October 31, 2014

Southern literature fan? You need this app!

It’s February, and while it’s possible we could still get a good snowfall here in middle Tennessee, the worst of winter is probably over. Today was a beautiful spring-like day – the kind that reminds me that vacation and travel season will be here soon. And that makes me think of an app you need to check out if you like Southern literature. The Deep South Literary Trail Guide is a guide to writers’ homes, bookstores, festivals, and other literature-related landmarks in the South.

Seeking advice from the iconic William Faulkner in Oxford, MS, in 2009.

For many years I’ve lured my family to vacation locales that just happened to have nearby literary sites. For example, we’ve been to:

  • Atlanta, ostensibly for my husband the baseball fan, where I said, “Let’s go see a Braves game! And oh, look, Margaret Mitchell’s house is really close!”
  • Savannah, ostensibly for my food-loving son, where I said, “We can eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant! And oh, look, Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home is here!”
  • Asheville, ostensibly for my daughter to check out the music scene, where I said, “Let’s go see Ben Sollee at the Orange Peel. And then – oh, look, Carl Sandburg’s home is just down the road!”

The Deep South Literary Trail Guide is easy to use, and I love how you can browse by various categories.

Now, with this app, my plotting and planning to visit literary points of interest will be ever so much easier. While the app interface itself is quite serviceable, it’s really the data in the app that’s the gem:

  • Browse eleven different categories of information, including bookstores, homes, cemeteries, landmarks, book festivals, and those facilities most near and dear to writers’ hearts, restaurants & bars (not just any restaurants & bars, but the ones where famous writerly action took place).
  • Learn about each point of interest (there are about 150 total as of this writing) through a brief description, interesting “insider’s tips,” cost, and links to further information outside the app.
  • View each point of interest using the map feature to determine  how far away you are – and what other literary sites are nearby.
  • View photos for each point of interest.
  • View or leave comments regarding existing points of interest, or submit corrections or suggestions.

While data is the app’s greatest strength, it’s also its greatest weakness in certain states. Tennessee, for example, doesn’t have nearly as much information as some of the other states. My birthplace isn’t even listed! (JUST KIDDING!) The app is a project of Erin Bass at Deep South Magazine, headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, so a paucity of data for states further from there is somewhat understandable.  Since you can submit suggestions, I have every expectation that this shortcoming will be alleviated over time. Other features I might hope for in a future release include:

  • an author category
  • a way to mark the places I want to go AND the places I’ve been (there is a heart/favorites icon now, but it would be nice to have that extra distinguishing capability)
  • improved updating of the map (I had a few problems with the map not always updating, although they weren’t consistent)
  • deeper social media integration

At Flannery O'Connor's childhood home in Savannah, 2009.

As I know from all my years in the software industry, there’s always a wish list for new application features. So even though I have some enhancement ideas, make no mistake: Get this app today and start exploring the South’s rich literary past and present from the comfort of your sofa – and have it handy when you’re on the road to spring literary side trips on your unsuspecting travel companions.

So who’s up for a literary road trip? Thanks to the app, I know that Hemingway Days in Key West is free… and only 830 miles away!

What literary sites have you visited and enjoyed around the South?

 


Comments

  1. I’ve also visited O’Connor’s home in Savannah, and of course, Roanoke (Faulkner’s home) in Oxford. But although I lived a couple of blocks from Eudora Welty’s home in Jackson, Mississippi at one time (and ran into her at the Jitney Jungle grocery store from time to time) I never actually visited her home, which is now a museum. I’d love to go to Key West…. maybe one day! Fun post, Kory.

    • Kory says:

      Sounds like we need to plan a road trip to Key West, Susan! You know, there is that writer’s conference down there every January…

      Of all the writers’ homes I’ve visited thus far, I think I enjoyed Carl Sandburg’s the most…it has an atmosphere as if he just stepped outside to tend the goats (actually, maybe his wife was the goat farmer?) and will be right back.

      So did you speak to Ms. Welty when you’d see her at the grocery? I think you need to blog about THAT!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Kory

      • Nancy Bradshaw says:

        I visited the Carl Sandburg home as well, and was so impressed by it. It was truly left exactly the way it was the day he died. This was his wife’s wish.
        Speaking of his wife, she was, indeed, the goat-woman and was quite well known and celebrated for her work in the field of breeding and raising goats. A visit to the goat barns and fields was quite interesting and as I understood it, much work had been done to track down some of the descendants of the goats originally there. She had kept copious files on the different breeds, their backgrounds, to whom they were sold, etc. It’s said that when she had visitors to see and buy her goats, many from other countries, they were greatly impressed by her and had no idea who Carl Sandburg was!

      • Kory says:

        Thanks for stopping by, Nancy, and reminding me of more of the details of Mrs. Sandburg’s activities. As you said, that’s another reason it’s such a nice place to visit – it’s not just the house but also the extensive grounds. Interested readers may enjoy this blog article about Mrs. Sandburg’s goats (here’s someone else who was more interested in her than Carl!) and a reference to the goats in one of Sandburg’s poems:

        http://www.karlschatz.com/yearofthegoat/archives/000066.shtml

        Glad we can add Sandburg’s home to our list of common interests!

        Kory

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