Pat Conroy to edit USC Press fiction series
By Megan Sexton, email@example.com, 803-777-1421
Bestselling author Pat Conroy knew he wanted to be a writer since his days as a student at Beaufort High School in the South Carolina Lowcountry. But he had absolutely no idea how to do it.
“I am now 67 years old. I’ve been writing for more than 40 years. I’ve done some things and I’ve learned some things,” Conroy said. “I can make it easier for people in South Carolina – whether they are young, middle age or older – to get started if they want to write.”
Conroy will provide that help in his new role as editor-at-large for Story River Books, a new South Carolina-based original fiction series to be published by the University of South Carolina Press. Named for a small river which runs along Fripp Island, Story River Books will expand USC Press’ commitment to publishing top-notch regional fiction.
“In the opening lines of ‘The Prince of Tides,’ Conroy’s protagonist Tom Wingo muses, ‘My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.’ Story River Books will actively seek to publish writers who share this anchorage to South Carolina,” said Jonathan Haupt, director of the USC Press.
Open to original novels and short story collections, the series will emphasize a diverse and inclusive representation of Palmetto State, Haupt said. While the books in the series may diverge greatly in style and themes, they will present new perspectives on the dynamic, complex and oft-contested past and present of South Carolina. The first publication in the Story River Books series will be “A Southern Girl: A Novel” by John Warley, to be released in May 2014.
Conroy frequently cites his love of South Carolina as being as important to his success as his hypnotically descriptive prose.
“Literature can choose anywhere it wants to be born,” he said. “It can come from a nursing home in Seneca or Summerville, from an old mill town near Greenville, from a peach orchard in York, or from anywhere the sting and loveliness of language goes to dwell. I want Story River Books to find and nurture those voices, and for writers young and old in this infinitely variable state to be recognized and heard. I believe stories matter in a state like South Carolina because they mattered deeply to my sister and I. Though we came up in the damaged house of a fighter pilot, moving every year, we lit upon South Carolina in our high school years. Carol went to Winthrop and I went to The Citadel. She has turned out poems and I’ve written novels that bleed with this state’s colors. Our mother had a dream of us being writers, and though my mother did not go to college, she discharged in us a passion for words that we still wake to every day.”
Conroy explained his keen interest in serving as a fiction editor for up-and-coming writers, saying “I want a direct role in keeping that splendid sense of literary momentum alive. South Carolina has given me a million stories and no writer who ever lived had such riches to choose from. This is the reason I offered to edit the Story River Books series for USC Press.”
And he believes USC Press is in an ideal position to find new voices in South Carolina.
“Old publishing doesn’t seem to be looking for new novelists unless they can be best sellers or write about zombies or vampires or the end of the world,” he said. “I’m looking for the wonderful novel I loved growing up. There’s still an audience for it.”
Conroy said he recently met a young woman from Tennessee who said she changed her major after being inspired by a college English class. She wants to be a writer.
“I told her everything will be stacked against you. Your parents will tell you not to do it. Your friends will tell you not to do it. If you get married, your husband will tell you not to do this. But you can do it. It is a possibility. It’s a difficult life. It’s also one that’s possible. If you have the fever, and I know this from personal experience, there is nothing you can do once the call has been made to you.”
Photo by Steve Leimberg