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SFOBposter3_small%20finalBook festivals are a tradition I’m thinking a lot about lately. By the end of the year I will have taken Some Kinds of Love: Stories to three of them—the Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock, The Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, and the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge.

To the nearly unknown writer, or to the only-known-locally writer, these festivals have both advantages and disadvantages. If you are business-minded, as I can sometimes be, and you apply risk-and-reward analysis to your prospects in such a venture . . . I don’t think you’ll see anything like a return on investment.

All three of the festivals that I attended had to be undertaken on my own dime. In fact, aside from a top tier of elite writers, the big headline draws at the festival, no one gets paid to come to these. Surprise! Now some have publishers that will include the festival stop as part of a larger book tour. But, I think I am in the majority at these festivals, being a writer published by a small press that can pay to create a poster here and there and will gladly and capably handle the coordination of books sold through the vendors at the festival, but that is about all. I should note that in the daylight, I work at University Press of Mississippi as assistant director / marketing director, and this is how we do it as well. Though, we also buy advertisements in print venues at the festival heralding our authors when we can.

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So, had there not been a surprise and timely and robust royalty check from University of Massachusetts Press, and two paying presentations (the Ozarks Studies Symposium and the Welty Symposium) I’m not so sure attendance at these three festivals would have been possible. DIY book touring has a cost, fellow travelers! And I must say, I did not go festival wild. I attended three festivals that had a regional connection to my writing—Arkansas, where for eight years I earned my MFA and worked in publishing; Louisiana, where Mississippi goes to unwind, our foreign, mad paradise next door; and, the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, where all hillbillies must once in every lifetime make the Hajj.

So why take on book festivals? And how can you measure success? As an unknown or beginning author, you need to throw two things out the window right away: 1) the number of people who show up in the room for the panel I’m on is my measure of success; 2) the number of books I sign and sell afterwards in the book tent is my measure of success. Toss that all out with the chicken’s feet.

The number of people who show up in the room to hear your panel may not matter at all. An attendee at the Louisiana Book Festival observed a huge audience packed in a room to hear a panel for an anthology which included Rick Bragg. And yet in the book tent right after, the authors from the panel just sat and waited.

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At my first Louisiana Book Festival, me and author Kelby Ouchley were almost offsite in a lovely glassed in room of a faraway museum. I ended up being late, it was so hard to find. Once there it was Kelby, the moderator, David Madden, author of The Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War, and Ouchley’s wife, and his sister. That was all! In the book tent no one visited, though one of my authors from University Press of Mississippi kept me good company.

Now at first I thought all that was a disaster. That’s because I’m a small-hearted, narrow-visioned Philistine from the most calculating, business-minded, margin-up region of the empire, the Missouri Ozarks.

Here’s the thing: Much of the good that happens at the Festival doesn’t happen in front of your face. David Madden, who I had always wanted to meet and who moderated with a vigor that could have handled a crowd of hundreds, reviewed Morkan’s Quarry in the Baton Rouge Advocate after the festival. There are many panels and options at a Festival, and the long-term website notice that an author was chosen to be there and the author’s name, face, and biography in printed materials about the festival, has a lasting effect. It’s like a twelve-month stamp of approval—after all, a panel of smart, hyper-literate volunteers did indeed choose me to be here and could well have said, Hell no, hillbilly!

Kelby Ouchley remembered me warmly at the 2013 festival. And who knows? UPM may find itself the proud publisher of a book by him, since he writes so well on southern natural science. The authors you run into at festivals are of great value—especially for me who cannot attend AWP and who will likely never qualify for fancy stuff like Sewanee and Breadloaf. At Southern, I finally got to meet my idol, Daniel Woodrell. And thank God it was early enough in the morning that I was able to keep a lid on my intense enthusiasm.

The authors you are empanelled with are golden to meet as well. I will never forget meeting and reading with Cliff Graubart at the Southern Festival of Books. The moment in this video below, in which he became so overwhelmed with emotion that he asked me to finish reading his story for him I count as one of the most remarkable instants of trust I will ever experience between authors. It passes in two seconds, but it felt like the world stopped. That he would trust me so told me many wondrous things. And that I could keep the presence of mind to encourage him to go on, that it was his art, he had to… I’m so glad my wife taped this, albeit on a cellphone.

