Eleanor Wachtel: The first story that you ever wrote, but didn't publish, was called "The Suicide of an American Girl," and then the second story, which you did publish, was called "To Hell with Dying." This was when you were just twenty and twenty-one. I don't want to put too much weight on the titles, but what happened to get you from "The Suicide of an American Girl" to "To Hell with Dying"?
Alice Walker: Well, just life itself. After a while, the thought of suicide as the remedy, which takes you out of the picture but leaves this wonderful earth that you would be missing, started to pall and my love of life won over. I realized I would miss the smallest things in life. I just had a friend visiting me in the country over the weekend - she put them in a bowl and every time I passed by I would smell these oranges and I finally stopped in my tracks and stuck my whole head in the bowl, smelling those oranges, and I said to her, "You know, when I'm dead, this is what I'll miss." They reminded me of the oranges of my childhood, when one orange would perfume the whole room and it was the most amazing thing. It was like having a very small sun that had a scent in the room with you. And it's as basic as that. The scent of an orange, the feel of the breeze, how water feels when you get in it when it's really cold in a creek. Whatever madness is going on in the world that seems impossible, there's also the orange and the stream and the breeze.
- Alice Walker, in conversation with Eleanor Wachtel. As published in More Writers & Company: New Conversations with CBC Radio's Eleanor Wachtel.