In July 1998, Gwyn Hyman Rubio (Costa Rica 1971–73) published her first novel, Icy Sparks, to great critical acclaim. Icy Sparks was selected as one of the New York Times’ Notable Books of 1998, praised by Time Magazine, chosen as part of “The Next Wave of Great Literary Voices” in the Discover New Writers program, and picked as an Oprah Book Club Selection. Not bad as far as first novels go. Her second novel, published in 2005 by Viking was called The Woodsman’s Daughter. That story is set in the longleaf pine country of post-Civil War Georgia, revolves around Dalia, the daughter of Monroe Miller, a prosperous turpentine business owner. Both of these books received great reviews from everyone, including, most of all, Peace Corps Writers.
Gwyn Hyman Rubio then disappeared!
A couple day ago, however, her name popped up in an article in the Glasgow [Kentucky] Daily Times. It was a story written by Gina Kinslow about how Gwyn will be coming to the Mary Wood Weldon Library on November 4, 2010, to speak and I thought you might, after all these years, wondered what had happened to Gwyn.]
GLASGOW KY, October 28, 2010
Gwyn Hyman Rubio learned at a very young age that writing is tough.
Her father, Mac Hyman, wrote the bestseller “No Time for Sargeants,” which was published in 1954 when he was 31 years old. The book was translated into 12 languages and produced on stage as a play, and as a major motion picture starring Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.
“I don’t think he expected it to turn into the success that it was,” she said.
Because he was so young when he became a successful writer he became overwhelmed by the glamour and suffered writer’s block, and did not publish anything else.
“The thing he loved the most he could not do,” she said. “He could not fill the blank pages.”
Rubio’s father died at the age of 39 from a heart attack, which she believes was the result of the stress he experienced from having writer’s block.
Because she witnessed her father’s struggle with writing, Rubio says she “ran away from writing” for many years before giving it a try herself.
“I did many, many, many different things,” she said.
After graduating from Florida State University with a BA degree in English, Rubio joined the Peace Corps, serving in Costa Rica and working as a preschool program coordinator and a teacher in a village near the Panamanian border.
It was during her service with the Peace Corps that she met her husband, Angel. The couple has been married for 30 years.
When their stint with the Peace Corps ended, they backpacked across Europe and Africa before settling down.
“We were hippies and the cheapest and most beautiful land we could find was in Kentucky,” she said.
The Rubios landed in Berea in 1980, but moved to Versailles in 2001.
Over the years, Rubio held many jobs before becoming a full-time writer. She worked as a waitress. She worked with emotionally disturbed children. She even did construction work.
“I’ve just done a little bit of everything but just couldn’t get passionate about anything,” she said, and that includes writing. “I would always play around with writing, but then I would get scared of it.”
She didn’t become serious about having a career as a writer until her husband encouraged her to seek a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College.
“If I got into the program then that would be a sign and I should get serious about writing,” she said.
She was accepted and from there she launched her writing career.
Now, she says she loves being a writer and prefers the creative side of the industry over the business side.
“I actually love the creative process; when things are clicking and you are lost in the world with your characters,” she said. “If a novel is going well, it will happen about a third of the way through the book, when the characters become more real than the people around you.”
Writing is hard work, but “a wonderful thing to experience,” she said.
Rubio has written two books. Her first was titled “Icy Sparks,” and is a story about a young girl growing up in the Appalachian mountains with Tourette’s syndrome. Her second book is titled “The Woodman’s Daughter,” and is based loosely on the life of her great-grandmother.
Her inspiration for her books comes from a variety of things.
“I will think about an idea for several years before I ever put pen to paper,” she said. “I come up with a character first because I write from character, and I will start thinking about that character and creating that world in my imagination and living in that imagination before I ever start writing that piece.”
Rubio wrote a third book, but it was never published. She said she wasted years on it.
“I kept waiting for it to click and nothing would click,” she said. “I would go back and start over from the beginning and the process just wasn’t working.”
So, she moved on to her fourth novel, which she says is a work that she loves.
“I’m going back and tweaking it and fleshing out some of the characters and just biding my time for the economy to improve,” she said, adding that now, with the recession, is not the right time to try to sell a fiction novel.
Rubio will speak at the Mary Wood Weldon Memorial Library on Nov. 4.
“I will be talking about writing and the challenges a writer faces,” she said. “I will be talking somewhat about my dad, who was also a writer.”
This will be Rubio’s second appearance at Mary Wood Weldon Memorial Library, according to Martha Nell Thomas, head of outreach services for the library. Rubio spoke at the library two years ago.
Thomas enjoyed Rubio’s “Icy Sparks” so much, she was inspired to invite her to the library to speak.
“I thought Gwyn Hyman Rubio did a good job describing the fear and uncertainty the child would experience,” she said. “I was amazed. It was one of those books I will never forget that I read. When she came she was such a warm person who made the life of a writer so real. She’s just great at sharing the actual writing experience.”
Gwyn’s website is GwynRubio.com/
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