Steve Yates and Cliff Graubart read from their short story collections at the Southern Festival of Books, Nashville from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

As an aside, I wish every book festival or at least every author or publisher would find a way to record and keep what is presented. University Press of Mississippi has done this for years, and look at the content we have managed to capture and curate here (on just flipcams and Kodak Touch Cams, cheap as dirt!). All of this at the Louisiana Book Festival would have been lost had my wife and I not recorded three years running. Authors, festivals, publishers, get with it!

And in the book tent in at the Louisiana Book Festival in 2013, three (3) readers, among those who came up to me and Manuel Gonzales, told me they had purchased Morkan’s Quarry (Sign the stock handed to you at the festival book tent; ask how much the store wants signed, and sign it all!) told me they read the novel and loved it, and they couldn’t wait to see the short stories in Some Kinds of Love: Stories. Three (3) readers, people I had never seen before in my life, and I got to meet them!

One last aside, at the Arkansas Literary Festival, volunteers (these festivals take squadrons of volunteers who are to a person wonderful!) set up a book table in the faraway museum in which our panel performed. That was great in that the sales that were possible were captured right then after we performed.

Now the margin-up, calculating, German-Anglo-Scots-Irish at my DNA core would never call the numbers I directly experienced a triumph. But know this: You sit in front of a stranger thoroughly excited to meet you and willing to part with cash money to read what you have written next. I defy you to find a more exalted and wondrous feeling outside of your family experience. If ever that moment of talking with a stranger about my writing as I sign over and hand back a copy of my new book, if ever that gets old, then I will stop going to book festivals.

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Shadows, lies, facsimilies: so much of life was secondhand, weighed down with arguments and explanations. If we stop moving and try to explain anything, he knew, we truly die; if we pause to make maps or poems, if we take our gaze off the shimmering horizon for an instant, we’re surely lost; if we abandon the path in order to reflect or to plot our silly course, we go into exile. And so now my exile begins, he told himself; I am led by a woman, Algernon, and fixed at a desk like a burned-out star in a dead orbit. My life is over.

Oh, Speke.

Oh, Africa.

—William Harrison, Burton and Speke, 1982

When friends would depart Fayetteville for new challenges and adventures, Tammy and I would have them out to the house for good food, good cheer (sometimes too much), and as heartfelt a goodbye as we could manage without tears. More than once in these send offs, I remember beginning a rapturous rant about how much Bill Harrison meant to me, and sometime late in the evening, pulling down Burton and Speke and reading aloud this passage above, hoping to leave the sojourners with something beautiful and unforgettable from one who taught me so much.

I do not live in a cheerless world; I live in one as crazed and frazzled and marvelous as you ever promised. I do not live without you. Rest in peace.

Squirrel pot pie, tomatoes, onions, fried okra and squash, ham and beans

Squirrel pot pie, tomatoes, onions, fried okra and squash, ham and beans

In Dr. Brooks Blevins’s class in Ozarks Literature and History, the first question a student asked struck at the heart of what I am wondering at now. A longing for the Ozarks, being away from the Ozarks, living in the Deep South, how does this separation affect my writing?

Last week, I had two reasons to head home to Springfield and the Missouri Ozarks. The Seventh Annual Ozarks Studies Symposium at Missouri-State-West Plains honored me as its keynote speaker and asked me home to read from my story collection Some Kinds of Love: Stories. And Dr. Brooks Blevins was teaching my novel, Morkan’s Quarry, in a class called Literature of the Ozarks and Literary History of the Ozarks (students can enroll in the class for credit either in English or in history).

1,329 miles reads the odometer in the Blue Avenger. Flowood, Mississippi, to Springfield, Missouri, to West Plains, Missouri, then back to Springfield, thence back to Flowood once more.

