Showing posts with label South Carolina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Carolina. Show all posts

25 August 2014

Zero Tolerance or Zero Intelligence?


by Fran Rizer

I've often laughed at some of the "crimes" in Florida that Leigh writes about, but last week has made me as embarrassed by South Carolina as much as Florida should make Leigh and some others.
The Big Bang Theory characters– all above
average intelligence except Penny
It happened in Summerville, SC, a small town not too far from the coast.  I spent a wonderful summer there years ago as a drama consultant when their Talented and Gifted summer program produced a musical I'd written.  At that time, the people seemed friendly and though they weren't of The Big Bang Theory intelligence, they didn't seem to be idiots either.

Alex Stone
Imagine my surprise when the news plastered pictures of a sixteen-year-old Summerville student locally, regionally, and nationally.  The young man, Alex Stone, was assigned to write a few sentences about himself and a status as though he were posting on Facebook. In the status, Stone wrote a fictional story stating that he'd killed his neighbor's "pet dinosaur" with a gun.

As soon as the teacher saw the word, "gun," she reported it to school officials who called law enforcement to search Stone's locker and book bag.  No guns or weapons of any kind were located, but Stone was handcuffed and arrested for arguing that he meant the whole thing to be funny.  This was interpreted as "being disruptive." He was suspended for the rest of the week during the first few days of the school term.

Could this be the dinosaur Alex wrote about?
Having taught in an inner-city school where I once took a straight-edged razor from a ten-year-old, I'm pretty much in favor of zero tolerance, but I am also in favor of student creativity and a little common sense on the part of authorities.

Alex Stone's mother has hired a lawyer and states that the school didn't call her and tell her what was happening. If they had, she would have gone there and suggested they simply make Alex write a different paper for the assignment. In fact, the school didn't contact her at all.  She first learned about her son's difficulties that day from law enforcement after his arrest.
I'm not saying Pop Tarts are good for your health,
but should this be cause for suspension?

To me, this incident bumps the Pop Tart gun suspension from the throne as most absurd zero tolerance suspension.  If you've forgotten about that event, an eight-year-old was suspended in May, 2013, for chewing his Pop Tart into a gun shape. Thank heaven that one wasn't in South Carolina.

I have a major problem with the fact that the arrest and suspension are going into Alex Stone's permanent records and his photo has been shown all over news media.  In no report did I see the name or photo of the teacher who reacted to this paper as "a threat" because she saw the word 'gun.'  

Personally, if I were his teacher, I would have told Alex how creative and imaginative his assignment was, but cautioned him about the extremes to which some people take zero tolerance.  The only way I would have seen his assignment as "threatening" was if the he'd called me a dinosaur before writing the paper or if students were specifically given a list of "forbidden words" for writing prior to the assignment. (Just think about what could have been on that list.)

My teen-aged grandson and I discussed the numerous news reports about this incident. His response:  "Using a dinosaur as the victim made it obvious his paper was creative fiction." He paused, thought a minute, and then added, "If zero tolerance means the word 'gun' can't be included in anything in schools, they need to throw away the dictionaries and severely censor school computers and I-pads."

Once again, I'm left wondering how and why fiction sells so well when real life is sometimes far more absurd.

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

07 April 2014

Take This Job and Shove It, I ain't writing anymore


by Fran Rizer


 A month or so ago, I quit writing--no more books to be published under my real name nor under my pen name.  I just became bored with the whole deal.  My agent is seeking a home for my last two books (a horror and a thriller).  Don't you think six Callies and several books by a pen name are enough for someone who only got serious with fiction after retirement?

Besides, I do have an anthology I've been involved with coming out in September, 2015.  This came about when David Lee Jones, a writer friend, and I were having lunch. He said, "Let's write something, publish it, and contribute the royalties to charity."

