“In the South, particularly in Mississippi, we are all natural-born storytellers, and I believe storytelling is the heart of all the performing arts.” - Jennifer Ogden
I couldn’t agree more with this comment that Jennifer made during our recent conversation. Having grown up in Mississippi, my own childhood memories are filled with family reunion times sitting around my Uncle James’ table in Carthage, peering through the thick cigarette smoke and laughing at tales of the nine siblings and town full of cousins who brought life, love, and laughter to their home located on top of the red clay hill. Even today I still pass on these oral treasures to my own four children.
My parents had an adventurous spirit which led to our small family of seven making spontaneous explorations of Mississippi ghost towns, battlefields, old cemetaries, homesteads, museums and festivals. If there was an artisan carving, painting, throwing, or pounding iron, we usually managed to get some incredible details and stories of their inspiration. It is this love of the “stories behind the stories” that still intrigues me today.
The art of listening probably influenced my earliest career choice. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi and then Mississippi College, I worked for years as a Counselor and Training Director helping individuals with disabilities. Eventually I joined Human Resources for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services where the question “Who here has done a newsletter before?” came up in one of the first meetings. Yep. I raised my hand and stated I had helped with one. That happened to be one more than anyone else in the room. I was given 3 weeks and a “Word Perfect for Dummies” book and along with my other training and PR duties, actually completed it on time. That’s how my career in writing began. Over the course of years I also served as agency editor and photographer. Good thing I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants.
Today I am a freelance writer and photographer for four publications around the state. It was actually during an interview for one of these publication that Gary Grubbs suggested an idea to me that eventually evolved into “Hollywood South”. Through his encouragement and suggestions as well as those of my dear friend Jo McDivitt, founder and publisher of "Today's Mississippi Woman", the column has grown and is now self-syndicated and appears in newspapers from Oxford to Hattiesburg.
I hope you will join me again either online or through the printed media as we continue to get to know many more of Tinseltown’s finest who not only share a passion for entertainment but also possess deep southern roots.
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