For a living, beginning author, to have a novel taught within a university setting as part of a body of literature, this seems miraculous to me. Most writers have to be dead for that to occur. Morkan’s Quarry is but three years old now. In book years, though, that is moldering-in-the-grave old. Driving home, my wife and I reflected that had either of the two New York agents who burned themselves out trying to sell Morkan’s Quarry, had they succeeded and placed the novel with one of the five remaining publishers in New York, the novel would now long have been remaindered, pulped, and gone. For, while it made happy money for me and for Moon City Press, it did not achieve what a New York publisher requires for success. Had I not found the perfect boutique publisher in Moon City Press, which keeps the book in print indefinitely, Dr. Blevins could never have taught it. Most New York publishing houses pulp a novel deemed unsuccessful within six months. Now, three years after publication, thirty students have read Morkan’s Quarry, discussed it, written impression pieces on it, and thoughtfully considered how the novel fits within Ozarks Literature.

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Dr. Blevins put no limits on me, and suggested I just say what I usually say when starting a reading. Being in my hometown, the Springfield that gave Bob Barker his intellectual underpinnings, I did my best Guy Smiley (my hero! And also, I believe, from the Ozarks), and we played quiz show. Our multiple choice game is, Who wrote this sentence?

“The tales which follow were omitted from my earlier publications, because the editors objected to certain inelegant expressions.”

Was it A) Donald Harington in a soon-to-be-released posthumous collection of short stories entitled Will Tell; B) Vance Randolph in his preface to Pissing in the Snow & Other Ozark Folktales; C) Henry Rowe Schoolcraft in the just discovered manuscript he titled More Stuff That Uncouth Backwater Hayseeds Told Me; or D) me in my apologia to my parish priest Fr. Gerard Hurley begging him not to excommunicate me after University of Massachusetts Press published Some Kinds of Love: Stories.

 The answer was immediately guessed correctly, and on the first try! The winner received a free copy of Big Fiction Magazine, containing my novella, “Sandy and Wayne,” winner of the magazine’s inaugural Knickerbocker Prize.

In addition to reading from Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks, I read from this, one of many extraordinary entries in The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo, http://thelibrary.org/lochist/turnbo/v4/st111.html

Between the scientific distance of Schoolcraft and the raw, brainwave cadence of Ozarks speech in The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo, that’s where I wanted the narrator of Morkan’s Quarry to fall, insatiably curious about his people but not without the capacity for dismay or even indignation at what people are capable of doing.

Two of the dangers I see in being so far away from the Ozarks yet writing about home: nostalgia and boosterism can take hold. I love the Springfield I left in 1990, and the Fayetteville I left in 1998. When we hit the first winding curves, the first balds and limestone bluffs around Imboden and Ravenden, I have trouble speaking, and I am always glad that this is Tammy’s part of the drive. Reading and researching in local records with the help of Brian Grubbs at the Springfield Greene County Public Library Saturday, I was on the trail of a Springfieldian of some note from 1900 to 1914, Frank Headley, Jr. Newspaper articles praised much of his agricultural prowess, much of it corroborated by the structures he built at Springlawn Farm, but then, boosterism crept in to the record. One article, not contemporary to his zenith but from the 1990s, incorrectly stated that he introduced the first Percheron herd to America because he owned several show champions; the next article summarized that and polished it to a boosterish glare—our local citizen had introduced the Percheron breed to America. The error, repeated and expanded in journalism, accretes with nostalgia for a simpler, grander time into a faux fact. What we love and miss can make us rave. That is not why I write.

I was deeply touched by the enthusiasm and curiosity of the thirty students in Ozarks Literature, and with every minute astonished at how deeply they had all read and discussed the novel. The first question was, Now you don’t live in the Ozarks and you wrote some of Morkan’s Quarry while not living in the Ozarks. What affect does that long displacement have on your writing?

My gut answer was truthful, and I didn’t mean to be flip. I put a lot more snow and ice in Morkan’s Quarry because once I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and especially when we moved to Flowood, Mississippi, I was doing without snow and ice. Many other great questions came, about Springfield history, quarrying, accidents at quarries, Ozarks geology, classes at Missouri State (Southwest Missouri State when I was there), which quarry in town inspired me, whether Leighton’s Galway was Galloway Village, the agency of African American characters in the book. What an unforgettable wonder that these readers had absorbed so much!

