About

Jim Grimsley: Good White People

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To make up for the inclement weather, Jim Grimsley will be hosting a reading of his forthcoming memoir, Good White People, on Wednesday at 7:30pm in the Choir Rehearsal room of the Townsend School of Music.

From Dr. Gordon Johnston:

“Celebrated Southern novelist, sci-fi writer, and playwright Jim Grimsley, Ferrol A. Sams Jr. Distinguished Writer in Residence for 2014 at Mercer University, will offer a presentation from his newly completed memoir “Good White People” this Wednesday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Choir Rehearsal Room of the Townsend School of Music. The event is part of Looking Back, Moving Forward, Mercer’s community contemplation of the 50th anniversary of the college’s integration.  (This event is  rescheduling of the earlier presentation postponed due to snow.)

Grimsley, a playwright and novelist born in North Carolina in 1955, completed his new nonfiction book — a memoir about growing up in the racial tension that permeated his small hometown — while in residence on Mercer’s Macon campus.

Grimsley’s residency, which honors the memory of beloved doctor, author, and Mercerian Ferrol A. Sams, Jr., author of Run With the Horsemen, When All the World Was Young, Down Town and other books, is made possible by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

For samples of Jim Grimsley’s fiction and drama and for more information, contact Gordon Johnston, Director of the Creative Writing Major and Minor in English at (478) 301-2588 or by e-mail at johnston_gg@mercer.edu.

More Information:

Grimsley, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, saw his first novel Winter Birds published by Algonquin Books in the United States in 1994. The novel won the 1995 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Prix Charles Brisset, given by the French Academy of Physicians. The novel also received a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation as one of three finalists for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Jim’s second novel, Dream Boy, was published by Algonquin in September, 1995, and won the 1996 Award for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Literature from the American Library Association; the novel was also one of five finalists for the Lambda Literary Award. Dream Boy was adapted for the stage by Eric Rosen, the play premiering at About Face Theatre in Chicago in 1996. Grimsley’s third novel, My Drowning, was published in 1997 and for this book Jim was named Georgia Author of the Year. His fourth novel, Comfort & Joy was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and his fifth novel, Boulevard, was published in April, 2002; for this novel he was named Georgia Author of the Year for the second time. He is also the author of the novels Comfort and Joy (1999) and Forgiveness (2006) and of the short story collection Jesus Is Sending You This Message (2008).

A dramatist as well, Grimsley has written eleven full-length and four one-act plays, including Mr. Universe, The Lizard of Tarsus, White People and The Existentialists. A collection of his plays, Mr. Universe and Other Plays, was published by Algonquin in 1998, and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist in drama. He has been playwright-in-residence at 7Stages Theatre of Atlanta since 1986 and was playwright in residence at About Face Theatre of Chicago from 2000-2004. In 1988 he was awarded the George Oppenheimer Award for Best New American Playwright for his play Mr. Universe. He was also awarded the first-ever Bryan Prize for Drama, presented by the Fellowship of Southern Writers for distinguished achievement in play writing, in 1993.

Grimsley was a 1997 winner of the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Writers Award. His first fantasy novel, Kirith Kirin, was published by Meisha Merlin Press in June, 2000 and won the Lambda Literary Award in the Science Fiction/Horror category. He has since published two subsequent science fiction novels set in the same universe, The Ordinary and The Last Green Tree, both with Tor Books of NY. The Ordinary was awarded a Lammy in 2005. His short fiction has been anthologized in The Year’s Best Science Fiction (sixteenth and nineteenth annual collections), edited by Gardner Dozois, in Best New Stories from the South, 2001 edition, edited by Shannon Ravenel, and in other anthologies. He is a member of PEN, Dramatists Guild, Alternate ROOTS, and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. He has twice been a finalist for the Rome Prize in Literature. In 2005, he won an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his work as a playwright and novelist. In 2006 he, along with Dorothy Allison, was one of the inaugural winners of the Mid-Career Author’s Award from the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.”

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“Writing that Changed My Life”

Many of us have a particular piece, some sort of text that has changed the way we look at literature and writing forever. The members of The Dulcimer have listed their favorites below and described how it has inspired (for good or for worse) what they read, what they write, and even how they live their lives.

ThirteenReasonsWhy

Amanda Barrentine (Publicity Manager)

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” –  Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

This work was a complete masterpiece. It’s about a girl who has committed suicide that leaves behind a set of tapes for thirteen people she has designated as the main reasons why she killed herself. It looks into how bullying is wrong and how much one person can affect another’s life, even in the smallest of ways. This book changed how I look at the world, and its message is so profound. It opened my mind to the idea of being kind instead of persecuting people who are different. Everyone should read this book if they have a chance.

