Flying Toward Forever by Marla Cantrell

Eunice Iola Mondier was my grandmother. Small and short and black-headed, with crystal blue eyes, she attended the Second Baptist Church. She sold Beauty
A person sitting on the ground in front of water.Counselor makeup. Even then, when I was a girl, I felt as if she should have attended the much bigger First Baptist Church, as if she should have sold Avon cosmetics. Those were names a person could get behind; they were A-list material. At least that’s what I thought when I was all of nine years old.
Which is a nice way to say that my family was very nearly poor and not well connected, which seemed at the time to
matter more than almost anything else.
Not that she ever said that to me. Her life suited her just fine. She wore old clothes and drove quick new cars in bright colors with wide racing stripes. She wore big straw hats and spent afternoons fishing. She got her hair done on Fridays and spent the rest of the week sleeping with a pair of satin panties on her head to keep her up-do up.
My best friend’s grandmother wore a bun, made her own clothes, and baked like she was getting graded on it. What she talked about, when I sat at her cozy kitchen table, was the weather.
My own grandmother defied storms, standing in front of her picture window as lightning struck, as hail pelted the catalpa tree, as thunder shook her little house.
You don’t learn to crochet from a grandmother like mine. You don’t learn to bake, or clean, or do cross stitch.
I did learn from her, though. She taught me the books of the Bible when I was in her Junior Sunday school class and gave me a religious charm bracelet as a reward. She picked up a raft of kids on her way to church, from places that made our trailer, that we’d parked right behind Grandma’s house, look palatial. She sang in the choir, her alto voice so low that it verged on being bass.
At home, she talked back to soap operas and indulged in a little gossip, both things my parents disapproved of. But she also took in her full-grown nephew after he suffered a brain injury that made living alone impossible. What I remember most was how she seemed to delight in him, and in doing so he got a lot better than anyone expected him to.
When I got engaged at a ridiculously young age, she kept her mouth shut and bought me a can opener. “Man’s gotta eat,” she said, and that’s all she said. Later, when the marriage failed, she told me about her first love, Alonzo Willett. I had seldom heard his name, even though he was my grandfather. The story of his treatment of my mother and grandmother was cautionary and filled with so much pain it rarely got told. But on this day she said, “There’s no love like your first love, and he was mine.”
The statement solidified everything I knew to be true about my grandmother. She was not easy to pigeonhole. She taught Sunday school, but smoked clandestinely, a big no-no in the Baptist faith. She shunned divorce but had gotten one from Alonzo in the 1930s when her community considered it treachery to do so. She remarried a saint of a man soon after, someone she loved dearly, and when he died, she went out and found a third husband. “If something happens to him,” she said, once, her head held high, “I’ll go get me another one. I can’t live without a man.”
As far as I know my grandmother never wrote anything other than a few letters, so I don’t get my writing gene from her. And she didn’t read excessively. A few magazines, the Bible, her Sunday school lesson. She had a collection of Reader’s Digest condensed books that did little more than frustrate me, so I didn’t get my incessant need for stories from her either. I don’t think I got my brains from her either. She was a dozen times smarter than I will ever be.
I like to believe I got a dose of kindness from her, but I might be flattering myself. I do know that I’m glad she wasn’t the pie-baking, hand-sewing, fairy tale-reading grandmother I thought I wanted when I was younger. She was tough like cowboys are tough, and soft they way women whose hearts are broken early sometimes are. When I think of her now, it is always when she is behind the wheel, her foot hard on the gas pedal, her eyes just barely scaling the top of the steering wheel. I want her to slow down, but she can’t, and so keeps going, until the road turns to silver beneath her and the sky opens up and takes her away.

Native Texan, by Zetta Brown

A person sitting on the ground in front of water.I was born in a very small North Texas town, and I was born a Negro…which became black…which became Afro/Black/African-American. But while American society came up with new names to call me based on my race, I just considered myself a Texan.

I remember as a child playing in the red dirt of my parent’s home town, eating Moon Pies, drinking grape Nehi or red cream sodas, giant pickles from a pickle jar, salt-and-vinegar chips like a home-grown Southern kid. I think it’s very telling that my earliest memories of living in the South centers around food.

Then we moved to Colorado and snow, which had been a novelty before but became a part of life. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’m not a huge fan of snow. My parents were surprised when we were showed homes in racially diverse neighborhoods. We wouldn’t be “blockbusting†after all.

Years later, circumstances and finances had me moving back to Texas and living with my parents. I was nervous at first, considering the stories my parents told me about growing up in the segregated South, but when I arrived and visited the small hometown my parents grew up in, I was shocked at what I saw.

A small North Texas town more racially integrated than some of the neighborhoods I left behind in Colorado.

After living in Colorado for 17 years, I came back to Texas. After living in Scotland for over seven years—I came back to Texas with my Scottish husband who loves it here.

Why? Because my roots run very deep here, unlike some of the politicians who have represented the state in recent history. Despite these “prominent†citizens, the people of Texas really are friendly, are caring, and do have common sense.

