This Sunday afternoon, a group of talented local writers will share their latest work in the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home parlor. The collective meets regularly at the home on East Charlton Street to hash out a scene or phrase in their own writing projects and get input from others.
“We come to each meeting with the weight of lives on our shoulders, but then dive into this experience where we analyze words in a way that most people in our everyday lives would find uninteresting,” leader Joseph Schwartzburt said.
Occasionally the public is invited to hear the authors read from their works in progress. In fact, sharing stories with a wider audience is a crucial part of the writing process, too. One that produces results. Peacock Guild alumnus Zach Powers has a new book, “First Cosmic Velocity,” coming out this summer from Penguin Random House. He joined the salon in 2009, when the group was founded.
“So much of writing happens between the writer and the page, but presenting our stories to an audience lays bare the fissures that need filling or the darlings that need executing,” Schwartzburt said. “Writing groups require that writers take time out of their busy lives to make space for their art by holding them accountable to others. The salon tethers us to legitimacy that so often remains allusive.”
This reading, entitled a Muster of Peacocks, will feature pieces from a handful of writers. Ariel Felton, will read from "A Letter to My Niece," inspired by James Baldwin. Brennen Arkins, a writer of fiction for young readers, will share the opening chapters of his funny-scary children's novel “Fear Eyes.”
Susan Gene McCartney, an actor and world traveler, will share first pages of her autobiographical fiction about money laundering and a hurricane. Beverly Willett will provide a sneak peak from her memoir, “Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection,” slated for release in July. Four others will read from their drafts, as well.
What would Miss O’Connor think of a writers group gathering in her home to hammer out their precious pages?
“I lack her wit,” Schwartzburt said. “But she might have made a quip about the curious nature of delusional yuppies and societal outsiders — broad generalizations to be sure — amassing in her family's parlor to huddle over some pages of prose as if at a world summit on how to resolve socioeconomic inequality.
“Beneath her sarcasm, though, I think she'd be happy to hear that a band of misfits goes out of its way to congregate in the childhood living room of a deceased author and share stories. Makes for an interesting anecdote, especially since the salons do often feel like a seance wherein we foolish folk try to channel O'Connor's literary prowess.”