Amber Hood began writing in the world of advertising. She wrote adverts for television, radio, billboards, and print. She learned about word economy, how to adapt her writing, and to write under pressure. Eventually she picked up freelance work writing restaurant reviews on a travel website, articles about famous Arkansans including yodeler Carolina Cotton for The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, and other diverse jobs. While writing was an activity she enjoyed, it wasn’t personal. Eventually, it no longer even felt meaningful. She found a new career path and a new passion in education. In the past few years, though, she has found her way back to writing. She has begun to focus on what she wants to say instead of finding the words for what a client was trying to say. Some of her creative non-fiction pieces have been accepted by a radio program called Tales from the South. This experience of sharing her writing helped Amber to craft her own style instead of styles she had conjured specifically for freelance projects.
After writing short pieces for Tales from the South, Amber wondered whether she could expand on and really develop some of the themes explored in her essays into a novel. She had an image of a character in her mind, and this character’s voice kept nagging at her. So, she impulsively began to write a book, arranging times to write around her fulltime teaching schedule, until she realised the book had now developed into a serious commitment.
While at Maelor, Amber hopes to work on on the chronological order of her book, filling in the story gaps created from writing it during short, concentrated periods of time rather than long, reflective days of writing. She also looks forward to develop contacts with other artists.
An excerpt from All the Way Round It:
When I was three years old, my mother took me to my grandfather’s funeral and held me on her hip as she bent down over the casket to say goodbye to his pink painted face, and that’s when I threw up into the white satin box that held Grandaddy’s corpse. I don’t remember this, and I wish that I could because they all still talk about it, my mom and Aunt Connie and Grandma Birdie all still talk about how that was probably the worst thing that could have happened. And that’s when I will say, “You mean aside from the fact that Grandaddy was lying in there dead to begin with?” And that’s when they will say, “Yes, of course aside from that.”
I don’t remember anything about him, but I do have this memory that might be just a dream memory or maybe a real one where I am on his lap at the dinner table, only everyone is done eating, and it’s getting really late. And he’s holding a hand of cards shiny and red and black. I’m drifting off to sleep, but I wake up every time he plays one or asks for another one. He hands me a poker chip that I clench in my fist. I told Birdie about this memory one time, and she said she didn’t know how I could remember all of that. I think she’s right. Human memories aren’t like computer memories sure to be exactly right because they’ve got wires and ways to refresh and back up because even if you think something is long gone on a computer, you can still get to it unless you’ve smashed it up or something. It’s harder being a person than a computer. Our feelings get our brains mixed up, and then other people get our brains mixed up with their feelings. Even if I think I remember something really good, I am not even remembering the thing itself like it happened but the way I remembered the story the last time I remembered it.
After I puked, Mom said they took us all away into another room at a funeral home, and they took the casket away and I guess they cleaned him off. It kind of seems like a waste of time, but then again we loved Granddaddy, and if he was going into the dirt before he went to heaven, I suppose the puke wasn’t the best way to meet Jesus. Birdie said we had to wait, and they didn’t tell the guests what happened, but a few folks saw it, so word got around. The ladies from church were horrified and ashamed. In school we learned about the term “origin story” which means how something came into existence, and I think this is my origin story. Before that, I was probably just some baby in town that no one thought was any different from any other baby just sleeping and eating and being boring, but then when I puked on a dead body, I wasn’t a person anymore because I was a character in this story that people told. That, I suppose, is how I came to be.