WellRead Magazine Publishes “Mystery Outside the Frame: An Analysis of William Gay’s Literary Landscapes” by Dawn Major

“The rutted road wound down. Other roads branched off this one and other yet, like capillaries bleeding off civilization into the wilderness, and finally he was deep in the harrikin.

Untitled, Oil on Canvas, by William Gay,
Passage from “Where Will You Go When Your Skin Will Not Contain You?” Time Done Been Won’t Be No More

Again, I want to thank WellRead Magazine and creator, publisher, editor, Mandy Haynes, for taking on a massive project with such a limited amount of time. I think I ended up sending in almost fifty images of old photos and images of William Gay’s folk-art, plus close to 17,000 words. It’s a lot to tackle on its own, but it was by far not the only project WellRead supported in the month of November. So….gratitude.

The connections between William’s prose and his paintings are simply incredible. For me, I felt as if I was immersing myself into one of his settings and meeting his characters. I hope I articulated this well for his fans and readers. It’s been an ongoing honor to work with the William Gay Archive, Team Gay, and now with WellRead Magazine. For the final part of the series on William Gay, WellRead will be publishing a never-before-seen excerpt from Gay’s first novel, The Long Home. This piece was cut by the publisher. In addition, the roundtable discussion with Team Gay will be included in December’s edition, so be on the lookout for more from WellRead and William Gay.

To view this article, visit link: WellRead Magazine November 2022. If you enjoyed the piece on WellRead, please share!

Well Read Magazine Publishes Dawn Major’s Article: Supernaturalism in William Gay’s Works, October Edition

IT WAS IN MY CARDS…

For years, I wanted the space to write about supernaturalism in William Gay’s works. I have had the honor of lecturing at writing conferences and festivals, teaching, as well as writing short essays on this topic, but always within a word-count or a limited time to speak. Unless I wanted to self-publish (which I still may do), I would have to find an online journal or magazine willing to entertain my obsession. The beauty of online publishers is that they tend to allow for longer pieces. But even online publishers balked at what I was proposing. They have to be judicious because every page adds up or takes away from another author. I get it.

I realize I was asking a lot. I wanted as many pages as it took to cover this subject. I wanted colored images of Gay’s paintings along with passages of his prose that complemented those images on full pages. I wanted the cover. Did I mention I wanted a lot?

One thing I’ve learned over the years of writing and working with publishers is to ask for the moon first. They may not agree. They may laugh at you a little for your extreme ask. Typically, I find that if what you are writing about is unique and provides insight into something new or reimagined, they will try to make you happy. My advice is to go ahead and ask. If they say no, hey, you’re a writer and familiar with rejection. In my experience, the publisher will try and meet you halfway.

Well Read Magazine has given me the freedom to write this piece the way I wanted to write it. I got my wish list and William Gay got the cover he deserves. I couldn’t be happier. These are the moments where all those rejections and “thank you for your submission, but unfortunately…blah, blah, blah…you know the drill” makes it worth it. Don’t give up.

To read my article in full visit: Well Read Magazine. It’s a great read for Halloween. I cover Gay’s haunted forest, the Harrikin, ghosts, haints, fortune tellers, witches, necromancers, and so much more. If you enjoy my article, please consider sharing with others. Authors get known through social media and every post helps get their name out there.

Was Southern Author, William Gay, Writing Horror?

The Bystanders, by Dawn Major: Coming April 2023

Image provided by Mandy Haynes, creator, designer, editor, and publisher of WELL READ MAGAZINE

So, you have written a book. You even have a contract to publish your book. You know your settings, the buildings that make up your town, you have travelled every footpath and road, but you can’t find that perfect image for your cover that expresses your overall narrative. While your publisher will provide an image, you’re wondering if it’s going to be the right one. Let’s face it; readers judge a book by its cover. I certainly do!

That’s where I stand right now. Photos of the real town and surrounding area along with my fictional settings are swirling through my head. But the crucial, that ever so important cover art, alludes me. How can I start promoting without an image? No one is going to click on a blank page, right?

This is my approach. One, I have a theme that runs throughout the book. Can you guess it? Yes, the bystander effect. Two, the story is about a town and that town’s reaction to new arrivals, but it also about the response those newbies have towards their new home. So, I built a collage of images and hope and pray the cover artist gets my vision.

Fellow writer, new friend, creator, designer, editor, and publisher of WELL READ MAGAZINE, Mandy Haynes, offered this image of a cover reveal while I ponder what best fits The Bystanders. If you click this LINK, and click tp pages 34 & 34, you’ll see an image of one of the real settings of the Dew Drop Inn circa 1980s and you can read a synopsis of my story.

One great option I hadn’t realized was available is to create a mock or a temporary cover. You can start promoting and get the opinion from your readers. So, the great experiment begins.

