The Real Flannery O’Connor

I’m fostering a little dog named Flannery O’Connor.


She’s a quirky little pup from the mountains on the Virginia-Tennessee border, so the name fits.

I spent an inordinate amount of time creating a YouTube video about Flannery in my effort to get her adopted. (and yet there is a typo….story of my life)

Flannery is not necessarily an easy sell for many reasons, but for even more reasons, she’s an outstanding dog. (Full confession: I’m in love with the little nugget.)

While creating the video, I looked back over some of the writing of Flannery O’Connor and wow, I don’t know if I wasn’t paying attention in my college Lit class, or if somehow her brilliance was lost on me at the time (I was just fulfilling a credit and completely distracted by my first for-real boyfriend).

Revisiting Flannery, I’ve discovered a kindred spirit. So, I thought I’d share some of her especially good writerly advice.

“The writer should never be afraid of staring. There is nothing that does not require his (her) attention.”


Yes. Yes. Yes. Put down those smartphones people! If you’re going to be a writer, you need something to write about. Look around you, there are stories everywhere. You need to fill your reservoir with faces and dialogue and reactions and emotions and oddities. Notice everyone. If they notice you back, just smile. They’ll think you’re nice, not weird.

“The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode.”

Tell your truth. Don’t skirt around it or dress it up. Real art is never fake. If you want your writing to matter, you have to put it all out there on the page, fearlessly and unashamed.

And here’s a great CSA quote:

Write the truest you can about the truth only you know.

Cause, as Flannery says,

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”


Seems more appropriate now than ever, doesn’t it. She writes a lot about truth, here’s another one that I’ve been trying to reconcile all week…

“I preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.”

When you hold that one up against her other thoughts on truth, she emerges as quite the conundrum.

And this one I absolutely love:

“I don’t have my novel outlined, and I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.”


I love that a writer as great as Flannery O’Connor didn’t have her act together either. She took a chance each time she sat down to write. I can’t tell you how many days I open my laptop with no idea what I will write, but once my fingers start moving I discover it.

Which is why I’ve never held any stock in the excuse I-don’t-know-what-to-write-about because I won’t know what truth is begging to be exposed or what story is flitting about looking for a landing spot until I commit it to the page. Just like Flannery.

I’ll leave you with a few more gems:

“When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.”


“Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”


“I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”


And finally, this one makes me chuckle (even as I pay the bill for my college kid to study creative writing):

“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle them enough.”

There’s more, but you should go discover Flannery for yourself!

Lucky for me, I have my own Flannery living right here.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.



If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, You can shop for signed copies of all my books there, too!

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If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And discover my latest release at

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Another Good Dog coverReleased Aug 2018 from Pegasus books:

Find out more about the book, how YOU can help shelter dogs and everything you wanted to know about fostering dogs at!


Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at

3 thoughts on “The Real Flannery O’Connor”

  1. This is the best! “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle them enough.” After 35+ years of teaching composition, I heartily subscribe to this.

    Liked by 1 person

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