The Ozarks Studies Symposium continues its inclusiveness, a wonderful openness when you look at the program and presenters. Look at the variety here, from musical instruments to weather and religious studies, prohibition, and a celebration and memorial of University Press of Mississippi author, the late W.K. McNiel, who wrote Ozark Country for University Press of Mississippi. Would that all symposia on regions could be so open-minded! That the symposium would devote its keynote to a writer of literary short stories and the book, Some Kinds of Love, really brought inclusiveness home powerfully to me. I was doubly honored in that both Dr. Blevins and Lynn Morrow, co-creator of The White River Chronicles of S.C. Turnbo, were there to hear me read from the story “Starfall.”

Steve Yates reads from Some Kinds of Love: Stories at the Ozarks Studies Symposium West Plains, Missouri from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

Too bad Tammy and I both had head colds that were obnoxious, and barely held in check by cold pills and plain good luck. I hope it doesn’t show in how I read. After the dinner—squirrel pot pie, paw paws, and gooseberry pie for desert, plus the gift of elderberry wine from Howell County News editor and publisher, Kim Wehmer, and the signature of editor and poet Anthony Priest, who included me next to Daniel Woodrell in Yonder Mountain: An Ozarks Anthology—we limped home to Springfield and family and the research I’m doing on a new project.

Still, driving to my other home, to Flowood on Sunday, there remains that lingering question, what does all this distance do to me? What does it do to what I can write?   

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I’m humbled, really quite floored in that tomorrow at 11 a.m. I will stand in Strong Hall on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield before students in a university course entitled Ozarks Literature and History, and taught by Dr. Brooks Blevins. Thirty students have just finished reading my novel, Morkan’s Quarry.

While not unheard of, it is very rare for an author in his or her lifetime to have a novel taught in a classroom as part of a body of literature. This is what has me floored, as Morkan’s Quarry was just published in 2010. Much has happened for it, and I count myself extremely blessed.

The honor has me thinking, though, of what to share. The narrator of Morkan’s Quarry has a voice, one that I hoped would fall between two valences within Ozarks literature. I wanted the narrator to have the slightly elevated sophistication and the almost scientific distance (without the snotty, eastern condescension) of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. But I also wanted the narrator to tap Silas Turnbo’s raw, brainwave cadence and his sweeping humanity and curiosity about people found in the accounts in The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo.

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So where does Ozarks Literature start? I think, arguably, here, on December 9, in 1818.

From Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks: Schoolcraft’s Ozarks Journal: 1818–1819, edited by Milton D. Rafferty (University of Arkansas Press 1996)

“…we continued our journey in a north-west course along the hills which skirt the river bottoms at the distance of a mile from its banks, and arrived at an early hour in the afternoon at the house of a Mr. Coker, at what is called Sugar-Loaf Prairie. This takes its name from a bald hill covered with grass rising on the verge of the river alluvion on the west side of the river, and is discernible at the distance of many miles. The settlement at Sugar-Loaf Prairie consists at present of four families, located within the distance of eight miles, but is so recent that a horse-path has not yet been worn from one cabin to another. It is the highest settlement on the river, excepting two families at the mouth of Beaver Creek, about three miles above (the actual distance is fifteen miles overland and forty miles by river). These people subsist partly by agriculture, and partly by hunting. They raise corn for bread, and for feeding their horses previous to the commencement of long journeys in the woods, but none for exportation. No cabbages, beets, onions, potatoes, turnips, or other garden vegetables, are raised. Gardens are unknown. Corn and wild meats, chiefly bear’s meat, are the staple articles of food. In manners, morals, customs, dress, contempt of labour and hospitality, the state of society is not essentially different from that which exists among the savages. Schools, religion, and learning are alike unknown. Hunting is the principal, the most honourable, and the most profitable employment. To excel in the chace procures fame, and a man’s reputation is measured by his skill as a marksman, his agility and strength, his boldness and dexterity in killing game, and his patient endurance and contempt of the hardships of the hunter’s life. They are, consequently, a hardy, brave, independent people, rude in appearance, frank and generous, travel without baggage, and can subsist any where in the woods, and would form the most efficient military corps in frontier warfare which can possibly exist. Ready trained, they require no discipline, inured to danger, and perfect in the use of the rifle. Their system of life is, ill fact, one continued scene of camp-service. Their habitations are not always permanent, having little which is valuable, or loved, to rivet their affections to anyone spot; and nothing which is venerated, but what they can carry with them; they frequently change residence, travelling where game is more abundant. Vast quantities of beaver, otter, raccoon, deer, and bear-skins, are annually caught. These skins are carefully collected and preserved during the summer and fall, and taken down the river in canoes, to the mouth of the Great North Fork of White River, or to the mouth of Black River, where traders regularly come up with large boats to receive them. They also take down some wild honey, bear’s bacon, and buffaloe-beef, and receive in return, salt, iron-pots, axes, blankets, knives, rifles, and other articles of first importance in their mode of life.

