WALTER EVENT: Book Club: Belle Boggs

photographs by Missy McLamb

The writer Belle Boggs showed a room full of readers why Jill McCorkle
calls her  “nothing short of brilliant” at Walter’s Book Club at the Umstead May 7.

The author of the celebrated short story collection Mattaponi Queen and the Oprah-selected memoir The Art of Waiting spoke with humor and compassion about motherhood, families, and the writing life. She read a new short story as well as an essay from The Art of Waiting, and conversed at length with a savvy audience.

Guests were interested to hear how the winner of the prestigious Bakeless Prize and finalist for a PEN award finds her inspiration, structures her work, and teaches her N.C. State writing students.

Boggs also talked about her struggle with infertility (the subject of The Art of Waiting) and about her upbringing in King William County, Virginia. She told stories about her  hometown of  Walkerton, population 50 (75 on the weekend) that despite its small size boasted its very own poet who walked a donkey named Don Quixote on a leash. Boggs’s fiction is filled with the kinds of people she grew up with and around, both the eccentric and everyday.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Boggs read two pieces inspired by her own mother. A funny and poignant short story featured a protagonist who is  scratched by one of her 17 feral cats.

The essay, about helping her mother through an “old lady” surgery that her mother won’t name, is moving. “Childness bound me to my mother in a strange way,” Boggs read. “Other than my husband, she was the person I knew best. The person I imagined there with me through all of the biggest moments of my life … She took care of me. And I took care of her.”