By Steve Gordy
Every town has its story; every place keeps its secrets. In my twenty-six years of living in South Carolina, I’ve learned something about the character of the towns where I’ve spent a good bit of time. In Aiken, it’s how much this little town in western Carolina loves its horses. This was the genesis of Nights of Horseplay, an anthology of short stories and poems which a group my fellow writers and I put together in 2013.
The Aiken SCWW chapter had discussed the idea of a local anthology for some time. In 2012, one of our members had a flash of inspiration: we should make the “Horseplay” statues which adorn Aiken the centerpieces of our efforts. We reached a consensus and, hence, Nights.
The finished work, produced by CreateSpace, has contributions from thirteen writers, all but two of them current or former SCWW members. I sought to create what the Germans call a Festschrift, and was pleased that the finished product included contributions from writers of both local and national eminence.
As is the case with The Petigru Review, photos play an integral part in the finished product. In our case, we were able to secure permission from the owners of a number of the statues to use their images. It also simplified the problem of a suitable cover design; the statue in the cover photo now stands in front of the city’s finance offices.
Some of Aiken’s celebrated public spaces, including Hitchcock Woods, the Newberry Street Festival, and Hopelands Gardens serve as the backdrops for different pieces. It should come as no surprise that each hometown probably offers a suitable stage for tales that illuminate each town’s special character. After all, are we not writers because we like to use our imaginations?
I’ve made several unsuccessful attempts to launch a novel where the setting is a small town modeled on the place where I grew up. One advantage of a group project is that “collective imagination” may make it possible to overcome individual blocks to creativity. Among the things which I find most pleasing about Nights is the fact that it inspired writers from the Camden chapter to create their own anthology, Serving up Memory.
The unavoidable issues (copyright, financing, editorial control, marketing) which arise with the creation of such a work can readily be dealt with by a contributors’ agreement. All of the contributors to Nights signed such an agreement and there have been no serious problems to date. We’re willing to provide advice to anyone who would like to undertake a similar project for their community. Why not tell your own hometown’s story?
Nights of Horseplay, and other works by local writers, will be on sale at the Mead Hall Strawberry Festival in downtown Aiken on April 25. We invite you to drop by and see what we have to offer.
Steve Gordy is a longtime SCWW member and former member of the Board of Directors. He teaches at Piedmont Technical College and is an aspiring (but unpublished) novelist who is currently working on a tale titled Faith, Hope, and Dr. Vangelis.