Looking back, 2017 was a hard year. There were a lot of changes for my family and me. My biggest was trying to decide who I was as an author. After a lengthy discussion with my friends, tossing in the results of numerous contests, it’s decided: I am a Southern Fiction Writer. Not a romance novelist as I previously thought. I started to think about what it means to be a Southern Woman, not a Southern author, but a Southern Woman who loves to write.
Southern women have a long tradition of standing up for what they believe in. We don’t shy away from sharing our thoughts, although some of us are more polite than others. Ever heard “You attract more bees with honey than vinegar.” Of course, you have. After the conflict over the last year involving our Southern love of heritage and history, I did some digging for some historical Southern Women that were examples of our strong culture and discovered some gems of all ethnic backgrounds. Penelope Barker, born and raised in Edenton, NC, started the Edenton Tea Party in 1774 organizing a group of 50 women to boycott English goods and services. Mary Musgrove (c.1700-1765) of Georgia, who acted as a diplomat between the Native Americans and settlers, assisted in the formation of the state of Georgia. She pushed for the rights of Native Americans and people of mixed race descent in the newly developing United States. Bridget Biddey Mason, (1818-1891), was born a slave in Georgia. After being moved west by her owner, she lead a legal fight against him to gain freedom for herself and other slaves when California joined the Union as a slave-free state. Ladybird Johnson of Texas brought environmental conservation to the thoughts of the Nation during the 1960’s when our citizens wanted to make a difference.
Southern women have always used their writing to bring the hard subjects to the forefront. Willa Cather (1873-1947) challenged the rigid gender roles of the Victorian Era with her work and lifestyle wearing her hair short and pants. Endora Welty from Mississippi took on the racial turmoil of her time by writing her “Where is the Voice Coming From?” writing from the point of view of an assassin. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) wrote about her life in Harlem as a popular author during the Harlem Renaissance. Her novels went unrecognized by modern readers until a work by the famous Alice Walker about her importance in literature in Ms. Magazine during the 1970’s.
Today’s Southern women have found a platform on social media to bring their passions to light, but sometimes it can be unkind. The summer of 2017 turned “Southern” into a derogatory description with protests in Charlottesville, Virginia and on college campuses across the South. It became the equivalent of “Racist.” It has taken women like Reese Witherspoon with her positive push for change in Hollywood to reverse that mislabel. Using her clothing business, Draper James, and her joint venture, Hello Sunshine, she has accepted the challenge to make the changes she wants. I am inspired by her example. The story that I write every day with my lifestyle shows I am proud to be a Southern Woman. The strength that I have inherited from generations before me empowers my courage to make change for the future generations of Southern Women. 2018 will be the year for positive change. I am up for the challenge. Are you? What is your passion?
June 18, 1859
I have work at one of the local mistresses houses. For a place to live and food, I will sew anything that she asks. I will be staying in the shed on the property. It is small with a dirt floor but it is my own. I brought some quilt pieces that I used to practice and the mistress was very happy with them. Of course she didn't know that they were a map to my freedom. Now they will pay my way. My tiny stitches could barely be seen and that is all that she cared about. I plan to sew for the other ladies in Washington too so I can save some coin for the rest of my journey.
Abram will return for me when he has a journey to the north. I can not believe that he guessed I was a girl. He did not tell anyone on the boat. I had good fortune when I picked that boat even though the journey was long. I do not want to see another oyster in my life. They are so ugly.
From the yard at the house I can see the river and the boats arriving in harbor. It is the perfect spot to wait.
So I will sew and save and wait for Abram to return.
August was amazing for my growth as a writer. I went to a writer's retreat at the beach very close to home. The seminars were mind-blowing and such a bargain. The women writers that I met were amazing. And of course the scenery was just perfect. It fit my personality and my needs.
The Babes on the Beach Writer's Retreat was organized by Nikki Terpilowski of the Holloway Literary Agency. If any of you have priced classes in writing lately, you know how expensive they can be. This retreat was a bargain. There were seminars on Agents, Publishing Houses and their roles. We had a class on basic writing tips for novels and making your novel pop for the market place. Then we practiced what we learned. The Agents and Editors from Agencies and Publishing Houses sat down with us and read our projects. It was so awesome. By the end of the week, I had the opportunity to pitch my novel idea to Harlequin, Source and the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Such an incredible opportunity.
One of my favorite things about BOTB2015 was the amazing women writers that I met. I was a little nervous because of my introverted tendencies. But I must say, I felt comfortable from the moment I arrived. There were Women's Fiction and Romance writers. I soon found out that I fit into the first category. There were groups from all over the United States. These ladies were in different stages in their careers. Some were very successful and were there to teach us. Some were published and looking for information to get their next deal and some were writing their first project, just like me. We had time to visit and get to know each other. I met ladies that became friends by the end of the week. Now, I have a support group to push me when I feel frustrated.
The beach was a relaxing setting for the week. Our meeting room was in a beach cottage on Emerald Isle, NC. Nikki organized seminars on yoga and reiki. The relaxation techniques helped with writer's block and stress and the time away from everyday life helped me write. During the retreat, I wrote in my free time. And yes there was free time in the packed schedule. The pool and beach were beautiful. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting.
I didn't want to leave it was such a wonderful week. It was just what I needed to turbo charge this project. BOTB2016 promises to be even better and I hope you all will join me. If you hurry there is a bargain price that will end very soon. Sorry Guys, Ladies only.
All photos on the website are taken by Tammera Cooper and remain her property.