Category: Southern Writers

Celebrating my 5th #Blogoversary with a retrospective about why I appreciate reading #INSPY Fiction whilst conveying how blessed I am to start reading the stories penned by Kellie Coates Gilbert! Starting with the 3rd Texas Gold series novel: “A Reason to Stay”.

Posted Saturday, 31 March, 2018 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Borrowed Book By: I originally crossed paths with Ms Kellie Coates Gilbert in [2014] wherein I met her through her participation in the group author blog “Southern Belle View Daily” which was affectionately known as ‘Southern Belle View’. I was a regular visitor who chatted with the authors on the blog and engaged in the content they were sharing. I had the opportunity to receive the first two novels of the Texas Gold series shortly afterwards, however, due to a variety of adversities which took me away from the joys of reading these past several years, it wasn’t until this New Year 2018 where I could lay heart and mind back into the stories I had to shelve for another day where I could focus properly on their contents.

I was originally gifted a copy of “A Reason to Stay” by my Mum, who knew how excited I was to start reading the Texas Gold series – this is within the year or so of this third installment’s release. I was going to surprise the author and read all three novels back to back whilst sharing my reactions with my readers as I have a self-directed focus on INSPY authors I am either re-discovering or just now becoming aware of as I re-start my readings in earnest into the INSPY realms of Fiction.

I go into why I had to borrow through ILL’ing (interlibrary loaning) this novel in this top anchour ahead of revealling my ruminations on the emotionally evocative story Ms Gilbert has written for us – however, I wanted to mention I am choosing to share my thoughts on behalf of this story for my own edification inasmuch as inspiring my readers to become acquainted with a #newtomeauthor I am truly blessed to have found. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

A unique introduction into the Texas Gold series – or rather,

why INSPY Lit is an important part of Jorie’s bookish life:

a retrospective whilst celebrating entering a 5th Year as a Book Blogger

I originally crossed paths with Ms Gilbert whilst she was part of Southern Belle View – a lovely group author blog I used to frequent six years ago, a bit prior to becoming a book blogger – of which I am celebrating my 5th Blogoversary *today!* on the 31st of March, 2018! This was the day I love to observe as the day I created Jorie Loves A Story – whereas I honour the day I launched my blog to the world on the 6th of August every year as the day in which my blog has its public ‘birthday’.

I was thankful to receive two of her novels – which she offered to send me to help me become acquainted with her Texas Gold book series as well as her writing style – as this was a few years ago, the series had just the first two novels recently released. I had hoped to have read both of them close to the time I first received them – however, most of the years I’ve been a book blogger, I’ve had a few set-backs with the plans I’ve made along the way. My health has been a big factor as well as personal strife & tribulations – as we all have lives outside of our bookish and readerly lives of which give us the most joy to share with our readership.

Earlier this year, I reconnected with Ms Gilbert – as I was trying to explain the distance between receiving her novels and being able to fully appreciate reading them this New Year, 2018 – as it was going to become my year back into reading Inspirational Fiction (#INSPY as I like to nickname it on Twitter) whilst proving to be the year I can focus on my *70 Authors Challenge* which specifically focuses on the INSPY niche of Literature as you can see on the main page I created for this personal exploration of a branch of Lit I am definitely passionate about reading! I’ve been a hybrid reader my entire life – moving in and out of INSPY and mainstream channels of interest since I was a young girl. This equated to regular visits to Christian bookstores (at the time, in the 80s and 90s the only place truly to find INSPY being sold) as well as big box, Indie and mall (remember those?) chain bookstores – to see a wide spectrum of both titles, genres and bookish realms!

I would also frequent used book shoppes – even before it was fashionable to gather a bit of insight into the books falling ‘off’ publication and/or the backlist of authors I might one day feel inclined to be reading. In essence, I’ve led quite a bookish life despite having a rocky start at learning to read (ie. as a dyslexic learner).

