Tag Archives: Catawba River

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.


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

Telling A Boy’s Story

How quick they grow.

Feet push up. Hands grip the couch. Soon the cliché pitter-patter turns to bam-bam.

You realize how out of shape you are, or even if you’re a marathon parent, you cannot keep up with the little creature. When potty training, he unravels the toilet paper. Around the table, you’re family debates where to send him to preschool. You suck in a deep breath and pray for silent meditation.

My pilot prepares for takeoff.

You will do anything for him. Climb down the steep side of a stream and go over rocks to pick up two baseballs. Make a peach cake for his third birthday.

My 3-year-old and writing projects take center stage before I begin a busy schedule in the fall. In addition to working as a part-time teacher assistant, I have been accepted as a part-time student and will work as a Graduate Assistant at my university.

Charles goes on the blue truck at Myrtle Beach.

We know as writers an important choice must cost our characters something great, or else we do not have a story. Time with writing and Charles will lessen.

That is why I take every moment to throw rocks in the Catawba River with him. It is why I edit like an insane woman when he sleeps to complete Sons of the Edisto and the Elliot McSwean stories.

Time with him is how I have realized how much one boy has influenced me and my writing.

A truck I built in the sand for Charles.

When Charles looks at a group of children at the park, he will run in a game of chase just to run. Then he will walk around the boundaries of the park where the trees are. He inspects what lies behind the bushes. He finds a plant. He will step on it, or bend down to stroke the leaf. In him, I see a lot of Sons of the Edisto‘s primary character, Owen.

At seventeen, Owen fears becoming like his father. He rather explore the woods instead of join friends at the soda parlor in downtown Bamberg.

Then I see JD. Charles is getting better about running into walls or doors, but he inherited my sense of grace. When my father day dreams about him becoming a great baseball player, I shake my head and laugh. Maybe, but he has some of JD’s clumsiness in him.

If you read my blogs, you know most of my stories are about preteen or teenage boys and their relationships. Sons of the Edisto, Adventures of Elliot McSwean and I would not be the same without Charles. While he has influenced characteristics of Owen, JD and Elliot, he also reminds me of why I write about boys.

As a child, I was misunderstood by girls. I did not get them. Until fourteen, I did not wear make-up. What the birth of my son provided was peace combined with the understanding of complex relationships. I paid more attention to stories, MG and YA books, and realized there was not enough written for or about boys. There are many paranormal nineteen twenties YA books coming out now for teenage girls.

Thanks to Charles, I chose to focus on: realism and boyhood. It might begin looking in the stream for baseballs or building a truck in the sand.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

When We Write Letters, Part IV: A Mommy Scribbles Letter

My son next to the Catawba River in Jan. 2012

Dear Son:

Some say a mother who stays at home is the best.

They say she is better than all of the rest.

She is blessed her husband works

in a job that brings the check

to support her and the little ones.



Son, you hit and shout at your school.

You slapped a girl in the face,

and sat in the director’s office.

I found out at mid-day

when the text rang through to my phone.



I could not take you in the mornings.

I no longer give you your early snack.

Your one time stay-at-home mom

is not there to put you down for a nap.



Is that the reason why you react

to the children at your school?

Is that the reason my heart

breaks at the thought of you?

I hear those mothers preach.

I can see them in my sleep.



You are the reason I race home

51 mph in a 35 mph zone,

so I’m the one who takes you outside

and tells you of birds, colors, shapes and letters.



Do you recall us walking by the river:

The grayish bare trees where no one

could see us? I picked you up

and we counted the geese

as their wings dashed the water.



You guided me down the narrow path,

and took me to the ruined bridge

knocked down years and years ago.

We stood there longer than most

parents and their two-year-olds.

Both photos taken Feb. 2013.

The most difficult task as a writer, worker and parent is not a critique of your work. It comes in your doubt of yourself as a parent. When you write letters, sometimes you need to write one to yourself.

I believe strongly in motherhood. I believe all kinds mothers make great moms whether they are in charge of a company, a news woman, attending school, working part-time, a writer or they stay in the home.

Photos and Words by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Next week After You Get Your Foot in the Door will post.

How Many Books and the Age of the Author

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Outside reveals magic. My 21-month-old had moments Tuesday when he acted like a pistol going off in its holster. With the weather warming earlier, I have taken him outside in the morning after my early work.

Some of the little flowers growing on the trees near the Catawba River.

The problem with South Carolina’s climate is the humidity. It feels like the sun beats on your back during the summer. But Charles and I have taken advantage of spring while it is still spring. A much-needed nature walk calms both our nerves.

Not as much is blooming on the Catawba River compared to the gardens and other parks we visit.

My mind often wonders when I am out. I thought about advice on an author’s website. Most of the information I had read before, but it did not hurt to brush up. She said a patient, expectant author might write fifteen novels before a single publication. If he or she does not, then the writer did not really want the publication that bad in the first place.

Writers also need experience, she wrote. I agree with the claim. Otherwise we have nothing to write about. However, she said most writers should reach middle age or older before they are published. It is a fact most published writers are older, but I had a small issue with the word should.

I questioned: Is being published young like a cat on a leash or a dog in a baby doll stroller?

I wanted a shot of the dog in the bright pink stroller too, but my camera died before I could take it.

I thought about young authors. I do not think it is impossible to acquire life experience in teen years and twenties—like me—to inspire something of quality. From college life to marriage at 22 and a separation at 24; living in England; falling in love with a co-worker 32-years older than me; becoming a mother; work as a journalist and with children gives me some experience at the age of 26. I’m not on the verge of a big break. Come on. I’m somewhat realistic. My point is to write something of quality is not impossible at a young age or at any age, no matter when you start writing.

Any writer, no matter when he or she started writing, has wings within to take off on a fantastic flight.

The other part of the author’s stance—about how many novels a writer composes before publication—crossed my mind as Charles and I walked. I wrote two full books; one in the eighth grade and the other in tenth. They dealt with the “warm-hearted” delights of friendship that were in reality false. (I was a very naïve teenager.)

I wrote six chapters in seventh grade about a girl who was diagnosed with cancer and played soccer for Clemson University. (This was before the life changing moment when I realized I was a South Carolina Gamecock.) Inspired by my mother’s 1970′s music and my interest in Fleetwood Mac, I wrote a book about a band formed in a garage.

I started another one with a fantasy world. I loved old maps and atlases. They looked artistic, and revealed unknown worlds. Someone reminded me the other week of one I’d forgotten. The summer before my second year at South Carolina, I began writing chapters about triplet brothers whose parents decide to divorce. Aside from the triplets’ part, divorce and how it changes families would become completely relatable to me.

My life as a writer began early. I mean early. Before I could write kind-of-early. Manuscripts fill half of my parents’ attic. Newspapers fill old boxes in my husband’s office. Magazines take up shelf space.

How many books must you read before seeking to become an author?

How old should you be to seek publication?

I can only say it is up to each writer to decide how much he or she wants to educate his or herself. You can prove cats do walk on leashes. You can prove dogs are pushed in strollers. You can show the world you are more than a goose standing in the middle of the road. You have wings, and you are not going to be pounded by the car speeding down the road unless you stay there.

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