Saturday, July 09, 2011

Burnishing "A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage"

Image of a Southern shack courtesy of
and Robert Walker of Mississippi. He has a
great collection of images at Grits Photography--
Southern faces and Southern places.

It is heading toward 2:00 a.m., and I am holed up to finish a last slow burnish of the 340 pages of A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (Ferrol Sams award and forthcoming from Mercer University Press, 2012.)  See you when I emerge--on Monday, I hope! In the meantime, here's a paragraph from a little ways into the first chapter. (And I do have one of those funeral parlor fans with the greenish sheep, souvenir of childhood summers with my extended family in Georgia.)

It was high, hot summer in Emanuel County, Georgia, and not one soul was saved from the day’s blaze or from the night’s smother of warmth; up and down the county, the only sleep was a restless sleep, and near Lexsy, one or two old people woke in a fright because the air was just about too dense to breathe--their trembling hands reaching for funeral-parlor fans printed with a portrait of Christ and some luminous, faintly green sheep--and on some gully-shattered sharecropped place, an infant who had been fighting for air yielded up the ghost on his mother’s naked breast.  Mr. Sam, next door to the cotton gin, returned to bed and dreamed his nightly dream of being weighed in the scales and found wanting.  At The White Camellia Orphanage, the bone-tired children slept without dreaming, all but one, who dreamed about a lost penny.   


  1. Wow. Intriguing! And though I've never seen a fan like that, the faintly green luminescent sheep have burned themselves into my mind now.

  2. Clive,

    I love a man with the right attitude! XD

    That time will come...

  3. Robbi,

    I have a few of those rather squarish fans with the handles like oversized-but-fancy popsicle sticks. Funeral parlors and other businesses doled them out, back in the day of sultriness and O'Connor's "Christ-haunted" South. I'm glad I got to spend part of every summer in deep South places--or I would never have thought to write this book. Nowhere places, gritty and sometimes out of our time.

    Now, back to the dual work of scrubbing text and scrubbing clothes.

  4. I can just feel that sultry southern heat. Great opening.

    Good luck with the final scrubbing!

  5. YAY!

    (Where can I pre-order my pirate e-book copy?)

    : D

  6. marja-leena,

    It's not the very beginning but close to it.

    Too much laundry and such. I'm on page 73 out of 340. Wah!

  7. Paul,

    I shall send you to Clive for a good talking-to!

  8. Knowing you, the time will go before you know it. If it were me, I'd find ways to interrupt myself, but you seem to thrive on distractions.

  9. Do I?

    I like that idea. Not sure it's true! Shall have to think about it... After all, life with three kids is all about distractions.

  10. How intriguing and exciting for us...for when Marly burrows and burnishes, it's treasure for us.

  11. zephyr,

    I had the odd idea that I was finished, not remembering that writing is never done. So now that I have started tinkering... it may take a few days!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.