Monday, April 6, 2009

Writers Symposium

This week we are gearing up for Caldwell Community College's annual Laurette LePrevost Writers Symposium. As usual, we gear the reading in many of our English classes toward the writer coming to visit, this time Clyde Edgerton.

I was first introduced to Edgerton, as odd as this may sound, by one of my high school sophomores back in Alabama when Zach Beck gave a book report on Floatplane Notebooks. The first Edgerton novel I read, though, was Walking Across Egypt. The scene in which Mattie Rigsbee becomes stuck in her chair, having sat back before she remembered the bottom was being recaned, still makes me laugh out loud. I always cast the characters in my head when I read a book, mixing famous actors (often younger versions of themselves) with people I know. Mattie was my Mama Coats.

Since then I've read them all--some a couple of times. I first met Clyde Edgerton when one of the textbook publishers brought him to a book event (back when textbook publishers spent some money wining and dining potential customers) and the same year at the North Carolina English Teachers Association fall conference. The books have the elements I like best: humor, believable characters, good storytelling.

This semester, our students have read his latest novel The Bible Salesman. Between my love for Flannery O'Connor and my personal family experiences with the travelling sales force of the Southwestern Publishing Company in Nashville, Tennessee, I was an ideal reader. Since I assigned the novel to my Expository Writing class, I was challenged to use the book not simply as a class extra, but as a tool to look at techniques of style. I can't wait to see what they have to show me tomorrow.

I'll also get to meet Yvonne Mason in person this week. She has written Reading, Teaching, Learning Clyde Edgerton, a text for teachers wishing to incorporate the novels into their classrooms. She and I have communicated via email for at least a year now, so I feel as if I'm meeting an old friend instead of a new one. We know that, in addition to our interest in Edgerton's novels, we both enjoy teaching, love British literature, and can't wait to share what we know.

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