"Sounds like a plan," I answered, assuming he meant he and I would write it. As we talked, we decided on a ghost story book with all stories about SC and written by SC authors. We invited two more writers, James Kirk and Richard Laudenslager, to join us and became  SC Screams, an association whose purpose is to raise funds for children's charities. The manuscript is complete, and we've found a publisher who is as enthusiastic about it as we are.  I'll tell you more about that when the release date is closer.

That was exciting, but it still left me bored.



I was having a hard time sitting, and I certainly wasn't staying.  I redecorated some rooms, and I became a "lady who lunches."
Since most of the people I met for lunch are either writers or friends who read my books, I was constantly faced with this across the table:





When I explained that I'd quit writing, so there was no book to report on, they asked in disbelief, "No more Callies?

"Not unless Russ produces something I can 'Callicize,'" I answered, referring to the author who wants to write a Callie.

"It won't last," they told me. "You'll get some big idea and be back on the computer all night."  I did get a big idea, but not for a writing project.  I decided to sponsor a benefit for children.

Music captivates children.  What better way to earn
money to help them than a concert?
In the past two weeks, I wrote an article for Bluegrass Unlimited and that led to contact with Willie Wells who owns Bill's Pickin' Parlor with its listening room that seats over 300. The idea of a benefit concert hit me while talking to Willie, and he agreed to contribute the venue for my cause. 

I am producing GENE HOLDWAY Flying Solo with a special guest appearance by NANCY GATES OWEN on July 20th to benefit Children's Chance.

Gene agreed instantly to performing  his "Flying
Solo" act which includes bluegrass, but also
folk, country, Americana. and a few
comedy bits..
I met Gene Holdway in 1998 when I did
a photo shoot of the band Split Rail.
 He and I became "partners in rhyme,"
co-writing and producing music and
have remained friends.


Th













Nancy Gates Owen is an Americana  singer/songwriter
and recording artist in Tennessee.  She'll be
performing in Columbia, SC, as a special guest
on July 20, 2014. 


Note that I don't say, "All profits will go to Children's Chance, a SC nonprofit organization for children with cancer."  My problem with that statement is the word "profits."  Too often, the profits are contributed after a lot of debts are paid.  In this case, admission is a donation at the door, all of which will go directly to the charity because both performers, the owner of the venue, the staff, and the promo team are contributing their parts of this project free-of-charge.


Everyone's enthusiasm about this has revved up my energy and enthusiasm. It also has me writing again--press releases, public service announcements, and at least four feature articles that have to say the same things in different ways for local magazines, each with its own hook.  


It all feels good, but I must confess--I just got one helluva an idea for a short story.

Until we meet again… take care of you!

04 February 2013

And Where Is THAT?


by Fran Rizer




St. Mary, SC, is my town, and Surcie Island is my island.

When I wrote the first Callie Parrish Mystery, I created St. Mary, a small town on the coast of South Carolina, not far from Beaufort and Fripp Island. It's located near Highway 17. To get to Columbia or Charleston from St. Mary, take I-95 north to I-26 where a turn to the east leads to Charleston and circling round to go west leads to the midlands. I Googled carefully to be certain neither St. Mary, SC, nor Surcie Island exist. Surcie is actually based on Edisto Island before it was commercially developed (with a little Daufuskie thrown in), yet inevitably, at book signings, readers assure me that they've been to St. Mary or Surcie Island. I don't attempt to enlighten them, but it does set me thinking about fictional places I've been.

Most photos of William Faulkner are formal and solemn head
shots, possibly because of his height of 5'5".
I like this one because it's more relaxed than most..
The first and most memorable is Yoknapatawpha County in northwestern Mississippi. I traveled there frequently in my youth and return occasionally even now. It's bordered on the north by the Tallahatchie River and on the south by the Yoknapatawpha River. William Faulkner referred to it as my "apocryphal county."

Fourteen of his next seventeen novels after Sartoris were set in Yoknapatawpha County, including my personal favorites: The Sound and the Fury; Absolom, Absolom; and The Reivers. The eight short stories set in Faulkner's own county include my favorite Faulkner short story of all time--"A Rose for Emily."