Please share with your friends and on social media!

WELL READ Magazine to Publish a Four-Part Series on Southern Author, William Gay

William Gay

A few months ago, I received a FB message from the editor-in-chief of WELL READ Magazine, Mandy Haynes, asking if I would be interested in writing a feature on the late, Southern Author, William Gay. If you know anything about me, that’s like asking a kid if he/she wants cupcakes for breakfast. Would I ever?!?!

There’s so much to say about William, from his lyrical prose, his artwork, his Southern legendarium, to where he places among the great Southern authors. I’ve wanted one place to house all of these topics for years. And it’s with the utmost pleasure that I can say this wish is being fulfilled by WELL READ. Not only one article, but four!

The first article, provided by lead archivist, biographer, and friend, J.M. White, begins with when he received the news that William Gay had passed away and discusses the undertaking the archive took to gather, edit, and ultimately publish Gay’s posthumous works. This piece is an excellent foray into the archival process. Plus, there’s a real story here. What an act of love it was for Gay’s friends to endeavor upon this journey!

In 2018, I came into the picture while I was writing my master critical thesis on the speculative elements in Gay’s work. I interviewed Michael White. I haven’t been able to let go, and it was great honor to later become part of the archive.

To read the full story in WELL READ Magazine, click this LINK AND please spread the word about William Gay by posting on social media and sharing with friends.

Follow WELL READ on FB or IG!

Write Now: William Gay’s Stories From The Attic, featuring Dawn Major and Michael White AUG. 18, 7 PM EST.

Join Broadleaf Writers Association for a “Write NowEvent Thursday, August 18th, 2022, 7 PM EST. This program will be virtual via Zoom. To join us, please follow this link.

With any manuscript, writing must eventually give way to editing. Editors then make their notes, recommend changes, and then return the manuscript to the author for review and discussion. However, when the work is posthumous–taken from unfinished writings or incomplete manuscripts–how does an editing team proceed?

Join us as we welcome editor, Dawn Major, and editor, lead archivist, and William Gay biographer, Michael White, for an in-depth conversation on the process of discovering and bringing the late William Gay’s work to life in a discussion about William Gay’s final collection, STORIES FROM THE ATTIC, and much much more.

PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF STORIES FROM THE ATTIC: DZANC BOOKS OR Stories From The Attic is also available at Atlanta Independent Bookstore, A. Cappella: PURCHASE HERE.

To learn even more about William Gay and Team Gay, visit: WILLIAM GAY ARCHIVE

Stories From The Attic by William Gay: Reading with Team Gay at Bear Book Market, August 7, 2022, 4-8 PM EST.

Lying on his back in the grass, the sky stretched to infinity, fall constellations just now rising as if pinned to some gaudy wheel in slow but infinite spin, moving in silence beyond thought, beyond comprehension.

“Nighttime Awakening” by William Gay
Cover Art- William Gay Archive

Join the members of Team Gay in celebrating Southern Author, William Gay’s, final work–Stories From The Attic (Dzanc Books). Archival material and artwork of Gay’s will be available to view starting at 4PM. At 6:30 PM, team members will read favorite passages from the new collection and then open the floor for discussion. Books available for purchase.

WHERE: BEAR BOOK MARKET 85 East Main Street Dahlonega, GA 30533

WHEN: 4-8 PM EST. From 4-6, feel free to wander in for casual conversation about William Gay. Readings begin at 6:30 PM, followed by Q&A. Refreshments will be served.

GETTING THERE: Visit DIRECTIONS & PARKING

In Spring of 2023, you can put “The Bystanders” by Dawn Major on your Bookshelf

Image provided by Nick Fewings

I am happy to announce that I signed a contract to publish my book, The Bystanders, with Moonshine Cove Publishing. The Bystanders is scheduled to be released in Spring of 2023. To say this has been a journey is an understatement. Thanks to all my family and friends–writerly or otherwise–for all the support. You never write a book all by yourself. You need an army of writers to push you through editing, submitting, and rejection after rejection after rejection. Did I mention you’ll get rejected? Once you do get an offer, the work is far from over. In this world, most small publishers have limited funds to market your book, so be prepared to make your book your absolute favorite topic of conversation without coming off as a total narcissist. Anyway…those are steps for the near future. Right now, I feel like I did something right for once with the writing gods. Gotta go light a candle and make some more offerings.

To learn more about my book visit: The Bystanders

Happy Writer, Happy Life

Southern Literary Review Announces Dawn Major as Associate Editor

I am so honored to be part of the new team at Southern Literary Review. For years, I’ve admired SLR and their support of Southern authors and literature and their compelling book reviews and author interviews and profiles. When I left my career in the financial world (fifteen years of banking), everyone thought I was a madwoman. “You’re going to do what? Write?” And yes, you do have to be a little mad to be a writer. It was risky leaving the security of the steady paying job, and I was scared. I wondered if I had it in me to switch directions halfway through my life. I wondered if I would I be accepted into the literary and writing world.

