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Elaine Neil Orr

Elaine Neil Orr is the author of five books. Her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds, is set in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement. The Richmond Times-Dispatch calls it “a novel of great humanity,” and it was short-listed for the Sir Walter Raleigh Award. Her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, was a Top-10 BookSense selection. Library Journal described A Different Sun as a “lush, evocative, breathtaking” debut novel. Elaine was born and grew up in Nigeria, the daughter of missionary parents, and most of her writing is grounded in both the American South and the Nigerian South. She is a professor of literature at N.C. State University, where she teaches American and Nigerian literature, and she serves on the faculty of the Brief-Residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University. She has won awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the North Carolina Arts Council and is a frequent fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her short memoirs and stories appear in the Missouri Review, Image, and Blackbird, among other places. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, Andy, and their puppy, Sam. Learn more about Elaine and her work at

Ten Things I Can’t Do Without

  1. Faith in something that endures
  2. The natural universe of streams, birds, foxes, lizards, and stones
  3. Literature
  4. Mentors and friends (including Andy and Joel)
  5. Writing
  6. Students
  7. Journals
  8. Green tea
  9. Yoga
  10. A good haircut