Jennifer Champagne (Editor in Chief)

“When I write, it’s everything that we don’t know we can be that is written out of me, without exclusions, without stipulation, and everything we will be calls us to the unflagging, intoxicating, unappeasable search for love. In one another we will never be lacking.” –  Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa”

I first read “The Laugh of the Medusa” for a literary theory class. And while many students in that library were meandering their way through textbooks or chugging cups of coffee to stay awake, I was having a revelation. Cixous snapped me awake; she pulled me out of my world. I found myself highlighting every sentence, every word. What she said excited me. All of it made me want to write, but not just anything. Cixous made me want to challenge everything that pulled me back, to confront myself and write in ways I never thought I could. For writing is where you can find your freedom, where any barrier can be broken down with the flick of the wrist or the typing of words.

Chelsey Guy (General Staff)

“I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.” – Stephenie Meyer, Twilight

I have had a love affair with books since I was three years old. So, I have read a lot of books. Out of all the books that I have read, the one book that truly changed my life had to have been Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Although I hated the way it was written, I was enchantingly mystified by the characters and plot. My hatred of the Twilight’s writing style was what motivated me to write my first novel at the age of 12. I have to thank Twilight for making me the writer and reader that I am.

TheNightCircus

Monica Hoyle (Publicity Manager)

“The circus comes without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” – Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

I can’t really say what literary work has changed my life. My favorite book as a child was Little Women. I don’t really know why, perhaps it was because I didn’t have any sisters, so I enjoyed reading about something that I always wondered about. If I had to pick a favorite book now, it would be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. When I read it, I was immediately taken back into the fantasy world of life behind the circus that I had created in my head as a child.

Hannah Hyde (Copy Editor)

“A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. Ah, yes, but once you’re abroad, as you have seen, winds have a mind of their own. Be careful, Charlotte, careful of the wind you choose.” – Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

I’ve always had a weakness for stories, so choosing just one that impacted my life is incredibly difficult. But, aside from the dreadful math books that forever turned me away from a career in the sciences, I’d have to say The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi is one book that has stuck with me since my childhood. I think I was about 10 years old when I first read it and, among Charlotte’s adventures on the high seas, I felt the beginnings of a greater awareness of the forces within the world and their impact on individual lives. I find it eerily poignant that, as I’m finishing my undergraduate career and having to choose my next move, outside forces (read: my editor-in-chief) would bring me back to that lesson I first discovered over a decade ago.

Allison Kim (Art Editor)

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “otherwise you wouldn’t have come here.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass appears in many forms in art and pop culture. The aspect of it that attracts me the most is the very concept of a world built on absurdity that does not collapse on itself. I grew up creating fanciful worlds and embracing the innate madness in them and I still do. I don’t control the characters or mechanics in them. Instead, my worlds become independent universes of their own, constantly growing and developing with or without me. I also enjoy a mad tea party every now and then.

FullMetal

Avery Lewis (General Staff)

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.” –Hiromu Arakawa, “Fullmetal Alchemist”

“Fullmetal Alchemist,” a manga series by Hiromu Arakawa, boasts the most compelling plot into which I have ever been drawn, and it also introduced me to a multitude of lovable characters whom I miss dearly now that the series has concluded. Mixing steampunk, fantasy, and both religious and scientific lore, Arakawa crafted a masterpiece which inspired me to try and match her level of writing. I decided I want my audience to have the same emotional connection I had to “Fullmetal Alchemist”. I want them to cry, laugh, and cheer alongside the characters as they complete their journey, just as I did with Edward and Alphonse Elric as they searched for a way to restore their physical bodies after a disastrous attempt to resurrect their deceased mother using alchemy.

Katie Montgomery (Design Editor)

“And I have known them all already, known them all. / Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, / I have measured out my live with coffee spoons; / I know the voices dying with a dying fall / Beneath the music from a farther room. / So how should I presume?” –T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I was a junior in high school when I first read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. The poem is so beautiful, so bizarre, like nothing I had ever read. From that moment, I knew I was going to major in English Literature in college. No one else in my class showed interest, and my teacher seemed like she was just repeating the explanation in her teacher’s edition of our textbook. I had so many questions and ideas that I wanted to discuss about the poem rather than just reading it aloud in class. I haven’t been able to talk about Prufrock in a classroom setting, but majoring in English has equipped me with the skills to make my own interpretations about Eliot’s iconic poem.

