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Finding Joy in the Yarns: Interview with Louisiana Poet Laureate Dr. Jack B. Bedell

As I perused the bookshelf in the main hall of Mercer University Press’ office, I found my way to this little book of poems. On the cover, gulls perch atop posts in silver water while one turns back and squawks at an off-page presence. I opened the first few pages to a poem called “Remnant,” and within moments I was home.

Dr. Jack B. Bedell, father, husband, son, editor of Louisiana Literature, and English professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, is also serving as the esteemed Louisiana Poet Laureate from 2017 to 2019. He has published nine books of poetry, including his latest, No Brother, This Storm, with Mercer University Press. After scouring through this book for hours and putting my thoughts into words, I finally got to asking him a few questions about it. Take a look:

Elizabeth (E): In No Brother, This Storm your poems often include food imagery and what I can only describe as domestic tranquility. These vivid scenes transport me back to my childhood. Why do you feel it is important for home and hearth to play such an important role in your poetry?

Dr. Jack Bedell (B): New Year’s Day for the past 16 years I’ve had the same resolution: Find the good in the day. Writing poems is my primary means of honoring the people and events that fill my life with goodness and joy. Those poems about home life and loved ones are really meant to be archives of my blessings. More than anything, I want my work to express gratitude and hope. Even when the poems detail personal, environmental, or cultural loss, they come from an urge to honor this resolution toward thankfulness.

Read more…

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Find Your Huddle: Bill Curry’s Encouragement for Us All

In his early career, Bill Curry played in Super Bowl I, III, and V for the Green Bay Packers and then the Baltimore Colts. Once he retired from playing, he served as an assistant coach with Green Bay, and then the head coach at Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, and Georgia State. He wrote a book with his friend George Plimpton back in 1977, and then alone he wrote Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle: Lessons from a Football Life in 2008. Due to popular demand and a desire to complete his personal story of inspiration and growth, the Press is republishing a Tenth Anniversary Edition of Ten Men with additional content.

Coach Curry happened to be passing through Macon this week (and I happened to be proofreading his manuscript last week), and so it all fell into place for him to be the next target of my interview series. The staff of MU Press emphasized to me what a charming and kind gentleman Bill Curry is, and I will tell you beforehand that they were spot on. He met me at the MU Press office with a warm smile and a gentle, firm handshake. I was star-struck but tried my best to conceal the shakiness in my voice. Once we got settled and I loosened up a bit talking about my studies, I lost the nervousness and spoke to him like I’d speak to someone who hadn’t played in and won the very first Super Bowl.

The Interview:

Elizabeth (E): What is the one thing that you hope readers will learn from your book?

Bill Curry (B): That we all need each other. As brutal as football is, in its raw, basic form, it is a life lesson that’s very difficult to learn anywhere else—at least for me. My high school coach Bill Badgett (there’s a whole chapter in the book about him) was famous with us for hammering into us that football is just life marked off in a hundred yards. We thought that was silly when we were fourteen years old, but now that I’m seventy-five years old, I know it’s true. Because you’re going to get knocked down again and again, and you’ve got two choices: you can get up, or you can lie there and wallow in self-pity. If your teammate gets knocked down, you can pick him or her up and dust them off, or you can ignore them. It’s the choice we face all our lives, with family, friends, strangers. We get to choose how we respond. And the way we respond to those basic kinds of questions really determines who we are. Nothing can deprive us of our right to choose how we respond. Until you learn to take responsibility for every aspect of your life, you will not be able to move to your maximum.

E: I was not expecting Ten Men to be such a philosophical book.

B: Once you step in the huddle, now you can’t be racist; you can’t be sexist, because there are women in the locker room. This Friday night a million-plus high school children in the United States will play football, and two thousand of those will be girls. All of these people are in a kind of a huddle, and the moms and dads are sitting in the stands. And somebody’s son or daughter scores a touchdown or a field goal. I saw something last week that the homecoming queen kicked the winning field goal, and I just think that’s great! So what do we do? We hug and embrace. We don’t stop to see what color somebody’s skin is, or what church they go to. We’re not together any other time of the week, and so we can’t lose that fundamental human touch, I think. Sport helps us to maintain those relationships. That’s why if some of the stuff in Ten Men seems philosophical, that’s what it’s about.

E: If you could go back in time and only play under the leadership of one of your coaches mentioned in your book, who would it be, and why?

