Cultural Center of the Universe? I don’t think so.

I live, to say it kindly, in the middle of nowhere.  Nestled in the northwest corner of Tennessee, my little town is two hours from both Memphis and Nashville.  No movie theatre, no bookstore, not even a Wal-Mart.  Yes, really, McKenzie is that small, so it should come as no surprise that we are largely ignored by the cultural winds that blow through bigger communities.  Things like book readings by published authors are nearly unheard of in towns like this, where few people read beyond the obituaries.

What we do have, however, is Bethel University, an institution of higher learning plopped down in the middle of the corn fields and cow pastures that dominate this area.  So, on Monday, I got to hear a reading by Darrin Doyle, author of a number of short stories and two novels—Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet and The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo.  Both are quirky, humorous takes on family and all the things that go with it.  I got to hear a bit from Revenge at the beginning of the program and, if the rest of the book is anything like the beginning, it should be a very entertaining read.

After the initial reading, Mr. Doyle took questions from the audience of about a dozen who did not have scheduling conflicts.  A general discussion about writing and publishing followed and, although I didn’t hear much that I hadn’t already heard, I was pleased to hear that Mr. Doyle’s methods of writing and revising are very similar to my own.  He writes late at night to avoid distractions and he prefers to plow through the first draft before worrying about how to fix its problems.  Better still, the students in the audience asked excellent questions about the stories and the language, helping to restore a shred of my lost faith in our education system.

Overall, I enjoyed hearing Mr. Doyle speak and would recommend someone looking for a quirky, fun read to check out his works.

In addition to that, I have been giving very serious thought to starting a writer’s group in my town.  Talking to a local teacher who also has publishing ambitions, I think the knowledge I have amassed through my years of research and tortuous submissions could benefit other writers in the area who would like to get serious about their craft, but don’t really know how to go about it.  Part support group, part critique group, the group would accept anyone, regardless of age, who is serious about the craft of writing and wants to improve.  The main obstacles, for me, in forming this little commune of the written word are my erratic work schedule and finding a venue to hold the meetings.  The scheduling, I don’t think, would prove too much of an issue, since I think meeting more than once a month would not be practical, and I think I can manipulate my schedule enough to have one regular evening off per month.  I do plan on asking around about a venue—a restaurant or a meeting room or even a classroom—where we might have access to the internet as well as tools to do, say, a multimedia presentation.  I would even prefer a classroom, so no one in attendance feels obligated to purchase anything as they would in a restaurant.  I’ll give it some more thought over the coming weeks and be sure to provide any updates on here.

Off to work now.  Toodles.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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One Response to Cultural Center of the Universe? I don’t think so.

  1. Hi. I was directed to your blog through a mutual friend and my coworker-Dewayne Ervin. I grew up and live a couple of towns over from McKenzie and know exactly what you mean by being ignored. I travel to the bigger cities when I find out that my favorite authors are signing or speaking.
    I would be interested in a writing group as well. Please post more about it!
    sandi (sandiw.blogspot.com)

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