Legends of the Edisto: How to Say Goodbye … For Now


Courtesy of http://edistofriends.org

I stand by the black river.

It is the longest black river in the United States.

Nothing special about it when you first look.

Comparing the river to another is like comparing the Tarboro River to the streams in the mountains of North Carolina. It is murky, slow and ancient. Unless sun shines bright on the South Fork Edisto River you see nothing.

This is South Carolina.

I was raised in the upstate. Green hills rise up the closer you get to the North Carolina border. Larger trees grow in the forests, and when I think of the Catawba River, it is home.

But I chose to center my project of seven years around the slow, black river.

Why?

The South Fork Edisto River shaped the town in which my grandfather grew up. It inspired him. My grandmother read to him in their secret spot next to the river. They never revealed where, but Dad said my grandparents crossed a certain area in the car and always said “hello.”

When I think of my geographical trips to Bamberg, I try to look at the river through the eyes of Owen Alston. It is a place he wants to leave, yet the black water is a comfort because it is home.

Now, as I return to the present, a computer screen and a television in the background; it is time to let go.

Although I will brush up chapters in Sons of the Edisto and share Legends of the Edisto, there are other stories to write.

How do you know when to let go?

If you’ve worked on a novel for as long as I have, you edited, you researched and came to an understanding about the business side of writing. You expanded your writing world beyond one book to stories, poetry and maybe non-fiction.

You keep trying to find representation or publish the work while you work on other projects.

My eleventh grade teacher said Zora Neale Hurston worked on Their Eyes Were Watching God
for a long time, but eventually the book was done. The book was not the way she wanted it, but it was what the publisher wanted.

I lost count of how many trips I took to Bamberg, how many times I stood next to the black river, researched at the South Carolinana Library and edited Sons of the Edisto.

I reached a place where I am happy with the work I have done. The story flows. I wrote a query letter that fits the plot. Characters are more rounded. History is not too overwhelming as it was when I first began writing. Five years ago, I understood contemporary narration, and a mentor steered me in the direction to write Sons in present tense.

On the eve of starting graduate school and returning to my jobs, I received news of another story to be published in December. It will be my third this year. The accomplishment reminds me of how I’ve gone from one novel to short fiction, non-fiction and returned to poetry.

When I leave the black river, it is not forever. It weaves slower and slower until you find another one. This river is faster with blue-gray water pouring over rocks.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

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