Work, Write, and Don’t forget to Live: Advice from Appalachian Author Brooks Rextroat

In April the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center had the pleasure of welcoming Brooks Rexroat, author of the novel Pine Gap and his most recent work Thrift Store Coats a collection of short stories. Rexroat received his Master’s in Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a 2014 Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow in Cassis, France and a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar at Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University in Siberia, Russia. 

Rextroat’s novel Pine Gap follows the Eskills, a hard working Letcher County family who value their faith and family above all else. Enoch Eskill works long shifts in the mine while his wife spends her days cleaning houses, all of their effort and income going towards helping their youngest daughter, Jamie, realize her dreams of obtaining a college education. 

We are so fortunate to be able to bring writers from all over Appalachia, like Brooks Rextroat, to the Loyal Jones Appalachian Canter (LJAC). One of my earliest memories in LJAC came during my very first semester as a student at Berea College. My class visited the Appalachian Center for a bell hooks reading. It was my first of many readings. Every semester LJAC brings in talented writers from all over the region and beyond. 

But what comes before the beautifully polished prose that we experience once a writer’s at the podium? What about the days spent crafting their work from the sweat of their brow. Rexroat was kind enough to sit down and ponder this question with me. On when and where he prefers to write he said, “When time and place allows. If you have seven minutes then you have seven minutes to sit down and edit.” 

All too often we let our imaginations get the best of us, we think of writers in sunlit offices maybe on a mountaintop, or looking out at their favorite city’s skyline. It’s easy to overlook the diligence and discipline these artists put into their craft on a daily basis. Rexroat continued saying, “It’s not a thing where you have to get everything perfect. You weave it in with other aspects of your life.” 

Rexroat is not only a published author and educator, he also advises a literary magazine, a newspaper, and him and his wife coach Track and Field. One of his final pieces of advice on writing, “Be good to other writers. This is a community.” A lesson we can all take to heart, in both art and our everyday lives. 

Article Written by Rick Childers