just write life · writing

Five Symbols of the South

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An Edisto sunrise. But we’re not there right now. Just dreaming. Photo credit Jocelyn A. Conrad. 

I’m on my back porch and the air is hovering between heavy humidity and storm-blowing breezes. Either way, rain’s been skirting all around our southern summer all week long.

The book has a cover now and if you’re in the know you’ve seen it. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Sign up for my newsletter or let me know you want to join the launch team. Or just wait because we’ll be revealing it officially soon. It’s swirly and lovely and very southern romance–Gone With the Wind keeps popping up as a comparable, which makes me laugh because (don’t hate me), I don’t love GWTW.

I think I might have read it too young and need to re-read it now as an adult who can appreciate the history and the sweeping grandeur while hoping none of my daughters turn out like Scarlett.

You don’t get much more southern than Gone With the Wind, but I was recently asked if I’d write about what I saw as five symbols of the South. I settled on these and left off the hot-button topics, because at the end of the day, we’d all rather sit on the porch with a glass of sweet tea and the cicada chorus than sit at a table and talk anymore about that late unpleasantness.

Five Symbols of the South (that don’t hang off pickup trucks)

Food. The rule of true southern cooks raised in my mother’s generation is this: if it stands still fry it. I adhere to this each summer with okra and sometimes squash and on Father’s Day, I fried chicken for the first time in years. (Although my own mother has admitted it’s just easier to go by the Bojangles.) But I think southern cuisine is changing a bit with the times. I love seeing the shift toward locally grown and farm to table restaurants that make greens so good, you’ll slap your mama. But if you do, she probably won’t make you anymore fried okra and you’ll have to take your own self to Bojangles.

Fashion. I know very little about this myself, but I do know this: pearls go with everything. Sunday dress? Check. Funeral dress? Tasteful. Wedding sundress? No doubt. T-shirt and jeans? Why not. My sisters are far more fashion savvy than I, which is how we all wound up dressed alike for my sister’s wedding, right down to our cowboy boots. I got mine at Rack Room but now my almost-thirteen year old is wearing them out. If my novel makes loads of money, maybe I’ll spring for a sweet pair like these, handmade at King Ranch in Texas, by people who know boots.

View More: http://candiceholcomb.pass.us/al-wedding
This is my family. All my sisters and our one brother. And Jasper, the golden retriever. Because when parents of 7 kids become empty nesters, they need a dog who’s treated like a child.

Football.  I still can’t tell you the rules of football. I just know if our guy has the ball, you have to holler until he crosses the end zone. This helps him run faster. But I do know that Friday nights and Saturdays are sacred down here. That wedding with the boots was strategically planned on a day UGA was off because certain family members said they’d wear earbuds. Which didn’t match the boots, obviously. I believe in the football tradition enough that it’s the background for my next novel and I might have a slight obsession with Friday Night Lights. Or just Kyle Chandler. Or both.

Faith. I tell people I write southern fiction because that’s true (even though Terry Kay told me I’m too young for that title), but I don’t tell people I write Christian fiction because here’s the thing–I am a Christian, so of course anything I write carries that viewpoint. I believe in happy endings and redeeming love and saved by grace. It permeates who I am. Down south, our culture is permeated by the Bible Belt and Southern Baptist and Methodism and Vacation Bible School. Sending my characters to church on Sunday is as natural as having them say “y’all” and “ma’am”. Where I make a story, however, is when that faith gets shaken by its culture and has to learn to stand on its own.

Family. Every good southern book has one iconic scene at the family dinner table, and the more dysfunctional and offbeat the family, the better the tension and the narrative. I love my family, but our little idiosyncrasies are finding their way into everything I write. Makes for good storytelling but awkward family dinners. I close ranks, though, when somebody from outside wants to comment. This family is mine. We’re allowed to poke at one another, but nobody else is getting through. Find your own family to write about. Trust me, everybody’s tree has some crooked branches and those make the best stories.

What defines your home place? Your culture? Ever thought about it?

linkups · writing

What’s Saving My Life Right Now :: Winter 2017 Edition

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Also, these boots. Wal-mart. I’m not kidding. Kept me toasty warm for our one snowfall this year.

In these days of rampant internet-grouchiness, it’s nice to have an online “friend” or two you can always count on for something uplifting.

