When people ask me what it means to be a southern writer, I immediately reach for words like people, space, relationships, connections. I think less about traditionally southern tropes and more about the network of people that forms the community I know and love. This gives me the distinct feeling of being a community-oriented artist.
The relationship between an artist and a community is a symbiotic and mutually beneficial exploration into the relationships between culture and place. The community artist sees other members of the community as characters (living, breathing inspiration), but also sees the community itself—the place, the trees and cracked sidewalks and odd weather patterns—as its own character. As a writer, I am sharply attuned to the movement and characteristics of the people around me, but also to the vivid life of the town and its physical components: the looseness of its soil, its rocky outcroppings and riverbeds.
One of the most valuable things about being a part of a community is the commonality of the interpersonal relationships—everyone feels a certain degree of kinship simply because they all fundamentally identify with the same place and the same experiences. My hope is that my writing will bring people together in conversation about the places, people, and quirky unique surprises that they know and love—or, if my readership extends to people outside the community, that they, too, will begin to feel as though they are a part of our community as well.