An Evening with Local Authors: Books Allowed!





Robert Reid Goodson, Director of Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts, has unveiled a lineup of local authors for An Evening with Local Authors

In 2000, after claiming the title of Reading Capital of the World, Tifton hit the national headlines for something as nurturing and inspiring as reading. I was living in Illinois at the time. Imagine my surprise when I turned the channel to CNN and heard Tifton—my hometown—being reported on for reading. Not football. Reading.

I have since discovered we are a reading community, and our local library is the center of it all. In Tifton, we pride ourselves in reading everything from chick flick to fantasy to science fiction to southern fiction to the classics and a great deal more. And poetry: let us never forget poetry.

Goodson aimed for a broad section of authors for this literary event to be held in downtown Tifton. He’s lined up authors of children’s books, Christian fiction, mystery, young adult, poetry, southern fiction, and other genres. Nine authors will be reading, discussing their works, and signing and selling books. I'll be one of them.

Let’s rattle our imaginations Friday night!

Where:  City Hall at the Myon, Tifton, Georgia
When:  Friday evening, March 20, 2015
Time:   7 PM
Admission fee:  $5



Authors:
Kat H. Clayton
Tracey Cox
Beth Hallman
Janie Hopwood
E.M. Knowles
Rebecca Hagan Lee
Raven H. Price
Brenda Sutton Rose
Pamela Williams

What else do I need to know? Light refreshments will be served.


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Moaning with the blues: DOGWOOD BLUES


The Alapaha River flows through DOGWOOD BLUES.


Told through the voices of its eccentric characters, DOGWOOD BLUES depicts life in Dogwood, Georgia, a small town near the soothing waters of the Alapaha River, struggling with change.

When Kevin Kilmer, award-winning New York author with deep roots in Dogwood, purchases a Craftsman in the historic district and moves back to his hometown to write his memoir, he shocks the community with his lifestyle and comes face to face with his past.

As spring blooms with the miracle of new life, Boone Marshall, a farmer and blues pianist, stirs gossip by bringing home a new bride, a nightclub singer from New Orleans, six months after his ex-wife’s suicide.

Every week, the women of the Honeysuckle Bridge Club gather at homes in the historic district to play cards, share gossip, and argue about local issues. Playing bridge has never been more fun. And Nell Sauls, a bridge club member for thirty-five years and a gossipmonger who keeps her nose in everybody’s business, creates gossip and drops it like bird poop all over town.

Dogwood residents draw battle lines over the upcoming liquor referendum, a vote that threatens to turn dry Creek County wet. Tommy Stone, a construction worker from Willacoochee, makes extra money by building unique Vote Yes and Vote No signs for residents to display their views on the issue in their yards.

The Alapaha River holds the novel together with liquid grace and the sound of ancient life. Spanish moss hangs like witch’s hair from the arms of native trees, and spring blooms with the magnificent beauty known only in the South. A new goat is born near the river. Music grows from the soil and from the bleeding heart of Boone Marshall. He plays the piano with a farmer's hands.

Brimming with opinionated and irreverent characters, and told with the mournful sound and rhythm of the blues, DOGWOOD BLUES is a story of betrayal, prejudice, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a love song to southern Georgia, a prayer played out with the blues.
DOGWOOD BLUES sings of the beauty of the southern landscape.




Praise for DOGWOOD BLUES:


This sassy first novel from Brenda Rose captures some of the conflicted and captivating characters of a rapidly changing South. The book poises on a fulcrum between cultures, between those digging in and those racing onward. It would be serious business if it weren't so light-hearted and funny. And like most Southern writers, Rose is obsessed with the mysteries of place -- the landscape comes fully alive beneath her pen. ~~Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, winner of the American Book Award, 2015 inductee into Georgia Writers Hall of Fame

Spring comes to Dogwood with a multitude of heavenly blooms. Much of the story takes place in Dogwood, Georgia and at a cabin on the Alapaha River.
DOGWOOD BLUES by Brenda Sutton Rose is a work of classic small-town fiction, evoking memories of "Cold Sassy Tree," by Olive Ann Burns. At the heart of Rose's fetching story is Lottie's Beauty Shop, where rumors come and go with its good-hearted customers. And then there's Nell, whose 60th birthday unleashes a bitter mood that runs dog-wild throughout the town. ~~Pulitzer Prize nominated Author Janice Daugharty, Writer in Residence at ABAC, in Tifton, Georgia, author of Earl in the Yellow Shirt

