Southern Voices from the Past: Erskine Caldwell

Along with Tobacco Road (1932), God’s Little Acre (1933) destined Erskine Caldwell to become one of the greatest Southern Voices of the Twentieth Century.

After a stellar, extended career as an author of twenty-five novels, countless short stories, and twelve non-fiction books, Erskine Caldwell became a charter member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, 2000.

Born in 1903 to a Presbyterian minister and a schoolteacher mother in Moreland, GA, he lived an itinerant life in his early years living in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee before his family returned and settled back in Georgia not far from Augusta. His father’s compassion for the desperately poor folks impacted Erskine. His first notable writing came while he studied at the University of Virginia. “The Georgia Cracker” (1926) established the themes that infused his future writing: political demagoguery, racial injustice, depraved religion, cultural sterility, and social irresponsibility. He continued to develop as a writer through several groundbreaking magazine articles before F. Scott Fitzgerald recommended him to Maxwell Perkins, the senior editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons. In addition to numerous short stories and articles, Caldwell wrote three highly successive novels by 1940, Tobacco Road, God’s Little Acre, and Trouble in July. Through these novels, Caldwell brought attention to the Depression’s dire effects upon Georgia’s tenant farmers, abuse of southern industrial workers, the disintegration of family values, and punctuated the brutal, racist attitudes aroused by white southern fears of interracial relationships.

Though interest in his novels waned by the early 1940s, they received a resurgence in the paperback revolution in American publishing following WWII.

In Caldwell’s later years he turned to non-fiction to focus on social injustices earned him some harsh criticism of his views during the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Though he lived and traveled extensively away from his beloved Southern roots and family home in Wren, GA, he wrote to then GA Governor Lester Maddox in 1967, “I think that I am as much a Georgian as Brer Rabbitt.” His final book was published fittingly by Peachtree Publishers in Georgia a month before his death, April 11, 1987, an autobiography, With All My Might.

Personal Insights

During a conference on Lost Southern Voices two years ago, I listened and learned how Erskine Caldwell influenced and interacted with the likes of Pat Conroy and Terry Kay. I live ten minutes from Moreland, GA’s tribute to Erskine Caldwell. One cannot survey his humble beginnings and the collection of memorabilia on display without a sense of awe. How many more Southern novelists did he inspire?

Thanks to my extended conversation with folks behind Moreland’s exhibits on Erskine Caldwell, it is worthwhile to note that his novel successes and notoriety in the early 1930s stirred Madison Avenue publishers in New York to leave their sanctimonious ivory towers and scour the South to discover more nascent Southern voices.

Mixon, Wayne. “Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 16 May 2016. Web. 11 July 2018.

Portray the Pain of the Past

How you portray the pain of the past matters.

“In his limited experience, it seemed that the world was populated by two kinds of people; the many who added to the world’s pain, the few who took away from it. He wanted to be one of those few who took pain away, in spite of the fact that he had known only the other kind.”

— Borden Deal from his novel “The Tobacco Men” (1965).

The pain of the past was no accident…
The scars remind us; we grow stronger with lessons learned.

How a writer responds to the pains in life defines the authenticity of the characters in his or her stories. We all have imperfect pasts and relationships from which to draw upon. Don’t hide from your past, allow your characters to help you move beyond its grasp.

T. M. Brown

Southern Voices from the Past – Corra Harris

Corra Harris, 1869-1935 wrote her Circuit Rider’s Trilogy from 1910-1921.

Novelist Corra Harris forged the way for Southern women writers in the early decades of the 20th-Century. Her notoriety as a humorist, southern apologist, and torchbearer of the premodern agrarian life developed through countless published short stories and essays in the likes of Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, and other notable periodicals. Mostly self-taught during her formative years raised in North Georgia, Corra married a Methodist minister, but she became a life-long widow by 1910. Faced with financial responsibilities, she focused on her writing out of necessity.