So, I got my MFA in creative writing, and I was off to the races, right? Not so much. I learned that my MFA was only a key; it was up to me how I used that key. I used it by opening doors that were challenging. I said “yes” to opportunities when “no” would have been so much easier. I deliberately made myself uncomfortable. Everyone at the literary conferences seemed so much smarter than me. It was intimidating. But “uncomfortable” is a good thing and it fades. At the end of the day all those writers at conferences are thinking the same thing. What matters is that you have a common love for literature that you want to share with others. And now I get to share that common love at Southern Literary Review as one of the new associate editors. I feel so validated for making a leap of faith and thrilled to be working with such talented women–Donna Meredith and Clare Matturro.

Interested in being a contributor and sharing your love for Southern literature? Visit SLR Guidelines.

A Conversation with Author of Drowned Town, Jayne Moore Waldrop

Jayne Moore Waldrop, photo taken at Lake Barkley

DM: How did you research this subject? Do you have any personal history with drowned towns?

JMW: I grew up in Paducah, which is about twenty miles from Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and Land Between the Lakes so I know the area well but didn’t have any personal or familial connections to the drowned towns or the land formerly known as Between the Rivers. I’ve always appreciated having the lakes and the LBL recreation area right in my backyard, so to speak, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I began to consider the enormous environmental changes that happened in western Kentucky with the damming of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in the mid-twentieth century. Kentucky Dam was built long before I was born as part of the New Deal projects for rural electrification and flood control. Lake Barkley and LBL were created when I was a very young child. They were just part of the landscape for people like me.

Flooded Eddyville, Corps of Engineers Archive Photo

But my perspective changed in 2003 when my husband and I bought at auction one of the remaining original homes in Old Kuttawa, a beautiful old Victorian where we spent time in the summer and on holidays. We owned the house for twelve years, and that period corresponded with the time I worked on my MFA in Creative Writing at nearby Murray State University as well as when I started these stories. As I researched the history of the house, I dug deeper into the history of the town as it once existed before Lake Barkley. Kuttawa had been a small but bustling river town, and that was hard for me to envision. Fortunately, there are several photographic archives from multiple eras that exist through our library system, as well as the Lyon County Museum at Rose Hill in Eddyville. At the museum, I found a picture of our house in its heyday. It was surrounded by lush gardens. There were young women with Gibson Girl hairstyles in the upstairs windows. I was smitten by the house and the history, but that came with a recognition of what was lost when the lakes were built and Between the Rivers was purchased by the government to create the recreation area. In speaking with individuals displaced by the projects, I heard a familiar and shared yearning for home, all these years later. There’s a melancholy despite the natural beauty of the region.

DM: Some of my favorite writers have written linked narratives (Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Olive Again, or Alice Munro’s Runaway). Do you have any advice for writers who are interested in writing linked narrative collections? AND, what made you settle on linked narratives as opposed to a traditional novel?

JMW: As far as advice to other writers, read as many linked story collections or novels-in-stories as possible to see how other authors have used the form. In addition to the ones you mention – Olive Kitteridge is my all-time favorite – I recommend Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Munro’s The Beggar Maid. That said, writers should know that publishers generally favor novels over story collections, so I think they’re a little harder to sell. In fact, I’ve noticed that some books that read like linked stories are labeled as novels or perhaps not labeled at all to be more marketable. Maybe the description “novel-in-stories” solves the issue. As a reader, books like Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips and News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt seemed like interconnected stories but are called novels. So, at submission time, maybe an author shouldn’t set a fixed label of where the manuscript fits on the fiction spectrum.

Old Kuttawa, Kentucky–Corp of Engineers Archive Photo

I love a linked narrative because it allows for broad storytelling from multiple points of view, which is why I chose the form to tell these stories. It allowed the narrative to flow back and forth in time and setting, which I thought was important to connect the history to a modern-day story. It also provided space for an ensemble of characters from around the lakes and Between the Rivers. Each told a distinct perspective.

DM: I recently read that current Land Between the Lakes residents are protesting the government’s management of the property, i.e., clearcutting, neglect. What are your thoughts about this?

JMW: LBL should be funded and managed in ways consistent with the promises made to the former residents, that the area will not be commercially developed and that roads be maintained to allow the descendants of the former residents to reach family cemeteries and other significant landmarks. Personally, I wish LBL could be part of the National Park Service to better emphasize the recreational, historical, cultural, and natural elements of the area, instead of part of the U.S. Forest Service.

