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Author George Ella Lyon: ''Sing with the voice we have''

Kentucky author George Ella Lyon was on Berea’s campus the afternoon of September 3 to teach a senior English class and explain the process she has used to author a prolific number of writings, many of which take place in Appalachia.

George Ella Lyon

A native of Harlan, Kentucky, Lyon described her typical morning that begins with journal writing. After the words begin flowing Lyon decides whether or not she feels inspired to write a poem. Lyon refrains from allowing external influences and interruptions to interfere with her writing process until after lunch. Then, and not before, she allows herself to check email because, “When the world comes in the creativity goes out,” Lyon explained to the class.

Writing didn’t and doesn’t always come easy for Lyon, who recounted that early in her career she questioned whether or not she could make a living as a writer. Concerned about the limited income she earned, Lyon realized that she would be unhappy without writing, despite being unable to give her son a yard large enough for him to play in. “The trouble is if I don’t write I am mean,” joked Lyon, who encouraged the class to “sing with the voice we have, not the voice you want.”

Lyon takes up to 50 small writing related jobs per year. These have included teaching, editing, working with the Rational Behavior Therapy Foundation, writing lyrics for marketing jingles and participating in creative writing episodes on the Kentucky Educational Television (KET) network.

Following her classroom appearance Lyon participated in the recording of an episode of “Head of the Holler,” a 30 minute talk show on KET. “Head of the Holler” is recorded at the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center and is produced by Berea College.

Concluding her visit to Berea, Lyon read from her books and signed copies at the Appalachian center later that evening.

Listen to Lyon read her poem Where I’m From.

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