Thursday, January 15, 2009

MFA Greensboro Professor Emeritus Featured in the Greensboro News & Record

Meet an Artist: Lee Zacharias

Joe Scott, Greensboro News&Record
, January 15


I'm retired (from teaching creative writing at UNCG), so what I am doing now is putting together a book of essays. The book is done, but I've had a difficult time putting together the physical manuscript. My computer got a virus and that was three weeks' worth of work. It's been a major period of transition.

Then I want to go back to a couple of novels that I have and look at them and see if I want to revise them. At some point I am going to learn Photoshop and get back into photography. I just haven't gotten that far yet.


I've owned a house in Florida for a great deal of time after my dad died. My brother-in-law is a flats guide in the Keys, so we've been to the Everglades a lot, and sort of branched out into the other wildlife refuges, so I was kind of interested in photographing birds in particular.

I went to Carolina Camera, and they sold me a used 400 mm lens , and I took it down to the Everglades that winter and looked down that lens, and I was just totally hooked being able to look at these birds so up close. I got particularly interested in vultures because you see so many of them in Florida. I have been down to the Carolina Raptor Center near Charlotte and been very close to the vultures and began to find them beautiful. They have so much baggage, all of the symbolic stuff having to do with death, but what really fascinated me when I started reading about them is that they don't have a voice. They can't speak.

Then the scene that opened my essay happened. I was up in the Everglades, and I was photographing a flock of them and hadn't realized that they had come up behind me, and I was literally surrounded by them. They made this little woofing noise, and that's when I started researching and reading about them. Even though they are not birds of prey, predatory birds just really began to interest me.


I was really pleased. The way "Best American" works is similar for both their short stories and essay collections. There's a series editor, and in the case of the essays, it's Robert Atwan, and he reads every essay published in a North American magazine that comes to his attention. He chooses a hundred essays each year and gives the finalists to a guest editor, which changes each year. This year, the guest editor was Adam Gopnik.

So when Bob Atwan e-mailed me to say Adam Gopnik had chosen me, he said he was already familiar with my work and had been reading and selecting it for several years. He said in his acceptance e-mail that he had been waiting a long time to be able to give me this news, and all I could say is, "Well, I've been waiting a long time for you to give me this news, too!"

Read the entire article here:

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