*Literary Journal Review*: China Grove, Premier Issue!

Posted Monday, 16 December, 2013 by jorielov , , , , , 2 Comments

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China Grove Press

Two doctors in Mississippi bring their love of literature to life in their new independent literary journal, “China Grove,” debuting August 28.

Edited by R. Scott Anderson MD and Lucius M. “Luke” Lampton MD, the first issue features an exclusive interview with National Book Award winner Ellen Gilchrist and a new short story from her latest book “Acts of God.” Also inside readers will find a previously unseen letter from Mark Twain about an unpublished work called “The Great Republic’s Peanut Stand,” a love letter from Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty to crime-fiction writer Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald) with an insight into the entire collection of Welty-Millar correspondence unsealed for the first time just this year, and of course original submissions from fresh writers across the country.

Lampton grew up in the thick of southern literature. He lived among the likes of Willie Morris, Shelby Foote, Walker Percy, and Welty herself. He publishes a community newspaper called The Magnolia Gazette. As an author of monthly columns, screenplays and three books, Anderson experienced first hand the up-hill battle new writers have in getting attention for their work. So with their combined knowledge and interests, “China Grove” was born.

“Our goal is to give talented newcomers a chance to be published next to legends, and to see the history of what it is they’ve chosen to pursue as a vocation,” Anderson said.

Going forward, the lit-loving doctors plan to publish two issues in 2014 and go quarterly in subsequent years. They accept unpublished short fiction, poetry and essays for consideration. Every issue will feature a cornerstone interview with a famous Mississippi author. Among their next targets is Gulfport’s Natasha Trethewey, the current United States Poet Laureate.

The journal will also award two new literary prizes: The Gilchrist Prize in Short Fiction given biannually starting Fall 2014 with a monetary gift of $2,000, and The China Grove Prize in Poetry starting in 2015.

Submissions should be sent in through the “China Grove” website. The deadline for the February 2014 issue is October 1, 2013, and for the August 2014 issue is April 1, 2014. Single copy issues in print or online are $18. Subscriptions are $45 for the first three issues.


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Acquired Journal By: I work with JKS Communications Literary Publicity Firm on blog book tours as well as other press releases that I feel fit in with Jorie Loves A Story. (example: James River Writers Conference) When I received word they were seeking bloggers to read & review the new Southern Literary Journal I have been hearing a lot of wicked sweet compliments about, I knew that I had to toss my hat in to see if I could be one of the lucky participants! One such place was Southern Belle View Daily! I was selected to receive the first-ever issue of China Grove in exchange for an honest review by the publisher China Grove Press; I received a complimentary copy of the journal directly by JKS Communications Literary Publicity Firm. The journal originally published in August 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. This marks my first review of a literary journal!

Piqued Curiosity of Literary Journals: You may have noticed in my right sidebar are a causal mentioning of literary journals I am currently seeking out. I have long since wanted to read literary journals, ever since I first learnt that many a writer received their start in one! I have fond memories of scouring the bookishly bent journals at big box bookshoppes over the past years, seeing if I could find copies in person of the journals I had read about online! The one I heard the most about is The American Scholar but it also happens to be one of the ones not carried locally! I sought out pulp fiction journals, science fiction & fantasy journals, as well as journals whose literary merit would push me in and out of what I am used to reading. I like to cultivate a diverse array of literary wanderings (smiles), which I am sure to the ready reader of JLAS this will not come as a surprise! Thus, imagine my excitement when Ms. Curnutte told me I would be receiving a copy to drink in and share my thoughts about on Jorie Loves A Story?!

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About the Editors of China Grove:

R. SCOTT ANDERSON MD is a radiation oncologist who serves as the Medical Director of Anderson Cancer Center in Meridian, Mississippi.

A dyslexic kid in early 1960’s Kentucky, the written word was indecipherable to him, until the art classes his mother signed him up for gave him a way to see the world so that it made more sense.

He later served as a Navy diver working in operations in the Middle East, Central America, and in support of the Navy’s EOD community, SEALS, the U.S. Army’s Green Berets, the Secret Service, and the New York Police Department at various times during his time in the service.

The father of seven has written a family oriented literary column in the JOURNAL of the Mississippi State Medical Association for the past six years and repurposed some of those into his latest book “The Uncommon Thread.” His debut novel “Time Donors Wanted” released in 2011, and his newest book “The Hard Times” comes out this year.