B: Well, it would have to be a mixed bag. The one who changed my life the most was my college coach, Bobby Dodd. I was a very immature, very lackadaisical student, and I thrust myself into Georgia Tech for all the wrong reasons. I went there because Carolyn Newton was going to be at Agnes Scott, and Tech was the closest campus to Agnes Scott. That’s not a good reason to pick a school. I’m sitting next to National Merit Scholars on either side of me, and I was not that. And Coach Dodd loved us so much that he would not allow us to cut class. I did cut a class, and the next Wednesday morning I ran stadium stairs until I could not stand. I decided that chemistry at 8:00 in the morning was really a wonderful thing.

E: You learned really quickly.

B: I owe all of that to him and his system. He did that to us because he was an all-American at the University of Tennessee and never graduated. So he made sure that we were going to go to class and graduate. Most of us did. In terms of my football career, the guy that changed my life was Don Shula because he gave me one chance after another, even when it seems like I didn’t deserve it. And he allowed me to grow up in the NFL and I’m eternally indebted to him. And so, I love all my coaches, I appreciate all of them, I owe all of them, but those two are the ones that did the most to change my life. Then I took what I learned from them and tried to apply it to my own coaching.

E: Your wife Carolyn seems like an extraordinary woman. How has she influenced you over the years both on and off the field?

B: On the field, well, I was desperate for my father’s approval. He would come to my games and say nothing about my performance. So eventually I’d ask, “Dad, how’d I do?” and he’d say something like, “I don’t know, but that Newton girl is the greatest cheerleader I’ve ever seen in my life.” When I was a player on the field she was, not just for me, so involved with our team, with our players. She was emotionally and spiritually a part of the team, and the guys could sense that, and they’d appreciate it. Of course, I’d very much appreciate it. And from the standpoint of our relationship, she is blessed and cursed with absolute honesty. When I’d get into a funk, she’d say, “You’re not going to behave like this.” I’d try to go to bed, and she’d walk up to me and say, “You are not going to sleep angry. We are going to talk until we talk this out.” I really owe her everything. She’s…the best leader I’ve ever seen.

E: You’re going to make me start crying.

B: Well, when I was a kid, I went home and told my dad that I’m going to marry Carolyn, and he said, “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had.”

E: Why did you decide to get into public speaking?

B: I sort of got pushed into it. My greatest fear in life is public speaking, I don’t know why. When I was nineteen years old, a junior at Tech, I had a public speaking course. I could not stand up and do a five-minute autobiographical statement without my knees shaking and my chest quaking. The professor worked with me, but nothing seemed to help with the nervousness. One day I had my notes, and I just threw them in the garbage. I stood up in the class—and there were about five different wacky professors with particular speech patterns, and I had them down cold—and started doing [mimicking] those professors. And they went crazy, guys were falling out of their chairs laughing, and the professor loved it. Now what I do, is I stand up and tell stories, and I mimic people. It might be Vince Lombardi, or Bobby Dodd, it might be Carolyn, anybody. I got involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and there was a constant demand for someone to come speak to these groups. They’d give me a frame of reference, and I’d still be nervous, but I was serious about sharing my faith—I still am. It was excellent practice. Time went by, and it developed into a business. Now it’s a chance to encourage people. With all my heart, I try to encourage people to be the best they can be.

E: If there’s one thing you could change about the NFL and generally “the game” today, what would you change?

B: I would change whatever the training has been for the officials in being able to call tackling and penalties. They are incredibly inconsistent. I don’t know how you teach tackling now. The rule changes have taken the head out of the game to try and avoid concussions. So, you don’t go in and strike somebody in the chest with your face, which is what we did. You strike with your shoulder pad. The officiating is so inconsistent, and they call it so pathetically. They are making so many mistakes that players are confused. Whatever the league is doing to train the officials has got to get better. College officials are doing a better job than the NFL.

E: How has your time spent as a player affected your strategies as a coach regarding the issues of diversity?

B: Well, in the most drastic possible way. I reported to the Green Bay Packers and had never been in the huddle with an African American person, except for college All-Star games. Vince Lombardi’s greatest attribute was that he would not tolerate racism. So we had more African American players than anyone else in the league. There were teams that had none and bragged about it. There they had one or two and bragged about it. And we crushed them. But that’s not the reason he did it. It was a competitive advantage, but I don’t think that had anything to do with his thinking. His thinking was that we are not going to allow prejudice in this locker room, or in this huddle. Any racist demeanor was stomped out by the head coach. Everybody understood the respect factor. I still thought that those African American guys would listen to my southern accent and hurt me and send me home. I wouldn’t have blamed them. We were in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement—burning cities. But they did just the opposite. Especially Willie Davis. He took me aside and utterly changed my life. It was an unexpected, undeserved, unrewarded kindness from him. It gave me an example of what a great leader is. I’ll never be Willie Davis, but it made me a better person than what I would’ve been.