“We were received by Mr. Coker with that frankness and blunt hospitality which are characteristic of the hunter. Our approach to the house was, as usual, announced by the barking of dogs, whose incessant yells plainly told us, that all who approached that domain, of which they were the natural guardians, and whether moving upon two, or upon four legs, were considered as enemies, and it was not until they were peremptorily, and repeatedly recalled, that they could be pacified. Dried skins, stretched out with small rods, and hung up to dry on trees and poles around the house, served to give the scene the most novel appearance. This custom has been observed at every hunter’s cabin we have encountered, and, as we find, great pride is taken in the display, the number and size of the bear-skins serving as a credential of the hunter’s skill and prowess in the chace.

“We had no sooner acquainted our entertainer with the objects and contemplated extent of our journey, than he discovered the fear which appears to prevail on this river, respecting the Osage Indians, and corroborated what we had before heard of their robberies. He considered the journey hazardous at this season, as they had not yet, probably, broke up their hunting camps, and retired, as they do every winter, to their villages on the Grandosaw river (Grand Osage). He recommended us to abandon our guns for rifles, to take with us as little baggage as possible-thought we should find it a poor season for game, and made other remarks of a discouraging nature. The fact was, he had an old rifle for sale, thought we had money, and wished to get double the worth of it, and wished us to engage an idle hypochondriac, who hung about him, as a guide. We were inclined to do both, but could not agree as to the price of the former, and the latter could not be prevailed to go at any price.”

There is just the right amount of curiosity, distance, annoyance, amazement, awe, and disdain here to make wonderful, even humorous literature. Notice how Schoolcraft contrasts hospitality. Mr. Coker is described as being in possession of “frankness and blunt hospitality” after Schoolcraft has noted our people to hold in general, “a contempt of labour and hospitality.” And how delicious that Mr. Coker’s report of the dangers ahead resolves itself in large part to be selling points for a rifle and the guide services of some local layabout, both of which Coker wishes to be shed of, and for a profit! We are in character revealed in this our Ozarks archetype, our core, quite adept at the hunt and already honing the sell. I think all the elements of true Ozarks character start right here in this sublimely cranky, yet often lovely journal told from the outsider’s eye. That’s where I’ll start tomorrow.

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In August 2013, Big Fiction, published in hand-set type on a letterpress and dedicated to the long short story, the novella, issued its Knickerbocker Prize. Chosen by acclaimed novelist and short story writer Lauren Groff, the first prize novella, “Sandy and Wayne,” is a love story set in the Arkansas Ozarks on the interstate as it was built between Fayetteville and Fort Smith.  The author of “Sandy and Wayne,” Steve Yates, is also the winner of the 2012 Juniper Prize in Fiction, and his collection Some Kinds of Love: Stories was published by University of Massachusetts Press in April 2013. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arkansas, and while in Fayetteville he worked three summers as a construction inspector and surveyor for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. Born and reared in Springfield, Missouri, Yates is the author of the novel Morkan’s Quarry (Moon City Press, 2010) and is currently assistant director/marketing director at University Press of Mississippi in Jackson. Editorial Intern Lauren Hohle earned an interdisciplinary bachelor of arts degree from the University of Redlands, in “Framing and Narrative: Creative Writing, Film, and Social Justice.” Her work has been published in The Dos Passos Review, and she is on pace to watch three hundred and twenty films this year. More information on the mission and history of Big Fiction resides at http://www.bigfictionmagazine.com.