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LUCIUS M. “LUKE” LAMPTON MD is a family physician in Magnolia also serving as chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Health.

He’s been the editor of the JOURNAL of the Mississippi State Medical Association and editor and publisher of the Magnolia Gazette (in continuous publication since 1872), which in recent years branched into book publishing as well. He edited the student newspaper at Rhodes College, and later as a medical student won the William Carlos Williams Poetry Award for his poem “witchdoctor.”

Now a teacher himself at three universities, Lampton grew up learning at the knee of and becoming friends with famed writers like Eudora Welty, Shelby Foote, Walker Percy, Willie Morris and Barry Hannah. He hasn’t so much studied the history of Southern Literature as he’s lived it. His insights are up close and first hand, making for a unique perspective to the literary journal.

Lampton authored several entries and the appendix for the Mark Twain Encyclopedia, eleven entries for the upcoming Mississippi Encyclopedia, and contributed numerous other pieces to other publications.

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You might have noticed one of the Editors and I share a learning difficulty in common, which I go into detail about under “My Bookish Life“. Being dyslexic is a unique perspective whilst growing up, and I can attest that art has a way of opening up dimensions of understanding where traditional learning can fall a bit short! I studied art whilst I was younger myself! In fact, I was always supplementing my education with both art and science, as I practically ‘lived at the local science center!’ during the Summers, as much as I was always up to my knuckles in oil pastels, oil paint, and pencils! The curious notation to make is that many dyslexics like Dr. Anderson and I, end up creating a niche as creative economists who share their passion for literature and the written word! I say, “Rock on, Dr. Anderson!” your a bright beacon of light for children who were not as readily encouraged to pursue our passions and seek out alternative learning outlets! I am even happier to showcase a spotlight on this literary journal knowing that I am not the only one who forged ahead despite having to fight to understand the written word!

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A Q & A with the Editors:

Why “China Grove” for the title?           

Anderson:  China Grove was the site for Welty’s short story, “Why I Live at the P. O.”  Sister was the Postmistress of “the second smallest post office in Mississippi.”  I love the conundrum of the unreliable narrator that the story posed.  Luke incidentally owns a good bit of what’s left of it (China Grove), covered in pines on a small corner of southern Mississippi.

Lampton:  Scott is right. Welty and the real China Grove, my ancestral homeplace, are the inspiration for it.  I do own much of this historic ghost town. All that remains, outside of gullies of old roads and a few old abandoned shacks, is a slave-built clapboard Methodist Church and its adjoining cemetery. It was the earliest village on Magee’s Creek, with its post office established in 1827. By 1921, the post office was closed, and the once thriving town soon was considered “extinct.”  Scott refers to Welty’s China Grove, and our China Grove is likewise a haven for literature. Like Eudora’s narrator/postmistress, we can find refuge at home, at China Grove, among our relatives and friends.  But “China Grove” is even more than that, speaking to elemental qualities in the American South.  Chinaberry trees (Melia azedarch), which were planted in a grove shading the original church in the 1820s, were a foreign species, native to Asia, introduced in this near-tropical climate.  Somehow they survived and even thrived.  They were ornamental trees with sweet smelling lavender blossoms and yellow poisonous berries.  Like the original settlers, soon to become “Southerners,” they were foreign born and exotic, but became as native as any natives.  Such is the South, and such is America.

How is “China Grove” unique to other literary journals?

Anderson:  Perhaps that it is run by two people that are so different in terms of taste and temperament, who both still love writing. It’s easy to allow yourself to get boxed in, in terms of how you define yourself, “Oh yes we are going to be a southern Paris Review.”  “No, no, we should be the reincarnation of the Mississippi Oxford American.” I have no ambitions to be either thing and neither does Luke.  We are, Scott and Luke and each and every one of us involved in its production’s version of what a literary journal can be, a place to see both the past and the future, the tried and the experimental, authors of every stripe and level giving you something important that they want you to see. And they are things you need to see, perspectives you need to explore. For your own sake.

Lampton:  By the way, I miss every deadline and drive my more manic partner crazy.  But we are perfect partners, brothers and enemies, all in one.  There is tension and love. What binds us, besides my great admiration of Scott as a gifted and unique artist, is that we both seek to promote good and ambitious literature and art.  Ford Maddox Ford, forgive us for the comparison, calls himself in his prelude to The March of Literature “an old man mad about writing.”  Scott and I, with grey hair increasing daily, certainly define ourselves as Ford did. This is a magazine mad about writing.  The community of letters and art needs cheerleaders and champions.  Perhaps China Grove can make its contribution.

