Thank you, Bland, and my thanks to the committee. I feel doubly honored in that I am the first genre writer to be inducted here.
I knew from childhood that I wanted to write and I felt that I had a facility for words, but I also felt that I had nothing to say. It was the mystery form that gave me freedom to write and it was the form that later gave me the freedom to speak out on issues that were important to me as a citizen of North Carolina.
My cousin Shelby and I share a common Stephenson ancestor who came over from England in 1650. His grandson moved from Virginia to Johnston County in 1766 and we both live on land that’s been in our families for over a hundred years. We’ve watched our part of the state move from mostly farmers to mostly commuters and we’ve used our words to document those changes—to celebrate the good, to spotlight the bad, and yes, to mourn for some of the losses.
Researching the issues that have informed my books has made me realize just how much North Carolina means to me and how lucky I’ve been to live here, which is why it has been so grievous to see it being led down the wrong path these last few years. But I have faith in the essential goodness of our people and I refuse to give in to despair while the land endures.