Announcing a New Feature: Friday Photo

 

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Crossroads, Corinth, Mississippi / Gerry Wilson

I’m excited to announce a new feature on the Intersection!

Every Friday, I’ll post a photo, most likely one of my own. I may simply comment on it (or I may not; I may leave it to you to consider); or I may spin a story or a memoir piece. I hope you’ll respond with your own thoughts.

Crossroads

Last spring, I attended a family reunion, a gathering of distant cousins who were mostly strangers, all linked to my great-great-grandfather who settled in middle Tennessee in the early 1800s. We cousins are a diverse group–all ages, many different professions, some with strong genealogy interests and knowledge and some, like me, more or less novices. I am an only child. Until the last few years, when these cousins surfaced, I’d felt isolated and wished for a big, extended family. Now I have one. We swapped a lot of stories that day.

For the reunion, my husband and I stayed in Corinth, Mississippi, the nearest town of any size to Selmer, Tennessee, where my father’s family roots are.  We visited the Civil War Museum in Corinth, a museum that doesn’t glorify the war but portrays its heartbreak and deprivation. We also discovered the little railroad museum built beside the tracks that, as in so many little towns, run right through the heart of things.

The rails in the photograph mark where the east-west and north-south railroads crossed–a significant crossroads for both North and South, thus the battles nearby for the control of that area. Those railroads and the nearby Tennessee River were major conduits for goods and soldiers.

At the war’s end, my great-grandfather reached a crossroads of his own. His oldest son had been killed at the Battle of Corinth. (My father was named for that soldier.) A younger son was arrested for passing himself off as a Confederate soldier and commandeering a horse and a mule. My great-grandfather posted bond for him, using his land as collateral, and when his son failed to show up in court at the appointed time, my great-grandfather went on the run, too, taking his family, including the wayward son, with him.

I imagine him rushing into the house, the door banging shut behind him, telling his wife to hurry, throwing things into the wagon–a feather bed, a chicken crate, pots and pans, maybe my great-grandmother’s travel trunk she refused to part with–settling in the children, and setting off into the night. Leaving much behind: house, land, family, friends, debts, a dead son. They moved to Mississippi, and that’s where they stayed. My grandfather, the youngest child, was six years old.

Colorful stuff, this. The stuff of story.

Think about your parents’ or grandparents’ crossroads. Whose choices have shaped your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Dream . . .

From “Blogging 101,” Day Four’s assignment:

Publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element* in it.

So that audience would be . . . my dream agent, who may at this very moment be checking out my website to see who this new voice is—the one whose manuscript she requested three months ago, and she hasn’t had time to read it yet, but she just pulled it from the slush pile yesterday afternoon, and she stayed up all night reading and finished it at four this morning, and then she couldn’t get to sleep, couldn’t wait to pick up the phone–what time will Gerry be awake, Central Time? Is 7:00 too early to call?–and give me the news I’ve been waiting breathlessly for:

Yes, she loves my historical novel! Yes, she wants to represent me! Yes, she already has an editor in mind who’ll love the book as much as she does and will be fabulous to work with! Yes, she anticipates a six-figure advance.

Isn’t that everybody’s dream?

Just in case you’re cruising blogs right now, Dream Agent of Mine, this is for you:

About the book

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Process / G. Wilson

Dear _____________:

Spirit Lamp, a literary historical novel set in the harsh landscape of rural Mississippi around the time of World War I, is the story of Leona Pinson, a sixteen-year-old white girl who gives birth to an illegitimate son. A feisty girl, Leona refuses to name the child’s father and lives with her shame. An elderly black sharecropper, Luther Biggs, is Leona’s only ally against her troubled brother, Raymond. As Luther’s strength fails and Raymond’s cruelty escalates, the survival of Leona and her son depends on her courage and cunning. When the child’s father, Walker Broom, returns after the war, the deception that has kept Leona and Walker apart unravels. Ultimately, Leona faces her brother alone, a confrontation that leads to his death and freedom for Leona and Luther.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

In the early, dark hours of the morning, Leona Pinson’s aunt perched like a doll in the straight chair near Leona’s bed, her short legs dangling. Sometime yesterday, Aunt Sally Pinson had put the sharpest knife they owned under Leona’s bedstead.

“To cut the pain,” she’d said. “An ax blade would do better.”

That knife was not helping Leona much.

When she cried out, her aunt slid down off the chair and went to the bureau where the basin was. She used a milking stool as a step, wrung out a cloth with her stubby fingers, came back to the bed, and hoisted herself up. She started to bathe Leona’s face, but Leona covered her eyes with her hands and turned away. She didn’t want to see Sally’s large head and jutting chin, her bulging eyes, her stunted arms and legs. What if her own baby were born like that as a punishment?

About the author

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At Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS

A seventh-generation Mississippian, I was born in the hill country I write about in Spirit Lamp. The place and the characters ring true for me. I grew up in the household with my maternal grandmother, a terrific storyteller whose tale of her father’s murder figures in the novel.

I sometimes call myself a late-blooming author. I raised my kids as a single mom, taught English and writing to high school students for more than twenty years, wrote late at night in little scraps of time I could steal. I retired to do what I’d always wanted to do–write fiction.

Now I have a collection of short stories to show for it–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and last year, I was a Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellow. I’ve published stories in some good places. “Mating,” a short story, won the Prime Number/Press 53 Short Story Award in 2014. I’m working on another book, a contemporary novel this time, that nags and niggles away at me, keeping me awake nights, with a main character who will not let me go.

I write because I love to do it. Well, that’s not quite true: sometimes I hate it, but I can’t not do it. Maybe I should be satisfied with writing good short stories, keeping up this blog, taking a great workshop now and then, publishing some.

But you know, I want the dream.

So Dream Agent, if you’re out there–and I know you are–how about giving me that call? I’m here. I’ll answer. I’ll work hard. I’ll give you the best book I possibly can.

Sincerely,

Gerry Wilson

phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

*The “new elements” are the epistolary style and, well, a little humor!

Challenge: Are you searching for an agent? Do you have any tips you would like to share here?

 

 

It’s Official!

The contract is signed! The short story collection has a new title–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and a publication date: November 1!

Champagne flutes with strawberries Courtesy of m. bartosch www.freedigitalphotos.net
Champagne flutes with strawberries
Courtesy of m. bartosch
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

So the whirlwind begins. I’ll be working with Kevin Watson, the fabulous editor at Press 53. I’ll  be acquiring blurbs, proofreading, helping to decide on cover art and layout design, and  fighting off bouts of anxiety (will the book sell three copies, or maybe thirty? Will anybody actually read it?)

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to go the traditional publishing route, which leads to lots and lots of submissions, re-writes, long waits, rejections, more re-writes, and more submissions and rejections. But this round (I entered the collection in Press 53’s short fiction contest where it was a runner-up), something clicked. Kevin, God bless him, gets these stories. I’m so proud to be part of the Press 53 family of authors.

So let’s raise a glass, friends and fellow writers, in celebration of this one small thing. A book. Of stories. And I’m going to be able to hold it in my hands.

Did somebody say launch party? I certainly hope so. Complete with bubbly. Come on down to Jackson and join us in the fall. I’ll let you know when!