Essay

The Cost of a Thing

Decades after first reading Walden, Michael Sims still finds Henry David Thoreau exciting and challenging, maddening and inspiring

by Michael Sims

August 18, 2014 When I first read Thoreau as a teenager, I quickly realized that I had found a magic carpet to my own rural Tennessee world. Henry helped me see and hear and smell my own woodland paths, and my own pond, with fresh senses. He brought a deeply poetic sensibility and a fine education to bear on observing the passenger pigeon and red squirrel, and I tried to apply his way of looking to my own rose-breasted grosbeaks and box turtles.

Published Monday, 18 August 2014

With Every Shining Wish

Remembering poet Diann Blakely

by Mark Jarman

August 11, 2014 Diann struggled with the legacy of being a Southern woman and poet, and I think she would have preferred to have been otherwise, perhaps a Boston Mandarin like her mentor, Helen Vendler. Confronting her heritage and making a conscious effort to be the poet she felt she ought to be are, I think, her most important achievements.

Published Monday, 11 August 2014

Sloughing Off the Nay-Sayers

How J.T. Ellison learned to ignore the damning voices and get on with writing thrillers

by J.T. Ellison

August 1, 2014 “The farcical means by which I returned to a life as a writer—adopting a stray cat, going to work for the vet who saved her life, mopping up dog urine and watching the castration of a Siamese cat, and then, on day three of this unique torture, herniating a disc and needing back surgery—is fit for fiction itself. During the recovery, I discovered a writer named John Sandford, and something clicked, and I had one, simple, arrogant thought. If he can do it, so can I.” J.T. Ellison will appear at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville October 10-12, 2014. All festival events are free and open to the public.

Published Friday, 1 August 2014

Good Medicine

A Chapter 16 contributor returns to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference

by Emily Choate

July 18, 2014 Two summers ago, when I learned I’d been accepted to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, I was weeks into a debilitating illness that had left me unable to walk and unsure how much mobility I’d ever regain. I was in constant pain, barely able to stand up on crutches. My friends and family tried to look supportive when I insisted that I would be well enough to go to Sewanee. Then they’d find a tactful way to ask me whether I’d ever seen the University of the South—all those steep hills and narrow stone steps.

Published Thursday, 17 July 2014

Spring Theory

An urban farmer reconsiders the experiment

by Carrington Fox

May 13, 2014 If measured on a scale—not from one to ten, but an actual scale—the fruits of my gardening labor could be tallied in ounces, not pounds. There was that handful of blueberries we harvested one year. And that sublime ear of corn the next. There has been the occasional arugula salad and the intermittent tomato, but for the most part there has been drought, excessive shade, blight, rot, and cussing.

Published Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Sweetest Legacy

People think they’re buying Girl Scouts cookies; what they’re really buying is a ticket back to childhood

by Serenity Gerbman

March 7, 2014 I am a little embarrassed now that I hesitated to let my daughter sign up to be a Daisy. I was never a Girl Scout myself; all I knew about the organization was that they sold cookies and that some of those cookies were called Thin Mints. I assumed that “Girl Scouts selling cookies” really meant “parents selling cookies,” and I would frankly prefer to clean shower drains for two months.

Published Friday, 7 March 2014

Coffee Dates

A liberal-arts graduate endures the indignities of a job search

by Morey Hill

March 6, 2014 It’s important to clarify one thing: there’s a big difference between a job search and a Google search. I’ve done a fair amount of Googling, and I can report that if you’re typing things like “jobs Nashville” into Google, you are on the road to nowhere. Either that or you’re making great progress toward becoming a foot-fetish model for single men in Antioch. You’d be amazed at the need for foot-fetish models in Antioch, Tennessee.

Published Thursday, 6 March 2014

Last Suppers

Remembering a childhood friend, lost and found and lost again

by Brooks Egerton

March 5, 2014 Over the years, I had turned to almighty Google to find my childhood friend, but there were too many Peter Watsons out there, perhaps, or perhaps I didn’t try hard enough. One way or another, I never found any footprints pointing toward Nashville, where long ago we were running buddies—not fellow joggers, as that term has come to mean, but boys who ran around together, made mischief, and learned a little something about how the world works.

Published Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Kingsnakes and Beauty Queens

At the Rattlesnake Festival in Claxton, Georgia, a writer confronts her lifelong fear

by Erica Wright

March 4, 2014 When my family first moved into our home in Wartrace, Tennessee, snakes were a problem. Our land was infested with a wide variety of slitherers, many of which my father and uncles killed, sometimes with guns and hoes, sometimes with tractors, but snakes still found us. They sunned themselves in our driveway, hid in the hedges, and once climbed up our fireplace mantel. I developed a fear of being taken by surprise. But at the Rattlesnake Festival, watching a kingsnake glint in the afternoon light, my only sensation was wonder.

Published Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Two Wheels and the Truth

What if, instead of cyclists, drivers saw people on bikes?

by Joe Pagetta

March 3, 2014 Faced with fleshing out the facts, I didn’t immediately think of the guy who tried to run me off the road. I thought of the baby who got me over the ridge. As I wrote, what I remembered of that day was not the fear that was still gripping me. I remembered the innocence that inspired me.

Published Monday, 3 March 2014

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