Maya Angelou: ‘And that’s how I write books!’

Noah Charney: I’ve read of some eccentric writing habits of yours, involving hotel rooms without pictures on the walls, sherry, and headgear. How did you first come upon that cocktail for writing success, and has the routine evolved over your career?

Maya Angelou: And headgear! Ha! It was head ties, not headgear! Well, I was married a few times, and one of my husbands was jealous of me writing. When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess. When my husband would come into the room, he’d accuse me, and say, “You’ve been writing!” As if it was a bad thing. He could tell because of my hair, so I learned to hide my hair with a turban of some sort.

I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown [Winston-Salem] and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.

Which edition of the Bible?

Uh—that’s a good question, it’s slipped my mind. Name a famous edition.

The King James?

That’s the one!

Anything else in the hotel room?

Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles. Something to occupy my little mind. I think my grandmother taught me that. She didn’t mean to, but she used to talk about her “little mind.” So when I was young, from the time I was about 3 until 13, I decided that there was a Big Mind and a Little Mind. And the Big Mind would allow you to consider deep thoughts, but the Little Mind would occupy you, so you could not be distracted. It would work crossword puzzles or play Solitaire, while the Big Mind would delve deep into the subjects I wanted to write about.

So I keep the room. I have all the paintings and any decoration taken out of the room. I ask the management and house-keeping not to enter the room, just in case I’ve thrown a piece of paper on the floor, I don’t want it discarded. About every two months I get a note slipped under the door: “Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!” But I’ve never slept there, I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then. Clean it up. And that’s how I write books!

— From “Maya Angelou: How I Write” by at Daily Beast (April 10, 2013)

Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1981, is most recently the author of the memoir  “Mom & Me & Mom.” 


Could Richmond have become ‘Camel City’?

“The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., formerly one of the largest subsidiaries of the American Tobacco Co., contemplates entering the cigarette manufacturing field.

“The main plug and smoking tobacco factories of the company are located at Winston-Salem, N.C., but it has not definitely decided as yet whether or not to locate the cigarette manufacturing end of its business in that city. The uncertainty is due to the fact that a bill framed to prevent cigarette manufacture is before the North Carolina state legislature.

“The company has two large warehouses in Richmond, and in the event of unfavorable legislation in North Carolina, the cigarette manufacturing for the company will be undertaken in Virginia.”

– From “If Legislation is Unfavorable in North Carolina, Plant May Be Located in Virginia” in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 22, 1913)

I haven’t found details on the proposed ban on cigarette manufacturing, but it must not have turned out to be a problem — just a few months later Reynolds’ Winston-Salem plant would be turning out 425 million Camels per year.


Recipes from the collection in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day.

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day!  It’s not too late celebrate.  Grab your favorite cheese and bread, put some butter in a pan, and get to celebrating.

Happiness is a Hot Cheese-Tomato Sandwich - A Taste of the Old and the New

Happiness is a Hot Cheese-Tomato Sandwich from A Taste of the old and the new.

Cognac ham sandwiches - What's Left is Right

Cognac Ham Sandwiches from What’s left is right : what to do with leftovers when you’re desperate.

Grilled Tuna with Cheese-Vegetarian Delights

Grilled Tuna with Cheese from Vegetarian delights : a hearty collection of natural food recipes.


ABC's Apple, bacon, and cheese - Buffet Benny's

ABC’s Apples, Bacon, and Cheese from Buffet Benny’s family cookbook : recipes, stories & poems from the Appalachian Mountains.

Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich - Supper's at Six & We're Not Waiting!

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich from Supper’s at six and we’re not waiting!

Cheese-Iced Filled Sandwiches - Pass the Plate

“Cheese-Iced” Filled Sandwiches from Pass the plate : the collection from Christ Church.

Monte Cristo Club - Best of the Best from North Carolina

Monte Cristo Club from Best of the best from Carolina cooking : selected recipes from the North Carolina AT & T Pioneers.


Carol Folt will join other important women on the Hill

Portrait of Katherine Kennedy Carmichael
Katherine Kennedy Carmichael served as Dean of Women from 1946-1972.

The expected naming of Carol Folt as the next chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill will mark the first time in the university’s 224-year history that a woman has held the top post. But Folt follows on the heels (pardon the pun) of several other women who have held significant positions with the University. Katherine “Kitty” Carmichael, pictured above, served as Dean of Women until her office was combined with Student Affairs in 1972. During Carmichael’s tenure the percentage of females in the student body increased from 16 percent to 37 percent. Author and UNC English professor recalled Carmichael’s strong example for women during the dedication of a dormitory named for the former women’s dean in 1987, noting that Carmichael was fond of saying “If God were satisfied with Adam, why did he make Eve so different?”

Women were first admitted to UNC as graduate students in 1897. In 1917, Clara S. Lingle was appointed Adviser to Women. She was succeeded in 1919 by Inez Koonce Stacy, who held the office until 1946 and during whose tenure (1942) the title of the office became Dean of Women. Stacy was married to Marvin Hendrix Stacy, who was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UNC and served as interim president of the University upon the death of Edward Kidder Graham during the flu epidemic of 1918 (President Stacy, himself, died from the flu a year later). Inez Stacy led efforts to build the first housing for women. Spencer Dormitory opened in 1925. Three other dorms for women were built during Stacy’s tenure—Kenan, McIver and Alderman. Stacy’s job title was changed to Dean of Women in 1941, one year before her retirement.