Living in Texas has made me appreciate history and especially the history of my family. History is nothing but a bunch of stories; some of it is fact, some of it is fiction, but it’s all about the story. Texans have been known to tell a tall tale or two.

The South is full of myths, legends, and stereotypes that mix in with reality and creates a wealth of inspiration for stories. But sometimes these elements turn into propaganda—for better or worse.

Is Texas perfect? Hell, no. Ever wondered why there are so many churches in the South? Because there’s a whole lotta sinnin’ goin’ on! You can’t take us at face value. You have to come and experience it for yourself.

So come on down to Texas. You may not have been born here, but like the bumper sticker says, you should get here as soon as you can.

Zetta Brown is an editor and the author of several published short stories and a novel. Her short story “Devil Don’t Want Her†is set in Texas and available as an ebook. She blogs about writing and editing at her Zetta’s Desk blog ( and has a featured blog at called [REALITY CHECK]

Cameo: Natalie Baszile

Queen Sugar is an intriguing new novel about Charley, an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana. The author, Natalie Baszile,  is not a Louisiana native. Her father was born in southern Louisiana, and much of his extended family still lives there. But while she often visited on vacations and holidA person sitting on the ground in front of water.ays, Natalie grew up in Southern California and currently lives in San Francisco. She comes to writing as a scholar, the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, having studied at UCLA and Warren Wilson College. So even though she writes about the South, she is not a “typical” Southern woman. When I asked if she considered herself a Southern woman, she replied, “I have a Southern Heart.” Indeed she does. And at the end of the day, that Southern Heart is what unites us as Southern women; that spirit not defined by zip code, politics, race, religion, socioeconomics, or any of a number of other tiresome labels.

In Queen Sugar, Ms. Baszile portrays the South as She really is. She has no truck with stereotypes and plows deliberately through to the underlying truths about the lives of her characters.  Through Charley’s eyes, we experience the  outlandish beauty of the South as well as its senseless injustices.   We feel the gravitational pull of Southern family bonds and the joys of unexpected friendships. We are outfoxed by the seductive Southern charm that blankets pain with an illusory veil.   We confront  our unrecognized prejudices.  And through Charley’s trials, we witness the outrageous persistence of Southern women in the face of hardship.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book: “Because life should be as simple as a bucket of fish caught a few miles offshore and a van full of produce bought at a roadside stand. It should be as sweet as a cube of melon the color of your heart.” (Ch. 6)

This is not a book review.  But Queen Sugar goes on my list of favorites.  If you’re looking for a beautifully written story with an engaging plot that presents an authentic picture of the present-day South,  here it is.   It’s an honor to claim Natalie Baszile in the sisterhood of Real Southern Women.







Congratulations to Marla Cantrell, recently awarded the Arkansas Art Council’s Individual Artist Fellowship for her work in short fiction. These prestigious fellowships enable artists to devote creative time to their arts.A person sitting on the ground in front of water.

Marla grew up in the River Valley and writes about Arkansas’ people, heritage and culture. About the award, Marla says, “I am so honored to receive this fellowship and to represent Arkansas and the River Valley in our state’s artist community. Arkansas, with its beauty, culture and rich history, is the thread that runs through my fiction, and I’m so proud to be part of the art community of this great state.â€

Earlier this year, Marla also won first place in the White County Writers Contest at the 2014 Arkansas Writers’ Conference. A prolific writer, Marla has been published in Show Off Anthology,, Deep South Magazine,, Long Story Short, , Word Haus, and the Center for Writing Excellence, 3rd Annual Fiction Anthology. Marla is Managing Editor of Do South Magazine, where she is often a featured author.

Congratulations, Marla. You do Southern Women proud! Keep your great stories coming our way!

More about Marla, her work and the Individual Artist Fellowship can be found at her website, Southern Pencil

Juanita Agan


A person sitting on the ground in front of water.

In weekly newspaper columns for the last 15 years of her life, Juanita Agan left us a priceless history of  northwest Louisiana. *  It is not a history likely to be cited in PhD theses,  but rather an honest, unpretentious account of her life as she remembered it.   She was born  in 1923 in the midst of the Great Depression and lived through World War II and the civil unrest of the 60s.  She shares with great fondness memories of people and places she loved, but she does not spare us the harsh realities of life in those times.

Juanita Murphy was born in 1923 on the eve of the Great Depression.  Her father died when she was three leaving  her mother Louannie as sole provider for the family.   Following scarce to non-existent jobs in those days,  they lived a nomadic life,  moving, often abruptly, from town to town.   Juanita attended as many as five different schools in a single year.   A true child of  the Depression, the trauma of those days never left her.  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without, ”  was a favorite slogan.  Ever a lady, she was gentle about it, but her writing reveals her frustration that those of us in the  more fortunate post-war generations had little understanding of the hardships  her generation overcame.

Her face revealed her gentle nature, but her determined gaze and  set of her jaw are those of a true survivor, one who has weathered life’s storms and come out on the other end with grace.   She is truly a role model for us all.

I can’t say it better, so here is a link to a column she wrote about her mother.  Appropriate for Mothers Day, it is a story of love and sacrifice for a child.

You can read more at the Minden Press-Hearld under their “Life” section.