Farah Rafi (General Staff)

“I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.” – William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

In my AP Literature class in high school, I read the book As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I wouldn’t say this book changed my life except for maybe that I wouldn’t pick it up and read it again.  The interesting thing about this novel is that it is a stream of consciousness, so most of it is really the author’s narration of the novel through the voice of the characters. On top of that, the book is written in first person with several different characters; the most prominent one, Darl, is sent to a mental asylum after he tries to set his mother’s coffin on fire. Throughout the whole novel, Darl was the one narrating most of the chapters and being sent to a mental asylum made me wonder whether or not he was a reliable narrator and that what he had explained in the chapters was true or just a figment of his imagination. Although I would not read the novel again, I definitely learned how an author can mess with a reader’s mind which is something I like to incorporate in some of my pieces.

1984-cover

CJ Triplett (Submissions Editor)

“Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” – George Orwell, 1984

Orwell’s 1984 changed me in a number of ways, I think. For one, it was a very grim but compelling look at a world that our own is in danger of becoming, which gave me insight into a lot of different aspects about our reality. I learned to never trust what was being said, but to understand what was not being said. I learned that the truth, much like the quote says, is not always the truth, and it is not always the one people want you to believe. There are so many ideas and themes present in this novel.

National Novel Writing Month: The Aftermath

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by Chelsey Guy (General Staff)

So, you decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month?

Congratulations! Whether you actually finished your piece or never even started it, you deserve praise. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is called, is an exercise in determination, devotion, and passion as participants race to write 50,000 words by the end of November. To some, this may seem like a simple task that requires no preparation or thought. However, in the 30 days that make up November, you have to brainstorm what you are going to write, put words to paper, suffer through spurts of writer’s block, breath, eat, sleep, socialize, and live your life like a normal person. That’s a daunting task. So, for deciding to surrender your life away to a piece of literature, I have to applaud you.

As NaNoWriMo comes to a close and writers everywhere begin to panic at their unfinished pieces, the all-important question arises. What now? What happens to the writers? What happens to the works? Where do we go from here? Here are a few ideas and tips to answer those questions:

1) Relax!

You have been writing like a demon for the past 30 days. Please, go relax. This is not just for your sanity. Taking a break from writing is a perfect way to refresh your brain. It gives you a different perspective and thought process. Energy flows through you along with ideas and creativity. So, go out and drink a milkshake! Eat your favorite snack! Party with friends! Watch Netflix and Youtube! Go somewhere! Then, come back and look at what you worked so hard on for the past month.

2) Finish it!

This seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised. Many people do not ever finish what they write for NaNoWriMo. They usually abandon their works forever and start a new piece next year. Then, the cycle starts all over again. However, as a writer, this becomes very problematic. If all you do is write and you never finish a work, how are you supposed to grow as a writer? Not finishing a piece is like eating only half a donut. You will still enjoy the donut, but you will only be half full. Finishing your NaNoWriMo piece, whether before or after the month is over, is a glorious feeling that you do not want to pass up. You will feel full and happy, and you will not regret it! So, keep writing until you are done!

3) Revise it!

Now, you have relaxed and finished your piece for National Novel Writing Month. Good for you! You are ready to move on to the next step in being a writer: Revising! Look over the content and concept of your piece. Take out chapters, scenes, dialogue, descriptions, and whatever else in order to get your point across in your piece. This process is easier said than done. Revising forces you to rip your piece apart, dissect it, occasionally kill it, bring it back to life, and pray it lives on better than before. It is a heart-wrenching, heart-breaking process. Nevertheless, you will be a stronger writer and a better person because of it after the tears and anger subside. I promise.

4) Edit it!

You have survived the revision stage! Great job! Now that you have a thicker skin, it is time to edit. This is often confused with revision and proofreading. Revision is looking over and changing content, but editing is purely mechanical. This is where you spend hours relearning the rules of grammar from the countless years of elementary and middle school where you thought you would never use any of these things again. During editing, you have to check for comma errors, run-on and fragmented sentences, typos, spelling issues, and a million other technical grammar stuff. Although it is far easier on an emotional level to deal with, this stage can be very lengthy because of all the small things you have to find. But, don’t lose hope!

5) Publish it!

So, you have finished writing, revising, and editing! Many people do not make it this far with everything completed and repeated to make sure it is perfect, so you have gained my respect once more. The next thing is to publish your piece! By publishing, I do not mean sending it to a literary agent or publishing company and praying you are going to become the next J.K. Rowling. Although you could go that route, I was thinking something on a much smaller scale. With your piece complete, why not post it online? Posting your novel, short story, or poem on such websites as Figment.com, Fanfiction.net, Deviantart.com, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, or on any other social networking site is a great way to get reviews and feedback on your writing and your ideas from strangers and friends. I have an account with almost every single one these along with my own website and blog with WordPress. It has done nothing but help me grow as a writer. Sure, the negative comments hurt for a bit, but it has made me stronger as a person. Plus, I view every comment as constructive criticism so it only helps to improve and better me. It will help you, too!

6) Share it!