INSPY was a joy to be reading simply due to the beautiful uplift of JOY I received from reading the story-lines inasmuch as disappearing into fascinating worlds where kids like me were taking on keenly lived adventures! The Cooper Kids series and the Mandie series were personal favourites – of the latter, I had only hoped Ms Leppard could have lived long enough to pen the College years of Mandie’s personal growth rather than the single chapter of her University days. I cherish all of my Mandie editions, singularly regretting I never wrote the author a letter (if you can imagine, I have shy tendencies – these days I tend to reach out to authors directly on a regular basis – but I still have moments where I hesitate) and hope I have all of the installments as I had to remember which number I was on and collect as many as I could before they went out of print. Due to those fond memories of walking beside Mandie, Joe, Celia, Uncle Ned and her Grandmother – I started to explore adult INSPY Literature in my formative years. (see also the Mandie page on Wikipedia)

I settled on Judith Pella and then took a proper hiatus til I discovered Dee Henderson, Deeanne Gist and Julie Lessman. More recently in the early days as a book blogger (my 1st Year) I crossed paths with Brenda S. Anderson – of whom is now a beloved author for me to read with the added blessing of being on her Street Team. (see also the archive of my posts for Ms Anderson) I am still reading her Coming Home series this Spring – wherein I hope to reveal my thoughts on the last two installments of this series before moving into her Where the Heart Is series.

Moving forward – when I first found Southern Belle View, I also found The Word Wenches (another beautifully lovely group author blog), the writerly reader blog of Ms Lauren Willig, the many blog visits of Ms (Julie) Lessman which were ‘organic blog tours’ of their own kind and the lovely blog of Ms (Mary) Ellis. I had a singular route I would visit and comment upon regularly – hence why I initially conceived of the spark of inspiration which lateron became ‘Jorie Loves A Story’.

In those early days of laying down the foundation of my blog, I wanted to re-focus on INSPY Literature – start reading the stories of the authors I was visiting with regularly in the book blogosphere and start to share my bookish life. However, I was such a newbie to book blogging – trying to sort out how I wanted to articulate my writerly style as a book blogger, whilst mindful there was a larger community out there I was slowly becoming a part of – from readers, to fellow book bloggers, to authors who had other author group blogs as well as wading into the realms of both INSPY and mainstream publishing channels of interest.

What I was surprised by is not finding a lot of other hybrid readers – those of us who move between both worlds of thought and regularly love to share our readerly adventures. I’ve been wanting to share glimpses into why I am drawn into certain INSPY authors and why I love reading INSPY Non-Fiction whereas in the past I was mostly a Historical INSPY kind of gal! Truly, as a regular time traveller of fictional worlds – you would have thought it would have dawned on me the historic past played such a pertinent role in my readerly tendencies! (sadly, it hadn’t fused to my heart until I was somewhere between my 2nd & 3rd Year as a Book Blogger!)

Fast forward – Southern Belle View was a group author blog who had a rotation of guest authors being featured each of the days they would host new posts & discussions. A few times they would host bookaways, but mostly it was a place to engage in light-hearted chatter, bookish topics and get to know the ‘writers’ themselves in an interpersonal way as you were commenting directly with them on each of their ‘daily’ posts – which is why the full name was ‘Southern Belle View Daily’ as each of the Belles themselves were living in the ‘Southern’ tier of the States – from Texas to Mississippi to Louisiana (I believe?) and someone I believe was in the Carolina’s. The uniqueness of their writing styles and the ways in which they interacted with their readership was what pulled me into their posts.

I fell lin love with Ms (Lisa) Wingate’s writing style when I first read “The Prayer Box” which touched my spirit and my heart alike – it also marked my first ‘blog tour’ as a book blogger of which I was forever grateful for JKS Communications for giving me a chance to participate in such an event during my first ‘live’ month on Jorie Loves A Story. My parents would gift me a copy of the next story in sequence as this became a series of stories – known best as the Carolina Chronicles – however, I still need to gather a copy of the omnibus edition of the novellas which released betwixt the others and the final story in the trilogy. I was planning to let this series become my gateway into other stories of the Belles but then, of course – I was honestly ‘distracted’!

As I became more active in book blogging and started to sort out how to work with authors, publisher and publicists – I sort of started to focus on garnishing a readership for Jorie Loves A Story whilst sorting out the kind of stories I wanted to focus on reading overall. I also was gaining traction on how best to balance my personal library readings with the stories I was borrowing through my public library – the balance of course remained elusive to my intentions until two years ago – wherein during 2016 I started to implement changes in my blogging schedules. I began a personal Renaissance of redirection and re-focus of my personal goals for Jorie Loves A Story in other words.