E: So as a coach, earlier on, perhaps, have you had to do the same kind of stomping out?

B: Every day. There was a conversation at every opportunity about how we are one team, we are together. Off the field you can go off and do what you want to do within our rules, socially. But when you step into that locker room, or cross that white line—we are together. And we are going to love and support one another in every single way that we can. If I had to stop a practice, if I heard a remark, we’d call everybody up and deal with it. We are going to treat each other as equals all the time. We had equally stringent rules about how we’d treat women, how’d we address women, how’d we speak to women. Our rules were simple. If you touched a woman improperly, you’d be gone from here so fast that no one would even remember your name ever. If you speak inappropriately to a woman, then you’re going to be spending a lot of time with me and learning about how you’re supposed to address a human being. We had workshops. Georgia State had a marvelous program. They would role-play a dating situation that would get out of hand. When you rehearse something, when you get in that situation and you’re at a fraternity party that next Saturday night and see something that could turn into a disaster, you’re probably going to act on it.

E: Football is this source of discipline, it changes these young men’s lives.

B: It does. They want so badly to be in the huddle, and for us we use it to teach these young men social graces. The guy who can handle it is the head coach. And if he doesn’t have brutal rules about it, then you’re going to have trouble with it every day.

E: What advice do you have for me and my peers about to enter the workforce?

B: Are we talking young ladies, now?

E: We can be.

B: Establish from the very beginning that you’re there to do a job. You aren’t there to be an ornament or to be made light of. Don’t put up with any nonsense. Make your principles clear and don’t allow any garbage.

We shared a few more unrelated stories up until he had to get going to another event. We took a picture together, and he let me hold his Super Bowl I Championship ring (I should’ve taken a photo!). It was huge and heavier than I expected. It didn’t even say “Super Bowl” because that term had only been applied to the game retroactively.

He was such a down-to-earth man, well-spoken and intellectual, much like in his book. He is not what most would expect out of a person who’s been involved in such a brutal game for over fifty years.

Like in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, each chapter of Bill Curry’s book builds off the other and gives you practical insight into how to evolve in the face of adversity and hardship. He helps you discover how to continue your life’s education after college or high school by illustrating the lessons he’s learned up to his seventy-fifth year.

Hopefully, you’ll find your own huddle in which you’ll experience mutual respect and love. Your team (family, friends, even strangers) is there in the huddle to push you to be your best. However, you’ve got to open your eyes and recognize it. Simply put in his own words, “With all my heart, I try to encourage people to be the best they can be.” That’s exactly what he does, and that’s exactly what we’ve all got to do.

The revised Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle will is available for preorder now, with a publishing date of  November 1, 2018.

Dual Perspectives: Clara Silverstein’s Creative Challenge

As an English major specializing in southern literature, I read Civil War literature nearly every day. I’m fortunate to work at Mercer University Press where many of the publications are related to Civil War and southern history. One of our newest historical novels, Secrets in a House Divided, takes place in Civil War Richmond. Author Clara Silverstein, who has published a memoir, White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation, and several cookbooks including A White House Garden Cookbook, captivates readers with “rich, poetic detail” as she tells us a story of a young Confederate mother who becomes pregnant out of wedlock at the latter end of the Civil War.

I had the pleasure of meeting Clara Silverstein this past weekend at the Decatur Book Festival. Earlier in the week she graciously agreed to an interview, and before I knew it I was sitting across from her in the downtown Decatur Starbucks waiting on my cinnamon dolce cold brew.

Elizabeth (E): To begin with a general question: what got you into writing?

Clara (C): So, I’m one of those people who always wrote. In third grade, we had this poetry journal in the back of the classroom, and whenever I had free time I’d go back there and write little poems. I created a newspaper that I called the “Doggy Gazette” for the news of dogs in the neighborhood. It’s just always something I’ve enjoyed doing. As I got older, I actually was trained as a journalist—that’s a way to make money as a writer (though, not as much anymore).

E: You went into journalism. Do you think that helped better prepare you for your creative writing?

