Saturday, May 17, 2008

Georgia Books--A Literary Travel Guide for Georgia?

Earlier this week, I read an article in the Atlanta Jounral-Constitution about the success that the Georgia Department of Economic Development was having in using Georgia's literary heritage to attract international tourism to Georgia.

The piece appears in the AJC 5/13/08 edition (see 'Georgia entices British travelers with big dose of the South, Gone With the Wind piques interest abroad').

This got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be great to have a Literary Travel Guide for the entire State of Georgia?

So, I sent the following letter to an official at the Department of Economic Development who was named in the AJC article:

Kevin Langston
Assistant Commissioner for Tourism
Georgia Department of Economic Development
75 Fifth Street, NW Suite 1200
Atlanta, Georgia 30308

Dear Commissioner Langston,

I recently read an article in the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution that discussed your agency’s efforts to attract international (and, I assume, domestic) tourists to Georgia using our state’s rich literary history (‘Georgia entices British travelers with big dose of South, Gone With the Wind piques interest abroad’, AJC, 5/13/08). Having spent the past decade in the Georgia book trade—and having spent time as a teacher and director of a small Georgia chamber of commerce—I applaud your efforts to promote our state in this way.

Reading the article, I wondered what the total economic contribution to our state has been from the works of authors Margaret Mitchell, Pat Conroy, James Dickey, Alfred Uhry, Alice Walker, John Berendt, and Tom Wolfe alone. Does your agency maintain such statistics?

When one adds up the total economic contribution of Georgia’s entire literary community over the decades—and centuries—I expect that it would be quite a figure. Georgia’s literary resources (Georgia writers, books by Georgians or about Georgia) are certainly worth shouting about, not just in terms of the works themselves, but also including the personal stories of the authors, the State geography and history associated with their works, the national attention that their collective works have drawn to the State, the film adaptations of their works, and the range of subject matter about which they have written and continue to write.

I am curious to know if the Georgia Department of Economic Development has ever considered—or is perhaps currently considering—the creation of a guide to Georgia’s literary people and places? Some wonderful publications do already exist. One of the best examples must certainly be
The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature by Hugh Ruppersburg and John Inscoe, and published in 2007 by the Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press.

However, the example that most readily comes to mind is
The Best of Georgia Farms Cookbook and Tour Book by Fred Brown and Sherri Smith, and published in 1998 by CI Publishing and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The book is a wonderful collection of recipes, and combines Georgia history, contributions by notable Georgians, illustrations, and relevant and interesting travel recommendations.

Regretfully, and to the best of my knowledge,
The Best of Georgia Farms is no longer in print. This is too bad, as I know from personal experience that it was hugely popular and a regular local interest bestseller. Please let your counterparts at the Department of Agriculture know that the State’s booksellers sorely miss the book. Perhaps the Department of Agriculture would consider a new, updated edition—one that would also take into account the increasing interest in locally produced agricultural products, organic farming, and the drought?

I can assure you that a similar title, devoted to Georgia’s rich literary history, would be hugely popular with Georgia’s booksellers and educators, not to mention Georgia’s writers and publishers. Perhaps it could include writings by some of our State’s notable authors, or information pertaining to important literary sites and venues? The only trouble you would likely encounter would be trying to decide who and what to include in it.


Some recommended reads:

The Pat Conroy Cookbook by Pat Conroy

Literary Savannah by Patrick Allen

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stay at Home Dad--Field Trip to the Sewage Treatment Plant

As a part-time stay-at-home dad, I am always looking for interesting, educational and fun activities that my three-year-old son and I can enjoy together. Earlier this week he came to me and said that he needed to get out for a while, so I took him on an impromptu field trip to a water treatment facility.

This may sound a little strange for a three-year-old (or most anyone else, for that matter), but I thought that it would be interesting, give him a chance to get out and blow off some steam, and also give me a chance to engage in a few teachable moments. Besides, given the state of affairs with water in our area, I thought that this might give me one more opportunity to talk with him about that issue. Plus, his mom is an environmental and water resources engineer. This would give him another chance to see what mom does for a living.

