NOTABLE NEIGHBOR: Novelist is moved by family history

Elkins – Arkansas 74 waves through rural Elkins. It snakes through ancient pastures, over the White River and past houses with 200 years of history boring into the wood. The highway leads to a small log house where 71-year-old freshman novelist Barbara White wrote The Rainwater Legacy.

Driving through the area, it’s easy to see how White was able to describe images from an erst-while world of harsh living and sharecropping. The old Southern wind that blows through White’s story about her grandparents’ start here can be felt today as soon as one heads off the main road.

Nothing seems to be too challenging for the author, who began writing to alleviate the problems that came with Parkinson’s disease. At different times in her life she’s been a telephone operator, a real estate agent and owner and operator of a bed and breakfast.

White has had many adventures, but she says she’s always been excited about the lives and characters of people around her and those from the past.

“I’ve always been found of history and family roots,” says White. “I’m the only person who goes to others’ reunions.”

White has been working out versions of her own family history. She says she first heard her family’s stories from her grandmother, and it was on those stories that her novel was built.

Her Parkinson’s seems to be of little or no issue. She says she has not trouble fleshing out her ideas, and during the winter, she will write everyday without fail. White’s strength is her love of what the world around her can contribute to a good story.

“I’ve always been a storyteller,” she says.

White says she enjoys giving back to the community that supported her writing. She gives talks to citizens interested in writing their family histories.

“I go to these places and tell them that everybody’s got a story that should be told. Just leave a record.”

She had trouble self-publishing her first novel, but that has not deterred her. She says she will keep writing simply because she likes to write. She is beginning a second novel, which will focus on her mother’s side of the family. She hopes to chronicle the tale of how her grandparents met, a story that takes the couple from Italy to the United States over the course of several years.

White’s approach to writing is the same as her work in her other careers: 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration.

“I just write. Have to decide to do something before you do it.”

She says she has decided to write as much as she can about her family. If her past is any indication, she will continue to do so until she decides what she wants to tackle next.

– Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2006

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