This Week on Southern Creatives – Kat Kennedy
Kat Kennedy is a Mobile, AL based poet/writer who is planning on self-publishing her first book, Flamingo Funeral & other Stories from the Zoo, which will include the Faulkner Wisdom Competition short-listed novella and several short stories, in early fall of 2012. She has had poetry, short stories and essays published in small press publications such as Cooper’s Blade, The Magnolia Quarterly, and The Sampler and the on-line site gcwriters.org. She has won awards for her poetry through the Alabama State Poetry Society and Gulf Coast Writers Organization.
Welcome, Kat Kennedy, to Southern Creatives.
Flamingo Funeral began as an eight-page short story. I had just begun attending a local writing group and decided to bring it for critique. I enjoyed writing the story and felt it had good bones. I had always thought of it as a short story, but after the critique, the group seemed to reach the same conclusion: there is more to the story. So what was a short story became a novella.
As far as character development, I draw upon people I grew up with, people I notice at grocery stores, people in doctor’s offices, people at restaurants. It is amazing what you can learn about human nature by starting a conversation in a waiting room. I have never met a Southerner who didn’t have a story to share. It’s a regional past time.
I have found music to be a great way of putting myself into a particular setting. It helps to remind me of childhood stories I had forgotten. I don’t write family stories verbatim, but use old family stories as a springboard.
Flamingo Funeral was one of the most fun pieces I have ever written. The Uncle Gus character gave me the freedom to get into the theme of family loyalty – what Faulkner called the “pull of blood.” People will do the craziest things in the name of family because that is what’s expected of them. Couple that with the mystique of the South, its history, music, and food and you’ve got the perfect blend for a unique story. There is also a bond between all Southerners that perhaps we don’t even understand. I have never met a Southerner in any other part of the country when it didn’t feel like a family reunion.
Flamingo Funeral & Other Stories from the Zoo will include the novella and five short stories. It will be published in October 2012.
Meandering through the two-lane blacktop roads that mark the old Emancipation routes along the Chattahoochee River, I easily fell into the habit of throwing up my hand in greeting to each car I met. Old, unpainted shotgun houses sank into overgrown foliage beside unkempt single-wide trailers alongside the standard three bedroom brick Farmer’s Home Loan houses that had sprung up in the area during the sixties and seventies. Memories of my brother, Jim, made me laugh out loud as I recognized the old black juke joints he and I haunted when we were in high school. I had never felt afraid in those places. Everyone knew Daddy and wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me or my brother. We were accepted for what we were – poor white kids who liked to drink, listen to good music and had a gun-carrying crazy-ass father who would kill anyone who messed with his kids.
I could hardly believe some of these places were still standing, especially Fluke’s. But there it was, rusty roof and broken down porch overgrown with kudzu just as it had been in the mid-seventies. Two men in beat up, dusty overalls lounged at one end of the porch smoking cigarettes and drinking a clear liquid from mason jars. Fluke was known for his signature moonshine, which he called Peachy Pearl, as it had the distinct flavor of peaches and went down “smooth as a pearl.”
The last time I had been at Fluke’s Juke Joint had been just after high school graduation. It was a hot May evening and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes was scheduled to play. Duck and Fluke were old friends, and Duck was particularly fond of Peachy Pearl. I had been looking forward to that night all week and had even passed on a graduation trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. Duck Holmes was known for playing in the Bentonia style of blues created by Skip James and Jack Owens, both Mississippi blues players. It had a haunting, country sound, and I loved to listen to songs like Devil Got My Woman and Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues by Skip James. Daddy had a bunch of Delta blues records and there was nothing I liked better than sitting on the front porch and listening to them when I was growing up. I had never heard Jimmy “Duck” Holmes play before, but I knew if he was anything like Skip James, it would be a fine night.
My brother Jim and I had gotten to Fluke’s early to get a good seat. Duck was as good as I had hoped and had already begun his second set when Gus burst through the front door with his usual assortment of strong-arm misfits. Gus owned the mortgage on Fluke’s and had decided to call in the note that night. He staggered over to the bar and put his pearl-handled pocket pistol on the counter while his crew positioned themselves by the front door. I slunk down as far as I could into the booth praying Gus wouldn’t see me.
Jim pulled his frayed University of Alabama cap down low over his forehead and whispered, “Get ready to run like hell, Sis.”
To connect with Kat:
Facebook: Kat Kennedy
And on her websites
Tea Cakes and Whiskey – Blog
Five Rivers Writers’ Group
Southern Delta Magazine
More About Kat KennedyKat has worked as an English teacher and instructor in middle, high school and on the college level. She served as Co-director for the South Georgia Writing Project for two years while working on her Masters of Arts in English at Valdosta State University before returning to Alabama. She currently is serving as the editor/moderator of the newly established Five Rivers Writers’ Critique Group, an on-line critique group dedicated to seeking out and encouraging local writers, and as editor of Southern Delta Literary Magazine, a new magazine showcasing literature and arts of the South. Southern Delta is slated to publish in digital format in January of 2013. Her hobbies include researching old bluegrass and blues music, which she uses as inspiration for her writing, traveling and reading. She is married to Randy Kennedy and has two children and three grandchildren.
Thanks to Kat Kennedy for being this week’s guest on Southern Creatives.
And, if you are a creative type living in the south or producing work about the south, contact me if you are interested in being a part of the Southern Creatives project!