1. The Infamous Witch

A song sung in Tennessee often has two meanings–one apparent to whomever listens to it, and one coded for a deliberate audience.  You probably learned about this in school, how a field full of people picking cotton might sing “Follow the Drinking Gourd” to direct a man hidden in the stand of trees to go north in the direction the Big Dipper points, while the overseer sits on his horse, oblivious.

That’s the way the story of the witch goes, too.  Some folks tell the story as if it’s a story about an old woman angry about being cheated in a slave trade.  Others tell it as if it’s a story about a man who couldn’t keep his hands off his daughter, and the embodiment of her unspoken fury.

It is a story about revenge, at least the way I heard it; that much is true.

And it is a story of a young mother, but not the Bell woman.  This is the story of a young mother sold to a new family, away from her babies, who swore to always hate the whole family, to destroy them all, starting with the father, the worst, the one with the sharp tongue and the quick fist.  But those were strange times, and, eventually, she softened towards the women.  Helped keep them safe as she could, as safe as she could.

She could wander around the house unnoticed.  She knew what plants in the wilds of Robertson County could kill.  She could slip the poison into the food.  She could work the foot magic that hobbled the old man.  She could speak without anyone noticing her mouth moving.  She could make an animal do her bidding.  She could stop a president in his tracks.  And she could read, though no one knew that, but her.

“Do you know Marie Laveau?”

“Yes,” I said.

“This woman could have been like that, if she wasn’t stuck out in the country.  If you know the Work, you can recognize a Worker.  And the Witch was a powerful Worker.  You hear that story, if you know what to listen for, and you hear the story of the greatest hoodoo woman in Tennessee.  Hands down.”

“Do you think she still haunts that place?”

“Sure I do.”

“Have you seen her?”

“Oh, no.  I don’t mess with things that powerful.  Now my grandmother, in her day, she might have.  She was fearless.  But not me.  I know better.  There’s trouble.”

“Why do you think she’s still there?”

“Because that’s her land, now, sweetie.  That’s the point of the story–You do the Work; you get the reward.”

When Even Feminists Don’t Get It

I saw this over at Feministe, and I gasped:

“My personal thoughts are let the guy go,” said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “It’s bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It’s crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things.”

I went over to the Feminist Majority Foundation to see if there’d be any kind of clarifying statement.


Feminist-icon rape apologists.


I Got Nothing

Well, that’s not completely true. I also don’t have an upset stomach. So maybe I am finally adjusting to these steroids.  They seem to be working, too. I have no scabs left on my arms (and they seem to be itching only in that “ugh, new skin!”) way and the stuff on my right leg is tremendously better. And the course she gave me starts to taper down immediately, so Sunday will be my last day.

Thank gods.

The ghost stories are set, I hope. I know they’re going to be corny and terrible, but I’m still excited about them anyway. And I had to do some fixes on my Best of Nashville entries and add a few, so I hope they take them all. And I wrote a post for Pith which will go up some time today about the whole Cooper internet fight.  I mean it in good fun, so I hope people take it that way.  Hard to know, though, since the drugs make it hard for me to judge whether things are actually funny.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, again, about editing. I think I’m a good writer, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m a good writer at the point where only time and more reading is going to make me any better by myself. Like the ghost stories, for instance. I had a great time writing them and when I reread them, I feel like they’re fun but that maybe they’re not as good as they could be. What could make them better? Hell if I know.

It’s going to take time for me to distance myself from them enough to come to them with fresh eyes and say “Oh, duh, yeah, this is too stuffy and this is too thin and this would work better if I moved it there.” (And honestly, this is one of the reasons I’m posting them, hoping to jar a “Why didn’t I see that?!” moment when I realize that it’s not just me looking at them.)

But one of the things about writing at Pith that hit me this week especially, as I druggedly attempted to write about Abramson’s drug panel, is that there’s always already an editor there, someone you can say “Damn, something is not working with this” and they can say “Yep, that’s for sure. I’m going to move this here, put this there and voila!”  Having another set of eyes to look at writing you want to be good (and it’s not that I don’t want this writing to be good, I do, but I mostly just want this writing to be an intimate thing between us) makes you a better writer.

I used to do developmental editing. And I thought, and still do think, I was pretty good at it, at least for the types of writers I worked with, who are mostly good writers who can solve the problems with their writing if only someone with more distance can tell them what their problems are.

Editing, good editing, is missing from great swaths of the internet. Some traditionalists grouch about this because they think it means there’s no filter, no one to make a decision about whether something should be published (and then read).  But the truth is that readers make and have always made this determination. What’s missing from the internet is a person who can see a piece and also see its best potential and a path for getting there.

But the sad thing is that this is missing more and more from traditional publishing as well.

I don’t know how that bodes for writing. It’ll be different, that’s for sure.  Will people have the sense to hire editors?  Will agents do more and more developmental work? What about at newspapers?

I don’t know, but I wonder.