Though the website has been up since the summer, today officially begins my Literary Arts Fellowship so it seems to follow that today is also the official start to my newest project Nobody’s Home: Modern Southern Folklore. The idea for the project came to me in recent years, though the experiences that led to the idea have come over the last twenty. Having grown up a white, working-class kid in the Deep South in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, then having worked on Civil Rights history and commemoration projects as an adult in the 2000s and ’10s has given me a firsthand look at how the beliefs, myths, and narratives about race relations, history, and the Civil Rights movement have changed. As mainstream views about neglected voices have become more open, the work that I began twenty years ago – asking what stories aren’t being told and trying to share them – has been adopted en masse by scholars, institutions, museums, and even in popular political movements.
That mass interest is what prompts me to ask: what are the beliefs, myths, and narratives that have driven Southern culture over the last fifty years? I can’t answer that alone, and in any of my work, I’ve never tried to. As a long-time fan and almost-disciple of the late William Zinsser, what I know about writing on real-life subjects is: “His [or her or their] own words will always be better than your words, even if you are the most elegant stylist in the land.” And there is no better medium or format for that sharing of voices than the anthology. The term itself comes from the Latin and means “flower-gathering,” literally— anthos being flower, and logia being collection. Nobody’s Home is an online anthology, not a literary journal and not a blog. Instead of new issues, works, or posts replacing old ones in the featured spot, each new work will stand alongside the others.
The project will accept only works of nonfiction – no poetry, fiction, or drama – which could include memoirs, personal essays, articles, opinion pieces, and contemplative works, as well as interviews and reviews. The goal is to reach general audiences with the ideas presented in the works, so this won’t be the right place for highly academic approaches to the subject. The works in Nobody’s Home should bring an aspect of this difficult question down to earth. In line with that goal of reaching a broad audience with important ideas, access to the anthology will be free, so no reader will have to choose whether to pay or do without. I’ve read that 70% of online sales are abandoned at the “cart,” and I don’t want money (or one’s attitude about it) to be an impediment.
In addition to the works that will later appear in the anthology, I will be writing an editor’s blog for the project. Called “Groundwork,” the blog will contain project updates, brief ruminations, excerpts from interviews, periodic travelogues, and other peripheral bits of interest.
If you’re interested in contributing to the anthology, I would suggest reading my first two editor’s blog posts: “Myths and the truths we live by,” and “A Word from the Editor about Submissions.” Those two pieces augment the explanation provided in the submission guidelines.
To hear Foster talk about Nobody’s Home, as well as other projects, with the Alabama Writers Cooperative’s Alina Stefansecu, watch the video below: