Pat Conroy

"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 imprint for USC Press."

Literature can choose anywhere it wants to be born. 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 me. 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. My sister 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.

I've watched South Carolina produce a distinguished crop of writers, both homegrown and legal immigrants like me. I watched the stunning appearance of the great Josephine Humphrey as she produced world-class fiction from her home in Charleston. Ron Rash burst out of Clemson with a degree in creative writing and stands poised to be the best southern writer of his generation. The peach farmer Dori Sanders created a bold voice from the black folk of South Carolina and Harlan Greene gave notice of a rich vein of literature from the gay South. Sue Monk Kidd gave us her wonderful Secret Life of Bees, Dorothea Benton Frank made the beach book her own personal property, Mary Alice Monroe speaks for the preservation of the wild things, and Ken Burger brings to life the region around his homeland of Allendale. Anne Rivers Siddons, the magisterial mother of the modern novel for southern women is adding to the literature of Charleston as she continues her amazing life among southern letters. I know fifty other South Carolina writers I haven't mentioned here, and through all of us, this state has created a powerful literary voice, reverberating around the world.

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. What I owe South Carolina is not repayable, but I started out as a kid in Beaufort who wanted to be a writer and I didn't have the slightest notion how to become one. With this new fiction imprint, I believe I can help bring out voices in this state that might not be heard otherwise, and those as-of-yet unheard voices can help reshape our world.

The University of South Carolina Press is in an ideal position to find new voices in South Carolina, and to smartly bring those storytellers to the attention of a reading public overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of product and noise. By focusing on regionally based fiction of the highest quality and of lasting importance, as we aspire to do, I believe that Story River Books can bring international attention to our state and its flagship university.

—Pat Conroy
May 2013