Biography and Memoir: How Octavia E. Butler Wrote

Lynell George on A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky.

lynell george
AL Q

As acclaimed science fiction writer and Pasadena native Octavia E. Butler’s work experiences a resurgence in popularity, Lynell George collects the ephemera of Butler’s life, piecing it together visually on the page to study and reveal the process by which Butler fashioned herself and her fiction. A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky serves as both a biography of Butler and a how-to guide to understanding and emulating her creative process.

This article appears in the Fall 2021 issue of Alta Journal.
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What are some challenges and breakthroughs you encountered while working on A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky?
The biggest challenge was trying to finish a book during a pandemic. The Huntington (where Butler’s papers are archived) closed, and I was left with the materials I had carefully gathered over the years. I had to trust that I had all that I needed. In certain ways, Butler became my quarantine podmate. The process of transcribing and absorbing her words gave me the boost to keep going.

How do you grapple with writer’s block?
Two things work best for me. One: Take a break. Something as simple as a head-clearing walk or a good night’s sleep helps. Often, I find that I’m not blocked but simply tired. Two: Read poetry.•

Angel City Press
A HANDFUL OF EARTH, A HANDFUL OF SKY: THE WORLD OF OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, BY LYNELL GEORGE
Angel City Press Bookshop.org
$27.60

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