We went to a local facility that is very hands-on and very kids friendly. In fact, they allow the kids to jump right into the wastewater treatment process (there are, of course, facilities close by to wash hands after playtime). My son loves it, running back and fourth through the coarse debris screen, then hiding from me within the solids and sludge containment area. Of course he would like playing somewhere with a concentration of sludge--he’s all boy. He just squeals when I surprise him by sticking my head through the screen that catches the raw sewage and yell “Ha! Gotcha!” This is what parenting is all about—the moments you’ll always cherish.

He isn’t much interested in the part of the facility where disinfection takes place (again, he’s all boy), though he does like to hang out in the aeration section and watch the bubbles. The only thing that really bothers him is the “rotten egg” smell. There is also a toilet on site that he is allowed to flush over and over and over again. And he does, too.

His older sister, who is in preschool, would be furious with me if she knew that, while she was busy with the serious business of reading, writing, and Spanish, I was letting her brother have a field day in sewage. I can hear it now. “That’s not FAIR!!”

The facility, the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center (about thirty-five miles east of downtown Atlanta), also has many opportunities to get wet, pet a horseshoe crab, visit with a turtle named Bubba, and watch a movie about water conservation that is projected onto a screen that is essentially a waterfall. There are also acres of woods and trails.

Interestingly enough, the facility and its grounds are surrounded by some of the most densely populated and developed land in the state of Georgia. Just as interesting, the facility was paid for in large part by Gwinnett County, Georgia taxpayers. I say “interesting” because, politically, Gwinnett County, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) is known as perhaps one of the “Reddest” counties in perhaps the “Reddest” state in the country. I guess it goes to show that you cannot always peg people, or the place from which they come. It’s an interesting place to be at an interesting time, without a doubt.

On the matter of my local tax dollars--and how they are being spent--the new stadium for the Atlanta Braves farm team is going up about three miles from my house. I confess that I like that idea, though we’ll see how I feel about the traffic and etc. when the time comes. I would like to thank Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue for finally giving the thumbs up to beer sales at the new stadium. If my children insist on my playing John Fogerty’s song, ‘Centerfield’ even one more time, I will certainly need one, if not several.

Recommended reads:

The Crackers: Early Days of Atlanta Baseball by Tim Darnell

Taking Lottie Home by Terry Kay

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

Friday, May 9, 2008

Georgia Water--The Chattahoochee Nature Center

This past weekend, my family and I attended the award ceremony for the Annual River of Words arts and writing contest which is sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book, Project WET, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The award ceremony was being held at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in North Atlanta.

More accurately, my family and I went to the Chattahoochee Nature Center for a visit, and I had hoped to get some photos of the award ceremony, some of the artwork, and perhaps chat with some of the young writers and artisits. As it turns out, we headed out on the trails and more or less missed the ceremony. And by the time we had gotten to the pavilion where the awards were being presented, the card on my digital camera was full. I'll try again next year.

It was such a beautiful day, and our schedules just don't allow us to get out like that as often as we would like, so we seized the opportunity.

It's hard to believe such a place exists so close to some of the busiest and most congested areas in the metro Atlanta area.

Congratulations to this year's winners of the Georgia River of Words competition.


Georgia Books--Illustrators Laura Knorr and Mark Braught

In case you missed these two talented Georgia illustrators at this week’s annual meeting of the International Reading Association in Atlanta (, be certain to visit their respective web sites at left for information about their work, book titles, and appearances. These two gifted folks are great, especially when they appear together.

Laura Knorr’s most recent book of illustrations is A Isn’t for Fox—An Isn’t Alphabet, written by Wendy Ulmer and published by Sleeping Bear Press in November of 2007.

A Isn’t For Fox gets a big thumbs up from my own in-house staff of book reviewers (daughter, age 5 and son, age 3).

Laura also illustrated The Legend of Papa Noel—A Cajun Christmas Story by Terri Hoover Dunham and P is for Pelican—A Louisiana Alphabet by Anita Pietro. Laura was a big hit across Louisiana last year when her publisher toured her in that state following the release of Papa Noel.