Corra’s most notable works were A Circuit Rider’s Wife (1910), A Circuit Rider’s Widow (1916), and My Son (1921). The trilogy focused upon the story of itinerant Methodist preacher William Thompson and his wife, and their life together traveling his church circuit in North Georgia. Her stories portrayed rural mountain folklife, and the hardships circuit ministers during that time in an earthy simplicity that readers have enjoyed over the years. In 1998 her Circuit Rider’s Wife was republished by University of Georgia Press

Source: New Georgia Encyclopedia

T. M. Brown, Southern Author
Southern Collective Experience

Why Southern Literature Resonates

Why does Southern literature appeal to audiences decades after their authors have left us? Why do their books line our bookshelves as timeless classics? Would you consider reading more about Corra Harris?

What other Southern classics would you include on our list of timeless and borderless must-reads? I welcome reading what you would add to the list of past Southern Voices and Classics.

Visit my webpage for a list of my scheduled appearances at various indie bookstores and workshop venues throughout the South in the coming weeks and months. Learn how past Southern Voices have influenced me to write my stories – Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return.

Southern Voices from the Past – Caroline Miller

Throughout my upcoming book tour during the Fall of 2018, I’ll be focusing on former Southern voices that forged the way for all Southern authors…

Caroline’s inaugural novel, Lamb in his Bosom (1934), won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Caroline was the first Georgian to earn this esteemed award which changed Caroline’s life forever, and the floodgates opened for future Southern female voices.

The pioneer women in her family and hometown stories passed down as she grew up became the inspiration for Caroline’s writings. As an adult, she visited older folks throughout her community, pen in hand, to capture more stories from the past. Their tales of the past, replete with colorful backcountry sayings and distinctive dialects, made it into her book Lamb in His Bosom.

“Don’t let people tell you there is no drama in your life, or that your surroundings are too colorless for novel material. If you can’t find the novel in someone else’s life, look into your own. Perhaps you don’t have any Georgia pines to write about, but there is something else quite as lovely in your life. I am certain of that. There never was another you. Write the way you feel it.” Caroline Miller.

Excerpts from Biography of Caroline Miller.

Watch for more Southern Voices from our past that have established what it means to be a Southern Voice today.

T. M. Brown, Southern Author – Stories with a Message

Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories
Testament, An Unexpected Return
Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy face the challenges of retiring in Shiloh, a time-lost South Georgia town after years away from their rustic roots.
 

A bit older, and hopefully a bit wiser too.

The Pursuit of Wisdom

The Pursuit of Wisdom

The Pursuit of Wisdom presents a journey with choices and consequences. Choose wisely.

The pursuit of Wisdom is a most worthy and desirable journey. These facts remain true about the pursuit of it.  

There will always be those wiser than ourselves. Conversely, this should become true too, others will see us as wise to them.  

Wisdom is the application of goodness, righteousness, and justice, ergo godliness, in all choices of life.  

Wisdom can never be fully reached in one’s lifetime, but its pursuit remains a worthy destination. The further one travels acquiring and understanding it, one’s relationship with God grows.  

Wisdom defines one’s spiritual maturity.  Sadly, each of us recognizes wisdom residing in others long before we recognize it in ourselves.  

I believe before one can truly attain wisdom one must grasp the dichotomies in the possible consequences for choices we make in life: Goodness against evil. Righteousness opposed to wickedness. Justice in contrast to injustice.  

Yes, my younger friends, the pursuit of wisdom is a most worthy goal in life, and as you likely have recognized some degree of wisdom in others, others will look up to you as you look to your far wiser friends.  

Wisdom should be a cherished destination in one’s life; the pursuit reveals God.

The further you progress along the way of wisdom fading regrets will lose their grasp; any notions of retreat dissipate; all reserve left behind. 

Again, no one attains wisdom, but the pursuit makes you wiser. Embrace the quest it takes you for the rest of your life.

Coach

After many years studying God’s Word, I wrote my Shiloh novels about a time-lost South Georgia town with colorful, realistic characters dealing with choices and consequences in life, and the response of others to our choices.

I pray my grandchildren will eventually grasp the lessons that reside in the stories and become wiser as a result, and hopefully long before I discovered the value of wisdom in one’s life.

If you choose to read any of my inspirational Southern mysteries, please let me know what lessons you found within the twists and turns between the covers of each story.

TMBrownAuthor.com

Lightning Bugs v Fire Flies?

