Immersing Myself in Southern/Island Culture

My visit to St. Simons Island, GA to speak at the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference was my first trip to the south, and I made sure that I immersed myself in the culture (at least as much as one can in a few days). I walked on the beach, climbed the lighthouse, toured a Civil War era cemetery, strolled among live oaks dripping with Spanish moss (which is neither Spanish nor moss but a member of the pineapple family). And ate. She-crap soup. Crab cakes. Shrimp and grits. Red beans and rice. Key lime pie. Fried oysters. Fried green tomatoes. Fried dill pickles. Vidalia onion pie. I was disappointed in the fried green tomatoes and the beans and rice. Both dishes were seasoned heavily with rosemary, which is my least favorite herb. And I was disappointed not to find such haute cousine as fried Twinkies, but I’m sure my stomach thanks me for the oversight.

I also met a woman I considered to be a quintessential fading southern belle. She was still beautiful despite being past her first youth, and hospitable (she took me on a tour of the island on Sunday in the hours between hotel check-out and my flight home). She was also charming, sweet,  and  . . .  from Maine. Just shows one should not assume anything.

Several of my meals were eaten in the company of fellow speakers Phillip Margolin, Chuck Barrett, and Jane Wood, (and Chuck’s delightful wife who taught me that “the store is always open,” meaning that authors always need to be ready to promote themselves. Maybe I’ll even heed her words and carry my bookmarks with me!)

I’m still trying to collect the photos that people took of me, but until then, you’ll have to be satisfied with photos I took.

The Hotel where I spent Wednesday and Thursday night

My room at the Village Inn

Atlantic Ocean

Pier at St. Simons Island

Civil War Cemetery

Southern Gothic

Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Oysters, Vidalia Onion Pie, Fried Dill Pickles

Leaving on a Jet Plane

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go, but I have a few minutes before I have to start donning my traveling togs, so I thought I’d say good-bye. Unlike Mary Travers, I do know when I’ll be back again — late Sunday night. I’m going to take notes and photos to show you, but most of all, despite 100% humidity (yikes!!), I’m going to have fun. It’s been so long since I’ve had fun, I’m not even sure what the word means any more, but I intend to find out.

I had an interesting revelation today, and oddly, it wasn’t even my revelation. I showed the preparations for my Scribbler’s Retreat Writer’s Conference presentation to a couple of people at different times the past two days. One said, “You have enough here for a book.” The other said, “This would make a good book.” And it would. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it, but sometimes we’re too close to things to see the truth. So, I haven’t even left for my conference, and I already have what I hoped to gain from it — a new direction and the confidence to go where it takes me.

Knowing I have something to do after my grief book is published will give me the impetus to type and edit the writings from my year of grief. My first year of grief. I’m still not over it, though I am healing every day. And perhaps I’ve outlived my stay at my grief support group. One woman brought a poem to read today, purportedly from our loved ones on the other side. At the end, everyone was wiping away tears but me. I was horrified by one of the lines: “everyday is the same here.” When I mentioned my horror, it sort of broke the mood. Ah, well. I’m mostly there for the hugs and to help the newly bereft however I can. They (whoever “they” is) say that grief brings strange blessings, and mine appears to be the ability to put into words what others are thinking.

The past few days have been so busy, I’m looking forward to doing nothing but sitting back and letting the plane take me where it wills. And even the five hour layover in Atlanta is even looking good. I was on top of the situation the whole time until Facebook decided to archive my old groups unless I acted immediately, so I couldn’t wait till I get back.

I have a favor to ask. If you belong to one of my facebook groups, and if you have time, will you go to the group, scroll down the wall (and click “older posts” when you get to the botttom of the page), look for discussion threads and make a comment? That brings the discussions to the top of the group page, and is a way of keeping them from getting lost. I’ll do it when I get back, of course, but any help will be appreciated.

My facebook groups: Suspense/Thriller Writers, Genre Book Club, and Second Wind Publishing.

I already did Help Support Independent Publishers,, but feel free to stop by and comment in a discussion anyway, especially the one where we are posting the first sentences of our books.

