I wrote a collection of short stories, Lighted Windows, about a boy growing up in the fifties and sixties in a small community in south central Louisiana. The people who populate the area, mostly prairie Cajuns, are honest—for the most part—hardworking, and persevering. The boy narrator in the collection soaks up their stories like the rich prairie soil soaks up the rain.
I started the collection in the late seventies in a sophomore creative writing class at USL, now the University Louisiana Lafayette. My professor was John Sherrill Fontenot, a wonderful man, who saw some merit in my writing and introduced me to Herb Fackler, the director of the creative writing program at the time. In my senior year at USL, I believe it was, I had the great good fortune to take classes with Ernest Gaines and, with his encouragement and guidance, had several of my stories published in The Southern Review.
By this time, I had read Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, a string of interconnected stories taking place in a single setting, and it blew me away. However, it was not until I read Faulkner's The Unvanquished that I realized what I wanted to do with my collection—write a series of interconnected stories told from the point of view of the boy, have it take place in a single setting, and make it read like a novel.
After I graduated from USL with an MA in English, I enrolled at George Mason University and studied writing under Richard Bausch and Alan Cheuse. I learned as much as I could from those two talented and respected writers and moved on.
The first story in the collection, which also acts as the prologue, is entitled "The Three Indians." A storyteller family friend answers a question posed by the boy's mother about the importance of storytelling by relating a story about three Native Americans. The tale sticks with the boy and as the collection progresses, he relates his struggles with language, religion, culture, death, segregation, and sex, among others. The collection ends with an epilogue where the same storyteller tells a tale about how he befriended his dog in "Clio's Story." The story serves as an end to the boy's journey and the beginning of a new one.
About half of the stories in the collection are set on the father's sharecropped farm, and then move to the small community of Serpentville (French pronunciation) named after the lazy bayou that snakes past the tiny village. The early stories are all about the boy gaining self-awareness. Once his family moves into the town, they deal with his awareness of those around him and their influences on him.
Each story is a step into the boy's maturity and development. Each story builds onto the next until they reach the inevitable end.
I worked long and hard on this collection, and my only motive was to share a piece of the unique culture in which I grew up. I hope you read it, and I hope it speaks to you in some way.