Modern Mrs. Darcy is topping my list for always answering my never-ending wondering What Should I Read Next? and she may (definitely is) responsible for the ridiculous number of thrifted/library sale/borrowed books on my TBR shelf.

Today our book loving community is linking up the small, yet notable, things saving our lives in the right here and now. Because I’ve found it’s most often in the small stuff and the menial tasks where I regain my composure and find my joy.

On my list for this Groundhog Day (really? Six more weeks of winter, I’ve heard. Except in Georgia, we’ve only had like 3 days of winter, so I guess it’s okay):

1. The Skimm is rocking my inbox. Y’all, I want to be informed, but sheesh? Is there anywhere online to read news that’s not biased/filtered/full of typos? Yes. Yes, there is. Sign up for The Skimm and get the biggest news of the day straight in your inbox. Best part–these writers are speaking my language, literally. This is the vernacular of the people, that is, those of us who want to be educated but don’t want to have to look up that word some CNN reporter thought was important to use but not important enough to spell correctly. Plus, I appreciate that, so far, they’re not leaning left or right but telling it like it is–with a little tongue in cheek satire for the kindergarten squabbles happening on the Capitol floor right now.

2. Reading Eggs. I told those of you who get my newsletter about Reading Eggs a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the deal: if you’re homeschooling (like me) or have a student who might be a struggling reader (like me) or find that you want to pull your hair out working through a reader with one of your kids (LIKE ME), go sign up for the free 4-week trial. There’s a talking duck and some games and actual learning happening here. Yes, it’s a computer program. No, I don’t believe kids should only learn from the computer. Yes, I’m going to pay for a subscription when our trial is up BECAUSE IT IS WORKING AND DOESN’T MAKE EITHER OF US CRY.

3. I’m composing this treatise during the YMCA Homeschool PE class my girls started last week. For $45 apiece, we get a 15-week class that lasts 2 hours. And there’s swimming. And it lasts TWO HOURS. Do you know how many words I can write in two hours? (Answer:  A lot.)

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4. The Mitford Books. I’m trying to be a better counter of my books this year. So far… I’ve written down two but I’ve read five? I think. See the problem? Anyway, there’s a long list of to-be-reads and want-to-reads and should-have-already-read but I keep coming back to the Mitford series, which my husband finds ironic since I directed the play last fall and you’d think I’d have read the books then. Yeah, not so much. I was a little busy with, you know, moving and editing my novel and directing my play. I’m picking up Mitford these days whenever I’m feeling low, whenever I’ve read something that makes me feel uncomfortable, whenever I need an immersion that’s soothing to my soul like a hot bath and a glass of wine… which I may be indulging in while reading.

5. Southern Living. I think it goes without saying that my mother raised me on Clemson football and  Southern Living like any good woman from the Lowcountry should do for her children. But we had a few years where SL was not winning in the recipe department for me. Listen, if I can’t find this ingredient at the local Ingles, I’m not making this dish. But the 2017 issues are already redefining the SL kitchen with family-friendly, budget-friendly, live-in-the-sticks-with-only-one-grocery-store-friendly recipes. We have especially enjoyed this Chicken with Cornbread Dumplings as an (almost) gluten free alternative to my family’s favorite. I even made it with the frozen turkey leftover from Thanksgiving and it was like turkey and dressing in bowl with a side of comfort.

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Conversations the latest issue of Southern Living causes with my sisters.

6. Writers Conferences. Finally, anytime I’m overwhelmed trying to figure out this homeschool/writer thing I’ve got going on, I take a deep breath and count the days on my calendar because FCWC is almost here. I’ll be heading out in nineteen days for the Florida Christian Writers Conference where I’ll be teaching How to Write Flash Fiction and hanging with my writer friends. For four days I get to be writer-Lindsey and nothing else and I cannot wait. Plus, it’s Florida in February which is pretty much perfect. (It’s also 15 weeks until the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in case you’re wondering. I’ll be there, too.)

7. Meal Planning. I’ve always been a meal planner, but we’ve taken it one step further right now and made the attempt to stop my children from eating anything they find at any hour of the day. I’d say it’s working about 50% of the time. However, posting my meal plans is doing wonders for my social media interactions, so there’s that.

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What’s saving your life? I’ve got some books lying around that need a new home. Leave me a comment and you might win one!