Thursday, April 5, 2012

Images from Keowee Valley

Lee Falls, in the Sumter National Forest

My final (I hope) edits for Keowee Valley have been sent back to my editor, who's in the process of going through the novel for small errors and discrepancies. Then it goes to the copyeditor, and then on to the publisher, and then back to me. This summer, I'll be collaborating (though the publisher, of course, has the final say) on cover art. It's a fascinating process, and I continue to be thrilled by it. I can't imagine that this--seeing my novel come to life--would ever get old.

Since Keowee Valley is such a place-based novel, and in my heart I am very much a Southern writer (and we're obsessed with place) I thought I'd add another page to my website, dealing with images from the novel. Here, I've included photos of places and things important to the story. And while the places in the photos may not look exactly as they did 244 years ago, I hope it'll give readers a sense of the journey my protagonist, Quinn, took--into a gorgeous, dangerous, and wild new land.

The setting of Keowee Valley certainly inspired the story. Though the novel moves from colonial Charleston, South Carolina, into the South and North Carolina mountain frontier, and into the deepest reaches of the Cherokee country (present-day Tennessee) and back, the main setting of the novel is a place I dearly love: Oconee County, South Carolina. Today, this part of the Upcountry of South Carolina is dotted with recreational lakes, which were incredibly gorgeous and biodiversely rich river valleys and natural gorges flooded in the mid-twentieth century.

It's a land I've been fascinated with since I was a small child, filled with Cherokee place names, rushing rivers and creeks, unusual plants and animals, and those haunting blue mountains--and I always wondered about the powerful and mysterious people who claimed it as home, long before I ever got there. So, in many ways, that's where the story started.

I hope the images add something special to the "About the Book" page of my author web site. And I hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Searching for Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman. My hero (ine).

I have been not-so-secretly obsessed with Wonder Woman since I was four years old, when I got to be her for Halloween. It remains my favorite of many wildly creative Halloween costumes (man, my Mom could sew), and included red rainboots, stars-and-stripes Underoos, and aluminum foil magic bracelets. I felt powerful. At four years old. I never wanted to take it off.

It didn't matter that I was a tiny towhead better suited for a Heidi costume: Wonder Woman was my girl. I loved her.

Wonder Woman has followed me throughout my life, and once lived on a huge poster on the screened-in porch of a cabin in the North Carolina mountains that I shared with six other 20s-ish women. We were outdoor educators (basically a fancy way of saying camp counselors and trip leaders), most just out of college, working through the Fall and early Winter on group programs for middle and high schoolers--in hiking, biking, team-building, paddling, climbing, you name it. The cabin wasn't insulated (in fact, the windows were covered with screens, which is interesting in October in the mountains), and we slept in our sleeping bags in a row of bunkbeds, tobaggons on our (sometimes wet) heads and double layers of socks on our feet. On the other side of the cabin lived the male counselors, and though they were a bit smellier than we were (only a bit), we were a big, happy family, silly and raucous and entirely invested in working with kids and teenagers and living an outdoor life.

I have to pause a moment. Man, I loved that life.

Okay. So, Wonder Woman. One of my buddies in the cabin stuck the poster up on our screened porch, so we could see it every time we left and entered the cabin. Wonder Woman began to feel like a welcoming committee, after sometimes days of being out with 6th or 7th graders, or high schoolers, trekking through the Appalachian backcountry. I started imaginging that she smiled at me, that she'd give me imaginary high-fives when I'd return sweaty and dirty and happily exhausted.

Today, as a 30s-ish woman, I've got Wonder Woman magnets on my fridge, and a ridiculously cool Wonder Woman mug (I'm actually drinking out of it as I write this). It says, in bold, slanting black letters, that "This Amazon Princess Will Not Bow to Any Man!" Awesome.

I'm even teaching my two year-old daughter to say "WONder WOman!" with the same inflection as the '70s TV show theme song. And if you ask her who her favorite superhero is, she'll tell you, just like that.

I am so proud.

But lately, I find myself reaching for my Wonder Woman mug far more often (I used to just drink from her on Friday mornings, when I was feeling especially sassy). I need her magic bracelets, her gold headband, and certainly her invisible plane, now more than ever.

Every modern woman, I think, attempts to be Wonder Woman. Most of us have jobs, families, avocations, homes, and some of us have kids. Though the balancing act of being a modern woman has become a sort of cliche, especially in modern media, we're juggling all these aspects of our lives like a Ringling Brothers' clown riding a unicycle center stage and tossing up tomatoes. The spotlights are blaring and hot, and beyond the ring of light the bleachers are filled with the faces of our family members and friends. We don't want to drop anything.

I don't have a solution for this. If I did I'd sell it on t-shirts. At the moment I'm caught up in my own wonderful but bone-tiring roles of writer, teacher, mother, wife, student--and I don't feel that I'm doing anything well.

And so, for the thousandth time in my life--including senior year of college, when in order to graduate, I desperately needed to pass a math test that looked like hieroglyphics; or, for that matter, when I was in labor with my daughter for 20 hours--I am calling on Wonder Woman. I need her back in my life, go-go boots, booty shorts, bustier and all.

Because she's my favorite superhero. Because she deflects bullets with her wrists. Because, I think, she gets me.