Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Santa,

I've been good, so far, for the most part. Okay, I've tried very hard to be as well behaved as can possibly be expected. At least, no one can call me out for being a Scrooge this year. Not one time have I said, "I hate Christmas." I certainly have not said it out loud. I know I have a week to go, but the tree is up, the Toys for Tots box is ready, and cookie dough awaits. My intention was to make a list of great gift ideas for the book-lovers in our lives, but I hope you'll forgive this somewhat selfish, slightly Scroogey blog. I'm tired of shopping and what's more, I'm tired of shopping for other people. When I walk into a bookstore or peruse the Press53 website, I have to admit, I'm thinking of no one but myself. So here's my Christmas list (or Hanukkah requests, or Kwanzaa wishes, or Solstice solicitations):

1. THE ROAD TO DEVOTION by Cameron Kent

Mr. Kent, for those of you who haven't read WHEN THE RAVENS DIE, is a great storyteller. I'm incredibly excited about his new book. Pre-Civil war Winston, morality disputes, a strong female protagonist engaged in romance with a French merchant, --it all sounds so unscrupulous and torrid and brave. I could definitely see myself holed up for a day or two at the mercy of this story.

I LOVE to read, but anyone who knows me knows I love a big glass of red wine almost as much. Or white wine. And if we're going to have a glass we might as well bring the bottle. I've spent more than may fair share of time with fermentation tanks, certainly more than my fair share of time with winemakers. They are the stuff of great poetry. One can get lost quite easily in musings and metaphors when it comes to the journey from grape to glass. Joseph Mills, as author of a guide to North Carolina wineries, has a personal relationship with the industry I can sympathize with. I'm anxious to read what this poet can do with such prolific inspiration. Perhaps it can be packaged with a case of my favorite selections of wine--you know I love a theme...

3. LAST ONE HOME by John Ehle

Okay, this one is already on my bedside table, so I guess what I am asking for is TIME to read it. I have a crush on John Ehle. I'm kind of glad he doesn't do book signings very often, because I'd be torn between wanting to meet one of the greatest living American wordsmiths and my embarrassing blush as I desperately avoid looking him directly in the eye. I haven't picked up LAST ONE HOME yet because I know, not only will I get completely lost in it, neglecting my children, but his books haunt my thoughts. I find myself thinking of THE LAND BREAKERS all the time and I read that, had to be, two years ago! I've been trying to screw the courage to write a blog on MOVE OVER, MOUNTAIN since I started this little venture, but I'm too intimidated.

I have adopted a coping mechanism this holiday season. Whenever I'm feeling stressed, whenever the spirit starts to get the better of me, I sing "Deck the Halls with boughs of holly! Fa la la la la! La la la la!" It totally works! I can't wait to witness its effects when my mother-in-law visits! The other day I was volunteering in my daughter's class, helping the kids finish snowman hand print ornaments. When I left the teacher asked, "Why are all the children singing Deck the Halls?" I had to smile.

From me and mine to you and yours, Merry Merry Christmas--or Many Happy Returns of the Holiday Season or Bah Humbug (for those of you who work retail)! I'll see you as soon as the effects of New Year's Eve wear away!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"We Gather Together...."

I don't like to toot my horn (humph, who am I kidding?), but I was in fact a charter member of the Winston-Salem Girls' Chorus. Some Fall between 1986 and 1989 (those were the start of some hazy years), 5 pre-teen girls and I attempted to harmonize under what must have been the infinite patience of a long-forgotten director. Our first, and I think our last, public performance took place on the eve of Thanksgiving at Meadowbrook Acres, a local convalescent center for the elderly and infirm. As we raised our meager voices in song, the only members of the audience smiling were those who had enough foresight to turn off their hearing aids.

Despite this, Thanksgiving is and has always been my favorite holiday. Before we creep close to bankruptcy, before we pop an extra Xanax to prepare for the encroaching relatives, before the sugar high and over-stimulated children must be reminded "Santa's watching you!" we gather together to ask a blessing and remember why we go to all the trouble in the first place.