Other female leaders at UNC have included Sallie B. Marks, appointed a professor of elementary education in 1927 and the first woman to join the regular faculty; Mary Turner Lane, who founded the Women’s Studies program; and Gillian T. Cell, the first woman to be appointed to a tenure-track position in the UNC history department and, later, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Historian Pamela Dean wrote about these women and more inWomen on the Hill, a pamphlet distributed at the dedication of Carmichael Dorm.

For Manteo and Wanchese, destiny was geography

On this day in 1585: Manteo and Wanchese, the first American tourists to visit Europe, leave England in a ship of colonists bound for North Carolina. The two N.C. Indians were invited to London by explorers commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh.

Manteo was made Lord of Roanoke while in England, but Wanchese was alienated by the Europeans and will be absorbed back into his tribe.

Manteo and Wanchese become the names of communities on opposite ends of Roanoke Island.


How has the South changed Cash’s ‘Mind’?

Q. What would [W.J.] Cash find most surprising about today’s South?
A. The first would be the widespread acceptance of interracial marriage, which in 1941 would have been totally taboo to white Southerners — at least in the social sense, though of course in practical terms, interracial relationships have always been a fact of life in the South.
“The other is immigration. For a bunch of reasons, the South never knew any significant immigration until the 1980s, when the Mexican migration began. Cash spent much of his newspaper career working for papers in North Carolina, where today nearly 10 percent of the population is Hispanic, and where you can see flyers advertising Mexican bands stuck in the windows of the local Curves franchise. I think that would astonish him.
“And universal air conditioning!
— From “Everything Familiar Is About to Disappear: Tracy Thompson Talks About the South” by John Williams in the New York Times (April 3)
Thompson’s recent book, “The New Mind of the South,” devotes most of a chapter to Hispanic teenagers in Randolph County.

How N.C. laws can survive unconstitutionality

“Legislators in North Carolina have proposed a bill declaring that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing a state religion, does not apply to the state. [The bill has now been declared DOA in the N.C. House.]

“North Carolina is no stranger to breaching the wall between church and state: Article VI, Section 8 of the state constitution already bars nonbelievers from holding office. Although the law has been declared unconstitutional, it remains on the books.

“Do unconstitutional laws just hang around forever?”

— From “How a Bill Becomes Not a Law” on Slate (April 4, 2013)

Among those contributing their expertise: Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law.


‘Stout, healthy children need constant employment’

“Fanatics and politicians are out of line…. Children are very serviceable in tobacco factories as stemmers, and it don’t hurt them. In fact, they need employment to keep them out of mischief. Stout, healthy children need constant employment, and the unhealthy ones do not stay in a factory long ….

“We are opposed to any legislation on the labor question as we think it will regulate itself.”

— From a letter to North Carolina labor commissioner B. R. Lacy from Winston-Salem tobacco manufacturer Bailey Bros. (1899)

Four years later the state prohibited children under 12 from working in factories, but the law was rarely enforced, as evidenced in Lewis Hine’s 1908 photos of Gaston County.


Wikipedia edit-a-thon: Filling in the holes

NC Mutual Life Insurance Company
Employees of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

One hundred fourteen years ago, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company opened for business in Durham. As this article by Harry McKown explains, North Carolina Mutual grew to become the largest African American managed financial institution in the United States — no small feat for a company whose founders included a man born into slavery.

And yet, Wikipedia, one of the web’s largest reference sites, contains no entry for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.

An event in Wilson Library on Sunday, April 14, will seek to remedy this and other Wikipedia oversights related to African American history in North Carolina. The event, UNC’s first Wikipedia edit-a-thon, will be hosted by the North Carolina Collection and sponsored by student groups at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.

Participants will create, expand, and improve Wikipedia articles about African American history, culture, people, events, and institutions in North Carolina. No special topical knowledge or Wikipedia experience is needed. Bring a laptop and we’ll help you do the rest!

For more details and to RSVP, see the event page or email

Berry good recipes from the collection.

Blackberry Leather-Cooking with Berries

Blackberry Leather from Cooking with berries.

Lush mush - The Charlotte Cookbook

Lush Mush from The Charlotte cookbook.

Cranberry Ketchup-Cooking with Berries

Cranberry Ketchup from Cooking with berries.

Crazy Berry Blue Pie - A Taste of the Old and the New

Crazy Berry Blue Pie from A Taste of the old and the new.

Raspberry Trifle - The Cat Who...Cookbook

Raspberry Trifle from The cat who– cookbook.

Elderberry Soup-Cooking with Berries

Elderberry Soup from Cooking with berries.

Sour Cream Blackberry Pie - The Lost Colony Cookbook

Sour Cream Blackberry Pie from The lost colony cookbook : 400 years of fine food & feasts in the Old World & the New.

Cranberry Beef Stew-Cooking with Berries

Cranberry Beef Stew from Cooking with berries.