Marvin V. Arnett

Marvin V. Arnett
Pieces from the Crazy Quilt

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
March 2002

1. Who is Marvin V. Arnett?

I am the second daughter, and middle child, of William and Grace Sprague.

I am the proud mother of three, grandmother of four, great grandmother of five, and great-great-grandmother of one. I currently serve on the Board of Friends of the Southfield Library, and enjoy reading jazz, book clubs, and volunteering time to service organizations.

I have traveled extensively. A partial list of my travels includes; West Africa, South Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Japan China, Alaska, Thailand, England, France, Switzerland, Nicaragua, Holland, Kuwait, etc. I have visited the slave dungeons at Cape Coast; Ghana, the Taj Mahal at Agra; India, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and the Coliseum in Greece.

I am deeply inspired by people who persevere, who keeping moving onward and upward, come what may.

2. What inspired you to write “Pieces from the Crazy Quilt”?

In my reading I became aware that, while much has been written about the racism experienced by African-American living in the South, little has been written about the racism experienced by those lining in the urban North. Since I have lived that urban life up close and personal, I felt an urgent need to leave a record of my childhood experiences for my family and for children yet unborn.

3. Why did you choose to name your character Melvin instead of Marvin?

When I began to write “Pieces” I found myself with severe writer’s block. My mentor suggested that perhaps I was too self-conscious to write, truthfully, using my own name and recommended that I use a pseudonym and see if that would unblock my creative juices. I chose the name Melvin because it is the name of my oldest grandson. The strategy worked, and the thoughts and words flowed.

4. Why did you choose the last name “Sprague” for Melvin?

My maiden name is “Sprague.”

5. Why did you choose to end your book with the Detroit race riot?

I ended my memoir with the Detroit Race Riot because the riot was a pivotal point of change for all those living in the Detroit Metropolitan area. It forced the administrative to develop a multi-racial plan to improve race relations within the city. For a short period of time there was a window of opportunity to improve the lives of everyone. Although it did not result in the utopia predicted, it did improve the lot of Negroes living within the Detroit Metropolitan area over an extended period of time.

6. How long have you been writing?

On and off for years. I was what I term a closet writer. I would write essays and hide them in my dresser drawer. In 1996, retired and bored, I signed up for a senior citizen scholarship at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The first class I took was a creative writing class. I wrote several essays, and my instructor suggested that I submit them to the University creative writing magazine, and both were accepted and published. Simultaneously, I submitted an essay describing a trip to Ghana to the Sunday Magazine section of the local newspaper. It, too, was accepted and published. This success encouraged me to act on my instructor’s suggestion that I write and publish a collection of essays—a memoir of my childhood growing up in Detroit during the Great Depression, World War II, and the infamous race riot of 1943. That is how “Pieces from the Crazy Quilt” was born.

I shopped “Pieces” around, and received 97 reject letters. Finally I decided to self-publish. A copy fell into the hands of a professor from Michigan State University. He contacted me and urged me to send a copy to the senior editor at University of Nebraska Press. The result was a two-book contract with the university press. An updated, hard cover version, of “Pieces” is tentatively scheduled for release in the spring of 2003.

7. Explain the atmosphere you require to write.

I can, and do, write anywhere. I have worked on a piece while sitting on a bench at a jazz festival, during hospitality hour after church services, at the kitchen table; and my favorite spot, at my computer situated in a converted bedroom/office. I go inside, to the core of my being, and nothing can disturb me until I decide to return to my external surroundings.

8. How long did it take you to write “Pieces from the Crazy Quilt”?

Approximately two years. I would have completed it sooner, but I kept stopping and starting. It probably would never have been completed but for the persistence of my writing professor at U of M. He literally hounded me until I had no choice but to complete it.

9. Will there be a sequel to “Pieces from the Crazy Quilt?

The jury is still out on that question. Numerous readers have contacted me, urging that I write a sequel. They are anxious to learn what happened to their favorite character(s). If I do write a sequel, it will be in a slightly different format, which I would like to keep to myself for the time being. I promise there will definitely be further works from this author, God Willing!

10. From: Marvin V. Arnett To: The Literary World

Finally, I thank Literary World for its kind words and interest in my book. You are a blessing to this seasoned seniors’ writing career. Although I promise to keep your readers informed as to progress and firm availability date of the updated version of “Piece from the Crazy Quilt, there are still a few copies of the self-published version available from some of the on-line bookstores. I have been told that this version is fast becoming a collector’s item as production of it has been suspended to clear the way for a publicity blitz for the new version. In the new version, everything comes full circle, as the protagonist will be the author, Marvin Sprague.

God bless, and see you on Oprah!

11. What message would you like readers to receive from reading “Pieces from the Crazy Quilt?

In a review posted on, the reviewer answers this question as follows: “In addition to the drama, Arnett has created, or perhaps re-created, a diverse cast of characters, some to be respected and others to be despised. However, through all the drama and through all the characters, important life lessons are learned. If there is any message that stands out in my mind after reading this book, it is that all experiences, good or bad, are opportunities to learn and grow.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I invite your readers to read the entire interview at