C: Definitely. Two reasons. One, it keeps you facile with language. You’re always writing and using the language. The other reason is that it eliminates writer’s block. In journalism, if you have a story to write, you write your story! It might not be God’s gift to literature, but you write your story. Early on, I just got over myself. “Oh, I didn’t say it the way I wanted to.” Well, too bad! It had to get done.

Read more…

Humdinger: An Interview with Dr. Sam Pickering

I have always loved Robin Williams in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society, in which he, portraying the dazzling, eclectic, and romantic Professor Keating, teaches his students to live out their dreams and “Seize the Day!” According to an entertainment piece by Joy Lanzendorfer, screenwriter Tom Schulman drew inspiration for Keating’s character from two of his professors at Montgomery Bell Academy, a Nashville boys preparatory school. Lanzendorfer writes that though the “inspiring speeches” came from Harold Clurman, the “quirky teaching style” came from Samuel Pickering, whom has published a handful of books through Mercer University Press.[i]

Dr. Pickering is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and has written over one-hundred and fifty essays in his lifetime, as well as more than thirty books. His most recent publication, Parade’s End, includes a compilation of familiar essays, or “Pickerings,” that celebrate the “passing drift of days and the quiet miracles of living.”[ii] When I joined the MU Press team as an intern, I pestered our marketing director Mary Beth for Dr. Pickering’s email and sent him a few questions about Parade’s End and life in general. Here’s what followed.

The Interview

My Question (Q): In my favorite part from your essay “Honor,” you write that “many of life’s small bumps eventually tickle more than they irritate” (80). What, then, would you have to say about life’s big bumps?

Dr. Pickering’s Answer (A): Time changes perspective. What the 15-year-old thinks a big bump may be forgotten when she is 30. Then again at 50 she may think it important again. The old rhyme goes: Da, da, bumps-aroo / You got bumps all over you./ Da, da, bumps-aree / I got bumps all over me.

Anyway, what you think a big bump, I might at my age think insignificant—actually I will more than likely think it insignificant. The concerns of age and youth are different.

Read more…

Happy Mother’s Day

stock-photo-84991573-mother-s-day

The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the early 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s stores in Philadelphia.

Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, Jarvis started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns, and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Sources : http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140508-mothers-day-nation-gifts-facts-culture-moms/
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

The Birth of English Poet, Playwright, and Actor William Shakespeare

Historians believe William Shakespeare was born on this day, April 23, in 1564—the same day he died in 1616.

Shakespeare was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on April 26, 1564. At age 18, he married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Sometime later, Shakespeare set off to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet (1594–1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596–1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600–01), Othello (1604–05), King Lear (1605–06), and Macbeth (1605–1606).

Shakespeare became a member of the popular theater company named “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” who later became the “King’s Men.” The group was responsible for building and operating the famous Globe Theater in 1599. Though widely known for his literature, Shakespeare was also a sound businessman, ultimately becoming a major shareholder in the troupe. His investments earned him enough to buy a large house in Stratford in 1597, where he retired in 1610 and wrote his last plays including The Tempest (1611) and The Winter’s Tale (1610–11). Despite his prolific work ethic, no formal collections of his works were published until after his death. In 1623, two members of Shakespeare’s troupe collected the plays and printed what is now called the First Folio.

Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life. —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), Letters and Social Aims

 

Shakespeare titles in stock

Shakespeare’s Philosopher King

Shakespeare’s Philosopher King: Reading the Tragedy of King Lear
By author: Guy Story Brown

9780881462807

Shakespeare’s History:Introduction to the Interpretation of THE FIRST PART OF KING HENRY THE SIXTH and the English Histories
By author: Guy Story Brown

shakespeare-princec-cvr

Shakespeare’s Prince: The Interpretation of the Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth
By author: Guy Story Brown

Terry Kay — Book Events

Celebrate with Terry Kay at two upcoming book signings of his new novel,

The King Who Made Paper Flowers

 

In 2006, Terry Kay was inducted into the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame in ceremonies conducted at the University of Georgia, honoring the accomplishments of a man who began as an errand boy for a weekly newspaper. The journey of his career covers more than fifty years of the most dynamic changes in the state’s history. The award-winning novelist was born in Hart County, Georgia, the eleventh of twelve children, on February 20, 1938. He was reared on a farm, graduating from West Georgia Junior College in 1957 and then LaGrange College in 1959. Kay began his career in journalism in 1959 at the Decatur-DeKalb News, a weekly newspaper in Decatur, Georgia, and later worked for The Atlanta Journal as a sportswriter, and for eight years, as one of America’s leading film-theater critics. In 1989, he left a corporate job in public relations to pursue his passion for writing.

