“A book is a slow cooker”, “Being Southern is a great gift”, “Anything can find an audience”; all of these quotes came from the lecture that Diane Roberts gave in the Swanson screening room on March 29 at Piedmont College.
Diane Roberts is an accomplished writer and journalist. She is currently an English and creative writing professor at Florida State University. Over the years, she has worked with PBS, NPR, and BBC, where she usually talks about art and politics. She’s been published in various magazines and newspapers, ranging from small names to big names. She has also written various non-fiction books, usually relating to the South. “I think it was a great opportunity to see someone who has written at such a global level to hear what she had to say about her writing and how she gets story ideas.” says Dr. Joe Dennis.
One of the first things one can notice about Diane Roberts is her voice. She has a southern accent that is just thick enough to still understand what she says. It’s what has gotten her radio jobs at the BBC and a few drinks when she would go out with her British friends. There is no doubt that Diane Roberts is a lady of the South. She talked about her family history in Florida, which she wrote about in her book, Dream State. She got a few laughs from the audience as she discussed growing up, eating things like squirrel and opossum. “She’s a southern girl from Florida,” says Dennis. “And even though she has travelled a lot….. when she writes, there’s still the essence of who she is and everything that she writes and I think that’s a really valuable lesson for students, especially those who have an interest in opinion writing.”
However, Roberts is not stereotypical Southern. She is rather liberal in her views and spoke about her experience with a white supremacist group she met and wrote about in Florida. She is a well-travelled woman, and lived in Britain for so many years. Roberts is a woman who breaks the mold of Paula Deen, the face of white Southern woman celebrities, and even upon being asked about such a comparison, she exclaimed “Kill me now!”
Roberts was very casual in her lecture, just sitting on the edge of the stage, her feet crossed and waving above the ground. She did not stand at the lectern, like what would be expected of a visiting professor. She just sat and talked, like she was getting coffee with the students in the audience. “She was genuinely interested in the questions we had for her,” said sophomore Nathan Blackburn. “And she gave really fleshed out, full answers, that blended both humor and serious pretty well.”
Roberts very much enjoyed her time at Piedmont, going on and on about the beauty of the campus and the area. Roberts was most impressed with the Lillian Smith Center, which is dedicated to the award winning author from Piedmont College, and is nestled away in the mountains of Clayton, GA. It serves as an educational center and artist retreat. Roberts described it as “absolutely amazing” and believes that “there is a spirit there of a woman who didn’t care what anyone thought of her and did what she wanted to do.”
Even after Roberts left, the students couldn’t help but want more. Her lecture left students and professors alike inspired. “Diane Roberts was so inspiring and engaging. I didn’t want her to leave” says senior Durden Smith. “No matter what you accomplish, there will be a what next.” were the words that resonated throughout the audience and especially with the students.