You can see the fuller effect of those efforts now in 2018 – as I purposefully schedule less blog tours, am ever more vigilant about being particularly particular about the stories I accept for review and am starting to reap the rewards of being able to read ‘more’ but read without hard deadlines (for the most part). I am also merging into a new vein of my bookish life where I am shifting towards a goal of reading 50% of the books via print editions and listening to 50% of the books via audio editions. This became more apparent as a personal need of mine when I noticed a reduction in my chronic migraines – hence why you see more audiobook reviews populating on my blog!

Towards that end – this year, I am gathering more audiobooks outside of blog tours – whilst taking advantage of being able to ILL (interlibrary loan) audiobooks on CD and borrowing eaudiobooks directly from my library’s OverDrive catalogue as well.

All of these small personal changes were leading me back to the world of INSPY Lit – whilst my Mum and Dad have been helping me as for the past year and a half they have spent my blogoversarsies and blog birthdays gifting me anthologies of INSPY novellas! You’ll see my reading adventures into those as the months move forward as I am slowly working my way through a personal list of #nextreads and #mustreads – most of which are listed on my *70 Authors Challenge* page. This gives a keen insight into the genres and themes of INSPY Lit I gravitate towards whilst owning to the fact even when I set a plan into action, I do deviate and ‘add’ more authors of focus! Laughs with mirth.

This journey of mine has led me to the writings of Kellie Coates Gilbert – she blessed me with the first two Texas Gold novels whereas Mum gifted me the third novel “A Reason to Stay” – however, during an end of Summer cleaning, I ended up packing up a large portion of my books to unpack as I finish the ones I had on my bookshelves – as I had to reduce my bookcases two years ago. This gives me a rotation of stories rather than keeping them all unpacked all at once – of course, one day I hope to have a designated room again for all the lovely stories but until then, I sorted out how to make due with less space to greet them all on a daily basis. I thought for sure I had kept all of Ms Gilbert’s novels together – yet, one went missing! This very novel – the third installment of the series!

I fretted over it for a bit longer than I ought to have in February before Mum came to my rescue and said – before you go hog wild trying to find which box has which book, why don’t you just simplify it and borrow it through ILL’ing? You know how much you love to seek out your ILLs! lol She surely does know me well! The novel came rather promptly (in early March) however, March became a wicked horrid month for personal health – this is why I was severely under-read at the start of Spring.

I wanted dearly to read this series in order – though it is a true test of patience and faith to acknowledge not everything is meant to go according to plan! It is our continued quest towards remaining humble in our lives to realise it is ‘okay’ to do things outside of the plans we set for ourselves – owning to the fact sometimes doing things out of sequence is actually a ‘good thing’. At least this is what I resolved realising as ILLs are only with us for three weeks – given how I spent those weeks under the weather, I chose to read “A Reason to Stay” ahead of “A Woman of Fortune”.

The reason I wanted to share this longer back-story with you is to give you an insightful view of my journey back to INSPY Literature. I’ve yearned to pick up where I left off during those years where I was trapped inside a reader’s rut – researching authors and stories but never reading them. I even gathered half of my personal library during those years – spilt between as aforesaid INSPY and mainstream authors. (whether they were Indie or traditionally published as well)

One of the biggest blessings I’ve had these past five years is the JOY of reading without failure to connect to the stories – meaning, there was such a time where I felt disconnected from how novels were written as motion pictures were easier for me to ‘connect’ with in a quasi-visceral manner of enjoyment. Somewhere between the initial inspiration for Jorie Loves A Story – I not only healed my reading life but I reclaimed a passion for ‘writing’ as well. As my blog is an extension of my writerly life in a way I am sure might remain overlooked by most of my readers. You get a sense of my personal writing life if you move in and out of my posts – all five years worth – as there is a growth amongst the archives from day one to the present day.