How do you expect people to find out you worked so hard on your writing if you don’t tell them? Sharing the news of your success is how you attract people to you and your writing. Hit the share button all you want. Hit it every day if you have to in order to attract readers. Post it as your status constantly. Tweet about it and spread the word. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family. Word of mouth is the best way to spread news.

7) Read more!

Writing starts with reading. As you wait for reviewers and followers of your writing to come in, read. Reading improves your writing by giving you new ideas and writing styles for you to improve on. I wrote my first book ever when I was twelve and angry at Twilight because of how it was written. Reading challenged me to write something better than I had read. I continue to read whenever I have writer’s block and in between writing. It is one of the best ways you can improve yourself on your own.

8) Plan and Prepare for Next Year!

You have officially finished and published your piece from NaNoWriMo! Now, prepare for next year! Writing is a never-ending process. So, what are you going to write next year? Is it going to be a poem? A short story? A novel? What will be about? What are you going to do that’s different from this year? How will you make next year better than this year?

9) Enjoy life!

NaNoWriMo is done! The great race for 50,000 words is complete! You have written, finished, revised, edited, published, shared, and planned your way to completion. Now, it is time to go back to step number one. Relax! Go out and have fun! You deserve it! You have worked hard for 30 days and then some. Go and enjoy life… Until next year!

Five Tips for NaNoWriMo Success

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by Avery Lewis (General Staff)

National Novel Writing Month, known in the writers’ world as NaNoWriMo, is a month dedicated to churning out novels. The goal is to complete a novel of at least 50,000 words within the month of November. Amateurs and professionals alike sign up for the challenge every year. Many become disillusioned, lazy, or sidetracked, and few actually complete the challenge. Here are five tips to help you stay on the path of NaNoWriMo success:

 

1. Start with an idea and nothing more. If you stop to focus on all the details, mapping out characters and plots, you’ll undoubtedly get too bogged down in the planning stages. All you need is a concept and a starting point, and from there you write whatever comes to mind. The story will take shape on its own as you progress. This is not to say you should not put thought into your writing, but don’t become obsessed with making sure you have everything figured out and perfect before you start.

 

2. As Hemingway says, write drunk. Don’t worry about the tiny imperfections here and there. Expect to have imperfections in the first draft. Inconsistencies, illogical character choices, rough dialogue, and laughable grammar are common, even welcome in first drafts! And that’s exactly what NaNoWriMo is about – first drafts. You’re not preparing for publication during November; you are simply getting the story written, rough edges and all.

 

3. Media can wait. New episodes of The Walking Dead, Legend of Korra, Sleepy Hollow, and The Originals will be available on the Internet, so don’t sacrifice your writing time just to catch the original airing of an episode. You can catch up during a scheduled break or even after NaNoWriMo is over. Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and Pokemon X and Y? They’ll still be in stock once November is over. Unless you are one in a million, don’t try to use video games as a break, because you will become sidetracked and lose precious hours of writing time.

 

4. Schedule writing, but also schedule breaks. Sure, during NaNoWriMo, it’s good to write whenever a spare moment presents itself. But it’s also good to have set times that you are committed to every day. That being said, don’t spend whole days glued to your computer screen. Keep your health up by taking scheduled breaks. Go for a jog, play with the cat, get lunch with a friend. It’s important to stay healthy and maintain social contact during NaNoWriMo. You want to get as much writing done as you can without turning into a social recluse. Scheduled breaks are also needed for inspiration. Participating in different activities can provide an assortment of new ideas for your novel. You never know what you’ll find! Just make sure your breaks don’t distract you for too long…

 

5. Finally, don’t fret. Is it Week 3 and you’re only at 10,000 words? Don’t worry, and certainly don’t think that there’s no longer a point to continuing. Keep writing. Don’t sacrifice sleep, grades, income, or meals for more writing time. Just keep writing as much as you can without sacrificing too much. Sure, you may not complete the 50,000-word challenge, but that’s not what NaNoWriMo success is all about. NaNoWriMo success is about getting your idea down on paper (physical or pixelated). It’s about transitioning your ideas from abstract to concrete. It’s about getting started. NaNoWriMo, in its simplest form, is a gateway, the starting line for your novel. You may not finish it in November, not even the rough draft, but the important thing is that you’ve started. You have a place to continue from. All that’s left is for you to keep writing, even after November, and get your novel to completion. What defines NaNoWriMo success is that a writer keeps writing even after the deadline and does not fall victim to the “I didn’t complete the challenge, so there’s no point continuing” syndrome that plagues participants. So no matter how far you get during NaNoWriMo, don’t let that be the endpoint. Even if you meet the challenge, refine your story, because your first draft is always the worst draft. No matter what, keep writing.