>The Day the Music Died and New Life in the Culinary and Literary Mississippi Delta

>Ten years after Mother Teresa’s death… two more giants have left our midst. Although their publicists just announced it yesterday, this past Thursday, September 6, 2007, two icons of art both departed this life:

Lucianno Pavarotti, the 71-year-old legendary Italian opera singer, and Madeleine L’Engle, 88-year-old award-winning author (and one my favorites of all time)as reported in the New York Times. Among L’Engle’s more than sixty published books was the Newberry Award winning book, A Wrinkle in Time, which should be the standard-bearer of patience for all of us writers seeking to have our work published: it was rejected by 26 publishers before it was finally accepted! But it’s her book about writing, and art and spirituality and life that inspired me to write. Walking on Water is full of amazing wisdom and beauty. But I’m going to quote from a book compiled by Carole Chase, Madeleine L’Engle {Herself} for today’s memorial to this great lady. The subtitle is Reflections on a Writing Life. It’s hard to choose my favorite quotes, but I’ve narrowed it down to the following.

The Danger of ArtistsThe first people that a dictator puts in jail are the writers and the teachers because these are the people who have vocabulary, who can see injustice and can express what they feel about it. Artists are dangerous people because they are called to work with human clay, with the heart and the soul. So to protect itself, society has had to pretend that either art is unimportant or that it is simple.

Writers are DangerousWhen Hugh and I went on a trip to Russia I almost didn’t get a visa because our travel agent put down my occupation as writer. Writers think. Writers ask questions. Writers are dangerous.

The Truth of Fiction I think that all writing, even the most scientific, is autobiographical, and there’s no such thing as an objective history. I don’t trust history as much as I trust fiction. Fiction tends to be more true. When you’re writing fiction, or what is called fiction, you’re more able to let go and you have to let go to get to the truth. When we’re controlling it, it’s never quite there. Our darknesses do change us sometimes, pulling us further in and sometimes opening us up to the most brilliant sulight. We have to trust them. I don’t want to go through some of mine again, thank you please. But they were very important.

The Language of PoetsAn icon is more than a simile; it is a metaphor, containing within itself something of the indescribable, so that the need for description vanishes. It is not just like. It is. Jesus is God. What an affirmation! Jesus is God, the ultimate metaphor. Poets use both similes and metaphors, but metahpor is the stronger. Whatever is an open door to God is, for me, an icon. It may be that small picture pasted on wood with which I travel. The icon of the three angels, the Holy Trinity, does not prove to me anything about God, but it opens the doors and windows of my heart.

The Paradox of SuccessThere is no evading the fact that the artist yearns for success, because tha tmeans that there has been a communication of the vision; that all the struggle has not been invalid. Yet with each book I write I am weighted with a deep longing for anonymity, a feeling that books should not be signed, reviews should not be read. But I sign the books; I read the reveiews…. We cannot seem to escape the paradox; I do not think I want to.

Me, either. Madeleine!

The Lion King just finished a run at the Orpheum Theater here in Memphis, and I was thinking about the song, “The Circle of Life” when I started this blog post. Just as we are losing these two giants, new life is gaining strength in the Mississippi Delta…

INTERVIEW WITH Keetha DePriest Reed:

What a delight to meet Keetha DePriest Reed at the Mississippi Writers Guild’s first conference in Raymond, Mississippi in August. This young woman has already published two books– Culinary Kudzu and More Culinary Kudzu, while raising a five-year-old and holding down a full time day job! Her books are full of yes, wonderful recipes, but also endearing stories of growing up Southern, photos of local culture, and links to web sites about everything Southern. (I bought 8 autographed copies to give as Christmas gifts!) So, today I’ll do a short blog interview with Keetha so my readers can get to know her better:

SC: I’m so impressed with your educational path… undergrad (Mississippi Southern) in hospitality and grad school (Ole Miss) in journalism. And you’re actually using both of these in your work in the food and publishing industries. Was this all calculated from the beginning?

KR: My master plan ten years ago was to get a master’s in journalism then conquer Manhattan via the New York Times food pages. Good plan and all but it didn’t exactly work out! I have learned the hard way that I am, shall we say, lacking in reporting skills. I really enjoy is essay-type writing. More recently, I’m trying fiction and not focusing as much on food writing. I daydream about going back to school, this time to study creative writing.

SC: Did you write down these amazing childhood memories and details about family events all along the way, or just call them back up from somewhere deep in your Southern soul when you were preparing to write these books?

KR: It was funny – all those stories were saved up there, vivid and real, when I began writing! Like many southern families, I come from a group of storytellers. Growing up, some of the most fun I had was spent with family, trading funny stories. We’d be just howling, all but rolling on the floor laughing. At some point, I realized how rare and wondrous that was and wanted to capture it. Or try to, anyway.

SC: I hear you’re taking a detour with your next book… a mystery novel? Do you have favorite authors in this genre? What/who’s your inspiration for this project?

KR: I am collaborating on a novel with a friend. The inspiration came about because we both wanted to write and both seemed to need either permission or a shove, or both. We decided to just do it. Write this thing, although I, for one, don’t know what I’m doing. We gave ourselves official sanctioned permission to write something really awful, but to WRITE IT. It is a lot of fun. I love the way once I get started, I really am there, with the characters. It’s a trip! I have ideas for another novel and several ideas for short stories I’d like to pursue. Making the time to pursue these things is a daily challenge.

SC: Keetha, you are a prolific reader, as well. Every writing instructor tells us to read, read, read, but oh my gosh, your annual book list is amazing. And your contributions to Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/) … how on earth do you find time for that?
KR: Books have always been a huge deal to me. Since I first learned to read, I’ve had my nose in a book at every opportunity. I read during my lunch break (when perhaps I should be writing) and I read in the evenings while my son watches Tom and Jerry cartoons. As much as I love books, it’s kind of amazing that I was a full fledged grownup before it occurred to me to try my hand at writing. Better late than never, right?

SC: Thanks for “chatting” with us, Keetha. Good luck with the novel… and I’ll think of you when I try out your recipes during the upcoming holiday seasons!

Keetha offers a free monthly e-newsletter called Delta Dish. Visit http://www.pecanst.com/ to sign up. Keetha’s books make great Christmas gifts – she will even autograph them for your family and friends. Just go to her web site to order: http://www.pecanst.com/.

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