She lives alone in the red-brick house in which she grew up, and cherishes neighbors who know when—and when not—to visit. "People in Jackson are just wonderful to me," says Welty, 71. "When I'm working on something, they don't come knocking on my door." Never married, she says that a perfect day for her would begin with an unseen hand pouring her a cup of coffee. Instead of blocking out mandatory writing time, she works only when she has conceived a specific story. She stops for the day leaving unwritten what she knows will be her next sentence. "It's the starter for the next morning," she explains, "like the yeast for a piece of bread."
Once she wanted to be a photographer and watercolorist. The visual sense remains: "I don't think I could begin a story if I could not summon up a scene. I am fascinated by place. I feel it has so much to tell you." Although Welty frequently wanders from Mississippi in her life and work, she would not live elsewhere. "When I travel, it's because I don't know a place very well and I go to see what they do that's different," she explains. "But you go back home for your material."