On July 23, 6 author will gather at Indy Reads Books as part of the first Downtown Writers Jam hosted by The Geeky Press. We’re currently curating those authors, and taking recommendations from friends, colleagues, and other people involved in the Indiana writing scene. Don’t wait to be nominated, though. You can submit your own work for consideration.

Meanwhile, we wanted to introduce you to our third brave soul: Garret Mathews.

garret.jpg (2)Garret retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. You can read his columns online for free. Not long ago, he put together a two-CD set of Appalachian oral histories taken from stories he wrote in the region during the ‘70s.

In his most recent project, he put together a book featuring the work of 27 columnists entitled Columnists: While We’re Still Around.

You can find him at his website.

At The Downtown Writers Jam 

What’s the name of the piece from which your DWJ story comes? A two-act play called Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror.

What was the question or idea that sparked that original piece? I grew up in segregated Virginia and did not have classes with black students until 1965, my junior year. Some shameful things happened during those two years, and I was too shy (and scared of losing my precious social standing) to stand up and do the right thing.

I carry that guilt with me today. Several years ago, I got the idea to interview civil rights volunteers who risked their lives by going South in the ’60s to register black voters and to end deep-seated segregation. My idea was to put their stories in a book, but I could never interest a publisher. I ended up using some of what they told me as background for Jubilee.

What should the audience expect from your storytelling at the Downtown Writers Jam? I hope they learn more about the civil rights movement. It’s been 50 years since Freedom Summer (1964) that’s the focal point of my play. Many people don’t realize that the plight of blacks in the South improved only slightly from 1865 until 1965.

As part of the educational pre-show for the play, we interviewed black folks in Evansville and Greenwood, Miss., who share oral histories on what it was like to live under segregation.  I would love to have the play staged in the Indianapolis area.

Get to Reading

Best book or long-form writing we should read, but probably haven’t? And why? If White Kids Die: Memories of a Civil Rights Movement Volunteer by Dick Reavis. It tells the sad truth that the civil rights movement would not have succeeded when it did had not two white youngsters been killed in rural Mississippi in 1964. This put a white face on a long-standing social injustice and within a year, the Civil Rights Act was passed.

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This newsletter is the outgrowth of The Downtown Writers Jam podcast. What that means is I will collect information about the authors I interview, book happenings around the Web, and other literary events that I find interesting. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason.
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