Friday, August 30, 2013

Show & Tell Friday: the Labor Day Weekend Edition

Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!

I love this weekend, for many reasons.

1) Because it makes it seem like we've still got a little bit of summer left, even though everyone's back at school and the air has started to take on that undefinable heading-into-Fall quality.

2) Because we always head to my family's lake house in the South Carolina Blue Ridge mountains for some much needed swim, boat, ski (okay, so I may not ski this year, what with having had a baby almost 4 months ago and all) and down time with family and friends.

And 3) because it's the start of football season.
Yes, I am one of those people. I worship at the altar of college football. For me, it's the
Clemson Tigers all the way.
I'm an alumna. It's in my blood, and it's in my family's blood (my great-grandfather was mayor of the town of Clemson for 17+ years). We even named my baby daughter for the Tigers. Really, her middle name is Tiger, and it's my great-grandmother's maiden name--but still. We're diehards, so it works.

Yes, you may not be Clemson fans. Probably aren't. But you may share my love of college football. Or football in general. Or not. But bear with me.

I LOVE college football! I LOVE Fall! I LOVE college football in the Fall! GO TIGERS!!!!
Okay, all done.

Some cool stuff to share today:
1.) A brief history of Labor Day

The U.S. Department of Labor tells it like this: "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." Started by the municipal courts, Labor Day legislation wasn't passed by Congress until June 28, 1884.

Here's what was really happening: at this time in history, the Industrial Revolution, the average worker worked his or her fanny off over extremely long hours and for little pay--we're talking 12 hours a day, 7 days a week just to eke out a living. Children as young as 5 and 6 years old toiled in factories, mills and mines to help bring in money for their families--for a tiny fraction of the wage an adult would earn (which wasn't much to begin with). Can you imagine your elementary-schooler hauling coal in the pitch depths of a mine? I can't. Most workers lacked access to basic good working conditions, like clean air, water, and toilets. The hardest hit were often immigrants. Labor unions began to form because of this, and the Labor Day holiday was born.

For the real story behind one of the icons of labor workers, the WWII image of "Rosie the Riveter," click here.

Today, we mostly celebrate by going to parades, eating hotdogs, hanging out at the beach/lake/park, and consuming adult beverages. We've come a long way, baby.

* Information gleaned from & the U.S. DOL.

2.) For the writers...

There's an interview with memoirist and novelist Joan Wickersham in the September issue of The Writer's Chronicle that I think is definitely worth checking out, especially for those of us who struggle with the dreaded "writer's block" (to put it simply, though I kind of abhor that term). In the interview, Wickersham talks about the pressure we put on ourselves as writers to mine inspiration, especially when inspiration doesn't come, and how that pressure is expounded by the evidence of other writers getting it done.

She says, "Yes, you get stuck. I think for writers, or any kind of artist, to be honest with each other is a gift. Because the fear is that you're going to say 'I had a horrible day,' and the person is going to say, 'I never have horrible days.'"

P.S. I'm a subscriber and big fan of The Writer's Chronicle, which is published by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. The articles and essays are always top-notch, many written by the best writer-teachers in the field (psst ... the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts tends to publish there a lot).
New board on Pinterest
If you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, you're in for a treat. It's like a massive, online pin-up board where you can share and collect anything and everything that interests you about anything and everything. I've posted several boards, and my newest one has to do with the sequel to Keowee Valley, which I'm working on--slowly, but surely; did I mention slowly?--these days. By no means complete, I'm going to add images that I'm using to inspire me, or images that may have something to do with the story. But that's all I'm gonna share.

Because I'm a believer in the "if you talk about your work-in-progress-too-much-the-bad-juju-will-get-you" rule.

Check out my Keowee Valley ... the Sequel board here, and see what sorts of adventures I plan to cook up for Quinn, Jack, Ridge Runner and the rest.
4.)  ESPN Game Day at Clemson University
I know, I know. Enough with the Clemson. But I can't help it. It's a very happy disease.

Saturday, ESPN Game Day will be at my alma mater, Clemson University, to showcase the biggest opening football game of the 2013 season: Clemson v. UGA, in Clemson's Death Valley. Students waited in line 164 hours to get their football tickets this year! And here's what USA Today had to say about it.

I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, and well-earned Labor Day holiday!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50th Anniversary of "I Have a Dream"

1963 March on Washington (

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s incredible speech, "I Have a Dream."

Have you read or listened to the entire thing? Or, have you done so since elementary school?

Or, were there? Were you struck, in August of 1963, by the passion and truth, the singing clarity--heaven-sent, I believe--of King's now immortal words? Words that hold so much meaning, still today.

Though he was speaking of racial equality when he said, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal," I think he meant more.

Though he was talking about the desperate, and segregated present-day, and the need to have faith in a changeable future when he said, "With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood," I believe he meant even more.
I believe in my heart of hearts that Dr. King knew we'd still need those words today, when so many of us in the United States still yearn for equality for so many different reasons. When our religions and our politics seem to divide us more than ever, when we are told that there are so few choices about how to live our lives. That it's one way or another.

King was human: flawed and gifted, nuanced and great. It made his passion all the more powerful because of these things.

Great men and women in history, those blessed by God and by the Truth with the words others feel but can't say, seem to be, always, surprising prophets. And while the quest for racial equality has come so very far and though we're not quite there yet, King's words still ring true today, 50 years later. But isn't it amazing how--more than anything else--they are about coming together as a country, as a people, as Americans, as the human race? HIs most searing images are of children holding hands.

If you're a writer, you know that this speech sings. But it does so all the more because of the content. Truly, you may think you've heard this speech, think you know what it's about. I'd just suggest we all consider it again.

And let freedom ring.

Monday, August 26, 2013

For the History Lovers & Fans of Historical Fiction

Or, for you history dorks like me ...

First, here's a new, FREE online course offered by coursera and Bruce Holsinger, an author and professor at the University of Virginia. It's called "Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction," and it features several wonderful historical novelists and their work, including two of my favorites: Pulitzer Prize-winner Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book, March, etc), and bestselling author Katherine Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, the House of Velvet and Glass, etc). These novelists will be virtually "visiting" the class.

I have no free time, of course, but this is too good to pass up. My critical thesis for my MFA in Writing program, which I completed last semester (loooong sigh of relief) was a study of the importance of place in historical fiction; in it, I utilized Brooks and her work. I am a big fan. And Howe's The Physick Book ... is a great favorite, too. I reread it over the Spring, and I swear it just keeps getting better.

For more info about the course, click here.

1760 map of the Cherokee country
Second, if you live in the Western North Carolina or Upper South Carolina area (or, heck, North Georgia, too), and you're interested in the Cherokee Indians, I'm teaching a course at Brevard College this Fall that's right up your alley. Called "Cherokee History in the South: the Colonial Period to the Revolution," it explores the fascinating history and culture of the mysterious and once-powerful Cherokee Indians along the Appalachian frontier. Classes will be held once a week for 5 weeks at Brevard College; they're offered through BC's Creekside continuing education programs.

I based the course on the bevy of research I conducted for Keowee Valley, a novel one reviewer called "an exquisitely crafted love letter to a land and culture swallowed up by an encroaching civilization and inescapable change."

Sorry, that was totally a plug for my novel. I couldn't help myself.

For more information, click here.