Best known for her children’s stories of wizards in Books of Earthsea and award-winning science-fiction such as The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin has brought her brilliant writing to historical fiction. Lavinia, her most recent book, is inspired by Virgil’s classic The Aeneid and brings Bronze Age Italy to life with this story of war and madness. Born in 1929 to an anthropologist father and writer mother, Le Guin submitted her first story at the tender age of twelve. It was rejected. But she persevered and has defied categorization by publishing mainstream stories, novels, children’s books, essays, literary criticism and poetry. She’s accumulated numerous awards including: the National Book Award, five Hugos, five Nebulas, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Howard Vursell Award, among others. Ms. Le Guin talked to me from her home in Portland, Oregon.
FAITH L. JUSTICE: You’ve described yourself frequently as an artist. What does that mean to you?
Ursula K. Le Guin: There are dance artists, painting artists, writing artists. Authors are writing artists. I think people restrict the term artist to mean painters and sculptors. I think the practice of art, in whatever medium you do it in, is one large similar thing. I’m just glad that words are my medium, because I love them.
FLJ: So you consider it something of a sacred calling?
UKLG: It’s probably not a term that I would originate, but yes I do. Any craft pursued with real seriousness has a sacred quality about it, unless you’re just doing it for the money. That’s rather rare. Most people do it, at least partly, for their own sake. This is true of teaching or carpentry, not just the fine arts.