DOGWOOD BLUES weaves a tapestry of mysteries that are revealed one by one in a small Georgia town where everyone has at least one secret. Filled with humor and pain, bitterness and redemption, this atmospheric novel offers glimpses of wisdom in unlikely places and invites the reader to choose compassion above all else. ~~Elizabeth Jennings, author of THE BUTTON COLLECTOR

DOGWOOD BLUES is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Later, it will be available on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, numerous local stores, and some B&N stores. It will be available on Nook, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and Diesel. Dogwood Blues is sold at Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at the Country Store. It is also sold at The Cabin Shop and Moon's Pharmacy in Tifton. In Nashville, it can be purchased at Nana's House Quilt Shop.

You may contact me about DOGWOOD BLUES at brendaroseatbellsouthdotnet. When emailing me, please type the address above in the proper email format. It is listed in a manner to avoid Spam.

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Stains


(I wrote this poem about my mother, after her death.)


With red clay between my toes,
and the sun setting over my head,
the ghost of my mother blows in,
riding on a honeysuckle breeze, oh lord,
riding on a honeysuckle breeze.
Her teeth, the keys of a piano.

I play her grinning ivory notes
with cadenced fumbling fingers,
splattered with paint, textured with scars.
A song rises up from the belly of my past
and rocks me in the bosom of buried memories.

My mama’s dress bears the stains of her life:
blueberries, blood, bleach, and breast milk;
She cradles in her arms a lifetime of love and sorrow;
Its brilliance nearly blinds me.

My fingers tire, 
as though I've played this song for years.
The tune swells red, 

dying around the edges of a setting sun.
A magnolia breeze blows in strong, 

a heavenly taxi sent to carry my mother home. 
She will not say goodbye.
For there is no truth in spoken farewells.

I am pregnant with a poem,
my life lost in its stanzas.

My mama steps out of her dress
and drops it, an inheritance falling to my feet.
She stands alone: bathed, blooming,
burdened with nothing of this world.
Her body is naked and beautiful,
her wings gray and scorched,
her brown eyes piercing the brown of mine.

I watch her departure, her flapping wings:
She doesn’t look back, not even once,
not even to whisper my name: Brenda.

I lick the teeth of my piano mouth.

With a painter’s hands,
with a writer’s hands
with rusty wrinkled hands,
with hands soaked in the joys,
the sorrows, the spills
of my mother’s life,
I pick up eighty-one years of stains
And pull her dress over my head.

Her stains look good on me.




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A Poem: Road Trip to Snow







Road Trip to Snow
published by Flycatcher Magazine.


I swear we will never find the place. A right off
Highway 41 South. South, you tell me, nearly 
pleading, softly praying, always south.
We cruise past corduroy fields,
freshly plowed,
grooves, ridges, rows,
pressed, creased,
like brown school pants across a summer landscape. 
And I ask you
when will we arrive.
    Too late, you tell me,
                        too late.

Take a right on this dirt road,
Curling into a day splattered among four colors
and no sign of a mailbox.
By startling the crows
we paint the sky black.
This is the place,
oh God, this is the place.
Look at the birds, you say,
look at the birds.
And
      I look, I stare,
                        I shudder.

I follow your footprints
to the back yard and watch
you peer inside where
a door is torn away
to reveal your childhood.
Floors collapsing, boards rotting:
A room, red as liquid guilt.
A boy, a brother. A father.
A pair of brogans.
A sister (you),
a daughter (you)
crouched,
praying under this starving,
broken porch.You. You. You.
The 1930s turned into the 1940s, you whisper,
    The depression
                        wouldn't let go. It wouldn't let go.

You tell me it snowed one day
and you tasted the miracle of the color white,
a handful, scooped up,
melting like hope in your mouth.
You called for your brother
who pulled himself from the silence of death,
snow dripping from his warm mouth,
a smile lifting his face, and came to
you one final time. He told you,
his little sister, a secret:
Angel's wings melt into snow.
Together, you ate handfuls of the stuff.
You tell me,
             I never tasted snow again.
                     It would never feel as good as it did that day.