I am overjoyed the story I get to share with you, as I celebrate my 5th Blogoversary as a Book Blogger – where I found a newfound passion for being a book cheerleader and a author’s advocate is “A Reason to Stay” because even before I read the story itself, the title struck a chord in my own heart. I found my own ‘reason to stay’ a book blogger when I realised by sharing my bookish ruminations, I get to leave notes of gratitude back to the writers who are enriching my life with their stories. I get to acknowledge how their stories affect me and what impressed me about how they approached their individual perspective of how stories can thrive when fused so eloquently with their own personal imagination and vision for the craft of writing.

I am staying a book blogger due to the pure celebration of ‘stories’ I love reading but also the continued love of pursuing the written word in all its facets of exploration – wherein the story itself is where my own enlightenment is actively found. I love spreading bookish JOY – thank you for being a part of my journey here on Jorie Loves A Story. May you remain with me as I continue to seek out the stories which touch my mind, heart and soul.

And, may 2018 be a year where I can finally re-merge my INSPY readings into my regular readerly life, as they become fused directly into my life once more – as they have been an absence I have missed reconnecting with these past five years. They’ve been there, of course, hovering in the background – but now, I am thankful they can take their rightful spot as co-navigators of my bookish world!

postscript: I am sitting on a lovely SURPRISE I received this year, connected to the Texas Gold series – as I am reading this series back to back – resuming where I left off within Faith’s story (ie. A Reason to Stay) by pursuing the journey I am about to take with Claire (ie. A Woman of Fortune) – you’ll simply have to wait to find out about the blessing I received and my further ruminations on behalf of this heart and soul centred series!

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Notation on the condition of this paperback: Did you notice how well-loved this interlibrary loaned copy of “A Reason to Stay” is ?? This curling of the bottom pages is how it reached my hands – the cover is now ‘soft’ to the touch, hinting towards how many bookish spirits have entered this novel and the ways in which the pages easily turn speaks of how this story has touched a lot of hearts ahead of my own. Although I am dearly particular how I read my own books – I can recognise a smile of joy in seeing how well-read a library book is by the patrons like me who amplify their reading life by the collections of public libraries which give us a renewal of hope to be able to seek out all the stories we readily wish to be reading irregardless of our purchasing budget – as public libraries fuell our reading lives as much as our intellectual curiosities (in the Non-Fiction realms).

A Reason to Stay Book Photography Credit: Jorie of Photo edits and collage created in Canva.

A Reason to Stay
Subtitle: A Texas Gold Novel
by Kellie Coates Gilbert
Source: Borrowed from local library (ILL)

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9780800722746

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, INSPY Realistic Fiction, Southern Lit, Women's Fiction

Published by Revell

on 6th October, 2015

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 336

Published by: Revell (@RevellBooks)

an imprint of Baker Publishing Group

Formats Available: Hardback, Trade Paperback and Ebook

 The Texas Gold series:

A Woman of Fortune (Book One) | Synopsis

Where Rivers Part (Book Two) | Synopsis

A Reason to Stay (Book Three)

What Matters Most (Book Four) | Synopsis

About Kellie Coates Gilbert

Kellie Coates Gilbert

Kellie Coates Gilbert has won readers’ hearts with her compelling and highly emotional stories about women and the relationships that define their lives. A former legal investigator, she is especially known for keeping readers turning pages and creating nuanced characters who seem real.

Born and raised near Sun Valley, Idaho, Kellie now lives with her husband of over thirty-five years in Dallas, where she spends most days by her pool drinking sweet tea and writing the stories of her heart.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission. Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:


Posted Saturday, 31 March, 2018 by jorielov in 21st Century, 70 Authors Challenge 2013-19, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Based on an Actual Event &/or Court Case, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Birthdays & Blogoversaries, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Christianity, Clever Turns of Phrase, Contemporary Romance, Crime Fiction, Disabilities & Medical Afflictions, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Gabby Giffords, Humour & Satire in Fiction / Non Fiction, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Inspired by Stories, INSPY Realistic Fiction | Non-Fiction, Investigative Reporter | Journalist, Learning Difficulties, Library Catalogues & Databases, Library Find, Library Love, Life Shift, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Medical Fiction, Mental Health, Modern Day, Neurosciences | Neurogenetics, Passionate Researcher, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Psychological Abuse, PTSD, Realistic Fiction, Southern Writers, Special Needs Children, Stories of Jorie, Texas, Women's Fiction, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, Writing Style & Voice

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

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

Parajunkee Designs
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.

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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