Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Nikky Finney, July 25, 2001

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Nikky Finney.

Segment Synopsis: Nikky Finney is introduced.

Keywords: Betsy Brinson; Lynn Carol Finney; Nikky Finney; Oral history

Subjects: Brinson, Betsy; Finney, Nikky; Oral history

00:01:04 - Writers of influence

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Partial Transcript: Um, let's just see how it goes.

Segment Synopsis: Finney talks about writers who influence her work. Influences also come from the story tellers on the porches of the community of her youth, and authors such as Faulkner and Steinbeck.

Keywords: E. E. Cummings; Influences; John Steinbeck; Naomi Shihab Nye; William Faulkner; Writers

Subjects: Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962; Faulkner, William, 1897-1962; Nye, Naomi Shihab; Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968

00:04:43 - "The World is Round"

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit more about what you're working on presently?

Segment Synopsis: Finney is now working on a book called "The World is Round." It is a book about connections. Finney is working on short stories relating to the life of her grandmother. Finney is also working on a longer story called "Frogmarch."

Keywords: Beulah Lenora Butler Davenport

Subjects: Authors; Families.

00:11:10 - Writing habits

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Partial Transcript: Um, I want to talk a little bit about your writing habits.

Segment Synopsis: Finney gives herself a certain amount of time to write in the morning. She does not like to set a certain number of pages or words to write. She distinguishes the writing time into time spent with her hand on the page, and time spent with her mind on the page. She refers to this as thinking about writing "in a round way." Finney also works on her writing while she is running.

Keywords: Writing

Subjects: Authors; Writing

00:16:16 - Revision

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Partial Transcript: Do you, um, revise as you write?

Segment Synopsis: Finney does not revise her work while she is writing it. She revises much later than the original creation. For Finney, revision happens in private, concentrated time.

Keywords: Revision

Subjects: Humanities literature--Editing.

00:17:31 - Feedback

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Partial Transcript: When you finish a piece and you're satisfied with it, do you share it with anyone before you send it off?

Segment Synopsis: Finney feels that she benefits from feedback for her work when it is in process. She shares work with her writing community.

Keywords: Crystal Wilkinson; Frank X Walker; Kelly Norman Ellis

Subjects: Ellis, Kelly Norman, 1964-; Walker, Frank X., 1961-; Wilkinson, Crystal

00:21:50 - Creativity

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Partial Transcript: This, um, sounds like a naive question in some ways, but, um, what do you think the nature of creativity may be?

Segment Synopsis: Finney describes creativity as a many-spoked wheel. It is a process by which we retain childlike wonder in the world.

Keywords: Creativity

Subjects: Creative ability

00:25:43 - One project at a time

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Partial Transcript: Um, I want to ask you--we, we've talked about this but I, I want to make sure I understand.

Segment Synopsis: Finney works on one project at a time.

Keywords: Multitasking; Writing habits

Subjects: Human multitasking.

00:26:11 - Advice for new writers

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Partial Transcript: Um, Nikky, do you have any advice for beginning or would-be writers?

Segment Synopsis: Finney advises new writers to approach writing as a discipline. Writing is lonely work.

Keywords: Writing

Subjects: Authors; Writing

00:29:10 - Self-identifying as a writer

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Partial Transcript: At--how--at what point in your life do you think you began to call yourself a writer?

Segment Synopsis: Finney realized she is a writer when she understood that publishing her work was much less important than creating it.

Keywords: Publishing; Writers; Writing

Subjects: Authors; Writing

00:31:53 - Veterinarian

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Partial Transcript: Now, you, you said a moment ago that you encourage other people to do other kinds of professional work.

Segment Synopsis: Finney originally expected to become a veterinarian, but decided that it was not the right career for her. After her teaching career, she thinks she could be drawn to organic gardening.

Keywords: Careers; Gardening; Jobs; Veterinarians; Work

Subjects: Gardening; Veterinarians

00:36:57 - Finding writing topics

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Partial Transcript: When you're actually writing, um, and I, I guess when you're writing your short stories, how do you come up with a plot?

Segment Synopsis: Finney can sense when a poem is coming on, and then starts to concentrate on it.

Keywords: Plots; Poems; Poetry; Writers; Writing

Subjects: Authors; Plots (Drama, novel, etc.)

00:39:57 - Writing in longhand

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Partial Transcript: When you write, um, do you write in longhand?

Segment Synopsis: Finney likes to write longhand, because of the physical sensations, particularly for the first draft. She also likes a to use a typewriter.

Keywords: Computers; Typewriters; Writers; Writing

Subjects: Authors; Computers; Typewriters

00:41:54 - Novels and other kinds of writing

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Partial Transcript: You've, you've written poems, and you've written short stories.

Segment Synopsis: Finney would like to write her grandmother's memoir.

Keywords: Biographies; Memoirs; Novels

Subjects: Biographies; Novels

00:43:01 - Being a teacher who is a writer

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Partial Transcript: Does being a teacher help you or hinder you actually in your work as a writer?

Segment Synopsis: Teaching both helps and hinders Finney's work as a writer.

Keywords: Teachers; Writing

Subjects: Authors; Teaching

00:44:42 - Reviews

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Partial Transcript: Do you ever read reviews of your work?

Segment Synopsis: Finney does not choose to read the reviews of her work. She recognizes that this means that she may not hear needed critical comments.

Keywords: Critics; Critique; Workshops; Writers; Writing

Subjects: Authors

00:47:22 - Music

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Partial Transcript: Um, I, I know we talked earlier about your interest in photography and visual, and whatnot and that prompted me to think afterwards.

Segment Synopsis: Music is important to Finney. She likes jazz, and piano. She also likes country music.

Keywords: Country music; Rachmaninoff; Rice

Subjects: Country music; Rachmaninoff, Sergei, 1873-1943

00:50:03 - Work's importance

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Partial Transcript: And, um, I think there's really just one more question--well, two more, really.

Segment Synopsis: Finney feels that her work allows the reader to feel something they did not feel before. She is trying to get her message across using "plain sweet words."

Keywords: Television; Writing

Subjects: Authors

00:56:37 - Speaking poetically

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Partial Transcript: You know, as I listen to you, and, and to Crystal too, you both have such a rich speaking language.

Segment Synopsis: Finney talks about being unaware of her way of speaking.

Keywords: Audio tape; Crystal Wilkinson; Metaphors; Speaking styles

Subjects: Wilkinson, Crystal

01:00:35 - Addendum

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Partial Transcript: Addendum to the, the, the talking poetically, or talking lyrically.

Segment Synopsis: Finney talks about being a child in the South. The community created in a poetry reading reminds Finney of the extended family sharing family stories.

Keywords: Family; Poetry readings

Subjects: Families; Finney, Nikky