Fireflies or Lightning bugs?

Lightning bugs or fireflies, which is correct?

In the third upcoming installment of my inspirational Southern mystery series, little ol’ Shiloh will be hosting their annual Spring festival, but I have struggled in providing the right name for the festival.

I decided to put aside naming it the Shiloh Cotton or Peanut Festival – they usually are Fall events anyway after the harvest. Camilla, GA hosts their Gnat Days Festival; Thomasville, GA has their Rose Festival; Azaleas are celebrated in Valdosta, GA; Fire Ants are welcomed in Ashburn, Ga. So after researching all the Spring festivals in South Georgia, it’s come down to naming Shiloh’s annual Spring festival either the Lightning Bug or Firefly Festival. However, even Theo and Liddy are in disagreement about what to call them luminous nighttime critters…

According to a linguistic study conducted at NC State (see the map below), most of Georgia as well as throughout the peanut & cotton Deep South, its a coin flip which term is most prevalent, but, as Theo argues, most of the South refer to them critters as lightning bugs.

Help me to name Shiloh’s Spring Festival.

Are you a lightning bug lover or a firefly person?

 Green areas – predominantly firefly; Blue areas – predominantly lightning bug; Pink areas – interchangeable with names.

Your feedback will help Shiloh name its Spring Festival!

If you haven’t read either Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories or Testament, An Unexpected Return, head over to the bookstore page and take advantage of the free shipping offer on the paperback editions.

Don’t forget to support the Georgia Writer’s Museum in Eatonton, GA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Novel Idea Author Event

Here are some photos and a video from a recent participation as a part of a troupe of authors participating in Alpharetta, GA for “A Novel Idea – Author Evening.”

Here’s Chapter Two from Testament, An Unexpected Return that I used in the reading to the audience Sunday night.

Testament Chapter Two Reading

One earns the other on your shelf
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters

ACFW Author Interview, July 2, 2018

 

Interview with T. M. Brown

(Click the hot link above to see the full interview at the ACFW webpage)

T. M. “Mike” Brown has recently released his second novel, Testament, the sequel to the award-winning, Sanctuary.

Welcome, Mike. What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
Life offers unexpected twists and turns, but God designed this roller coaster ride we refer to as life. At every twist and turn lies a choice to be made – some clear-cut and others not so much, but each decision usually rests between what is right and what may seem best. Whether what is right and what appears as best are compatible or in conflict, we should always trust what is right and allow God to use our circumstances for His glory, even if the choice embarks us onto an uncharted and uncertain path. It’s amazing how our faith strengthens when our future appears bleak, and shadows lurk at every turn we can see.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Never allow your judgment to be clouded by fancy promises and lots of smiles and friendly handshakes. Do your due diligence. The publishing journey entails what appears to be unwelcome pitstops and painful advice. There are no shortcuts to success. Embrace the pitstops and opinions provided, and invest in and trust your editor. Proofread before you submit to your publisher and again after they hand you the advance reader copy of your book. Take the extra time to proof carefully. It’s kinda like inspecting your child before his or her first prom dance.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
As a former preacher and teacher, my faith and spiritual walk played a sizable part in deciding my stories. I decided to write to the broad audience and use Southern small-town life as my setting so it would naturally interject some of my faith values and spiritual dilemma decision-making without preaching a good story. Those who have a firm church foundation will get a slightly different take on my stories than a non-churched reader. I have found this to be very accurate in book club discussions by the nature of the questions and responses shared. I am a firm believer that we should eagerly cross the bridge to meet people where they are at in life without casting judgment, and hopefully bonding on familiar ground. In the end, I pray those seeking God no matter their background will hear a message that helps them in their search.

On a quick note: The most memorable portions of the biblical narrative are not verbatim verses we struggle to memorize but the stories and parables we learn early in life that speak about God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
That is a tough one. Seems something new is around every corner. The celebrity aspect makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable. However, a better answer would be the cumulative moments that have created memories of how my wife and family have been with me throughout the journey. Connie, my wife of the past 45 years, travels to every event and invests her talents to help make each event special for everyone we meet. For this reason, I believe the most significant moment of my writing/publishing lies yet around the next corner.