Have a stuffed and blessed Thanksgiving, and let me be the first to wish one and all "Bah Humbug!"

PS-- The current Winston-Salem Children's Chorus is a very successful and highly praised ensemble. We all have to start somewhere.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Interview with Linda Annas Ferguson, Poet

Recently nominated by Wild Goose Poetry Review for the 2010 Pushcart Prize for her poem "I Wanted to Hear Her Howl," Linda Annas Ferguson could not be more approachable. Her poetry is honest and perceptive. What a great person (and poet) with whom to jump off the Interview Cliff.

I'm always interested to learn of a poet's process. Do you have certain rituals you follow before you write, like Tibetan singing bowls and 15 minutes of meditation? Do you proceed through your day with a notebook in your pocket, sometimes squatting in the middle of the grocery aisle when inspiration hits you between the seafood display and the chilled white wine?

I don’t own anything as exotic as singing bowls, but I seemed to have developed an intimate relationship with a chair. My writing process is to curl my feet up in it with a fleece blanket. It’s tucked in the corner of a room where I have cultivated a quiet, private place. I use it for writing, reading and meditation, so it feels like somewhat of a sacred space. Even when I get to the editing stage and use the computer, I still go back and forth to my chair. This is the closest I come to a ritual, although I sometimes play music or light candles. In stark contrast, I also begin poems in noisy restaurants or on a park bench, wherever the inspiration strikes, but I usually like to retreat to my chair to finish them.
I definitely have to keep a small pad close at hand. There is one in my purse, one by the bed, and one in the car. I often write tidbits on the margins of the newspaper or on a napkin half-way through lunch. I have a mini-flashlight on my key ring, so I can jot a note during plays and movies. I scribble in the dark at 3:00 a.m. while still half dreaming. It’s often a challenge to read what I wrote the next morning. Being locked away without pen and paper would be the worst torture I could think of for a writer.

You use a lot of different themes in DIRT SANDWICH, religion and family in particular. Is there a particular subject that inspires you more than others?

My work seems to reflect where I am at any particular moment in life. I needed to write the family poems after losing my parents and two brothers to death. The newer poems are still discovering how impermanent we are in this brief life. I also like to muse over our shared imperfections. Humans, like treasured creations of art, become more beautiful and interesting because of their cracks and scratches.

Since I reviewed "How to Forgive," could you expand on your notion of forgiveness as a circular process and the poem's use of punctuation to alter word choice?

Forgiveness was, and still is, an internal growth process for me. At the same time I was struggling with it, I received an invitation to write new poems about the theme of “forgiveness.” I felt humbled and truly unqualified, since I was still working on it myself. It took lots of writing until I came to realize that it wasn’t about the other person I was trying to forgive, but what I was supposed to learn from it all.
If you mean by full circle that it all comes back to you, I think it does. I had to ask myself, “Am I totally innocent of ever needing forgiveness myself in all the choices of my life?” Most of the time, the person we are trying to forgive has already justified everything in his own mind. We are the only one who is miserable, because we can’t forget about feeling “wronged.” The best treatment for me was to send him love in my thoughts. It has a way of changing your perspective.
In the poem, “How to Forgive,” the punctuation was not totally deliberate from the beginning. It began to reveal itself as I worked on line breaks. I like how poetry makes the work feel effortless now and then. In this case, I can’t say I deliberately planned this or that. I was fascinated at how the poem unfolded as well.

Speaking of word choice, several of your poems like "Tower of Babel" and "Genesis" and "The First Word" bring to mind the aesthetic process of word choice. Do you get lost or caught up in words? I guess what I'm asking is do you find, when you write, that the rhythm follows the word or the word fits the rhythm? There's a fluidity where the two elements meet and I'm wondering what means more to you as a poet.

In the early stages of the poem, I try to let the rhythm and word choices flow naturally without a great deal of intention. I am however very conscious of words and rhythm when I am editing. To answer your question about the rhythm following the word or the word fitting the rhythm, I don’t know if there is a separation. As you said, “there is fluidity where the two elements meet.” For me, there is a synergy in poetry that makes words and rhythm end up in each other’s pocket.

