partial Transcript: When did--you say you have two children?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about his children--what they do for a living, whether or not they write, and his grandchildren--their ages and what they call their grandfather (Grandpa and Poppy). His wife's job before their marriage is also mentioned.

Keywords: Appalachia; Children; Education; Family; Grandchildren; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Families.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:38:34 - Virginia Writing magazine

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Partial Transcript: Um, you said you stayed at UK for--was it eighteen years?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his philosophy behind having a literary publication for young people, and how the spread of this idea took him away from UK and into Virginia to found and run what would become Virginia Writing.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky Writing; Kentucky Writing magazine; Kentucky writers; Literature; Richmond (Va.); Somerset (Ky.); Virginia Writing; Virginia Writing magazine

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region.; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:45:40 - Love for Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: But Kentucky's my home.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his love for Kentucky and his longing to do in Kentucky what he got to do in Virginia with running so many creative writing workshops and the Virginia Writing high school student magazine there.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky Writing; Kentucky Writing magazine; Kentucky writers; Literature; Virginia Writing; Virginia Writing magazine

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature; University of Kentucky

01:53:05 - The potential of running a high school student literary magazine in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Do you think the funding would be there now?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses the potential (as well as potential struggles) of starting a high school student literary magazine in Kentucky.

Keywords: Appalachia; Education; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

01:56:09 - His wide bibliography / relationships with editors

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Partial Transcript: Um, back to your, your books.

Segment Synopsis: Clark and the interviewer discuss his wide-reaching bibliography (novel, short stories, poetry, non-fiction) and from there his relationship with editors and publishing companies.

Keywords: Appalachia; Copy editing; Education; John Steinbeck; Kentucky writers; Literature; Publishers; Publishing

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Education.; Kentucky--In writing.; Literature.; Publishers and publishing.; Steinbeck, John

02:01:45 - Talking to Walt Disney

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Partial Transcript: --even dealing with the Disney people, was it?

Segment Synopsis: Clark tells the story of his letters to and from Walt Disney, and how Disney bought the film rights to a book of his called "Goodbye Kate." He also talks about the Jesse Stuart Foundation re-releasing "Goodbye Kate" and the telefilm adaptation of Harriette Arnow's "The Dollmaker."

Keywords: Education; Harriette Arnow; Kentucky writers; Literature; Walt Disney

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia.; Appalachian Region.; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Disney, Walt.; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Publishers and publishing.

02:06:40 - On his writing as a whole / writing habits

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Partial Transcript: Um, about your, your books in general, what do you think distinguishes your writing or what do you hope to achieve in your work?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the subjectivity of interpreting literature--how he's fine with people finding morals in his work, but he really just writes to tell stories. He's then asked about his writing habits--regularity, composition style, etc.

Keywords: Appalachia; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.

02:11:50 - More on publishing / letting people read his work

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Partial Transcript: Now when you're finished with that, will you try to publish that as a single story...

Segment Synopsis: Clark speaks more on the publishing process, particularly right as a work is finished, and whether or not he'll let people read his work before it's sent to an editor.

Keywords: Appalachia; Kentucky writers; Literature; Publishers; Publishing

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Publishers and publishing.

02:15:43 - Teaching creative writing / encouraging students / Harriette Arnow

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Partial Transcript: Have you done a lot of--(coughs)--a lot of teaching creative writing in terms of workshops and, oh, writers', uh, conference sort of situations?

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the various creative writing workshops he's run across the state, encouraging student writing in Virginia, and his friendship with Harriette Arnow.

Keywords: Albert Stewart; Appalachia; Education; Gurney Norman; Harriette Arnow; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Jim Wayne Miller; Kentucky writers; Lexington (Ky.); Literature; Morehead (Ky.)

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Arnow, Harriette Louisa Simpson, 1908-1986; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Hindman Settlement School; Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.; Miller, Jim Wayne; Norman, Gurney, 1937-; Stewart, Albert

02:25:15 - Concluding remarks

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything that we haven't discussed that you think is particularly important to know about your writing or about you personally?

Segment Synopsis: Clark gives a few concluding remarks about what writing means to him; the interviewer then requests he read a passage from one of his books--a task that he says makes him very uncomfortable, and then the interview ends.

Keywords: Appalachia; Kentucky writers; Literature

Subjects: American literature--Kentucky.; Appalachia; Appalachian Region; Clark, Billy C. (Billy Curtis); Kentucky--In literature.; Literature.