Kay published his first novel in 1976, The Year the Lights Came On, a story inspired by his memory of the coming of electricity to his rural community. He went on to publish After Eli 1981, and in 1984 Dark Thirty, an examination of justice vs. vengeance set in Appalachia. These three publications established Terry Kay as a versatile writer able to navigate through genres with authority. His signature novel To Dance With the White Dog, positioned Kay’s works as Southern classics, winning him the Outstanding Author of the Year award in 1991, two nominations for the American Booksellers’ Book of the Year (ABBY) award, and a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. The production earned the highest television rating of the 1993 season, with more than 33 million viewers.

terrykayedited

Since 2007, Mercer University Press has proudly published the writings of Terry Kay. The Book of Marie, Bogmeadow’s Wish, The Greats of Cuttercane, The Seventh Mirror, Song of the Vagabond Bird, and his new novel, The King Who Made Paper Flowers.

Kay’s works have been translated into numerous foreign countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Sweden, Germany and Holland. His work has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Reader’s Digest, Atlanta Magazine, A Confederacy of Crime, The Chattahoochee Review, and the Georgia Review. He scripted an episode of In the Heat of the Night and won a Southern Emmy for his original teleplay, Run Down the Rabbit.

Kay’s many honors and awards include induction into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2006, the Governor’s Award in the Humanities (GA) in 2009, the Georgia Writers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, and The Terry Kay Prize for Fiction, an annual award presented by the Atlanta Writers Club.

9780881465662

The King Who Made Paper Flowers
MEET THE AUTHOR

Sunday, April 17th — 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Friends of the Library—Café au Libris
Athens-Clarke County Library
Appleton Auditorium
2025 Baxter Street
Athens, GA 30606
706-613-3650

Monday, April 18th — 7:15 pm – 9:00 pm
Georgia Center for the Book’s Festival of Writers
Decatur Library, Main Branch
215 Sycamore Street
Decatur, Georgia 30030
404-370-3070

* adapted from http://www.terrykay.com

Celebrate National Poetry Month

April 2016 Marks the 20th Anniversary of National Poetry Month

“If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.” – Thomas Hardy

Join us as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. Since its induction, National Poetry Month has grown to become one of the largest celebrations of literature nationwide, supported by avid poetry enthusiasts, schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets alike.

The Academy of American Poets first established National Poetry Month in 1996. Since its conception, the Academy of American Poets has enlisted a variety of government agencies and officials as well as educational leaders, publishers, sponsors, poets, and arts organizations. National Poetry Month has become a trademark of the Academy of American Poets.

 “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” – Aristotle

So grab your favorite collection of poems and quote a line to your spouse or wrestle the kids down and read a poem aloud to them. Let’s revel in the joy of poetry this April.

Here are some suggestions—each title below received The Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry awarded by Mercer University Press.

Going Farther into the Woods than the Woods Go
By: Seaborn Jones
JONES_WOODS

“The shadow of the sun crosses the desert.
The oasis is covered with land mines.
The mirages are on fire.
A veil of smoke covers the moon.”

 

The House Began to Pitch
By: Kelly Whiddon

HouseBegantoPitch_Cvr-LINO_tp.indd

 

Swift Hour
By: Megan Sexton

Sexton-Cvr-02.indd

“Glory to the half rest, to the breath between
the third and fourth beats,
the dwindling arrow of the decrescendo,
to the sunrise over Malibu, and its sleeping starlets,
the empty horizon,
the city’s great thought still looming,
to parked cars, the cold engine seconds before ignition
dreaming of the road
unwound and endless,….”

 

The Color of All Things: 99 Love Poems
By: Philip Lee Williams

9780881465235

 

Carnival Life
By: Lesley Dauer

9780881465716

“A charlatan,
her confidence
man – they run
the games
of chance.
She gaffs;
he scams.
They delude,
bamboozle,
make each
other dupes.
Humbug!
This is subterfuge,
their tortured
ballyhoo…”

 

P.S. check out the other amazing poetry in stock MUP Poetry

Cherry Blossom Festival

International Cherry Blossom Festival

Macon, Georgia — March 17–April 3, 2016

Spring is now here, as the days are getting longer and warmer. The birds are chirping and the bees are buzzing and dancing until they find a blossom on which to land. Along with the season of rebirth comes the 24th Annual International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia.

