The Arc of the Writer’s Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Happiness*

BendingGenreBending Genre — the ever-stellar blog about creative nonfiction writing, launched as a companion to Margot Singer and Nicole Walker’s excellent book by that same name — has posted a new essay of mine, “Writing in the Major Key.” In this piece I tackle the question of why writers (and songwriters) take ourselves so freaking seriously. Why do we focus on the sad and somber? Why does it seem to be easier to write about the negative? It’s not like we all need to be Jean “A Christmas Story” Shepherd or Randy “Short People” Newman, but there must be room for a little more sweetness and light. In my work, I know there is.

*With apologies to the great Dr. King

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Headed up to Columbia

GamecocksCome August I’ll be on sabbatical from my regular teaching gig at Coastal Carolina University, growing an ironic beard-and-mustache combo and working on a batch of new essays. But for one night every week, I’ll still be in the classroom. I’m thrilled that the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina has asked me to teach their creative nonfiction workshop this fall. I can’t wait to get to know the students and faculty, but given the beating we Buckeyes historically take from the SEC, I hope they’ll go easy on me. For now, an olive branch: Go Cocks!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All Work and No Play Makes Joe a Dull Boy

PawleysIslandI’ve spent the last few months handcuffed to the ol’ computer, hammering out the manuscript for Lines of Scrimmage, exchanging draft after draft with my writing buddy, Scott Pleasant. The book is going well, but my typing fingers (all four of ‘em) need a break. Time to venture outside and play a rock show, or as close to a rock show as one dude with an acoustic guitar can get.

So here’s the skinny. On Tuesday, April 15, I’ll be playing two solo-acoustic sets in beautiful Pawleys Island, SC, at the Pawleys Island Tavern. The show starts at 8 pm, and I’ll be happy to fake my way though any requests you’ve got, as long as you’re requesting Watershed songs. Please come. When the crowd figures out that I don’t know any Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley, I’m gonna need all the backup I can get.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Good News from the Magnolia State

MS Logo 300I’m thrilled to report that my current book project, Lines of Scrimmage: A Story of Football, Race, and Redemption (co-written with Scott Pleasant), is now under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. The publication date is set for the fall of 2015. This fall marks the 25th anniversary of the event the book chronicles (see post below).

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

For My Next Trick…

ConwayI’m currently working on a book about an episode that happened here in South Carolina, in 1989, when 31 of the 37 black players on the Conway High School football team walked away from the squad for the whole season in protest of the (white) coach’s decision to bench the starting (black) quarterback in favor of a less experienced white kid. The boycott divided the town largely along racial lines, and it soon became clear that the incident was about much more than football. It was about the legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and all the other points of tension and oppression that many people in Conway had wrongly assumed were settled.

I’ll have more news about the book soon, but in the meantime, you can get caught up to speed on the 1989 Conway Football Boycott by reading the excellent article that Sports Illustrated ran about it back then. To read the SI story, click HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Watershed Rock Junket

jetsetThe First Annual

Watershed Rock Junket.

Raleigh, North Carolina.

July 19-21.

In addition to dates in Columbus and Toledo, you are invited to join Watershed, those mighty Hitless Wonders, as they put up stakes for a long summer weekend in Raleigh, the rock and roll capital of the New South. Over three days—from Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21—the band will play three shows in three different venues, with all set-lists made up especially for Superfans. We’re talking deep tracks, rarities, B-sides—stuff Colin, Joe, and Dave have long forgotten how to play. Think of this as a Rock Cruise, but without the boat (and without that bothersome norovirus that can run through a cruise ship like, well, shit through a tourist). No seasickness, either. And no over-priced drinks or food buffet cattle calls. Instead you get a reasonably legitimate excuse to come to a kickass city and a chance to bend elbows at the bar next to Biggie and Ricki C. If that weren’t enough, you also get more live Watershed than you can probably stomach.

Here’s the agenda:

Friday, July 19- Colin plays a solo set at Sadlack’s Heroes. 7:00 to 9:00. Across Hillsborough St. from NC State University, Sadlack’s has by far the most rocking patio in the Southeast. Joe will probably read a few pages from Hitless Wonder while Colin takes his beer breaks.

Saturday, July 20 – Watershed headlines the Brewery Reunion show at the Poor House Music Hall Back in the early nineties, whenever Watershed played Raleigh, it was at The Brewery, with legendary mix-man Jac Cain behind the board. Sadly, The Brewery is long gone, but Jac Cain is still up and rocking and running sound at The Pour House. Jac put together this Brewery Reunion, which will undoubtedly be a blow-out bash. Watershed plays at midnight.

Sunday, July 21 – Watershed fights through their hangovers to play two massive matinee sets at one of their favorite bars in the world, Slim’s Downtown. The show will run roughly from 4:00 to 8:00, and the band will attempt to play any Watershed song you request (no guarantees on the quantity of lyrics remembered or the accuracy of chord progressions executed).

All three venues are close to downtown and easy to get to from a central location. Hotwire is currently showing 4 star hotels available that weekend for as little as $75/night. The entire Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has great restaurants, museums, and plenty to do during the day. If you’ve been there before, you already know this. If you haven’t, now’s your chance. And look, Watershed will do this Rock Junket thing next year in some other city. And that city will surely be cool, too (we hear Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is lovely in July). But honestly, Raleigh’s tough to beat. This is the year. Make it happen.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s Festival Season, Yo.

PhishLet’s eat a fistful of mushrooms, dance like zombified squirrels, and pass out in the mud, with nothing to keep us warm but our collective inner-sunshine and the heat of a million one-hitters.

As appealing as that sounds, I expect an entirely different festival experience on Saturday, May 11, when I’ll be at the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus. At 10:15 am, I’ll be speaking as part of a panel called “Jazz, Rock, and Hard Rock,” and although the conversation might not approach the gravitas of scholarship like  Understanding ‘It': Affective Authenticity, Space, and the Phish Scene,* we’ll try to slog along as best we can. Hope to see you there.

*This is the title of an actual Ph.D. dissertation by Elizabeth Anne Yeager (Kansas University, 2011) which “explores how the production of space at Phish shows works to form a Phish scene identity.**”

**I originally Googled “Phish Dissertations” looking for a title that would be easy to make fun of, but now that I’ve read the abstract of this work, I sincerely want to read it. I’m sold, Dr. Yeager. Sold!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment