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Segue 10: Fall 2011  ||  Lynn Veach Sadler


about the author


(Dr.) Mary Lynn Veach Sadler has a B.A. (Magna Cum Laude, Honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from Duke and an M.A. and a Ph.D. (Phi Kappa Phi) from the University of Illinois, with postdoctoral study at UCLA and Balliol College, Oxford. She taught at Agnes Scott, Drake, and A&T and directed the Division of Humanities at Bennett College, where she set up what is considered the first microcomputer laboratory for teaching writing. She pioneered in computer-assisted composition, coined the term, and published the first journal in the field (done with desktop publishing). As Vice President of Academic Affairs at Methodist, she originated North Carolina’s first conference on academic computing. A college president (Vermont), she won an Extraordinary Undergraduate Teaching Award and received a civil rights award, the Distinguished Women of North Carolina Award (education), and the NC Society of Historians Barringer Award for Exceptional Service to the History of the State. She was Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the US Office of Personnel Management, presented at the First International Milton Symposium (England), and directed an NEH Summer Seminar (“The Novel of Slave Unrest”) for College Teachers. She is widely published in academics (five books, sixty-eight articles; editor of nineteen books/proceedings, three national journals) and creative writing. A novel and full-length poetry collection will soon join her novella, short-story collection, and seven poetry chapbooks. One story appears in Del Sol’s Best of 2004; another won the Abroad Writers Contest/Fellowship (France). She was elizaPress 2007 Writer of the Year and won Wayne State’s 2008 Pearson Award for a play on the Iraq wars and the 2009 overall award (poetry and fiction) of the San Diego City College National Writer’s Contest. She and her husband, Dr. Emory Sadler, a psychologist, have traveled around the world five times, with Lynn writing all the way. She now works fulltime as a creative writer and an editor and writes a newspaper column on local history.


about the work


“Full Fathom Flat” is “deconstructed” from my unpublished novel, My Computer Journal of Family Dining (which is far more experimental than the story suggests!) I’ve published many short stories, but they have not often run to “Southern” and “family.” In both the longer and shorter works, I suspect that I was slaying ghosts and trying to make sense of my own family. My parents separated when I was in the ninth grade at a time before divorce was accepted. I have never shaken off having to walk into school again with everyone “knowing.” I was an only child, both of my parents re-married, and I came to have half- and step-siblings. I know little of them but have always been curious.

Among the autobiographical elements here? My stepmother did have breast cancer; my father’s brother, cancer of the tongue. The latter died when I was a baby, but I grew up with horrific tales about and images of him. A half-brother went the drugger route. I, though female (and old), have much in common with the narrator, teenager Zy Slayter. I was a pre-nerd nerd, and my undergraduate degree is from Duke. I have spent much of my academic career on predominantly Black campuses and frequently offer Black characters (Doak in this story). Formally, my specialty is Milton, from whom I learned to examine all the alternatives before choosing—the philosophy of Granddaddy Bob that opens “Full Fathom Flat” and one that I always tried to apply as an administrator and still rely on in day-to-day upsets. Granddaddy Bob is the father-figure I wish my father had been, and he and Zy have the relationship I longed for with my father.

I don’t think we give youth enough credit. Today’s families are muddles, with teenagers closer to grandparents than parents, parents who have never grown up, etc. Throw into the mix cancer and the older generation’s sense of Fate; sports; teenage slang; Black, White, and Gay relationships…and the soup thickens. How do the young cope? And with such good spirits and wit? They seem implicitly to grasp humor as a coping mechanism, have the graciousness at least to redden, and generally admit that they overstep; Zy and Doak cannot resist the incongruity of cancer and punning but “know better” (if I don’t!). In “Full Fathom Flat,” I aimed to do more than sip the soup.

To the Editors of Segue, I offer thanks and admiration. “Full Fathom Flat” has attracted attention, but I was always asked to “lose the poems.” I refused, on the grounds that they are true to the character of Zy. An editor myself, I am generally not obdurate when confronted with editorial requests/changes; I was in this case. “They also serve who stand and wait.”



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