I love your title poem. Is Sheila admitting defeat or attempting one last rite towards redemption and reprieve?

In the title poem, as in most poetry, I find it intriguing to discover what different readers take away from the same poem. Some see defeat, some desperation, some courage, some hope. Once I have released the poem through publication, it doesn’t seem to belong to me anymore.
Most often, I don’t approach the poem with intention. I would rather it be what it wants to be, as complex (or as simple) in meaning as we are as individuals. This poem sees life as “a glass half full,” as well as “upside down in a cherry tree.” We are all that at different times and at the same time. Perhaps we identify with this poem because most of us feel defeated and desperate at times. We are all looking for consolation from something beyond us.

What do you learn from poetry, from the process of writing it?

Wow! What a good question. I learn every day from reading other’s poetry. That is probably one of the reasons I want to write. If I thought just one of my poems could offer an inkling of what I have gained from reading other’s work, it would have all been worth the effort.
When I first began writing, it was a cathartic process in some ways, but also energizing and liberating. We all probably learn something different in the writing process. If you ask me a different day, I might tell you something new, but what I learn most is that I am never through learning. I can read words written two hundred or two thousand years ago and maybe one day will pass them along to my grandchildren. Language is an amazing living thing.

Read Linda Annas Ferguson's impressive accolades and pick up a copy of DIRT SANDWICH on her page at, and check out her website at

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I didn't get a damn thing done today. I picked up THE CRAZY GARDEN sometime between getting the baby down for a nap and my intent to fix a turkey sandwich. Wound up skipping lunch and never put down the book. What an engrossing story. Only a great writer could take something as maddening as a family jaunt through the tourist traps of Vienna and make it compelling and true.

The characters are typically American, at once complex and archetypal. Every member of the family seems reined into orbit around the mother like trained horses. Poor 16 year old Sophy! To be so miserable that strangers seek out schemes to help you escape your self-obsessed, schedule controlling mother. There is a comic relief to her mother's hyperbolic manipulation, her ignorant mispronunciations and her misplaced elitism. I love the way Sophy's father's passive resignation forewarns us to Sophy's own withering at the hands of her mother's disregard.

Great line: "She had always, rather confusedly, associated truth with freedom...More and more, truth felt like a set of walls around her, pressing in close." E.A. Bagby offers a truthful story, as a young woman discovers her own conflicted desires and the complexities of her place in this world. The hardest lesson we learn may very well be that truth has consequence. It's not a simple central theme, and Bagby does Sophy justice by it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Post-Halloween Blues

Ahh..the holiday season...the sweet aroma of candy and pumpkin muffins, the cut-out, glittered bats covering the kitchen table, the glow-in-the-dark skeleton toothlessly grinning on the front door. You know you're getting a little carried away when the people at the pumpkin patch are overwhelmed at the number of pumpkins you purchase.
If only there were a holiday like Old Christmas to alert me to take down the decorations and put away my BOO! coffee mug until next year. It seems I can never bear to part with my witch, however. She holds sentry year-round on top of the china cabinet with her plate switched arbitrarily from "In" to "Out" just to keep everybody on their toes. But the sugar buzz has left the children shaky and the rain and slugs have wilted the jack o'lanterns, so it must be time to move on.
Look for more reviews within the week AND an interview (!!!!) with poet Linda Annas Ferguson.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

SURREAL SOUTH edited by Laura and Pinkney Benedict

SURREAL SOUTH is everything I love about being Southern. There's an inherited creepiness in the grotesque beauty, the strange motivations, and the dogs, because be honest, we're strange over our dogs. There are a lot of details to draw a reader to crack the binding of SURREAL SOUTH: the creepy little girl and the circling murder of crows on the cover, Rodney Jones' quote on the back, "Our Southern reality hatched as surrealism," and the editor's names, Laura and Pinkney Benedict. Not to be prejudicial, but don't you know a man with a name like Pinkney Benedict must know a good story? Just like you know a Daughtry is a politician or a Ruby can make a pie.

