Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Southern" vs. "Mainstream"

In his article, "Carrying America's Shadow," David Payne makes an interesting point...why is it that successful Southern writers, such as Lee Smith, don't seem to have the same fame and readership north of Washington, D.C. ? It's something worth thinking about...does the "regionalism" that distinguishes Southern writers and helps set us apart as something special also hinder us? As Payne points out, you don't often hear about "Northern" writers--they're called, instead, "national" writers.

The second half of Payne's article gets a bit labored, in my opinion, veering into racial stereotypes of "rednecks," etc... and isn't as well argued as the first half.

I think he makes a good point, though, that writers who've distanced themselves from the South seem to have done better nationally than writers who've focused on and celebrated their "regionalism." But is it worth it?

"Cormac McCarthy, after setting several novels in his childhood home of Knoxville, left the South, literally and figuratively, and gained attention writing about the West. Anne Tyler, though a Southerner, writes of a Baltimore with little native inflection. Barbara Kingsolver, who grew up in Kentucky, wrote for years of the Southwest, and then of Africa, and only late into the game, and from the vantage of success, returned to her Appalachian roots."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Virginia Festival of the Book

Here's another book festival...this time in Charlottesville, VA. Walter Mosley (not a Southerner but a pretty big name in crime fiction) will be the headliner. Wish I could go to this. Maybe the next one...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Affrilachian arts and culture...

There is a great article in Blue Ridge Country magazine by poet Frank X. Walker, a writer in residence at Northern Kentucky University. Walker helped start the Affrilachian Poets group and talks about how people tend to forget that ethnicities other than "white" exist in the Appalachian region, groups of people who have influenced music, literature, and national and Appalachian culture for generations. Nina Simone came from Tryon, North Carolina, for example. Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and spent summers there with her grandparents.

Walker is also the editor of Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, now on its second issue. Pluck! has a fresh, modern look and is full of interesting essays and dynamic poetry that is enjoyable to read--not a chore! It covers the Appalachian region from Mississippi to New York.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SIBA Book Awards

Each year, hundreds of booksellers around the South vote on their favorite books. Whether you agree with them or not, looking at the list of nominations is a good way to find out about Southern authors. Here's a few from SIBA's fiction list for 2008:

Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers
Cataloochee by Wayne Caldwell
Down River by John Hart
Effigies by Mary Anna Evans
One Fell Swoop by Virginia Boyd
Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig
The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish by Elise Blackwell
Thistle & Twigg by Mary Saums
Women of Magdalene by Rosemary Poole-Carter
Work Shirts for Madmen by George Singleton

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Low-Residency MFAs...

Every so often, we'll be highlighting MFA creative writing programs across the South. I wanted to mention a couple of low residency MFA programs, since I know a lot of people would love to go back to school, if only they could keep working, or if the college was a bit closer...

Murry State University in Kentucky requires four 10-day residencies at the university. The rest of the hours can be obtained through distance learning -- submitting work to a mentor through email or snail mail -- and you can transfer (with approval) up to 9 literature hours from another grad. school, so it's not a bad plan... In-state prices ($3887 per semester) also apply to residents of many nearby counties in Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana. And residents throughout the states of Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana benefit from Regional Tuition, which is below the usual MSU out-of-state rates.

Being from NC, I'd always heard of Warren Wilson, but I didn't realize that Queens University of Charlotte also has a low-residency MFA in creative writing. This program requires five 7-day residencies, and in the periods between residencies students complete online workshops with three or four other students and a faculty mentor for that semester. It's pricier than a state college at $5400 a semester (with a $1200 charge for the fifth graduating residency) but comparable to out-of-state prices...and still cheaper than Warren Wilson!