A Visit to ‘The Friendliest City in South Carolina’
by Sandy Richardson
This week, I traveled to beautiful Anderson, SC, to talk about writing and books with the Foothills Writers Guild at the local library. Approximately thirty-something attendees showed up, an interested and interactive crowd, which I loved. I told a few stories, made a few points about writers, and then we branched off into conversations about heritage, childhood memories, and a number of other things…all very informative and possible story-starters for later works. We can find stories everywhere—that’s for certain.
One of the biggest thrills for me was listening to three readings from Southern Sass’s latest release: Wild, Wonderful ‘n Wacky, South Cackalacky. Jay Wright, ex-president of the guild, read from “The Tonsillectomy” written by David McInnis, Sr. Jay has a natural, story-reading voice and brought that little-boy character right off the page and into the room with us.
After the audience wiped tears of laughter from their cheeks, Ryan Crawford entranced them with an excerpt from his story, “Earmouths,” a story, that for me, blends the everyday with the decidedly esoteric in words that hypnotize the senses. I definitely heard several “oohs and ahhs” as Ryan closed his story referencing the death of his father with these lines, “…I’ll look out to a star sometimes and think about how far away it is, and I know he’d already ripped past long ago, his stretched palm having smacked the side of it as he passed by—the viscosity of time—my eyes just now catching that stirred up flame.”
Following Ryan, was Mary McAlister, Vice President of the Guild, who read from author Peg Bell’s story, “Swamp Biscuits.” Mary’s pacing and inflection sounded so much like the author’s, I had to remind myself that Peg was not present. Mary knew just the right words to stress, to linger on, to clip short. A true story-teller, for certain. Peg, a dear friend of mine, would have surely been awed.
I got to play school-teacher again with my handouts and more stories after the readings. (A teacher never really retires.) But for me, going to an author talk and coming home with nothing is akin to going shopping and not buying a darn thing. Disappointing. Unremarkable. And while the handouts repeated some well-worn advice for writers, I made sure to include new and valuable direction for those who want to pursue writing as more than a hobby. I hope they’ll explore some of those options.
It was a fine evening, for certain.
The next morning, Jay introduced me to Judith McDowell, owner of McDowell’s Emporium, and Travis, obviously the person-in-the-know about books they sell. Quaint and delightful, the Emporium sells both new and used books in the heart of Anderson. I autographed copies of Wild, Wonderful ‘n Wacky, South Cackalacky, and then Judith and I shared some book-talk about old loves like the Miss Read Series of English tales, and Anne of Green Gables, and Conversations with Amber (because both Judith and I are cat people).
We also talked of Anderson’s fine group of writers and photographers. Judith’s shop carries and promotes the work of local authors…oh, how I envy that. (Currently, my hometown doesn’t have a single independent bookstore.) I left the Emporium with a new pocket-sized journal and an armload of books, including The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe, and My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. Obviously, my reading tastes are varied, including, for ‘fun’ the scores of psychological thrillers I devour every year. I could have browsed the shelves and rooms of the Emporium all day, taken home a trailer-load of reading material, and even some fascinating old b&w photos the shop sells. (I soooo wanted to delve into those boxes set out on the tables, but there wasn’t time.) Those old photos can provide wonderful story sparks. But my checkbook demanded I save something for another visit.
And another visit I sincerely do hope to make. After all, who can resist a trip to the South Carolina’s “Friendliest City.”
A huge ‘Thank You’ to the Foothills Writers Guild for a wonderful two days.
Celebrate the Unexpected in Your Writing