DM: I identified with Margaret Starks character more, so maybe that’s why I think this is her story. It’s actually both Margaret and Cam’s story as well as the townspeople’s story. What are your readers saying about who the main character is?

Flooded Eddyville before the town was torn down- photo by Gar Pursley

JMW: I hope readers see that Margaret and Cam’s friendship is the thread that runs throughout the story. They’re quite different–different backgrounds with personalities that tend to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Sort of a yin and yang friendship that sustains them through their lives. They become chosen sisters. In many ways I also identify with Margaret because she’s the outsider who comes to know the lakes and LBL without any of the associated personal loss or grief for what existed before. As she learns more about the past, she comes to understand the depth of their loss.

Low lake levels reveal stairs–photo by Jayne Moore Waldrop

DM: At any point did you think you were finished with Drowned Town and then decide to add a story? Or, the opposite, did you remove a story from the collection?

JMW: “Signs” was one of the last stories I wrote. The manuscript needed more of Rose’s story, which culminates with “Mint Springs,” one of the first ones I wrote. There were a couple of stories that were cut from the final version that still lurk somewhere on my computer.

DM: If you could decide on the essential takeaway from Drowned Town for your readers, what would that be?

Bricks from Old Kuttawa–photo by Jayne Moore Waldrop

JMW: I think readers will have a better understanding of Western Kentucky and its history, but I hope the essential takeaway from the book is a recognition of the profound grief that comes from loss of home and place, whether it’s of our own making or outside our control. The yearning for a home is a shared universal experience.

DM: Writing about real towns can be risky because they’re full of opinions. Has the feedback been positive? What’s the funniest remark someone has made about Drowned Town that you would like to share?

JMW: Yes, writing about real places can be risky. To give myself a little more freedom from the actual history, I created the fictional town of Sycamore. The drowned towns of Eddyville and Kuttawa are real, as are the “new” relocated towns that used the same names. I wanted to signal early on that, while based on historic events, this book is fiction. Eddyville and Kuttawa have an old rivalry, one that’s in some ways bitter. I decided to avoid that issue completely by creating a fictional new town.

The funniest remark about the book I’ve heard was from a woman who said she didn’t like some of the words in it. She didn’t elaborate.

DM: Are there plans to redevelop the Land between the Lakes?

JMW: Not to my knowledge at this time, but there’s always that fear. There was a movement with support from elected officials to commercially develop the area in the 1990s but due to public outcry, organized by the former residents and their descendants, the plans went nowhere. There has since been federal law put in place known as the Land Between the Lakes Protection Act, which transferred management of the area from TVA to the U.S. Forest Service. The unfortunate part is that there has been reduced funding for educational and cultural programming, which is important in keeping the history alive.

DM: What’s next? Are you working on another collection or novel?

JMW: I am working on a continuation of the story with these characters as they hit deep middle age. My next three books, though, are children’s picture books to be published by Shadelandhouse Modern Press. The first one will be released later this year. It’s a biography of the artist Ellis Wilson, who was born in western Kentucky and became one of the first African American students accepted at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was an acclaimed artist of the Harlem Renaissance and a two-time recipient of the Guggenheim Award. Nashville artist Michael McBride is currently working on the illustrations, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see the story come to life in Michael’s watercolors. The second book in the series is about Kentucky outsider artist Helen LaFrance, and the third is about a child noticing the similar life patterns of humans and birds on a lake.

DM: Thanks for the opportunity to learn more about Drowned Town. I wish you all the best with your new novel!

Jacket Design-Hayward Wilkirson

TO PURCHASE A SIGNED COPY OF DROWNED TOWN: Joseph-Beth Booksellers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jayne Moore Waldrop is a Kentucky writer and attorney. She is the author of Retracing My Steps, a finalist in the New Women’s Voices Chapbook Series, and Pandemic Lent: A Season in Poems, both published by Finishing Line Press. Her linked story collection, Drowned Town, was published in 2021 by University Press of Kentucky through its Fireside Industries imprint, a partnership with Hindman Settlement School. Waldrop earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kentucky, and her MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) in 2014 from Murray State University’s low residency program. She is a former book columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal and literary arts liaison at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. She was a writer-in-residence at Rivendell Writers Colony and has attended the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop at Hindman Settlement School, Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Workshop, and the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Waldrop was appointed by the governor to serve two terms on the Kentucky Arts Council and she’s an Art Meets Activism grant recipient from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

Photo by Tim Webb

To learn more about Jayne Moore Waldrop and for author events, visit her author website: JAYNE MOORE WALDROP | AUTHOR

Interested in discovering the history of the drowned towns of Western Kentucky, read Jayne Moore Waldrop’s article in Kentucky Monthly: “Lost Places of the Western Waterland.”

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