Happy Tuesday morning, writers, and what a dreary morning it is. It’s mostly cloudy right now, and super dark this side of Daylight Savings Time, and it took everything I had to emerge from my blanket cocoon. But emerge I did, and with coffee in hand and fuzzy socks on my feet, I am ready to take on the world.
Take on the world… It seems like only yesterday I was planning on doing just that. Or, at least, take on the southeast. My boyfriend and I were going to spend a week in March touring different cities in an effort to help us narrow down our list of possible moving locations. We wanted to find a place—somewhere with lots of writing opportunities for me, and with a good school district for him to teach in—by the summer, and hopefully have jobs and everything settled in that area before the fall.
But a global pandemic had other plans.
Coronavirus put a pin in any out-of-state plans we had for a few months, and though we’ve recently done a little traveling—to places we could be outside and wear a mask—we haven’t felt comfortable enough to embark on our multi-state journey. A shame, because on top of finding the perfect place to live one day, I wanted to check out the famous literary sites that could, potentially, be in my backyard.
Literary sites are cool to me, because the writers they celebrate had no idea their things and dwellings would one day be visited by aspiring storytellers, hoping to glean a bit of inspiration from those past haunts. It makes me wonder, should the stars and planets and galaxies align and I become a famous author, will the Starbucks I wrote in throughout my college years one day be open for tours? Will my kitchen table, covered in cat scratches and rings from my coffee mugs, one day be labeled reverently as the place where I penned my best-selling novel series?
Perhaps not. But, hey, it’s cool to dream.
There’s something special about being in the same space where notable writers once lived and worked, and when this pandemic ends, there are a few such places in the southeast that I plan to visit:
1 – Edgar Allan Poe Museum (Richmond, VA)
Virginia might be too far north for our liking, but I’d have to insist on at least a trip to Richmond to visit the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. A lover of horror, I remember curling up with a thick tome of all of Poe’s stories and poems in high school, even going so far as to memorize the heartbreaking “Anabel Lee.” I was determined to be as angsty as possible at 15, and, yes, I was extremely annoying for it.
Parts of the Poe Museum are patched together from places Poe once dwelled, and that just seems so fitting to his character. Materials salvaged from the demolition site of the Southern Literary Messenger building, where Poe worked as an editor, make up the Poe Shrine, which was built in the Enchanted Garden. The garden, in turn, consisted of plants taken from Poe’s mother’s grave and his foster father’s garden, according to the museum’s website. A staircase from Poe’s childhood home makes up one of the museum’s adjoining structures.
I’d love to wander this patchwork of a museum, and I’d also enjoy touring the city. Not only to see other places Poe visited, but for my own writing interests. A few scenes in my novel The Marked Ones take place in Richmond, and much of the second book in the series will take place in the city. I’ve got to do research.
2 – Georgia Writers Museum (Eatonton, GA)
After college, the city I first began applying for jobs in was Atlanta because, in my opinion, it’s the NYC of the south. Even now, whenever I hop on LinkedIn, I find a plethora of writing opportunities, and it’s a city I’ve considered moving to for a long time.
But if we should settle down about an hour east of ATL, in Eatonton, we would enjoy a wonderful writing community offered by the Georgia Writers Museum. The museum features permanent exhibits for local authors, such as Alice Walker, and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. I’d love to learn more about all of the featured writers, especially how their mutual city shaped them and took them down different literary paths.
The museum also holds writing workshops, contests, and book clubs for the public. Participating in the workshops in general would be intriguing, but I could also see opportunities to volunteer in each avenue.
3 – The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum (Montgomery, AL)
Okay, this one actually is in my backyard. The Montgomery museum was the brief home of one of the most famous literary couples to ever live. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald lived in the home from 1931 to 1932, according to the museum website, and it’s the only site dedicated to the couple in the world.
I can’t believe I haven’t visited this museum yet, but if I happen to leave central Alabama before I get the chance, I do plan on returning to stay in one of the Airbnb suites. Both the Scott and Zelda Suites look darling in photos, and to be able to sleep in the same space where such great writers lived? Swoon.
The museum also holds an annual writing competition for high school and undergraduate students. Though I am neither, I would love to support an institution that encourages writing from people in such a transitory period of life.
4 – The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum (Key West, FL)
Out of all the states my boyfriend and I are considering, Florida is definitely at the top of the list. Aside from the beaches and pretty much year-round heat, it offers a full spread of amusement parks we frequently frequent.
Though we don’t want to move too far south, the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West would surely make for a fun side trip. I only have to look at the beautiful house, which Hemingway lived in for ten years before moving to Cuba, to know it was a magical place to write in. The tall palm trees, the luscious garden—and that pool!—had to have inspired Hemingway, and I’d love to sit outside and reflect on the author who wrote many of the books I pretended to read in high school.
Truthfully, though, my main motivation to go is the cats. Nearly 50 cats roam the grounds, many descended from the very felines Hemingway once owned. Think of it—dozens of cats, of various breeds, most with five toes like people. My mission: become best friends with all of them before the end of my visit.
5 – Blue Bicycle Books (Charleston, SC)
The Carolinas caught my attention a while back. They’re in the southeast, but in some parts they enjoy a healthy dose of seasons without getting too cold in the winter. I’m also drawn to the literary culture, and in Charleston it exists to this day.
Blue Bicycle Books is a literary site for the modern writer. YALLFest, a popular young adult book festival, is held annually at the bookstore. The store hosts YA authors and thousands of fans, and the authors participate in writing and publishing panels and hold signings and whatnot (you know how festivals work). Sigh. I would love to attend one day—as a fan or published YA author—but given the cancellation of in-person events this year, I guess I’ll just have to wait until 2021.
The store also sells modern first-editions of books by Harper Lee, William Faulkner, and Margaret Mitchell, per its website, and photos show endless shelves of books, used and new. The store also plays host to authors throughout the year, so there’s a good chance that, even if I don’t visit during YALLFest, I might still meet one of my favorites.
There are way more places I’d love to see if given the chance, but I’ll ecstatically start with these. So let’s all continue wearing masks and social distancing so one day we can all feel comfortable traveling to new and exciting places. Happy writing!