Southern Fiction Gone Viral

This is what we published on the Kickstarter project and it is so incredibly well done that it needs to remain here in perpetuity because we are so very very clever.



100 Writers x 100 Stories, the first volume of Dead Mule fiction.

  • The Dead Mule

A compendium of fiction I have published on my literary journal website over the last 17 years.

That’s 17 years online.

Time to put it on the bedside table of the world. Get it off the monitor, the iPad, the tablet, and into the paper realm. So you can give it to friends. Pass it around. Read it without wifi. Old School. The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature as a published volume, like in the beginning Mule.

Here is the album liner for the virtual Kickstarter album (so to speak):

It has come to my attention that people looking at this project don’t know me — Valerie MacEwan — As incredible as that may seem to those who of our my acquaintance, it’s time to do a little autobiographical sketch of the right-now world wherein I dwell.

When you describe yourself, do you look in the mirror and relate to the image reflected — “close set hazel eyes” or “delicate features on a youthful exuberant face ? If you’re 58, you don’t. When you are gray and silver-streaked under that beautiful red/highlighted/purple toned mop you call hair, the words of youth are behind you. Behind that face reflected lies your present day cliche’ — your Billy Joel moment — and your description becomes one of self not of physical attributes.

So, me?

I’m a Southern MeMaw, the Nana to my grandsons who live three blocks away. The woman who waits for the arrival of that moment of my definition as I picture them moving toward me — their bikes slowly carried down the wide steps of a wraparound porch that defines their antebellum home. The Nana who leaves the front door unlocked for her  “…now we ride our bikes by ourselves, no training wheels, straight down the sidewalk to your house, Nana, and we always stop at the corner and look both ways,” and they always knock before coming in the front door, and then they slam in with a hurricane force of personality and throw their helmets on the couch and sit, sweaty and grime-covered waiting for Popsicles and they ask for permission to turn on “channel 61, Emmett! No 5 and 1, it’s 6 and 1!” Cartoon Network boys of summer person — that is who I’d describe if I truly looked at my reflection in the mirror.

If you know this Nana part of me then you know there are many other aspects of this life which are equally important to me. It’s the fleeting moments taking front and center stage right now, and behind each one is another snapshot … clown dog puppies learning to behave while patient older dogs growl warnings to teach the ways of this 100 year old house, a quick lesson in HTML or videography by my geekman husband who gave me Linux and now an iMac enabling me to work unencumbered …

I publish a literary journal. It’s been online, continuously, for over 17 years.

I want to take it offline for a while, let it muddle around living rooms and front porches, take a trip to the beach and be made of paper to be held in hands not connected by invisible wires in order to be read. I want it to be read the way literature deserves to be read. Slowly devoured and shared, perhaps notes in the margins, turned down corners, fingers barely licked, moistened to cause traction on the slick paper — an affectation electrical devices try to mimic without success.

I’ve been around more than one block in this rural southern town. I’ve worn so many hats they’ve worn a bald spot above my ears.

Artist, writer, editor, publisher, mom, archival madwoman, ephemera collector, wife, dog shouter (who whispers to Jack Russells? I mean, have you ever been around three Jack Russells, let alone FIVE on the off-occasion when my babies come to visit?), gardener and grower of Rose of Shar’n  seedlings passed out to strangers like Life Savers during a long Baptist funeral …

Who am I? Those who know realize pushing the envelope of 60 years requires complex paragraphs describing life decisions and regal moments, nasty bits of sorrows and complicated moments of shame, and then there’s truth.

Physical descriptions: short curly gray hair tops a chubby frame with an expansive lap perfect for holding injured grandboys — tearful bloodied skint knees and conversation filled with hiccups and confession. Oh, there’s that MeMaw reference again. Twenty-five years ago, I’d have said the same thing, brown hair in a ponytail holding neighborhood kids with skint knees and confessions of malfeasance, telling someone who’ll listen about picking all the tulips in Miss Lou Ann’s front yard or ripping their best Sunday School pants because they didn’t walk straight home from the recital, they ran after a kitten over there, sniffsniff, in the vacant lot.

I used to engage in what now seems self-deprecating talk, “I’m the KoolAid mom with the homemade sugar cookies, the only mom at home after school so the neighborhood kids stop on their way home from the bus stop” kind of description of my self. It diminished me in heady days of women’s rights to be whatever they want to be and who in their right mind wants to be just a mom when you can be an attorney or a doctor? A half-wit?

This discussion, meant to inform, is the reality of what I do with my Mule writers and how we all tend to rally around the bonfire that is southern literature.

Who am I?

As I sit in my studio that used to be a dining room and I look out over the top of my iMac into the yard, past the mimosa tree and the sidewalk, to the street … a hummingbird slams across my field of vision, navigating at warp speed through the columns and the two-inch hole of the crumbling lattice running up the side of the porch on Miss Peggy’s side of the house, the southern exposure you might call it but we here define the direction we look by the person who lives nearest that window — and Miss Patty succumbed to cancer last year, so now it’s the next nearest Miss Peggy, across the street, to the west would be Robin and Jimmy, the north is Austin and his grandma, even though his grandma died a while back, and then there’s Joey and Ned to the east — a direction once defined as Natalie but the old house burned near to the ground, just a mere five feet from us was the house, it burned with her and her dog and cats in it, unable to smash through the window boarded up after the hurricane as it waited new panes to be delivered and installed according to historic district dictates of wood and like-materials rather than the instant gratification of vinyl frames and double-panes.

And while the fire raged — fire truly does rage you know if you’ve ever seen the flames skyscraper over other roofs as a 100 year old stick built house burns out of control —  I sat across the street with my 90 year old Mom as she held the leash of one of the clown dogs as my husband Robert stood in shocked silence, waiting for my daughter and her husband to arrive to take Mom to their house, away from the flames, and the vision of Rob grabbing a few things from our house, dashing in and out the front door, while we struggled with the reality of what we were watching and our inability, especially mine to help. We didn’t lose our house. We did lose Mom about six months later.

Because… Rob says you need to know the other part of who I am — the disabled part, kinda’ wonky when I walk and hopeful the hand reconstruction surgery of last January will keep this thumb strong so I can type again and also be the artist I so enjoy being …

Who will I be?

I’d very much like to be the MeMaw who publishes anthologies of her Mule writers. Her grandchildren of words.

Help me out if you can.

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