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Interview by Betty Carter


An Interview with Margaret Edson

It's sort of funny that you're being honored here as a southern writer when you're from Washington, D.C.

Well, it was southeast D.C. They were willing to make an exception.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I changed around a lot, not one thing more than anything else. I was very interested in theater in high school.

Did you act?

Yeah, and was involved in different parts of production.

What about teaching? Where did that come from?

I didn't start teaching till I was 30, and this is my seventh year, I'm 37. I was a volunteer in an ESL classroom in a D.C. elementary school and I just started loving the tutoring I was doing, and so I had to come teach.

What kind of teaching gives you the most joy? For instance, is it more exciting to you to work with challenging kids as opposed to privileged or gifted—?

I loved teaching ESL and had students from 20 different countries. That was really fun. I taught K–6 in small groups. Of the different kinds of work, the thing I liked most was teaching reading. So then I taught first grade in a typical classroom for a year and now I'm teaching kindergarten.

It's kind of controversial to teach kindergartners to read, isn't it?

Not to the kindergartners!

What kind of school is Centennial Place Elementary?

It's a brand new school. It's an Atlanta public school, and it's in the middle of a mixed-income housing community.

So do you work with kids from a lot of different economic backgrounds?

Mostly lower.

Could you have pictured yourself as a kindergarten teacher 10 years ago, 15 years ago, when you were at Smith College? You know how people are. I keep hearing people talk in this amazed way about you being a kindergarten teacher, just like they talked about Alice McDermott being the "soccer mom" who won the National Book Award. To me that seems a little patronizing somehow.

It doesn't bother me at all. To me it's opening people's minds.

OK. So let's talk about John Donne.

Yes [laughing]. Enough of that.

Do you like Donne's poetry? Or did you ...

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