Reprinted here in its entirety.
“A high school ring on a skeleton’s finger, a hidden diary, a
rabbit who looks like a ferret … in other words, a typical week at Pinckney
Plantation on Indigo Island, South Carolina.” Publisher John F. Blair’s
description of Caroline Cousins’ recently published mystery book Way Down Dead
in Dixie is intriguing and leaves one wanting to discover more.
Saturday, Feb. 9, Cousins, along with seven other Southern writers, will read
and discuss their works in an entertaining annual conference: On the Brink 2008.
This year’s conference theme is “Maybe I can explain your devil to you.” Each
year a thought-provoking theme is chosen, giving attendees a hint of what is in
store for the day. Gena Christopher, an instructor in the Department of English,
says the quote by Flannery O’Connor was chosen as the theme by the On the Brink
committee, comprised of campus and community members, “to express what we think
Southern writers do — explain our lives to us.”
On the Brink, which averages 100-150 attendees, will be held on the 11th
floor of the Houston Cole Library. The format consists of morning registration
and refreshments followed by two speaking sessions, two book signings and a
lunch after the first session and signing.
As part of the 15th year of Kaleidoscope, the College of Arts and Sciences
festival of the arts, On the Brink is designed to offer emerging authors of
various genres a forum to discuss how they each depict their ideas through
Southern experience. The audience members are encouraged to interact by asking
the authors questions.
“One of the things we are most pleased about is the casual atmosphere of the
conference,” says Dr. Steven Whitton, professor in the Department of English.
“Attendees have access to authors.” Dr. Whitton explains the lunch, catered by
Sodexho, is “hosted” by the authors, each one sitting at a table with attendees.
Christopher looks forward to meeting new “friends” and “getting to talk with
the writers and know more about their inspirations.” The lunch has become a
favorite part, as well as a distinctive characteristic, of the conference which
many look forward to experiencing.
JSU alumnus Lester L. Laminack is another one of the authors the audience
will get the opportunity to hear from and converse with over lunch. Laminack
grew up in Heflin and earned a bachelor of science and master of science in
elementary education from JSU. He received a doctorate in elementary education
and reading from Auburn University and is currently a full-time writer and
school consultant as well as professor emeritus with the Department of
Birth-Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle Grades Education at Western Carolina
Laminack is extremely involved in the academic community and has published
several academic and children’s books. At the conference, Laminack will be
reading from and discussing his most recent children’s book Snow Day! Do not
hesitate to attend On the Brink because you are unfamiliar with the authors or
their works. “I think it is much more fun to come to the conference with no
prior knowledge of the writer,” says Christopher. “A fresh reading of a new work
by an author allows me to hear the true voice when I read the rest of the work.”
Think of the conference as a unique preview screening of selections on the
way to the top of book lists across the nation. Dr. Whitton describes the event
as an easy, casual way to find out about Southern authors who are literally “on
JSU has seen authors achieve greater acclaim after participating in On the
Brink: Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish, as well as Time Burton’s film of the novel,
and Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’. “Poet Natasha Trethewey won the
Pulitzer Prize only weeks after reading from Native Guard at last year’s
conference,” says Dr. Whitton.
Come take part in the 15th annual On the Brink and discover captivating
writing styles, alluring characters and riveting plots and concepts in
contemporary Southern literature; discover a new Dixie.
For more information about On the Brink, visit www.jsu.edu/depart/english/brnk08co.htm
or call the Department of English at
-782-5411. The deadline for pre-registration is Jan. 31.
Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and
Communications, contributed to this article.
About William A. Meehan
Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville
State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.
See story at The Jacksonville News's website: www.jaxnews.com