What have you learned from writing a sequel?
The sequel is always more comfortable to write than the first! There was so much I learned writing Sanctuary. First of all, I did not have a sequel in view when writing it. It wasn’t until some of my Beta readers urged me to write a sequel and my publisher then asked if I would consider it too. Thankfully, my editor and writing coach smiled and remained on board for the year it took to complete the sequel. A far cry from the nearly 2-1/2 years for the first.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I write what I know best. I love Southern time-lost towns. They offer the most intriguing settings and indeed the most entertaining character opportunities. Besides my father and his parents had country roots in Georgia, and through the writing of my stories I reconnected and recognized why my father raised us as he did through my siblings and me were raised in suburban settings and far from the countryside he used to talk about. I miss my father and grandfather but found in writing my stories many long-forgotten memories, and tall-tales about our family surfaced and became a part of my stories.

You have a significant amount of Biblical, theological, and literary history featured in the background story for Sanctuary. How did this passion for history come about?
One cannot look to the future without knowing where you have traveled from. I learned at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, you plot your ship’s course beginning from where you’ve traveled to where you want to go. My love for history is quite the same. If you neglect the past, you’ll most likely make the same mistakes and continue to wander off course. In seminary, I majored in Church History which has helped me to teach biblical studies from the position of knowing the context of the biblical passages to understand and apply the content to life today. In Testament, I added more history to my little town of Shiloh because I believe, what has played out in the past ultimately shapes what and why the future reveals. It is writing the context to explain the content of the present story…

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
My grandkids will read my stories more readily than my biblical writing and sermons, or any of my expository papers about my beliefs. So, as I said above, my wife reminded me the value of stories and parables which planted the seed for what turned out to become the Shiloh mystery stories.

Of course, someday I may sit down and rewrite to publish some of my biblical studies as I had planned, but for now, I’m enjoying entering lil’ ol’ Shiloh with all its colorful and quirky characters whispering in my head nearly every day. Besides, I can work through Dr. Arnie Wright, Shiloh’s Baptist preacher boy, to communicate valuable messages I’d like to share.

How do you feel the setting a small town differs from a more suburban or urban setting? What do small towns offer that the suburbs might not?
That’s easy. Faith, family, food, and yes, even football have a life of its own in a small southern town. Church-life is more social and connected by bonds of multi-generational families. Country cooking is the grease that spins tall-tales faster and spreads gossip further. Maybe it’s the sweet tea, peach cobbler, fried chicken, smoked ribs, grits, and handmade biscuits. Of course, cooking in the kitchen is an art, a way of life in the country that suburbanites or citified folks just don’t rightly understand. In the small-towns, life just moves at its own pace, and it’s the seasons, the sun rising and setting, and the weather that dictates what any particular day holds. In small-towns, knowing other people’s business ain’t being nosey, it’s just neighborly. As a result, there are less locked doors and more handshakes shared in small towns.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Sharing time with my family, mainly my five grandkids. They’re growing up faster with each new day. When not with the grandchildren, Connie and I enjoy our expanding author network and find opportunities to help other aspiring writers when we can.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Baldacci’s, The Fix right now, but Terry Kay’s, The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene is next up. Of course, my reading takes second place to my writing so I don’t read as much as I would like.

Finish this statement: In the future, I will…
Hopefully look down from heaven and smile as my granddaughter shares the book her “Poppy” wrote with her granddaughter. She’ll laugh as she points to where she makes her cameo appearances in my stories along with her brothers and cousins, and of course, “Grammy” too.

Any parting words?
Enjoy the journey on which you are engaged. Laugh at yourself and with others. Success is a journey, not a destination, and comes sans any shortcuts. Allow God the final word on all decisions you get to make in life.

___________________________

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industries, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and son, and a Shiba Inu-mix named Nova. She has sold over 20 books so far, three of which have won annual reader’s choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. www.amberstockton.com.

Testament, An Unexpected Return (ISBN 9781641110846)
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (ISBN 9781641110730)

Go to the bookstore tab to order your copy of either or both novels. Available in Kindle or Paperback. You can also email me to discover the nearest indie bookstore to you to get your copies as well.

 

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