There are a lot of stories and poems in here one could pass out as treats to the tricksters. Right off the bat, the reader takes the side of a murderer in the opening tale, Daniel Woodrell's "The Echo of Neighborly Bones." Laura Benedict sneaks up from behind with unhinged madness in "Witches, All." I think I once waited tables with the Wonder Bread truck driving come elephant wrangling magician in Jon Tribble's poem, "Cactus Vic and His Marvelous Magical Elephant."

Press 53 is publishing a second edition of SURREAL SOUTH, again edited by Laura and Pinkney Benedict, to be released in early November. Just in time to build a fire, pour a big glass of red, and read aloud.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"How to Forgive" DIRT SANDWICH Linda Annas Ferguson

In honor of the first day of this spooky month, we're going to do something really scary--we're going to tackle a poem! I am usually only of a poetic mind when I'm pregnant. Lately I'm leaning toward adopting a puppy over having another baby, so I'll do my best to put my prosaic mind aside.

How to Forgive

Take a sip of wine,
let it worry your mouth.
Open up the dirty window.
When moonlight is weeping
on the lawn, scatter crackers
and bread crumbs, scream,
throw stones at the stars.

Imagine another love.

Throw stones at the stars,
and bread crumbs. Scream
on the lawn, scatter crackers.
When moonlight is weeping,
open up the dirty window.
Let it worry your mouth,
take a sip of wine.

Forgiveness. If ever there were a word worthy of poetry it is forgiveness. Not only a theme, but an emotion, a state of being, a point of reckoning and ruin. We are often libel to do more damage to ourselves in efforts towards reprieve than the original transgressor could ever do.

There is a circular, repetitive method to forgiveness, and the greater the transgression, the longer the round-about to absolution. Linda Annas Ferguson's "How to Forgive" from her collection DIRT SANDWICH recognizes this circular process and takes it as its form. The third stanza repeats the first stanza in reverse, and turns the voice from melancholy to manic and back again. Ferguson's structure brilliantly builds a bridge to theme.

Ferguson uses emotive verbs like "worry" and "open" and "scream", identifying forgiveness as an active state of emotion. The verb "imagine" is the anchor of the second stanza's sole line, implicating the leagues our minds travel upon reflection of the past and, horror above all, the future.

With a comma here, exchanged with a period there, the poem slides from anxiety to anger to an exhausted resolution. There is a methodical, deliberate rhythm in the alliteration of the first stanza's verse "scatter crackers and breadcrumbs, scream..." while the third stanza's period within,"Throw stones at the stars, and bread crumbs. Scream..." leaves the rhythm broken and gives the words new cadence and thus new portent.

Objects and images also transform and play with duality. The image of sipping wine heralds the poem. Wine is an agitator creating anxiety in the first line. The open window of the first stanza sets the voice free and gives us a chance at cathartic expression. The open window of the third stanza invites a cleansing, reflective resolution with the speaker rinsing their worried mouth with wine in the poem's closing line.

"How to Forgive" is a highly successful poem. All the elements are brought together to create the most elusive and critical of poetic desires, heart.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I am always reticent to comment on the military. I am humbled and more than a little intimidated by their sacrifice and commitment. All week I've fretted over the words I would employ to describe Jeffery Hess' anthology. Who am I to question the motives or character of anyone in service to our country? But I think that's the point of HOME OF THE BRAVE:STORIES IN UNIFORM. I may tear up over Marine commercials and catch my breath at the presentation of the flag before Sunday Night Football, but there's a truth behind the drama; there are real people behind the romantic generalization.

Jeffery Hess has assembled a diverse collection. The stories involve characters and conflicts as varied as the narrative voices. Their is the common theme of military service, but that's the only thing some of these characters have in common. For those civilian readers who think they cannot relate to the intentions and motivations of military characters, Hess proves them wrong. There is not a single story in HOME OF THE BRAVE:STORIES IN UNIFORM I did not enjoy and want to share.