Q: Your bio said that you worked inspecting highways.  Was that experience the genesis of the story?

A: Of the nitty-gritty details, yes, absolutely. But not any of the love. For three summers in the University of Arkansas writing program I was a surveyor and construction inspector for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. We were building interstate between Fayetteville and Fort Smith. It was mountainous, beautiful country, the heart of the heart of the Arkansas Ozarks. It was also filthy and hot and hard and mortally dangerous at times. I was honored to be accepted among the laborers, contractors, engineers, and inspectors who do that work. It’s a really majestic stretch of highway now. Without witnessing it built, you would never guess the lives and labor spent on every mile of it.

Q: I like that the characters don’t say much.  Their relationship is more intuitive, built on a mutual understanding.  Would you categorize this as a tough-guy / tough-gal romance?

A: Yeah, these people were tougher than I will ever manage being. Ten High at bedtime and Imodium for breakfast.  And they have both been told some lies in love, and so are more apt to listen and wait to see actions. They also don’t say much because many of their interactions occur on a jobsite that’s loud when equipment is moving, and more or less professional even if it is out-of-doors. And they’re pretty exhausted at day’s end. I used to come home with red clay and lime dust in every pore and crevice, tired enough to weep. I would also add that, while there are chatterboxes and philosophers on highway jobs, the smartest people, the ones you really want around you when things get tight and dangerous, they’re Ozarks to the core. They speak by doing.

Q: Are the Sandys and Waynes of this world the intended audience?

A: In an interview, the living Ozarks writer I admire most in the world, Daniel Woodrell, said that more than once the kind of impoverished, often extralegal Ozarkers he writes about had at times stopped him and told him personally how much they appreciated being given a voice. Oh, my God! I would reckon that a Holy encounter, reader to writer. Burning bush Holy. I’m too clumsy and unknown and unimportant to think much at all about an audience. I just need to write well made, natural sentences that my characters could plausibly think and speak, and create stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end. A few people who read: That’s the best I can hope for right now.  

Steve Yates with niece Ava Lou Kaufman

Steve Yates with niece Ava Lou Kaufman

Q: The story has romantic elements, but it is also largely about coping with loss.  I was impressed by the delicate balance between what is conscious and what is unconscious for Sandy.  We are so close to her point of view, yet we are placed in the position to know what she wants or feels before she does.  Could you speak a little on what it was like to write that character?

A: Thanks so much for saying that. It means a lot. I thought I knew Sandy really well, after having been around someone like her on the job. But I know a character will take me through the whole story and that the story is alive when the predictable, the planned is quickly overturned. I really wanted the novella to feel like a long Country love song, a good Country love song, one with wit and turns, and even a self-referential awareness. A great Country music song—the poet Miller Williams once mused to me in all sincerity that there may be no higher calling than writing a great Country music song.  I wasn’t smart enough to know everything he meant by that then. “Sandy and Wayne” might be my first humble answer back now.

 Q: What drew you to the novella form?

A: Is there a higher calling in fiction than the long short story? “The Pedersen Kid,” “The Beggar Maid,” “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter,” “Old Mortality,” “A Simple Heart,” “Boule de Suif,” “Stationmaster Fallmerayer,” “The Bust of the Emperor,” “Ward 6,” “Peasants,” “The Steppe,” “A Boring Story,” “The Duel,” “Bartleby the Scrivener.” I’ll bet if I could trace every story that I knew was transformative to me, they would all be novellas. Thank God, Big Fiction is trying the mad experiment of giving the form a refined vehicle!

Q: Did the story take on this shape as you were writing it, or did you sit down knowing you were going to write a novella?