Did you feel hope melting icy in your mouth
when I dampened your dying lips?
Did your son's voice cool your fevered flesh?

Did you dream of a snowy day in the 1940s
before you wore gray in your hair, and did you
savor the color white as you drifted away?
These thoughts come
storming at me like falling
angel wings after we
blanket you in the ground.

I brew, knowing the answers will not be found here.

I slide my car into reverse
but I can’t turn around;
                   I am stuck in a snowstorm.


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The Cracks and Chips in My Soul

 

(For Josh Salter)

Look closely.  You will see a trail of footprints
leading deep into the heart of the forest
near the Alapaha River and another set,
a lifetime away from the first,
leading out. 

In search of my soul I travel to the center of sacred life.
I come here where death gives birth to life. 
I come here to examine those things called righteous 
and those things that are right. 
I come here to uncover the difference.
And I come here because this wilderness
welcomes me. 

I come here.

I walk so deep in these woods the southern sun 
loses me under canopies of green, so deep 
my footprints find their own way over moss 
and leaves and rocks, 
though I’ve never walked this side of the river before.

I bow down in this place where wild creatures inhale my scent, 
where a deer stares at me through haunted eyes.
Will these lovely ghosts, these angels of nature, capture me? 
Will they lay me down in a nest in a mason jar, 
a jar dropped carelessly by a hunter?
And will these beings study the cracks and chips in my soul? 

I come searching for what the wind and the water 
and the soil already know. 
If these creatures dig through my soul I hope 
they uncover something good enough to keep.

I hope they find something good enough to keep.

You may ask what’s so damned important about my study 
of righteous and right. 
Why do I soak myself in questions and come here to wring 
out the answers? 
I tell you this:the urgency of this calling has left 
its footprints soggy across the banks of my heart. 
These thoughts are mine, so I will remain in this sanctuary 
where trees breathe and whisper; I take haven here 
to gather my own truth. For my truth is surely
different from yours, and yours different
from mine; and here, where this sacred soil 
inhales and exhales, these ghostly creatures,
these dancing leaves, these heavenly things hold answers.

These heavenly things hold answers.

Three squirrels watch in silence;
a bird sweeps from tree to tree; 
a snake slithers near the trunk of a pine,
not two feet from where I sit cross-legged 
and worn and determined, my heart swollen 
with unspoken dreams
unanswered questions
undeniable love.
This place is a heaven of its own;
Everybody should fall in love once.

Everybody should fall in love at least once.

Did I pluck the delicate wings from butterflies when I was a child, 
when I was nothing more than an unhatched egg of a person?
I hope not, but I remember catching fireflies 
and bees, holding them captive, prisoners in a fairytale war, 
yet I could not capture their secrets and the countless images of
light and shadow that fell across my face in my childhood.

When the trees in these woods go mute 
and no longer whisper or rustle or dance or weep, 
I crack the egg to separate the white of righteousness 
from the yolk of what is right. 
If I must choose— and I know one day I must— 
I must be strong enough to take up the yolk. 

I must be strong enough to take up the yolk.

I resist the urge to retrace my steps.
It is good to make a different path.



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The Youngs: Eating From the Same Table




Young family eating at the table in 1909.


Descendants of Catherine Young meet for the first time at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture. Approximately 100 descendants and 100 visitors were there for the reunion. It was a packed house.


When Catherine Young’s 11th child, Jesse, was six months old, her husband, Andrew Jesse Young, died of tuberculosis. The year was either late 1907 or early1908.

Catherine dreams were to provide for and feed her children. She held on to those starving aspirations until April 1909, three months after a social reformer named Lewis Hine snapped a photo of her with her children, when she delivered the seven youngest children to the South Georgia Methodist Orphan Home in Macon, Georgia, 100 miles from Tifton, 100 miles from Tift Cotton Mill, 100 miles from the duplex at the mill village she called home.

Imagine what the scene might be the night before Catherine Young gave her children away. She and several children walk home from the mill, tired, dirty, and hungry after working all day. Seaborn, Elizabeth, and Jesse rush to her as she approaches, and they hang onto her skirt. She reaches down and picks up Baby Jesse and takes Elizabeth by the hand. With Seaborn behind her, she lumbers slowly up the steps and inside. Outside, smoke from the towering smokestack rises and spreads ghostly over the village.

