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

Grief Update: Looking For Adventure and Whatever Comes My Way

In exactly one week, I will be on my way to St. Simon’s Island, GA to speak at the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference. It’s been a long time coming — I was originally scheduled for last August, but I had to postpone due to the illness and then the death of my life mate. These past months I’ve been looking to this conference as a borderline of sorts, a life-changing experience, maybe because it’s something concrete to plan for rather than a hazy future of aloneness to drift into.

And now the conference is only a few days away.

Several people asked me recently if I’m excited, others asked if I’m scared, but the truth is, I’m just tired. I’m tired of grieving, tired of trying to make sense of life, and most of all, I’m tired of shopping.

Shopping? Yep. Of all the subjects I never expected to discuss on this blog, shopping would head the list. I’ve never liked shopping for clothes, and the truth is, I never had to. When one is a virtual hermit, one doesn’t need very much. But a world-class author (according to the Scribbler’s Retreat people, anyway) does need more than a simple top to throw over comfortable slacks when she is being introduced at a banquet, giving a presentation, attending a reception. I’ve been lucky in that a couple of weeks ago, two friends took me shopping to pick out the clothes they think I look best in, and then this past week, my sister came and picked the things she liked on me. This leaves me with a wardrobe that is not me. Or at least not the pre-death me. Perhaps it’s who I’ll become — a bit classy, a bit dramatic, a bit arty. Not a bad image if I can pull it off. And there’s no reason I can’t. I’ve survived fifty-eight weeks of grief. I can do anything.

It’s strange to think I’m going somewhere my life mate never visited, stranger to think I’m going without a single article of clothing he ever saw. There will be nothing on this trip (except my lingering sadness) to remind me of what I lost. There will be just me, heading out on an adventure, accepting whatever comes my way.

Diving Off the Deep End

I never learned to swim as a child, so when I went to college, I signed up for beginning swimming for my PE credit. On the first day of class, the teacher had us line up at the deep end, then she said, “Dive in.” What????? I stared at her, totally out of my depth. Well, not really out of my depth since I didn’t even jump into the pool. I just stood on the sidelines while everyone else dived. The teacher kicked me out of the class. Apparently, though the syllabus clearly stated the class was for those wanting to learn how to swim, there was an undeclared understanding that people who could swim took the course as an easy way to satisfy the PE requirement, and she had no patience for someone who could barely float.

Today, I’m feeling the way I did that long ago day standing on the edge of the edge of the pool. I mentioned a year or so ago that I was asked to be a speaker at the Scribblers Retreat Writer’s Conference on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, but I had to cancel due to a death. (Not mine, though it felt like it.) I thought that was the end of it, but conference organizers contacted me and asked me to reschedule. So I did. I’ll be speaking at the May 2011 conference at 3:00 on Friday the 13th. Perhaps an auspicious date? I hope so! This will be my first ever speaker engagement. (No honorarium, but an incredible honor.)

I had no idea of the scope of the conference until today when I learned that the conference was recently voted one of the “Top Ten Organized Conferences in the U.S.” by Writer’s Digest. I also learned that Phillip Margolin will be fellow a speaker. Gulp. This is the big time. The deep end. Shouldn’t I dip a toe in first? Test the waters? Nope. Have to learn to dive very, very quickly.

Oddly enough, despite my lack of experience and a niggling worry that someone made a mistake by inviting me, I know I can do a good job. I plan to use my character questionnaire and, with audience participation, show how to develop a character (and subplots and tension) by making a series of small decisions. I realize talking before a group is not the same thing as moderating online discussion groups, which is my usual venue for talking about writing, but I plan on having fun. And anyway, it’s not as if I’m going to drown — or get kicked out of class — if things don’t work out right.

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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