No Southern BlogHer Tour? Y'all Come Back Now!
The BlogHer ReachOut tour is gearing up for its Boston and D.C. stops, but hearing the buzz of bloggers getting ready in the Northeast is making me sing the Delta blues. I'm sad that the Reach Out train had to cut the stops planned for Greensboro, Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans because I was truly looking forward to BlogHer's focus on women in the Deep South and Southeast.
I often dream of escaping to a more progressive west coast or southwestern lifestyle, the cities of the east are incomparable, and the heart of the world lives in the Midwest. But as a reader and a writer, I have a deeply biased appreciation for the literary perspective that emerges from living in the American South. Nothing sings to me like the voices that have been tuned by Southern heat and hurricanes, by our complicated political struggles, by our scrappy harvests, by our current racial tensions on land that was very recently slave-tended land, and by our rich religion, family, and community traditions and expectations. I've lived other places, but I firmly believe that no place in this country is more complex than the South.
The southern written voice is not exclusive to books. Although it's true that anyone can have a cosmopolitan life online, even when a Southerner is blogging about business, technology or pop culture--and most certainly when she speaks of her family, passions, and new-found delights--if you are keyed to it you will hear a distinctive Southern sensibility, a certain sass, a dirty south kick and a down-home strength.
Southern women writers have always set forth a rich literary and interactive tradition despite our distance from New York, LA and San Francisco. Luminaries such as Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Allison, Harper Lee, Zora Neil Hurston, Anne Tyler, Anne Rice, Fannie Flagg, and Molly Ivins have defined and amplified the many voices of our region. The list is bigger than Sunday supper: Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter, Dori Sanders, Shirley Ann Grau and Carson McCuller paved the dirt road for Barbara Kingsolver, Kaye Gibbons, Lee Smith, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni and Naomi Shihab Nye. We're proud of our homeboys, too. You can't walk in New Orleans without shouting Tennessee Williams monologues, or see the Mississippi river without thinking of Huck Finn. Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Tom Robbins and William Styron are only a few of our finest.
I can't stop thinking of the BlogHer Reach Out Tour as a train ride, because when the original stops were announced it reminded me of how in the 20s many weary authors, poets, publishers and editors from the eastern seaboard traveled south by train to meet the southern community of writers and to soak up the healing warmth of the southern sun. I myself love to visit Marjorie Kinnin Rawlings' homestead in Cross Creek, Florida, where Hemingway would stop on his way down to Key West, and I've also made pilgrimages to pet the descendants of his cats that are living at his old Key West home, where many writers of the Lost Generation visited. Rawlings herself traveled from Florida to meet F.Scott Fitzgerald while he recuperated from illness in a North Carolina hospital.
I wish we could have just had the Reach Out tour ON a train, and then we could have travelled together from D.C., on through the green Carolinas, the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, down through the bayous of Louisiana, over the deepest winding dirt roads in Mississip, Bama and Georgia, and down to the beaches and palmetto bushes of the panhandle of Florida. Maybe that's what we'll have to do to get a load of us to the next Blogher Conference--charter a train with stops in Birmingham and Baton Rouge, Chattanooga and Memphis, Suwanee and Savannah, Montgomery and Hattiesburg. I know some other events have evolved to take the place of BlogHer meet-ups, and that is very exciting, too. More organizing and more networking is wonderful.
I hope that some southern bloggers find this post and shout-out their blog addresses and their neighbors', too, so that I can add to my own list of fantastic southern voices. My favorite contemporary southern blogging writers are diverse, innovative, hilarious, deep and wise. Each of us interprets the experience of living in today's South in our own way--and at the same time we are transforming the southern legacy of letters with our own voices, humor, perspectives, righteous rants and brilliant ideas. Southern women are hot, in every way. I'll look forward an event in the future when BlogHers will travel to see us and soak up some of the heat our laptops generate. Then, the only blues we'll be singing is that our time together flew by too fast.
Deb loves to take her laptop to sit on the porch with a gin & tonic in a mason jar to write her posts for Deb on the Rocks. After the Reach Out conference days she was planning to go to the IKEA in Atlanta and to practice her "Stella" yell while in full Brando drag in New Orleans, so those are the other reasons she's bummed about the cancellations. In fact, if you also feel bummed, she invites you to yell your best "Stelllll-lllla" plaintive cry, but replace it with "Bloggggg-hhhhher." There, that feels better, doesn't it?