Anderson: What’s a guy with such an illustrious background as yours outside of literature doing publishing a literary journal? 

Anderson:  I don’t know about illustrious, but I have had a great life, I think I’ve actually had two or three so far.  I’ve had the chance to do things I love. I love medicine, but my love of literature came first.  Maybe because I was dyslexic.  I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write.  Then through painting I learned a new way to see the world in three dimensions, suddenly the letters and numbers floated free in my mind unencumbered by the lines of my Big Chief tablet or the pages of a book.  They came together to form words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, and books.  And now I could paint them all and they made sense.  It was truly like a dam had burst.  I was filled with a need to read, a need to fill a sense of the emptiness of years deprived.  That love has never died.  It is a gift to be able to read our submissions. Sure, not everybody can get chosen.  Sure, some of the submitters don’t fit my sensibilities.  But I am still filled with what a gift I’ve been given to have the chance to read them.  I am still a child in this, albeit a child with a journal to fill, but a child nonetheless.

Do you only take Southern submissions?

Anderson:  Writers who submit need to understand that getting selected won’t be easy, and selections won’t be regionally restrictive.  We are what we publish, and while our editors and content readers are southern, it’s my opinion that Southern Literature as an idiom is not broad enough to showcase the best new writers in the current literary environment. So the short answer is, no, we take the best we’re given.

Lampton:  Hell no.  I am a great fan of Russian literature, and we are seeking the descendants of Chekhov, Pasternak, and Tolstoy.  Do you know any?

Lampton: What did you learn from your personal connections with Southern literary greats such as Shelby Foote (who taught you in college) and Willie Morris (who you knew and also acted as an editor of your paper)? 

Lampton:  Shelby told me to keep my day job.  I think his exact words were “hang out your shingle first,” then pursue literature.  Good advice, and I thank him for it.  He had struggled not only for his art but also to feed his family.  He understood that for most artists and writers, it’s a struggle, especially financially, and especially if you are true to your art.  I think Shelby taught me that writing is worth a grown man’s time and a very serious matter.  What about Willie? He lacked Shelby’s discipline and drank too much.  But he was an artist who conquered New York City.  And he also gave me my first literary hero close to home (how I worshipped him in junior high school), and my every encounter endeared him to me.  He wasted much of his enormous talent, I’m afraid.  But what a brilliant, noble, and beautiful spirit.

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| Stepping into China Grove |

The table of contents is quickly followed by a lovely section of biographies of each of the contributors whose pieces are spilt into the following categories: Historical Perspectives, Interviews, Fiction, Essays / Non-fiction, and Poetry. What I appreciated is that they included a prelude to the journal by explaining a bit more about the appealment and inspiration behind the name China Grove, which was contributed by Dr. Lampton. The name infers not only the location of a specific towne in Mississippi but rather a Chinaberry tree drawing a measure of rooted connectivity. Eudora Welty shares in the Presses namesake as having alighted China Grove the towne in one of her stories. They make becoming acquainted with a literary journal an easy assimilation for the novice! Each of the sections of the journal are clearly writ out and accessible. You do not have to follow in step with the order at hand, if you’d prefer to jump around rather than go straight-through! They bespoke of the tradition of carrying forward the tradition of seeking out ordinary writers who will one day become well-known names in literature as much as shining a spotlight on writers who are established. In this vein, they are ingeniously endearing themselves not only to their growing readership but at the heart, of what every writer would hope to seek in a literary journal!

| Illuminating Mark Twain |

I hadn’t realised until the journal was in my hands to read, that Mr. Twain had suffered through devastating loss at a time in his life where I believe he would have been considered of ‘retired age’ by modern standards. This is curious to me, as although I have oft heard of stories of Twain whilst growing up, and of course, in knowing of his contributions to literature being widely receptive in my own generation, I never knew of his struggles in later life! Nor did I realise he became ever writer’s champion for securing copyright for their individual works! I find this most curious because one of the earliest lessons a writer learns is how to protect their creative works and seek the protection of their writings. I hadn’t realised the beginning of this gift we each are given stemmed out of the hard work and dedication of a writer I have always been most curious to investigate further, ever since having learnt of his Autobiographies being released in separate volumes. To me, if a man can measure his contribution by the mark of a project whose depth and breadth cannot even be contained into a single volume tome, then this is a man who is worth the attention of all men, not only those who are literary inclined. Any further insight into his character and of his beliefs is a happenstance discovery!