Catherine Young and nine of her eleven children. Three months after this photo was taken at Tift Cotton Mill village, she gave the seven youngest children up for adoption. Several of the children had been working in the mill to help support the family. The photo was taken by Lewis Hine. Joe Manning spent years searching for the identities of the children in the photo. The descendants gathered Saturday at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture in Tifton, Georgia. Joe and Carol Manning were there for the reunion. The children from left are: Mell, Matty, Mary, Alex, Eddie Lou, Elzy, Seaborn, Elizabeth, Jesse. All but Mell and Matty, the oldest children in this photo, were taken to the orphanage.

Has she, in preparation for the event, put aside enough money to afford to prepare a delicious last supper? Turnips and collards would still be available in southern Georgia in April. Perhaps she has some sweet potatoes and has been able to purchase a chicken to fry. 

Or maybe she has nothing and can't feed her children a decent meal the last night they spend together. Love doesn’t cost money, though—not like food for a huge family of hungry children— and I believe Catherine Young’s heart is filled with love, yet tortured this night. I believe she is starved of hope, afraid and anguished, after a cold winter with not enough food, not enough heat, and not enough money to purchase clothes for the growing children.

In Tifton and throughout southern Georgia, dogwoods are blooming, shimmering gracefully on layered branches. Pecan and oak trees put out new leaves, and birds build nests on branches, and in bushes and shrubs. Spring, the season of new life, new growth, has tiptoed into the mill village. It is 10 days after Easter and in the morning Catherine Young will leave her children behind at the orphanage. I like to believe she hopes to give them new life. After all, it is the season of resurrection.

Perhaps she sings to the smallest ones and holds them overflowing from her arms when darkness wraps around their duplex on April 21, 1909. Does she dare sleep at all and close her eyes to her babies? I suspect she holds them as long as she can, and as they sleep she inhales, one last time, the scent of their hair, kisses their cheeks, and listens to them breathe. Perhaps delivering her children to the orphanage is the highest act of love Catherine will ever perform. Perhaps.

Eddie Lou Young is on the right. She is Dr. Earl Parker's mother. He never knew until Joe Manning contacted him that his mother ever worked at Tift Cotton Mill as a child.

We will never know for certain the events of that night or the following days. We will never know her heart, the extent of her pain and how scarred the erosion of poverty and her final sacrifice would leave her. I wonder if she boarded a train to Macon early the next morning with her children. Or did an agent from the county escort them to the orphanage? She certainly would not have been able to afford the train fare for seven children and herself. Help had to have come from somewhere. Catherine's story and the stories of her children are scattered throughout with the word "perhaps".

Descendants of Catherine and Jesse Young came together Saturday at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture, many meeting for the first time, 105 years after their family was torn apart. One handsome young man said in awe, to nobody in particular, “We are eating from the same table,” as he chose a few treats from a spread of desserts. He said it as a person who had never met the family members crowding around him and certainly had never shared a table of food with them.

We are eating from the same table.”

Because of the perseverance of historian Joe Manning, who was determined to discover the identity of the children in a Hine photo taken in January 1909, approximately 100 Young family members joined for the first time Saturday to laugh, share family stories, and examine each other for familiar traits and expressions. They ate from the same table for the first time since April of 1909 when Catherine and her children shared their last meal together as a family. 

Mr. Manning and many of Catherine's descendants were brought to tears again and again at the reunion. I witnessed a happy and forgiving family, a beautiful family, a family overflowing with love and reaching out with open arms.
Mr. Manning meets Dr. Parker, son of Eddie Lou, the dark haired beauty in the photo of the two girls at the cotton mill.

Joe and Carol Manning in front of the smokestack at the abandoned mill.


So how do we thank Joe Manning who spent years digging through the Young soil, searching through a family’s roots, when "thank you" amounts to merely 8 letters of the alphabet, 2 syllables, 2 spoken words? He would tell us the reunion isn’t about him at all and he wants no thanks. He would tell us it is all about the children standing in bare feet beside their mother in January of 1909 at Tift Cotton Mill village. He would tell us it is about family.

“We are eating from the same table.”


When it became evident there would be standing room only, the partitions were opened and another 100 chairs added to the 100 that had already been reserved for the event.

Published 3/16/14
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