Each March, Macon becomes a pink, cotton-spun paradise when 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees bloom in all their glory. For ten days, festival-lovers are treated to one of the most extravagant displays of springtime color in the nation as they visit the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World.

law school with cherry blossoms-M

 

The story begins when William A. Fickling Sr., a local realtor, discovered the first Yoshino cherry tree in Macon while strolling about in his backyard. The year was 1949. Thanks to Fickling’s propagating efforts, thousands of trees have since been planted around Macon. The idea of a Cherry Blossom Festival didn’t take root until one day at a company picnic Fickling spoke to a woman named Carolyn Crayton after admiring the Yoshino’s unique beauty. While discussing the trees, Carolyn came up with an idea.

“I shared with him a dream of mine, one where the entire town was bursting with thousands of the graceful pink cherry trees. I asked if he would donate trees to plant in my neighborhood of Wesleyan Woods, and he generously agreed, helping my dream become a reality,” said the future festival founder.

To start the project, Fickling agreed to donate the trees if Crayton would organize the planting. In a community wide effort, families, companies, and volunteers began planting what would eventually add up to 500 Yoshino cherry trees by 1973. Macon was now blossoming pink every March.

As executive director of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, Crayton proposed officially launching a Cherry Blossom Festival in celebration of the beauty of the trees and also to honor Fickling for his contributions.

In 1982, the International Cherry Blossom Festival was born, which was built on three basic principles—love, beauty, and international friendship.

Since it’s grassroots beginnings, the festival has become one of the Top 20 Events in the South, Top 50 Events in the US, and Top 100 Events in North America. The festival has since expanded from thirty events over three days to a month-long celebration featuring hundreds of events entertaining people of all ages and backgrounds.

In 2014, Mercer University Press published a history of the festival entitled The Pinkest Party on Earth: Macon, Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival written by Ed Grisamore, award-winning author and then columnist for The Macon Telegraph.

9780881464801
The Pinkest Party on Earth: Macon Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival
By author: Ed Grisamore

The 34th Annual International Cherry Blossom Festival is now underway. For additional information, visit their website or contact the Festival Headquarters at 478-330-7050.
https://www.cherryblossom.com/

Book lovers should mark their calendar for the Cherry Blossom Authors Luncheon on Tuesday, March 29, at 11:30 am at the Idle Hour Country Club. Treat yourself to a lovely Southern lunch and hear three fine Southern authors speak and sign books.
https://www.cherryblossom.com/event/authors-luncheon-presented-by-burgess-pigment-company/

The Earliest Spring of Your Life?

Spring will arrive early this year, due to a quirky leap year in 2016. Have you noticed that the equinox used to happen on March 21st? This year, depending on your time zone in the northern hemisphere, Spring will begin on either the 19th or the 20th of March.

As it turns out, that extra day in February has consequences beyond making it hard to plan a birthday party. But let’s backtrack to the year 2000. The year 2000 marked the first time in four centuries a year divisible by 100 didn’t skip the leap year. In other words, a February 29 did occur in 2000 and it was the first century year with a leap day since Galileo was peering into a vertically angled telescope.

Now we won’t get into the nitty gritty of our Gregorian Calendar, but basically in our calendar system if a year is divisible by 400, only then will it be a leap year.

The consequence of that little move will affect us during this next month. Because 2000 was an unorthodox year for us, solstices and equinoxes began to occur earlier and earlier. The usual century leap year prevented the calendar from jumping back.

In case you haven’t noticed, Spring began on March 21 when you were little, but it’s been falling on the 20th for some years now. This year, the first day of Spring will fall on the 19th of March for most US time zones.

This means 2016 will have the earliest Spring since 1896! Later this century, Spring will begin on the 19th of March every year. Then, the next glitch won’t occur until February 29, 4000.

How does it feel to experience history?

Oh, and don’t forget to “Spring” forward this Sunday, March 13th, at 2:00 am—as most of the US changes the clock an hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time.

For Those of You Who Want a Little More Background…
The numbers of days in a year aren’t even, but you knew that already. Our calendar system adds one day every fourth year to accommodate this fact. But, because Earth spins a little less than 365 ¼ times per year, we must rid the calendar of that extra once-every-four-year day, and that’s what will happen again in the year 4000.

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