I always get excited when I stumble upon a second person narrator--a brilliant perspective for a military subject. It makes the plot of Amber Dermont's "Assembling the Troops" seem inevitable. It shifts blame from the characters as in Robert O'Connor's heroin addicts in "Buffalo Soldiers--Chapter 1."

Maybe I'm wrong, but I like to think for most affiliated with the armed forces, dedication is at the forefront of their intention to serve our country. Jeffery Hess reveals there is a depth and humanity to sacrifice and duty. Hess recently received a well deserved Gold Medal for Best Anthology by the Military Writers Society of America.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of HOME OF THE BRAVE: STORIES IN UNIFORM are donated to USA Cares, a nonprofit established to provide post-9/11 military families with financial and advocacy support in their time of need.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Note on Procrastination.....

I was always the girl feverishly hacking away on her computer through the wee hours the night before a research paper comes due. I once spent an entire day nursing a newborn infant in one arm while writing a short story with the other. Procrastination is my M.O., though I always pay for this defect of character,(sometimes it's as little as typographical errors, sometimes it's damage to my left breast). Two weeks ago, I kept putting off my blogging commitment, and what did I get? Flash flooding and a loss of internet!

In the interim I have baked batches upon batches of cookies with my rain-trapped kids, cleaned the windows with vinegar water, and, inspired by our recent raging storms and swirling rain, I finally read WUTHERING HEIGHTS (no one ever told me Heathcliff was such a capital A-hole, and don't get me started on that brat, Catherine...). I also finished John Ehle's MOVE OVER MOUNTAIN and HOME OF THE BRAVE edited by Jeffery Hess, (blogs to follow).

So, please, forgive me, Kevin and friends, and have a cookie.

Friday, September 11, 2009

SPRINGTIME ON MARS "Radio Vision" Susan Woodring

Eight years ago today, at about this exact time, I was sitting on my back porch steps drinking a cup of tea, watching the dawn of a beautiful late summer/early fall day, feeling my baby bump against my ribs and do back flips on my bladder. As moments go, it was a good one. A few minutes later I was gripped in hysteria, desperate not to give birth. I suddenly felt so vulnerable and unprotected and irresponsible for bringing a new life into an evil world.

Some could say President Kennedy's assassination shocked a naive nation. It also awoke conspiracy theories of lurking Russians and cloaked Cubans. "Radio Vision" tells the story of one woman's efforts to return to the mundane, the "comforting efficiency" (I love that line), after national tragedy and hysteria.

Susan Woodring engages the reader with insightful parallels. The character Marianne Binger is more relatable to the reader than Jackie Kennedy: same age, same number of children, wife of a public figure, chain smoker. Marianne is also as ambivalent about her community status as a minister's wife as we now know the first lady was. The most telling parallel exists in the tragic interruption of Marianne's everyday chores, like being caught mid-wave in the backseat of a convertible.

Marianne Binger's children are our own oblivious consciousness. They continue on with everyday rebellions while trauma and horror await right under their noses, and they expose the guilt that comes from not knowing. Woodring reminds us in her haunting narrative that life goes on, and we have more to fear in our own homes than from any conspiracy theory or terrorist. For when one asks Marianne's boys where they were when Kennedy was shot, they won't think of the convertible or the mysterious second gunman or even the young son's salute in his blue seersucker suit; they'll think of their mother at the bottom of the stairs.

I would never claim to know a thing about sociology or psychology. I can't expound on economic effect or public consciousness. I only really remember the stories, the personal stories of people who caught a plane at the last minute, barely made it to work on time after the holiday weekend, stopped to get a cup of coffee and got stuck in line long enough to save their lives. And then there are the people who live a thousand miles away from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania who never knew anyone to die that day but hung up their flag all the same, kept the news on for 3 straight weeks, ditched an NFL dream to join the fight. Congressional reports and Oliver Stone movies aside, the personal stories, like Marianne Binger's in "Radio Vision", are the ones I hope to remember.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


In the year and half since we relocated to Atlanta, I have not felt displaced. This city suits me. Like me, Atlanta has no idea what it wants to be or where it wants to go. It meanders around in circles, and eventually I get where I need to be. I think I might have found my town.

