Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cries from a Cultural Wasteland

Huddled at my tiny round table in a dim corner of the coffee house, sipping my caramel milk tea (non-dairy of course), I grasp at the few shadows of civilized life and dream of flesh-and-blood writer contact. Yes, after a quick search on the SCBWI roster, I found exactly one (1) writer who lives within a 20-mile radius of this little cesspool. Surely there are a few more out there, hiding among the palmetto bugs (aka giant cockroaches), lizards, and title pawn shops.

Two years ago, when we first knew a move was in the offing, I dared to think of it as a new adventure, a chance to stretch a little more and maybe even afford a little more house or settle near the ocean. If truth be told, I got my wish, though not exactly the way I had envisioned it. It certainly has been an adventure...something like those pioneer stories we read in grade school.  No, there are no savage indians or blood-thirsty bandits threatening our wagon train, but to put it bluntly, we have rolled into a fearsome wilderness.  A vast cultural wasteland where the nearest thing to civilization (besides the college) is a Books-a-Million in the mall and this little slice of heaven called Elements.  What's a writer to do?

Observe.  Listen.  Sketch.  That's it.  I'm soaking in the atmosphere and the characters and the cadence of life down here in the South.  Spanish moss dripping from the trees, pine straw swaddling the shrubs and flowers that decorate even the mienest of bungalows, ladies in brimmed hats sipping sweet tee while they swat away a hoard of psychotic gnats.  And the festivals...yes, festivals of all kinds—The Peanut Festival, The Gnat Festival, the Fleagrass Festival, The Mayhaw Festival, The Dogwood Festival, The Rattlesnake Roundup.  You get the idea.  I love festivals!  But you have to admit, they do things a little differently in the deep South.  That can be a real boon for a writer.  Right?

Three hours away, Atlanta offers a more cultured escape.  But in this economy, even a quick jaunt up to civilization is a rare treat.  So, I'm putting it out there:  a call to writers—kidlit/YA people in particular, who live anywhere near Albany, Georgia—support group for lonely, deprived writers who need a little encouragement and a dose of literary conversation.  I have posted a note on SCBWI and on the Blue Boards, but so far I've discovered that the SW Georgia is not exactly a mecca for artistic personalities. I'm not a big one for critique groups, so I'm not focusing on that aspect of things.  This is truly meant to be a hopeful gathering of writers to share experiences, vent frustrations, and perhaps share a little low-pressure critique from time to time.  Maybe I'll make a silk purse from a sow's ear after all...or maybe I'll just press on into the wilderness.

For now, I'll go back to my luscious caramel milk tea in my dark little corner of the coffee house and wait for that familiar whinny that announces new mail.  


  1. Okay, I realize that the New Yorker and Disney have given me the smack-down...but I'm weird, artistic AND a writer! In your zip code! Of course, until school starts, I'm limited to infected jaunts to Wilder's World and McD's Playland. But by mid-August, I'm free everyday...with no tax!

  2. WOW! I'm glad you stopped by, April. Don't worry about Disney and the New Yorker...we'll commiserate with some decadent coffee drink or something chocolate! I'll be teaching from 10:00-12:00 MWF once school starts, but we'll definitely have some time for a pow-wow. Maybe we can hit Chehaw or the Riverquarium with the kids before school starts!

  3. Wish I lived closer.

    If you press on into the wilderness, take your cell phone. And put me down for a silk cow's ear handkerchief.

    And what is in caramel milk tea. Sweet god it sounds good.

    Oh, and if you realllllly get bored, my site needs funny gust writers...

    theBrad (verla) Nashville

  4. I'm not a writer but feel your pain about life in SWGA. I spent the entire summer fleeing to Atlanta to stay with my in-laws nearly every weekend. I'm almost too sad to function in my new life ("life" being used loosely). I am taking the kids to the aquarium tomorrow if by chance you read this before then. We'd be happy to meet you there. Congratulations on the teaching position!

  5. Thanks, Brad! If you ever make it down to Albany, I'll treat to a caramel milk tea...it's non-dairy, non-soy. Of course non-dairy creamer is probably half plastic! But it's sooooooo gooooood!

    Thanks, Sharon!

    I have an appt. at 10:45. I might give you a call and see how your schedule looks later. I hope your holiday was nice!

  6. I'm sure you'll find people. There are writers everywhere, which is what I found out when I sought a group out.

  7. Yeah, creative life in the south is so hard. Faulkner, O'Connor, and McCullers all must have really struggled in the cutural waste land that is the south.

  8. Faulkner, O'Connor, and McCullers—all brilliant writers who captured all aspects of the South, glorious and inglorious. I certainly don't mean to suggest that the South as a whole is a wasteland. Quite the contrary. However, the tiny corner we landed in, sadly, is heralded as "the armpit of the South" by her own natives. Hoards have fled this town and left behind a corrupt local government that is killing any chance it has of reaching its potential. Go ahead. Attend a town meeting. Reach out to the local writing community and tell me how many answer.

    So I will dive back into "Wise Blood" and savor the South that Flannery O'Connor paints so vividly. Was her experience so vastly different than mine?


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