The author of the critically acclaimed Graces trilogy — the final installment of which will be published next fall — playfully calls herself a “recluse,” having created the perfect writer’s sanctuary tucked in a cove in the middle of the Smoky Mountains.
“Here is where everything clicked into place,” Magendie says from her log cabin in North Carolina. “So I have to adjust to being in crowds, but I think if I didn’t venture out, if I didn’t leave, ultimately my writing would suffer.”
Magendie will risk abandoning the comforts of home — at least for the weekend — in order to join the panel of seven additional acclaimed Southern authors as part of Jacksonville State University’s annual On the Brink writer’s conference.
Pre-registration for the conference ends Saturday.
Such seminars promise Magendie and her peers the rare chance to not only share the stage with other creative minds but to also introduce themselves to curious readers the old-fashioned way.
“It’s always great to connect with readers,” she says. “Because of all the social networking — Facebook, blogs, e-mail, Twitter, whatever — we are connected globally with everyone all the time. But it’s nice to actually meet people, to see their faces rather than just an icon on the computer screen.”
Entering into its 20th year, On the Brink continues to seek authors whose talents and contributions to the publishing world may have received critical acclaim but are still flying somewhat underneath the radar.
“Our joke is that we want to claim to have gotten them first,” says Steve Whitton, chair of the On the Brink committee. “We like to think of our writers as discoveries we’re making and sharing with others.”
And this year’s lineup is no exception, providing an eclectic panel of authors ranging from Southern fiction to non-fiction and young adult literature. Of the panelist, Jennifer Horne is the lone poet. Drawing inspiration from her Arkansas childhood as well as her current home in Cottondale, Ala., Horne’s collection of poems, Bottle Tree, draws mightily from the Southern landscape.
“Nature is very important and self-sustaining for me,” Horne says. “I tend to find a lot of my inspiration and metaphors in the nature that surrounds me.”
For some readers, poetry can be rather intimidating, but venues such as On the Brink work to tear away such walls of apprehension — a concept that Horne takes under consideration when she chooses the poems she intends to read to the audience.
“I like poems to be understood on a first read, but I also try to layer in enough meaning to make them just as rewarding on future readings as well,” she says. “I believe poetry should have a sense of accessibility and won’t send readers flipping through a dictionary to understand. They should speak to people on a personal level.”
Wander through the local bookstore, as avid readers are apt to do, and it’s easy to recognize the changes facing the publishing industry. From kiosks promoting the latest hand-held reading device (other than actual novels) to the barrage of vampire and werewolf teen-novels … not to mention the popularity of such iconoclastic rewrites as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, one cannot help but worry about the state of literature in America.
But for poets such as Jennifer Horne, it’s actually nice to be working and writing under the radar.
“In a sense, it’s very freeing … Hollywood’s not going to buy your book,” she says with a small laugh. “It’s nice not to have that commercial devil sitting on your shoulder. It’s all about writing things that people want to read.”
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.
On the brink: Emerging southern writers conferenceWhen: Saturday, Feb. 19. Pre-registration ends Saturday.
Where: Leone Cole Auditorium on the campus of Jacksonville State University
How much: $45, includes lunch with the authors
Contact: For more information, visit www.jsu.edu/english/allbrink or contact Gena Christopher at 256-782-5856