Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Local author and UTC professor Sybil Baker wasn’t expecting to get the inspiration for her latest novel when she visited the Hunter Museum of American Art in the summer of 2010.
As part of the Tennessee Council for Teachers of English’s annual conference, she was instructing other teachers on how to incorporate art into writing when she stumbled across Hughie Lee-Smith’s painting titled “Confrontation.”
“It’s a picture of two girls not looking at each other,” said Baker of the painting. “There’s a real disconnect between the girls and a crumbling wall in the background. It looks almost post-war. I started writing about who these girls are, and the novel took off from there.”
Titled “Into This World,” Baker’s third book was recently released in print and in all e-book formats by Engine books, a boutique fiction press out of Indianapolis. With the plot anchored by two historic South Korean events, the Gwangju Uprising of 1980 and a naval crisis in 2010, she said “Into This World” promises to take readers halfway across the world and give them an engaging look at 30 years of South Korean history.
“People have been telling me it’s a page turner,” said Baker. “In that sense it’s not a ‘War and Peace’ type of commitment. Anyone interested in families, sisters, a new culture or looking at the [United] States in a different way might be interested in it.”
Baker, who is currently a creative writing professor at UTC, spent 12 years teaching English in South Korea before relocating to Chattanooga in 2007. She also returned to South Korea in the summer of 2010 on a research grant.
“It’s been a big part of my adult life, and I fell in love with the country,” she said. “I wanted to write about it and show different parts that most Americans don’t know about.”
The local writer is also the author of another novel titled “The Life Plan” and a short story collection called “Talismans.”
“I think [‘Into this World’] is my best book so far,” she said. “It’s not comic like ‘The Life Plan’ or as dark as ‘Talismans.’ All three of them deal with an American abroad and a female protagonist in their 20s or 30s.”
For now, Baker is here to stay in Chattanooga and said she loves the fact that the city is getting a reputation as an artistic community.
“Chattanooga is a great place for writers with so many characters,” she said. “My new novel I started a couple of weeks ago is the first one I’ve written set in Chattanooga. It takes a while to write about a place, and only now do I really feel comfortable writing about it.”
For more information visit www.sybilbaker.com.