Byte-Size Blair – May 19

We’re back with Byte-Size Blair, our weekly wrap-up of all things social media. If you’re not already following us on FacebookTwitterTumblr, or Pinterest, give us a look.

1. Bearwallow author in Brevity: Jeremy B. Jones has a beautiful essay about the ties between writing and our senses–particularly smell–in this month’s Brevity.

2. Blair in the Community: The John F. Blair staff volunteered last Friday at the Forsyth County Friends of the Central Library Book Sale. We helped unpack and organize thousands of titles as part of our efforts to give back to Winston-Salem.

3. Beardfellows: Do you know what it means to rire dans sa barbe? We tweeted about it with Anna and Julia Hider, authors of our upcoming Badass Civil War Beards.

4. Pinworthy: We pinned this great image that gives new meaning to the idea of “reading in bed.”

5. More Awards!: In other tweets, we congratulated Hub City author Angela Kelly for her SIBA win and NewSouth author Anna Olswanger for her honor.

And as always, let’s close this update out with a great picture of a beloved Blair staffer’s fuzzy friend. This week it’s Carmen, a dog who wears many hats…like this one.



Join us at Words Awake!

Words Awake! Wake Forest University

Join us at Words Awake! this weekend, March 23 through 25, at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. This festival celebrates generations of Wake Forest writers who will return to their alma mater to engage the campus, alums, public schools, and broader community.

Words Awake! will look back to Wake Forest writers of the past; hear the work of current writers; debate the nature of writing today and tomorrow; and honor writers important to the heritage of writing at the University.  Attendees include poets, screenwriters, novelists, journalists, critics, and nonfiction authors who share and shape that legacy.  If you ever wanted to learn from Frances O’Roark Dowell, best-selling children’s book author; Malcolm Jones, Newsweek book critic; or Ben Brantley, chief theater critic of The New York Times, this is your chance! The event is free and open to the public.

Blair editor Steve Kirk will be exhibiting on the fourth floor of the Benson Student Center Saturday. Make sure you stop by to say hello, buy a book, or pick up our manuscript guidelines (sorry folks, but he can’t take manuscripts at the event). Then pop by some of the panels or readings–I’d suggest you hear Eric Ekstrand (a friend and fellow alum) read from his poetry collection at 3:15 p.m. in Benson 401B. Find out who else is attending here and see the full schedule here.

Go Deacs!

“Month of Letters” is the perfect time to check out “Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence”

Do you ever write letters to your friends and family anymore? Me neither.

Maybe it’s time to change that. If you miss connecting through the written word, here’s a challenge for you: Author Mary Robinette Kowal will launch The Month of Letters Challenge in February.

Here’s how Kowal explains the challenge:  “In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs.  Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items. All you are committing to is to mail 24 items.  Why 24? There are four Sundays and one U.S. holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.”

The Month of Letters Challenge reminds me of a simpler time, when friends and family told their stories in beautifully calligraphed letters on stiff paper and eagerly awaited visits from the postman. If you prefer this to 140-character Twitter soundbites, or if you’re considering taking the challenge, you might want to check out Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Emily Herring Wilson, a book that features the letters written by famed gardener Elizabeth Lawrence to her friend and mentor Ann Preston Bridgers during the 1930s and 40s. The letters reveal a kinder, less hurried time when the strong bond of friendship was nurtured through the art of letter writing.

Ann Preston Bridgers, who first studied drama at Smith College and later lived in New York City to be close to Broadway, was the pride of Raleigh, North Carolina, where she founded the Little Theatre, a New Deal Federal Theatre project. In 1927, she coauthored with George Abbott Coquette, starring Helen Hayes. In 1929, Coquette became Mary Pickford’s first talking movie. The role won her an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1930. Ann, like George Abbott, was a great encourager of the young. Her talent for friendship and for identifying the talent of others led to her correspondence with Elizabeth Lawrence, who would become one of America’s best garden writers.

Elizabeth, a graduate of Barnard College and the first female to graduate from the landscape design program at what is now North Carolina State University, was struggling to make a career for herself in Raleigh at a time when there was little work for landscape designers, especially women and especially in the South.

When Ann moved back to Raleigh in the early 1930s, she and Elizabeth struck up a friendship that continued after Elizabeth moved to Charlotte in 1948 and endured until Ann’s death in 1967. They were two women of different generations (Ann was the older) who valued their opinions and their privacy and did not conform to images of the so-called Southern lady. Ann encouraged Elizabeth to find a way to live as she wished and guided her to write articles for some of the new women’s magazines. Elizabeth was already making a splendid garden, and with Ann’s help she began to write about her passion. By 1942, she was so successful that her book, A Southern Garden, was published. It is still considered a classic.

Although only a small number of Ann’s letters were preserved, editor Emily Herring Wilson discovered a treasure trove of Elizabeth’s letters to her mentor. Through those letters, readers can glimpse what life in a Southern town was like for women, especially during the 1930s and 1940s. Elizabeth discusses family, friends, books, plays, travels, ideas, and, of course, writing. In 2004, on what would have been her 100th birthday, Elizabeth (who died in 1984) was featured as one of the 25 greatest gardeners in the world by Horticulture magazine. That acclaim would never have come her way without her friendship with Ann Preston Bridgers.

If you participate in the Month of Letters–or if you read Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence— please share your experiences with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. Or heck, write us a letter to tell us about it. We’ll keep an eye out for the postman.