At least I thought so, until I read SEARCHING FOR VIRGINIA DARE. Now I find myself downright homesick. My second grader is studying the great state of Georgia, and I have an overwhelming desire to take her to the Outer Banks, show her the Elizabethan Gardens, Tryon Palace, Old Salem. The other day she asked me what Krispy Kreme was! What have I done!?

Perhaps more disturbing is my discovery that she will not learn a thing about Virginia Dare. Virginia Dare does not belong just to North Carolina. She was the first English child born in America, though she was lost to history just a few days after her birth in 1587 when her grandfather, the expedition's governor, left his destitute colonists and family behind to return to England for supplies. Three years later he returned to ransacked, abandoned huts and a cryptic message carved on a tree that still remains a mystery.

Marjorie Hudson chronicles history's attempt to solve the mystery of our first colonists, from Depression era plays, a French sculptress's obsession,an epic poem, and modern archaeological digs to her own quest through the Great Dismal Swamp and into the overlooked world of the Lumbee Tribe. There are libraries devoted to the Lost Colony, but what sets Hudson's effort apart is her connection to the child, Virgina Dare. Hudson opens her heart to the reader, immersing herself in this story as old as our nation. It is difficult not to get swept away with her compassion. She relates her own trials, her own family history, her own maternal desires and brings us closer to those who sacrificed everything to become legend and to the daughter that vanished with them.

Hudson's conclusion is optimistic, but logical. In the same spin it is ironic in that it ties the first Americans to the most displaced Native American tribe, the Lumbees. SEARCHING FOR VIRGINIA DARE lands in your own backyard, where you least expect.

North Carolina is studied by every 4th grade student in the Old North State. My 4th grade teacher was fanatical. We memorized every date, every symbol. We jogged the miles from Murphey to Manteo on the schoolyard track. My education of the Lost Colony, however, cast Virginia Dare as a mere infant, important in statistics only as the first English child. Marjorie Hudson has made Virginia so much more to me. She is our first missing child.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We could all use a little work. Even the most "normal" of us could use a good dose of psycho therapeutic reflection or cognitive behavioral manipulation. Especially the moms. Whether it's the hormones or the sudden overwhelming sense of responsibility and neurosis, I know I've had more than my fair share of nervous breakdowns since I saw that first blue plus sign on a stick.

WOMEN UP ON BLOCKS The title itself conjures a powerful image. Set aside the immediate mental flash of stirrups and invasive annual examination. Look at the cover art (good shoes) because in this case you can judge a book yada yada yada. Like meandering by the tv in lingerie during playoffs, red shoes and good legs propped along a dirty bumper ought to get you noticed. Women in these stories go to extremes to get noticed, allow themselves and others to go to extremes to fix themselves, and extreme things occur to teach them a lesson. The content of the stories are as strong as the imagery. The plots are at once relatable and repellent. After I finished, I felt better about myself as a mother, wife, member of my community in general. Mary Aker's clear, honest voice carries the content. Her insightful, creative images pull the characters and the reader to the other side.

The first story, "Medusa Song," is horrifyingly honest. The story is a warning for those women who allow an emotionally absent, philandering husband and subservient, oppressive life to go too far. The protagonist is at risk to become the villain unless she takes control of her life. Her repression and complacency threaten her children in an almost too creepy Susan Smith kind of way. The conclusion is an allegorical baptism by fire. You're left wondering if you should call social services.

Sometimes the world can miss the point in a good intention, as in Jenny the stripper's crusade for animal rights in "Animo, Anima, Animus." Sometimes the good intentions are warped from the beginning, as in cancer stricken Ima, who martyrs herself for the benefit of the travelling show "Bodyworks" in "Pygmalion, (Recast)." The archetypal good girl gets it all wrong and pins all her dreams on the bad boy in "Wild, Wild Horses." The one character who seems to have the best sense of self in the entire collection is the archetypal bad girl in "Evangeline."