A: I knew it was going to be long. I knew there were several episodes that had to happen, knew that Sandy had to face a string of them to force her and Wayne into realizations. If I hit twenty-five double-spaced pages, and don’t feel I am through the beginning, middle, and end, then I need to make some decisions. I admire the novella enough to hope that I can try one, to give one back. “Sandy and Wayne” seemed the natural marriage of those two high callings—the novella, the good Country music song.

Q: Do you have a favorite novella?

A: I reread “Bartleby the Scrivener” at least once every year, and find it more revelatory, more gorgeously constructed, more keenly honed to the truth of the human heart and human work every time. “Ward 6” and “Stationmaster Fallmerayer,” too, are workplace stories in many ways. Depending on the time of year, and which of those three I am rereading, one of those is my favorite. Interesting that work is so key to each of them. Work and love and loss, that’s the heart of us. That and the fear of being alone when you need someone.   I sure am glad you asked me these questions. Thank you, Lauren Hohle, and thanks, Big Fiction, for giving the novella such a handsome, new home. 

 

 

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This content “reblogged” here is by the venerable Mississippi architect Louis Malveney. He blogged in late January of 2012 and shared a fine set of photographs from the actual cottonseed oil mill in Port Gibson that inspired the fictional one in the story “Coin of the Realm,” the mill that Lawyer Ducat and Sterling Estep are trying to save. The commentary and content is from Malveney’s blog http://misspreservation.com/. I will be reading from the story “Coin of the Realm” after signing Some Kinds of Love: Stories at 5 p.m. tonight (7.27.2013) at Lorelei Books in Vicksburg.

Originally posted on Preservation in Mississippi:

The abandoned plant of the Mississippi Cotton Oil Company wasn’t on the recent Port Gibson Holiday Home Tour, but as I was wandering about before the tours started, I was drawn to the place, just north of downtown, like a moth to the flame. I’ve always been intrigued by cotton seed oil mills–the strange shapes of the buildings, the rusty metal, and odd protruding machinery and pipes running this way and that. I find the seed houses, with their distinctive steep roof and clerestory, especially compelling, but unfortunately, I don’t understand how the whole operation works together. I know just enough to be fascinated.

This 1994 article in Agricultural History, “Cotton Gins and Cottonseed Oil Mills in the New South” may be worth the $14 that JSTOR wants to charge me. And this 1948 Sanborn on microfilm at MDAH (and a little cleaned up on Photoshop) shows…

View original 511 more words

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Karen Brown interviews Steve Yates on Mississippi Edition, MPB Think Radio

Time perception is an extraordinary thing. My wife is always tickled to recall to me that when microwaves first came into offices and homes, people waiting on snacks and lunches eagerly watched the digital timers winding down, and many starving seekers would bounce on their toes and shout, “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” The microwave did not change how time passed, only how that passage was perceived. Being on radio will radically change how you perceive time. Linked here on Karen Brown’s Mississippi Edition on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, her interview with me starts at 18:05 and runs about six minutes. We talked for seven minutes tops. It is both strange and wonderful to be in the presence of a great radio interviewer, one with years and years of experience as Karen has. Kyle Kellams at “Ozarks at Large” on Fayetteville’s KUAF and Randy Stewart at KSMU in Springfield are this way, so poised, so smooth, so good at what they do, you (the subject; the interviewee) never feel unnerved, nonplussed, or ill-at-ease. In fact, so good are they in this universe bristling with microphones and levels and lit with sound boards, it is hard to imagine Karen, Kyle, or Randy outside this compressed, racing, time-ridden space of radio. I felt I was with Karen for not much more than thirty seconds. In what’s on Mississippi Edition here (the private prisons story and the Nissan story do bear weird conjunctions with my story about the Pig-Thrower of West Point, Mississippi) I am barely edited. I sat down, she welcomed me, and in thirty seconds it seemed we said goodbye. All I remember is laughing. Fastest and funnest six minutes of writing life, I am sure. Thanks, Karen Brown and producer Ezra Wall! Who knew time could fly like that?

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