ALAMOSA — Nobel laureate William Faulkner is often quoted or misquoted as saying that Mississippi begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and extends to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Everything in between is the Magnolia State, home to Elvis Presley and Tammy Wynette, opera diva Leontyne Price and novelist Richard Wright.
Two Alamosa residents are featured in A Year in Mississippi, an anthology of essays by prominent Southern writers recently published by University Press of Mississippi. Valley Courier columnist David Creel and former Adams State University Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of English, Dr. Chris Gilmer, are among 40 contributors to the book which includes cover art by award-winning watercolorist Wyatt Waters and is edited by Dr. Charline R. McCord and Judy H. Tucker.
“Writing has been a creative release for me since childhood, and I have been so fortunate over the years that my newspaper columns have helped me make friends from coast to coast. From the mother of the young boy who was being bullied in school to the king of Christmas, Christopher Radko, who related his own loss to my memories of my late mother, so many have reached out about the weekly columns. Writing has really given me a chance to explore the human connections which unite us all,” Creel said.
Creel’s essay, “Standing Appointment,” chronicles with both humor and local color the steel magnolias who populated his past as a salon owner in rural Mississippi. Creel’s “Being Beautiful” column has appeared weekly in a number of Mississippi newspapers for many years and now runs on Fridays in the Valley Courier. Gilmer writes about one of the most honored of Southern traditions, the family reunion, in an essay entitled “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”
“As a writing and literature teacher, it has always been important to me for my students to know I am not asking them to do anything that I am not doing myself. If I can write and publish, the message I want to convey to them is so can they write and publish, or fulfill any other dreams they are willing to work hard to accomplish,” Gilmer said. “Most of the world’s most notable writers I have studied and taught maintain that art is more about hard work than it is about inspiration, and that’s what I want my students to recognize. There is nobility and satisfaction in service to others, and in working hard to make their own dreams come true.”
Gilmer is especially honored that his late mother, Peggy Gilmer-Piasecki, an award-winning writer, also has a posthumous essay in the collection and that the book is dedicated to her memory.
Creel and Gilmer are moving back to Vicksburg, Mississippi, but are so thankful for the many friends they have made in the San Luis Valley.
“We will always consider Alamosa a second home, and you can look for us shopping on Main Street or attending a musical performance at Society Hall. We have too many good friends not to come back here often, and we will always be ambassadors for the Valley and for the university. It’s a special place,” Creel said.
The hardcover book is now available and can be purchased in book stores or online at www.amazon.com or www.upress.state.ms.us.