WOMEN UP ON BLOCKS is a collection of contradictions and duelling themes. Just like you never know what a woman is really thinking one moment to the next, you never know what these women are up to one story to the next.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


PARLOUS ANGELS identifies the South by painting a portrait of family and class divides. Anger born in Reconstruction comes of age in textile mill row houses and confronts our fathers' university education. The collection of short stories connect across generations and not-so-random encounters to form close ties of class and family. We are the men we are, the mothers we are because of the people who came before. Their integrity, or lack of it, shapes us in their influence and abandonment. Ed Southern's self righteous aren't always so righteous, his privileged aren't always entitled, and he reveals we could learn a thing or three from those we see as derelict. Southern questions what the generation before sacrificed for what the generation after lost to get ahead.
Ed Southern's style is all about rhythm. Tales of high school basketball, back room poker, and punk show mosh pits are as active and rhythmic as the dialogue in his more sentimental, emotional stories.
PARLOUS ANGELS are timeless stories of the Southern Everyman. That's a heavy thing to say, because the Southern Everyman isn't ever easy to define. There is one constant: conflict, the best component of a good story. Ed Southern has it in spades.
How do YOU define the South? How do you think the guy living two miles or twelve hundred miles away describes the South?
Are we better off than our our grandparents? What defines progress?

"Baptists on the Edge" PARLOUS ANGELS Ed Southern

Men can always talk sports, so says my husband. Seems especially true when you're talking about North Carolininian men and basketball. There is a deep, innate love of the sport, crossing class lines and racial bias. It runs from Tobacco Road like a veinous system up the Blue Ridge and flows seaward into the Cape Fear. Tired of your Wake boyfriend? Show up at Cameron in a dark blue and white clown wig. Want to fire up your Wolfpack daddy? Put your son in a Carolina Tshirt. (Won't do that again...) If you want to depict social unrest and Southern tradition and generational dynamics, you couldn't ask for a better metaphor than basketball.

So goes "Baptists on the Edge." More than any other story in PARLOUS ANGELS, Ed Southern illustrates the unspoken integrity that is passed from father to son and how little the canyon-like split between the haves and shoulda haves matters. In a contentious basketball game between the Paw Creek Baptists and Providence Road, ('nuff said in the team names), a father reflects on a rough game from his youth between the privileged Reynolds High School and his own underdog, Mineral Springs, that quickly erupted into a brawl.

As time often dictates between one generation and the next, the son easily pushes back the Paw Creek Baptists and leads Providence Road to win. The father's lower class upbringing gives him a vantage point in his seat high in the bleachers of privileged Providence Road. He realizes the focus with which his son plays, despite the catcalls of the opposing team's pastor and the taunting of the losing team by his fellow upper class parents, is the legacy that matters. His superiority is measured not by the car he drove to the gym or even by the skills with which his son plays basketball. It's the integrity he passed on to his son. And the greater gift is his son also knows it.

What lessons did your father/mother/coach teach you?
What lessons do you think, not hope, you'll leave to those you influence?

To quote my favorite spider, "SALUTATIONS!"

I have an addiction. Stashed like bottles in closets, between sofa cushions, behind diaper stacks. Piled like pills on bedside tables, under the bed, in the car floorboard is bound dope causing me to ignore fighting children, steaming pots of green beans and stop signs at the end of my sidewalk. And you, all of you, who send Barnes and Noble gift cards, boxes of new releases, and grocery bags of cast-offs, you're enablers. The least I can do, especially for those of you whose books I never return, is give something back.

Edmund Burke tells us, "To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." So here goes, Mr. Burke. Every week or month or so, I'll be rambling on about novels, short stories, the written word in general, anything that delights my literary heart. I hope you enjoy my opinion, but if you don't, please don't tell me. I'm no good with criticism; ask my mother.

My good friend, Kevin Watson, has graciously agreed to let me take a stab at his titles from Press 53. I have to admit I benefit from his judgement. He makes it easy to find great stories. Go to and pick up some books because the only thing better than eating small farm produce is reading small press writers.

Thanks for checking me out! So to speak.