published Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Southern Lit Alliance prepares its Writers in Classrooms program

Writer Allan Gurganus works with students at
Tyner Academy.
Writer Allan Gurganus works with students at Tyner Academy.
  • photo
    Playwright Katori Hall discusses her works with students at Signal Mountain Middle-High School.

Some authors offer images so vivid, readers feel as if they’re tumbled through a wormhole into another universe. Consider this passage in which a woman who slaved and strategized out of poverty suddenly recalls her childhood home:

“It stood near a cliff where the wind off the ocean was always blowing. As a child it seemed to me the ocean had caught a terrible cold because it was always wheezing and there would be spells when it let out a huge sneeze which is to say there was a burst of wind with a tremendous spray…(The house was) leaning back because it wanted to get out of the way. Probably it would have collapsed if my father hadn’t cut a timber from a wrecked fishing boat to prop up the eaves…”

That was from Arthur Golden’s bestselling “Memoirs of a Geisha. Soddy-Daisy High School students had the chance to ask Golden about how he recreated pre-war Japan when he visited them last year as part of the Southern Lit Alliance’s Writers in Classrooms.

“Not only had the students read the novel carefully, but their very fine teacher had encouraged them to think about it deeply,” Golden says in an email, adding that their questions tested his own insight. “I’d go again tomorrow if I could.”

Names of Writers in Classrooms for the upcoming school year will be revealed at an October Southern Lit Alliance fundraiser held at the Flying Squirrel. In 2013, 26 writers participated

“High school students read one of the author’s books then discuss it and the craft of writing with the writer, who visits them throughout the school year,” the Alliance’s Susan Robinson explains.

The program is 19 years old this year, and over its run has attracted such names as Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Known World,” Lee Smith (“The Last Girl”), Allan Gurganus (“Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All”), Randall Kenan (“Let the Dead Bury Their Dead”) and Clyde Edgerton (“Raney,” “Walking Across Egypt,” “Killer Diller”).

Signal Mountain High School students met last year with playwright Katori Hall. The 33-year-old wrote “The Mountaintop,” a play about the night before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Samuel L. Jackson starred as King in the play’s Broadway debut. After “The Mountaintop” hit the London stage, Hall became the first black woman in history to win an Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Contact Lynda Edwards at or 423-757-6391.

about Lynda Edwards...

Lynda Edwards has covered just about every beat there is while working for The Associated Press, PBS as a Frontline and Nightly Business Report associate producer, Gannett in the heart of Louisiana Cajun country as well as newspapers in Miami, Tucson AZ, Colorado and Arkansas. She has freelanced for The New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, Vogue, Rolling Stone and The Washington Monthly. While at the ABA Journal, she won a Fourth Estate Award, Lisagor ...

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