Q: What are your most enjoyable pastimes?
A: I am cursed with a creative gene, which means anything creative is pure joy—writing, decorating, painting, storytelling, word games. I, also, like to walk every day, either on the treadmill or outside.
Q: Do you have any regrets in your life—things you would have done differently in hindsight?
A: I deeply regret having only dabbled with a few foreign languages and never mastered any. I feel the same way about not having taken my childhood piano lessons seriously. I attribute my failure on both accounts to having a poor ear for sound.
Q: I know you are something of a genealogy buff. What is your heritage?
A: On my mother's side it's Scotch-Irish (Sullivan and Armstrong) and on my father's it is German (Carpenter and Miller). My ancestors came to Virginia in the late 1680s, so I've only been able to trace a few lines in Europe.
Q: What did you study during your time at George Washington University in the ‘50s?
A: I majored in Business and Public Administration, which totally bored me, but pleased my parents. I would have been far happier studying history, literature, and theology, all the things that stir my soul even today.
Q: You've lived in big cities and in small towns. Which do you prefer?
A: True, I spent the first 21 years of my life in Washington, D.C. and more than a half century in small, mid-western towns, and now I'm living in St. Louis. I always like where I am. I loved growing up in Anacostia in southeast Washington, but I also enjoyed my years in Columbia, Rolla, and Jefferson City. I still have the family farm in Rolla when I want a more relaxed pace.
Q: What would you order for your last meal?
A: Since it wouldn't need to be healthy, I'd go for something chocolate, preferably ice cream.
Q: What do you enjoy reading?
A: I read for information most often, so it's usually non-fiction. The books on my night table are biographies and motivational writings. Occasionally, when I travel I'll treat myself to a novel and wonder why I don't more often.
Q: Besides books where do you get your information?
A: I get most of my information on line: the Huffington Post for national news and views and local blogs to keep up with the Missouri political scene. I still enjoy an evening with the New Yorker in my hand, rather than on my Kindle, which I use for travel. I usually watch three network news shows each evening on television—though I often doze off before it's over.
Q: What was the most memorable gift you've received?
A: It would have to be the full-size, antique farm windmill (in multiple pieces) that my kids gave me for Christmas one year. I can see it turning from my kitchen window at the farm.
Q: You've met a lot of public figures over the years, is there anyone that stands out?
A: The Dalai Lama was a fascinating figure with a great sense of wonder, who seemed to take pleasure in all things great and small.
Q: Do you have a favorite ethnic cuisine?
A: Definitely, Vietnamese. It's light and healthy. I also love a spicy Indian korma.
Q: Do you enjoy cooking? You didn't mention it earlier as one of your favorite pastimes.
A: That was an oversight. I do enjoy trying new dishes and cooking for friends at the farm. I learned the basics of Southern cooking from my mother and now I'm learning new, healthier cooking habits from my daughter. Even so, I still miss a good lard-based pie crust.
Q: Do you have a set time and place for writing?
A: I try. But I have an impish muse that attacks me at improbable moments much like Cato did Inspector Clouseau in those Peter Sellers' films. I have urges to write on the beach, when I'm wearing a floppy hat and my body is slacked in oil and my crevices filled with grit. Words bubble up when I'm in the checkout line at the grocery store or slogging along on my treadmill. I've learned to carry a pad and pencil with me.