| Eudora Welty: An unexpected letter writer |

As someone who can attest to the joys of exchanging letters with those who live in far-off places from where we reside, I can see how she found the wings to become close to a man she exchanged correspondence. In that, whilst we write our lives down in the context of paper and pen, taking flight tucked inside envelopes on the mercy of delivery by those who deliver the Post, we find the ability to give a truer picture of who we are. Letters are rather magical in this regard as we lay bear our confidences alongside our dreams, and take into our hearts the conversations which etch into time as they alight. What took me by surprise is knowing the full scope of Welty & Millar’s relationship was bounded inside the confines of their exchanges! Neither was free to pursue the other in a relationship past paper and pen! I find this tragic as it sounds to me as they were two souls who found inside each other their true compliments . I appreciated this spectrum of disclosure, as although Welty has been known to me in ‘name and persona’, her works are amongst those I have not yet read. Seeing her frailties as a woman in love gives her a warm glow of how strong of a writer she truly was if only to extend past her own hurdles to give back a legacy of words to others.

| Ellen Gilchrist: An Interview |

A writer of poems and novels, of whom I had not yet become acquainted with until this reading. A woman who I admired as soon as I read where she didn’t appreciate the pigeon-holed side effect of being a self-declared writer ‘in school’ to where your teachers will always try to assert their own beliefs of where your own writing is meant to take you! I felt a moment of pride reading that she, like me, stood her ground and decided to be the sole person to define who she is as a writer. Even if that meant that being considered a ‘poet’ and a ‘novelist’ might not be the sum of the entire picture, it lends a mirror into the part of her of whom most will readily see. I had to smile whilst being questioned to explain herself as a writer to the Editors of whom were interviewing her. She smirked her answers conveying in a way only another writer would recognise as to dodge to be narrowed into a particular vein if one plans to keep the discovery of how we write a bit of a mystery to those who read our stories. How can you not smile reading that she’s receiving permission to write stories in which real names are revealed whilst conveying her intentions through Facebook? Ms. Gilchrist is a writer who gives new meaning and perspective on how lit with fire a creative can be at any age.

| Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Ellen Gilchrist |

Apparently not a writer to shy away from a hard-edge opening scene, as this short story opens in the setting of Heathrow Airport during a potential threat of an attack! I am not sure what I was expecting to read (given the title!), however, this proved to be a provocative opening as it lends a certain visceral level of intensity!  The characters are ruminating about how absurdly trivial it would be to cast characters into Tuscany as a life-evolving excursion of discovery, as its been done far to often at the time they are conversing. From there this short extends into each women’s personal views and how their lives are intersecting at point of departure. As their delay grows into a parlay of extorted virtues of drinks, they start to take stock of their plight with uncanny irony! In true round-robin fashion, each of the key characters starts to relate their own life’s story in such a fullness of mirth to give the reader a hearty chucklement! Its a perfect compliment of a short for anyone who needs good jolt of satire to lift their spirits! As well with just a touch of suspense to keep you hanging for the conclusion! I loved the serendipitous nature of how the story unfolded and how the reader felt as the tale progressed! I cannot wait to seek out more of her writings!

| Going the Back Way … a Southernism by Dwalia South |

A reflective essay on extolling the virtues of taking the longer way to your destination if it yields the serenity of scenery across your view. I can relate to this reflection, as I have oft suggested that if anyone wanted to trek to Micanopy, stopping for a day of walking underneath billowing oak trees, ducking into antique stores, and sipping on piping hot coffee, they best take Old 301 in order to seek out the ‘true image of the back-roads of Florida’ whilst gaining ground on their destination. Like most Southern states, Florida has its own niche of hidden treasures. For me, taking the long way around to where your headed is a delight for the senses as much as for your eyes, because you can drink in the natural variety of Floridian treasure as your car ambles its way down a winding road few cars now traverse! As time etched forward you notice little differences in your route, little memories of people you’ve met, places you’ve passed, and the intersection of time carrying through the modern age. This is a story of one person’s reflection of what was gained by taking a route others might have felt held no value, but then, can any value be put on the quality of how we spend our time?

