GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - This month's Artist in Residence, Dana Wildsmith, lives in Bethlehem, Ga., where she teaches English literacy at Lanier Technical College in Gainesville. Wildsmith has a rich background of teaching in a variety of environments including higher education (U of SC in Beaufort, South Carolina; Albany State University in New York), as a workshop teacher in high schools and at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. She has also instructed at writer's conferences (including Southeastern Writers Association conference, Hilton Head Women's Association, and Appalachian Writers Association conference, to name a few) and has been a writer-in-residence at various programs including The Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, and Hedgebrook Writers' Colony on Whidbey Island in Washington.
She has won many awards at the state and national level for her prose and poetry. Her first book of prose, Back to Abnormal: A Memoir of Survival with an Old Farm in the New South has just been published by Motes Books.
While in-residence, Wildsmith will read from her work at an evening program on Thursday evening. The program will be an informal and family-friendly event at Shrine of the Ages beginning at 7:30 p.m. She will be doing a two-day workshop with the local eighth grade class, as a guest in Lori Rommel's language arts class. She will also venture into the Canyon, where she will present another reading to her fellow hikers at Phantom Ranch on Monday.
An excerpt from her essay And Am I Born To Die?, a true story about a run-in with a young timber rattler while on a walk on a hot southern evening, illustrates Wildsmith's descriptive style:
It was a Saturday evening, the dimming end of dusk when there's still light enough for a walk, but only barely. The wood thrushes had ended their day-long vows of silence and were chiming in the nighttime, their metallic pling-plink-plinks always seem to me to fall like tossed bells from pines and sweet gums. Afternoon's heavy heat had backed off enough for easier breathing, as if some grossly obese aunt finally let the world go from her sweaty hug. I had picked the blackberry canes clean, picked the blueberries as much as I could stand. This time of year Mama always says you don't so much finish picking blueberries as you just give up. "I'm going to take a short walk" I said to Don, "and then I'm not doing any thing else tonight." He said he'd come along.
Wildsmith also writes poetry about her southern life, her family, and her community. Her excellent and witty narrative voice sings in this excerpt from Peopling, a poem about her dogs Max and Fred:
Our border collie Max, I say, would be a bow-tie guy,
a grey slacks with cuffs kind of guy,
his solid-color long-sleeved shirts always lightly starched.
for casual, he'd keep pressed khakis on wooden hangers
and white golf shirts with left-sleeve monogram.
Fred the red hound would live in faded 501s
and Carhartts, Dixie Outfitters shirts, and ball caps