Lee Smith’s writing has been published for 45 years, starting with what was her college thesis (The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed) and running through to the just-released Guests on Earth, but her education as a writer began in her father’s dimestore. Here’s what she told Michael Morris in their author-to-author interview for Southern Living:
As a little child, my job was ‘taking care of the dolls’ at my father’s Ben Franklin dimestore—-where I literally grew up. Not only did I comb their hair and fluff up their frocks, but I also made up long, complicated life stories for them, things that happened to them before they came to the dimestore, things that would happen to them after they left my care. I gave each of them three names: Mary Elizabeth Satterfield, for instance, or Baby Betsy Black.
Upstairs in my father’s office, I got to type on a typewriter, count money, observe the whole floor of the dimestore through the one-way glass window, reveling in my own power—-nobody can see me, but I can see EVERYBODY! I witnessed not only shoplifting, but fights and embraces as well. Thus I learned the position of the omniscient narrator, who sees and records everything, yet is never visible. It was the perfect early education for a fiction writer.