*NOTE: Through an advert for China Grove Books, I learnt that Ms. South is actually “Dr. South!” and is an MD akin to the Editors! Quirky coincidence!?

| Spotlight on Poems |

There are a plethora of poems contained within this inaugural edition of the journal, however, a few stood out to me to mention:

  • River Lust by Kate Dwiggins, whose poetry is a soft caress for the senses
  • Horn Island by Kendall Dunkelberg, a poet with a lushness of imagery and philosophy
  • A Taste of Poison by Dr. Scott Anderson, MD (Editor), on the merit of taking risks and daring to live free

| The Storyteller by Michelle Herold |

A turn-table of introspective images of seeing your family through an outside lens, of how each of your loved ones will be seen from the outside. As one family decides who needs to become the next story-teller, of whom will be a keeper of the living histories of her lineage. The weight of the duties of the story-teller is generally given to a child, of whom has to live suspended from their parents in order to inhabit the full effect of the stories needed to be passed down. One family’s grandmother must make the choice of whom will take the serious aspects of this undertaking into consideration when she chooses her protegé. A story which crosses into self-identity across ethnic lines of inheritance. As the story took a turn in direction, I was a bit blindsided in knowing what would happen. I felt this was a story of passing on the inheritance of history, rather than the outpouring of a memory which was knitted tightly into emotional bonds.

| Gratitude for Reviewing the 1st Edition |

I chose to highlight pieces of my reading which spoke to me in a way that I felt should be mentioned in my review. There are many more options of where a reader might find themselves headed as they pick up this first edition of China Grove. Perhaps the stories I chose to mention were ones that they felt were sought in deference of another they felt deserved a mentioning too! One of the blessings of reading a literary journal, I have soon found out, is that we each have the ability to read through the offerings, pulling out the words and stories each writer contributed and finding where our heart is willing to take us next. Some of the pieces will strike a strong resonance in us whereas others might be only a passing fancy for the time we were reading them. The best bits are finding the sparks of words which illuminate in our minds as being a grateful blessing of discovery. Writers and poets we might not have endeavoured to seek out on our own yearnings, are stitched into the fabric of this journal, awaiting the reader to alight upon its pages with an open mind and with a heart a sea of gladness for the journey!

I know now that I am going to be excited to continue my exploration of literary journals, as each one will enter a new world of possibility for me to explore a different context of the written word. Whilst nestled into the fictional realms of novellas and novels, one tends to exclude other aspects of the writing culture, as we are always stalwartly eager to see what is awaiting us around the next bend in the publishing road! Here is a prime example of taking a bit of time to seek out the unexpected and to give a lay of pause on one of the purist exploits of writing, where veteran writers used to become worth their salt!

I am thankful to JKS Communications, for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to continuing my showcase of China Grove, where I submit a query of Questions for the Editors to respond to. Giving us further insight the men behind the journal! If this is your first literary journal you’ve picked up or if you are a regular reader of journals of this kind, I’d be happy to hear your reflections in the comments section! What do you seek out when picking up a literary journal!? What holds your attention whilst you’re rooting inside to find a voice that attached to your heart!?

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis marks my first review of a Literary Journal courtesy of:

JKS Communications Literary Publicity Firm

Be sure to check out my Bookish Events to see when I host again for JKS!

{SOURCES: Journal Cover, Editor Biographies, Editor Q & A, and the JKS Badge provided by JKS Communications Literary Publicity Firm and used with permission. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

Related Articles:

Two Mississippi Doctors Start Literary Journal – (thedmonline.com)

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 16 December, 2013 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Essays, Historical Perspectives, Interviews of Authors, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Literary Journals, Photography, Poetry, Short Fiction, Southern Writers

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2 responses to “*Literary Journal Review*: China Grove, Premier Issue!

  1. Thanks for the in depth look at China Grove, next issue Forrest Gump’s Winston Groom on the greatest age of American Literature, an excerpt from Deborah Johnson’s new book The Secret of Magic and a whole lot more, out in Feb 2014.

    • Dr. Anderson,

      It was my pleasure to review China Grove, as it was such a special treat to be introduced to this area of literary exploration! Oh, boy! You have me eagerly awaiting the next issue’s release! I still find that the most extraordinary part of our connection is that we’re both dyslexics in the literary realm! Thanks for dropping by and for tweeting!

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