Monday, November 18, 2013

I Keep Coming Back to the Land of the Flowers - A Guest Post by Mary Anna Evans

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Mary Anna Evans. Mary Anna is the award-winning writer of the Faye Longchamp archeological mysteries. Her latest novel, Rituals, was released earlier this month and is available wherever fine books are sold. Mary Anna was our featured author on January 17, 2011.

So far, three of my novels, four of my short stories, and one of my songs are set in Florida, and I am currently at work on yet another book that takes place in The Sunshine State. Since I have written eight books (and counting) about a Florida-dwelling archaeologist named Faye Longchamp, my entire writing career could be seen as a love song for the land of the flowers. Florida has been my home for almost all of my adult life, and now I’m preparing to leave it. I’m excited about the next phase of my life, but leaving Florida is an emotional thing for me. I simply love the place.

While I realize that we’ve done a pretty good job of paving over the peninsula and its panhandle, if that was our goal, there are still places here that are achingly beautiful. The beaches, the cypress domes, the springs, the lakes, the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the swaying palm trees...there are so many evocative nooks of Florida for a writer to use in her work.

My first book, Artifacts, explored Faye’s home on a lonely island off the coast of the Florida Panhandle, and I returned to that place, Joyeuse Island, in Faye’s fourth adventure, Findings. Strangers is set in the ancient city of St. Augustine. My short stories “Land of the Flowers” and “A Singularly Unsuitable Word,” are set in the Florida swamp. “Mouse House” is set at a nameless central Florida theme park where I enjoyed shoving an unpleasant person off a very high castle turret. “Low Budget Monster Flick!” is set at a resort very like the one at Wakulla Springs, during the filming of a movie very like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. And now my nameless work-in-progress is taking Faye back to her Joyeuse Island roots. That’s a lot of stories for one state, but Florida keeps giving them to me.

And Florida has given me more. The Florida Historical Society gave Artifacts their Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award. The Florida Book Awards has given medals to both Findings and Plunder. The Will McLean Folk Festival gave the song I wrote to accompany “Land of the Flowers” an award in their Best New Florida Song Contest. The Studios of Key West gave me a writer’s residency in paradise. Remind me again why I’m leaving?

I’m going away, at least for two years, because I want a chance to study creative writing with people who really know their stuff. I am totally self-taught as a writer. I want the chance to see exactly what I’m capable of doing and it’s for me time to do it. If not now, then when? So, beginning in December, I will be in New Jersey pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts at Rutgers University.

After that? Well, I don’t know. I can’t see that far down the road. I do know this. Whether I come back as a resident or as a visitor, I know I’ll never leave Florida for good, because there’s no place in the world more beautiful than the land of the flowers.

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