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Five Things: Writer Leesa Cross-Smith Is Quietly Radical

Mickie Winters

My guest on Five Things this week is Louisville-based writer Leesa Cross-Smith. She’s just published her first novel, called "Whiskey and Ribbons," which I thoroughly enjoyed. We talked about why she considered it a radical act to tell the story in the way she did, what’s her secret weapon when it comes to getting writing done, and the tweet so good… she put it on a coffee mug.

Leesa Cross-Smith will be a featured reader at the InKY reading series, Friday May 11, at the Bard's Town.

On writing a book about black people that isn't about oppression or struggle:
"When I wake up in the morning, [race] is not the first thing I think about. Evangeline, the character in my book, she doesn't wake up in the morning and kiss a picture of Martin Luther King and think about her blackness. She's just waking up to feed her baby and going to make some tea. Is it really a radical act for a black woman to not mention her race within the first couple of pages of the book? Then I'm pretty radical, because I don't mention it for a while."

On her perfect writing setup:
"I never go out in the world and write. Usually when I'm writing, I'm on my made-up bed in our bedroom. I always thought that was kind of weird and then I listened to a Paris Review podcast and that's the same that Maya Angelou wrote, and I was like, 'not too bad!' I usually just stay back there and write, that's where I like to be. If I need to be out there with my kids and we're doing stuff, I can freakishly write when there's a lot of stuff going on around me."

On how her Christian faith keeps her grounded:
"It's a real comfort for me because the world is madly spinning, and I can't imagine being a little creature here without some sort of anchor. Just one quick glance at the news and I'm instantly like, oh, time to go back into my little hole. The privilege I have to do that, just for my own self-care and mental health, to only spend a little time with it. But having that anchor of something else beyond this — someone, somewhere, seeing this and having some sort of control in some way, when it spins completely out of control — it's really, really important to me."

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