My ride is here. Gotta go!

What’s Next? Updating My Life.

It’s hard for me to believe, but exactly a week from now, the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference will be over, my speech will all but be forgotten, and I will be on an airplane, probably over Kansas somewhere, heading back here.

I’m not sure what to think about that. I’ve used this conference as a beacon, something to light my way through the darkness of my grief, and soon I will have to figure out what to do when the conference is over. I’ll work on my grief book, of course, and I’ll have to figure out what to do with all my facebook groups. For some reason, they are “new and improving” them to the point of unusability, at least for my non-nefarious purposes. We had some great discussions, and the discussions will no longer be available. Don’t know what the point of that is. All of that collected wisdom just  . . . gone. I also can’t procrastinate too long in upgrading the groups, or I will lose all the members. Sheesh. What a mess.

To a certain extent, it’s the impetus I’ve needed to rethink my promotional efforts both for me and for my publisher, Second Wind. To that end, I will be doing something I’ve never considered — emailing lists. At least they are something I would have control over. Don’t worry — I won’t be adding anyone who doesn’t want to be on the list. (Unless you responded to giveaways, and most of those had a note to the effect that your email address could be used to notify you of future giveaways and contests.)

But after that? Haven’t a clue. I was talking to someone today about the conference, and she asked if I’d ever taught before “other than on the internet”, and it occurred to me that in a roundabout way I have been teaching writing all along. So perhaps I’ll do writing workshops here on this blog. It wouldn’t be that much different from my various online discussion groups, but it would be more structured. Perhaps post a tutorial every Sunday night? And something similar to my presentation for the conference — creating incredible but credible characters — would be a good place to start. Besides, I need a new focus for this blog.  Grief only goes so far.

I’m not in the throes of grief anymore, at least not much — I keep myself too busy. I figure, if my life mate doesn’t want me to be thinking about him, he shouldn’t have died. Can you detect a hint of anger here? He used to tell me I needed to keep a pilot light of anger. He said it would fuel without consuming me. And what do you know — there it is. And it does help.

Funny how life coalesces at times. Everything of my old life (both online and offline) seem to heading for another turning point. Of course, that could be an illusion (or a delusion), but it’s true that this is another time of many changes.

I’ll keep you posted. And for sure I’ll get photos of the conference.

Speaking of photos, you’ve all seen the rather blurry photo of me I use as an icon. The photo accompanying this post is the picture it’s cropped from — my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary party, just a couple of months before my mother died. Happy mother’s day, Mom. Hope you’re at peace.

I Received an Invitation to be a Speaker at a Writer’s Conference!

My fame is spreading! Well,  maybe it’s not my fame that’s spreading, maybe it’s just my name. Or perhaps they are the same? Yikes, writing like that would never get into one of my novels. Inadvertant rhymes? That won’t do! Still, the sentiment is true. Someone, somewhere has heard of me, because yesterday I received an invitation to be a speaker at a writer’s conference!

Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference would like to cordially invite Pat
Bertram to be a guest speaker for one of our four conferences in 2010. We
have ten speakers for each conference and four conferences annually.

Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference is an international, non-profit,
literary arts organization dedicated to bringing together “those who have
made it” to “those who want to”. By creating the most innovative,
educational, and dynamic symposiums composed of the literary elite, we offer
those attending a unique opportunity to learn from and socialize with the
people they admire. This is a way to impart your talents to the global
community; to make a difference.

The conferences are held on beautiful St. Simons Island, Georgia. You will
be able to take advantage of the tranquil atmosphere provided by live oaks
and beaches, the history and art, ghost and dolphin tours, or even climb the
old light house.

Please look at your calendar to see which dates would be more preferable and
browse our website below. Join us in this grand endeavor in literacy and in
fulfilling dreams of success.

To talk about writing in a gorgeous place? Sounds like a dream. I have to choose a single topic, though. Hmmm. Which should it be: Style and technique? Networking? Writing support groups and blogs? I’ll get back to you — and them — about that.

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