This post is part of an interview series featuring the authors of Family Stories from the Attic, an anthology of essays, creative nonfiction, and poetry inspired by family letters, objects, and archives. Monday posts are featured on the Hidden Timber Books website, and Wednesday posts are featured here. Learn more about Family Stories from the Attic at the bottom of this post. Without further ado, let’s meet Sally Cissna, author of “Come Home, Peter.”
Q: Did you write “Come Home, Peter” with a particular person/reader in mind?
Sally: As the archivist for my family, I have been searching for a way to tell them, what I think is a fascinating story about their ancestors rather than just leaving the boxes of photos and papers in the attic to be possibly thrown out when I’m gone. So I believe I wrote for my family in general, which is made up mostly now of my nieces and nephews and their offspring.
And maybe most specifically for my sister, Maryon, who is 89-years-old and a part of this story.
Q: How has the publication of your piece influenced the work you are writing today or your writing in general?
Sally: I wrote this piece rather quickly because I have been researching for years to do a book or series on the whole of the 1900s. 1930 was a turning point for the family. Usually children grow up and move away or at least down the street, but here my grandmother welcomed three of her children and two of her grandchildren back into the house as she became the matriarch of the clan. I am now working on the story that begins in 1900 with the first meeting of my grandparents. That this style of narrative, letters, and in addition, actual newspaper articles, worked so well for “Come Home, Peter,” I have been using it in for the book also.
Q: What books are you reading at the moment?
Sally: I am an avid “books on tape” listener. I always have a book going in the car and by my bedside. An author who has influenced me (and anyone who has read her work will I’m sure agree) is Fannie Flagg, who likes to incorporate narrative, letters and news of the day and historical issues into her fun and intriguing novels. I just finished listening to–for the second time–The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Set in Point Clear, Alabama in 2009 and in Polaski, Wisconsin in the 1930/40s, the narrative becomes “unstuck in time” swinging back and forth between stories, until all the loose ends are tied up and explained. I also like books with ethical or social justice themes, such as the novels of Barbara Kingsolver (Flight Behavior) and Jane Smiley (Some Luck, Early Warning, Golden Age).
Connect with Sally
Family Stories from the Attic features nearly two dozen works of prose and poetry inspired by letters, diaries, photographs, and other family papers and artifacts. Editors Christi Craig and Lisa Rivero bring together both experienced and new writers who share their stories in ways that reflect universal themes of time, history, family, love, and change.