This marker directs visitors to William Faulkner's
grave in Oxford, Mississippi.


William Faulkner drew this map of
Yoknapatawpha County for
The Portable Faulkner (1946).

Now travel with me from Mississippi to Maine where we'll visit Stephen King's town of Castle Rock. This town is part of King's fictional Maine and first appears in The Dead Zone. Writings set in Castle Rock include Cujo, "The Body" (which became the movie Stand By Me), "Uncle Otto's Truck," "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut," The Dark Half, "The Sun Dog," Needful Things, and "It Grows On You."

Castle Rock is also referred to in about ten short stories as well as fourteen novels, including 11/22/63, Bag of Bones, The Stand, Gerald's Game, and Pet Sematary.

Stephen King's Maine
King openly admits to being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft who created a series of fictional small towns in New England. King follows this idea of Lovecraft's with Jerusalem's Lot (in Salem's Lot), Castle Rock, Derry (in It, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher, and 11/11/63), Little Tall Island, and Haven.

There are several real Castle Rocks in the United States in southwest Washington and in Colorado, south of Denver. King denies his Castle Rock evolved from those real places and acknowledges that he got the name "Castle Rock" from the fictional mountain fort in William Golding's 1963 novel Lord of the Flies.

Stephen King, creator of Castle Rock, Maine
King's Castle Rock has been referred to in several works by others. A signpost in Peter Jackson's alien invasion movie Bad Taste points to a town named Castle Rock. This has been confirmed as a reference to King's town. In her 1993 novel One on One, Tabitha King mentions Castle Rock and thanks "another novelist who was kind enough to allow me to use the name."
Angela Lansbury as Jessica
Fletcher in Murder, She
Wrote
While we're in Maine, let's stop off at another fictional place I've visited many times: Cabot Cove, Maine-- the small fictional fishing village where Jessica Fletcher lives when she's not flitting around New York and Europe in the Murder, She Wrote series. I have friends who will argue that Cabot Cove, Maine, really exists. "After all," they say, "we see it all the time." The fact is that the television series was filmed in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and in Mendocino, California.

David Dean revealed a few weeks ago that a reader of his The Thirteenth Child pointed out "mistakes" he'd made about their town, not noticing that Dean's town had a different name. I'm an avid Faulkner, King, and now Dean fan, but I confess I think a writer creating his or her own location is the easiest way out. (That's why I took that route, but now I'm finding that as I'm working on the sixth book in the series, I'm having to check back on some geographic facts that I myself created.)

I admit that I have even greater admiration for those who recreate accurate, believable, historical settings in their fiction. An example of that among SSers is Janice Law's Fires of London. For more examples of impressive locations, see David Dean's recent blog Location, Location, Location.


This began with my emphatic statement that St. Mary, SC, and Surcie Island, SC, are my creations. I'll close by telling you that a writer friend of mine has sold a story he set in St. Mary, SC. He used a low country ruins scene I made up for another series and actually had his character mention Emily from my story Leigh likes: "Emily's Ghost Story." He called me on the telephone all excited about the sale (and when he has a publication date, I'll share it with you), but I confess that though he called it "homage," I wasn't really joyful about it. However, if Stephen King gives his wife permission to use his town in her novel, my friend can borrow some name from me.

I never introduce a song performance nor a prose reading with an explanation. I feel that the work should stand on its own. I also am not fond of books that begin with a list of character descriptions and/or a map of the location. I prefer to learn these things as I read, yet, after writing this, I actually considered making a map of St. Mary, SC, showing locations of events such as where Bill was caught making out with Loose Lucy during the candlelight vigil when Jane was kidnapped and where Little Fiddlin' Fred is buried in his gold-plated casket as well as recurring places like Callie's apartment, Middleton's Mortuary, Pa's homeplace, June Bug's burned out "Club," Rizzie's Gastric Gullah Grill, and other spots.

On second thought, that sounds like far too much work. Callie's readers will have to be satisfied with word descriptions.

Until we meet again, take care of. . . you!