Marla Cantrell

I live and work in Alma, Arkansas. It's a small town of approximately 6,000 people. My home sits on one of the highest elevations, technically outside the city limits. From my back porch, I can see across the hayfield to the Boston Mountains, a range that separates me from the town of Fayetteville, where the Arkansas Razorback football team plays (and lately mostly loses). Farther north is the Walmart empire, in Bentonville, where the Walton family not only operates the world's largest retailer but also has a world-class art museum, Crystal Bridges, that is open to the public for free.

I believe every one of these facts influences the way I write. I am proud of my hometown, of the people who inhabit it, and of the deep tradition of storytelling that shows up in the hills and valleys where I grew up. My grounding in a small town leaves me in awe when I visit big cities and far-flung places. And each time I interview someone, I ask them where they grew up, and what they love about the land that grounds them.

I have worked in broadcast news, I have produced stories for radio, but nothing interests me more than stories written down. There is something about having to use your imagination to hear the pitch of someone's voice or imagine the place where they sit telling their story. It is what keeps me writing, and what keeps me with stacks of books on my bedside table that I will try to finish before I make another trip to the bookstore. I will tell you now that I will fail.