Other titles that Laura has illustrated include:

K is for Keystone—A Pennsylvania Alphabet by Kristen Kane. Some really good people come from Pennsylvania.

The 12 Days of Christmas by Helen Haidle, Virginia Kroll, and Kathleen Long Boston.

If you, your kids, or your school or local library has a chance to visit with Laura, don’t miss it. In addition to being a gifted artist, she’s great with kids and gives a terrific and hands-on presentation about illustration. She also has some pretty hysterical stories about having worked for a large amusement park.

Illustrator Mark Braught’s latest work appears in A Peck of Peaches—A Georgia Number Book written by Carol Crane and published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2007.

If you are not familiar with Sleeping Bear Press’ Alphabet and Number books, you ought to have a look, especially if you have little ones. Of course, they are interesting for adults, as well. Take Mark’s latest book, for instance. I didn’t know that the largest breeding area for sharks in the southeast was in the waters off of Cumberland Island, Georgia. I love Cumberland Island. I will, however, limit my beach activities to looking for shells from now on. Also, I didn’t know that the Foxfire campus in North Georgia has on display the only remaining wagon that is known to have taken part in the deportation of Cherokee during the infamous and utterly shameful Trail of Tears.

Mark Braught’s other books include:

P is for Peach--A Georgia Alphabet Book by Carol Crane.

J is for Jumpshot—A Basketball Alphabet Book by Michael Ulmer.

T is for Touchdown—A Football Alphabet Book by Brad Herzog.

Cosmo’s Moon by Carol Crane.

No Pay, No Way by Holly Huppert.

Mark has quite a list of artistic accomplishments, including having created the Official Poster for the Kentucky Derby, and some of the early Harry Potter artwork used by Warner Communications. He also provided the caricature of your humble blogger up in the right-hand corner of this blog’s main page. I am the taller one with the coffee cup.

Mark Braught also gives a terrific presentation on the art of illustration, and is particularly good with kids. Again, be sure to visit Laura and Mark’s websites for a better look at their work.

Mark Braught and Laura Knorr are married and live just outside of Atlanta.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Georgia Books & Water: Renee Dodd & River of Words

2008 Townsend Prize for Fiction

Belated congratulations to author Renee Dodd on her being chosen for the 2008 Townsend Prize for Fiction. Ms. Dodd received the award last week at a ceremony held at the Old Courthouse in Decatur, Georgia. The Award is sponsored by the Writer’s Institute at Georgia Perimeter College, and is given in honor of Atlanta Magazine founder Jim Townsend. The presenting sponsor for the award is the Georgia Center for the Book.

Ms. Dodd won the award for her debut novel, A Cabinet of Wonders, which tells the story of a traveling sideshow in rural, 1920’s Georgia. She had some pretty stiff competition, too. Pearl Cleage, Karin Slaughter, Terry Kay, Jim Grimsley, Jack Pendarvis, Sheri Joseph, Bob Cupp, Greg Johnson, and Nathan McCall.

Miss Dodd teaches creative writing at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. She is also the granddaughter of Georgia Tech football legend, Bobby Dodd. She is working on her second novel.

The Townsend Prize is a biannual award presented to a Georgia author judged to have published the best work of fiction during the previous two years.

The 2008 Townsend Prize couldn’t have gone to a nicer person. Congratulations Ms. Dodd.

River of Words

On Sunday, May 4, beginning at 2:00 PM, the Georgia Center for the Book, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Project WET, and the Chattahoochee Nature Center will be presenting the winners of this year’s “River of Words” poetry and visual arts competition. The program will feature hundreds of works of art and written works produced by Georgia school children from grades 4 through 12, all depicting environmental, conservation, and water resource themes.

For more information, contact the Georgia Center for the Book at 404.370.8450, ext. 2225, or the Chattahoochee Nature Center at 770.992.2055. Or visit their websites at left.

Recommended reads:

A Cabinet of Wonder of Wonders by Renee Dodd

Any of the works by this year’s Townsend Prize nominees

River Song by Joe and Monica Cook