Member Spotlight: Steve Mitchell

Member Spotlight: Steve Mitchell

By Deborah Johnson Wood

Steve Mitchell has spent years finding his own writing "formula," and while it might not be the path to accomplishment for every writer, it's certainly working for him.

Steve, co-owner with Brian Lampkin of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, has had his short stories published internationally as well as with Winston-Salem-based Press 53. Add to that the publication of a couple of plays, some poetry, some nonfiction, feature writing for Yes! Weekly, plus nominations for the Pushcart Prize (six times!), the Southeast Review Flash Fiction Prize (400 words), and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, and one could envision him hunched over a table in a candlelit monastic cell, typing in oblivion. Au contraire.

"I write in coffee shops and bars," Steve says with a chuckle, "and I have loud music in my headphones. I have never written every day. Writing routines don't work for me. I write in bursts, but I'm always thinking about writing, and I allow myself to agonize over it every day – not doing enough, doing too much, nobody loves me. I thought that having a couple of acceptances would greatly change my being in some way, but all the insecurities are still there."

He adds that, although he's been involved with Winston Salem Writers since its early days, he's never been a part of one of its critique groups, preferring to share his writing occasionally with some writer friends. "I think people should write, read it to other people, and write more. People find the way they do it, the things they need, they may need to write it longhand and then move to computer, there's no right way to do it. You have to find your thing."

Steve has been involved with Winston Salem Writers since it was a "loose group of people getting together to talk about writing." He has enjoyed, and been a little amazed at, watching it "really become a community arts organization that gets things done, while supporting writers at whatever level they come in at." "I think the organization could do better in reaching out to more diverse audiences," Steve says. "Partnerships with other businesses and other arts organizations are always good, and some of that has happened, but the diversity by race and class and neighborhood and realm of experience, I think any organization needs that to be healthy and to survive."

Much of that desire to ignite possibilities in a broad spectrum of writers stems from the influences of Steve's public school teachers. "I grew up in Winston-Salem in the early sixties. Books were how I found out about the world. That was an early window for me and it stuck. We were reading other writers, and then the class sat down and wrote stories and poems, and I liked doing it."

He pauses, then adds with a twinkle in his eye, "I don't like doing it anymore, because sometimes it feels too damn difficult." He laughs. "Writing just gets harder, the more you do it, the more you ponder every word and worry about every sentence. No, I still enjoy it."



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