"People think I’m outspoken, but I have nothing on [Dorothy Scura]. The best lesson she taught me was to support other women." Margaret Bauer
Nearly twenty years ago, I met Margaret Bauer in a Southern Literature class at East Carolina University. Margaret was the professor, and it was my very first class in grad school. A smart and dynamic teacher, Margaret showed me, as she continues to do, what it means to be a strong woman. I am so lucky to have had her support and friendship all these years.
Out of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of and why?
Twenty years of publishing the North Carolina Literary Review. I’m working on my 20th print issue now. In this capacity, I have served my adopted home state as an ambassador for the writers, and I am particularly proud of the new writers we’ve introduced in our pages, the budding writers who have worked on the NCLR staff while at ECU, and the young scholars with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work on their articles about North Carolina writers.
What are you currently working on? How long have you been working on it? How did you become interested in it/ where did you get the idea for it?
A collection of nonfiction essays inspired by the loss of my father in 2013. After suffering writer’s block after his death, I resolved just before 2016 to write every day of 2016, and it is the first New Year’s resolution I have ever kept. The first essay of the collection was written earlier, after the writer Zelda Lockhart told me I had to write down a story I told her while we were sitting together at the NC Writers’ Network conference in the fall of 2013, I think. So stuck in an airport on my way back from the first Santa-less Christmas in Louisiana, I did just that. I enjoyed the experience of flexing these new writerly muscles, but my writing otherwise was still pretty stymied, largely by having agreed to edit my dad’s unfinished memoir. Finally, my mom told me Dad wouldn’t want to hold me hostage to writing his book. Write my own. And sure enough, the most enjoyable part of the editing of his I’d been able to do was writing introductions and afterwords to each chapter, filling in what he hadn’t gotten to, for example. I was enjoying telling the family stories we’d heard so often. And while I write these stories, I enjoy revisiting home, bringing my brother and sisters back together into the house and home of our childhood, where my dad is very much a vital presence.
I would add that that first essay, which Zelda prompted me to write, is forthcoming in storySouth. It is appropriate that this will be my first publication in this new kind of writing for me. It took a while. One thing about changing genres—I’ve remembered what it’s like to receive lots of rejection letters before a piece finds the right home.
What issue are you currently most passionate about? What is the one thing you would like people to know or understand about this issue?
I have been absolutely consumed by the recent political fiasco. I still cannot believe I actually know people who voted for Trump and defend that vote with points of criticism against Hillary Clinton that do not even come close to being as bad as what we found out about his actions during the campaign. Their vitriol against her reminds me, quite simply, of how many people still react negatively to strong, assertive women while excusing the antics of businessmen with a boys will be boys attitude. I am shocked that after the huge step forward of the first African American President, we have taken a doubly huge step backward with Trump. And it absolutely breaks my heart that people I love don’t see this, continue to defend their vote for him in spite of all, and ignore or denigrate my efforts to share information from legitimate news sources, which they don’t realize ends up suggesting to me how little respect they have for my expertise as a professor who analyzes texts for a living. It’s likely, I realize, that they don’t make the connection, don’t realize how disrespected I am feeling, but it still makes me sad. And of course, I am sad for the whole country. Lack of critical thinking and blind faith based only on party politics is how demagogues become dictators.
What book or film with a female protagonist would you recommend and why? What female author’s work would you recommend and why?
The NOVEL Gone with the Wind. Give the Scarlett in the novel a chance. She is amazing. You will likely be surprised to find that she is much more complicated than you remember her, especially if you are more familiar with the movie. And her relationship with Melanie develops much more positively than you remember.
There are so many female authors I would recommend. Since we might all need a good laugh right now, I will recommend Jill McCorkle’s short stories to you. Hilarious and poignant. “Your Husband Is Cheating on Us” may forever be my favorite, but I have favorites in all of her story collections.
Name one woman who has influenced you/ had an impact on you, perhaps as a mentor. Why and how did she impact your life?
That is so easy—Dorothy Scura. My mother calls her my academic mother. She was my advisor during my PhD program and my academic mentor until her death a few years ago. I miss her. I wish I had her courage. She never held back in speaking her mind. People think I’m outspoken, but I have nothing on her. The best lesson she taught me was to support other women. “Don’t be one of those women who likes to be the only woman at the top,” she told me once. “Get up there and then reach behind you and pull other women up with you—or I will haunt you,” she warned. I like to think I have not let her down in that.
A native of south Louisiana, Margaret D. Bauer is the Rives Chair of Southern Literature and Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Since 1997, she has served as Editor of the North Carolina Literary Review. She has also edited two Paul Green books: James Spence’s Green biography and a new critical edition of Green’s play The House of Connelly. She is the author of The Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist (1999), William Faulkner’s Legacy (2005), Understanding Tim Gautreaux (2010), and A Study of Scarletts: Scarlett O’Hara’s Literary Daughters (2014), as well as numerous articles in scholarly journals. In 2007, Dr. Bauer was named one of ECU’s 10 Women of Distinction and received the Parnassus Award for Significant Editorial Achievement from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. She is also a recipient of ECU’s Scholar/Teacher Award, 5-Year Research/Creative Activity Award, Centennial Award for Excellence in Leadership, and, most recently, Lifetime Achievement Award in Research and Creative Activity.