The Snake Has Nine Lives
There’s a large old-timey farm house on the corner of Toombs and Force Street, actually at 110 West Force Street, Valdosta, Georgia. It was built in 1909 as a residence for female students enrolled in the South Georgia Normal College, which is now Valdosta State University. Through years of renovations and now refurbishment for Snake Nation Press, the house still retains much of its original Queen Anne grandeur.
And it’s funny how Snake Nation Press has continued to be in existence over the last 20+ years. While the publishing industry in those years has changed radically and the reading public has almost disappeared, the Snake just keeps on keeping on. Why? Why, when multiple times, I personally have been ready to throw in the towel and call it quits, but somehow something always happens that gives the Snake a new life.
I finally figured out it’s because of mothers and fathers, of all ages, genders, and colors. They are the people who do all the little things that keep the Snake in existence and keep the world turning. You know what I mean. In your own family, it’s the people who pay the bills, buy the groceries, cook the meals, take the kids to school and the doctor, and take care of the old codger down the street. And usually those people do not get a single cent in repayment and very little praise. And in big organizations, they are the ones who answer the telephone, who hang the art, who clean the building. Remember, the person who hands you a fast-food sandwich, probably came to work at 5 o’clock that morning. Do you ever give him or her a tip? A dollar from each car would give that person a living wage.
First and foremost at Snake Nation Press, there is Jean and Paul Arambula, who stepped in and took over back in 1994. I was working as Director of the LVAC Art Center and did not see how I could keep doing that job and publishing Snake Nation Review. Jean said, “Roberta, you cannot let the Snake die,” and she and Paul took it from there, making the house on 110 West Toombs Street a real home for the Snake and all its publications. Now, that building, with the help of John Bennett and the Price Campbell Foundation, is turning it into the Barbara Passmore Literary Center because that woman also stepped in and kept Snake Nation Press and many other art organizations and programs in Lowndes County going for over 15 years.
Later, there were innumerable others besides Barbara. There were Dean Poling, Wilby Coleman, Spanky Whitfield, Adann Kennn Alexxandar, Charles Duff, Cheryl Oliver, Susan Grooms, and recently Lee Henderson, Bill & Joan Stone, Bill Herring, Trent Bush, Robert Earl Price, John Bennett, Sementha Mathews, Cheryl Carvajal and so many others that I should remember. Some of those people, the Snake published, some just said “good job,” others gave both financial and moral support.
After all these years, I ask myself, what is at work here that has kept the Snake alive? To me it’s the Holy Spirit who gives those hard-working people the inclination to do the little things and give the donations that keep the wheels turning. Often they hold down full-time jobs, but the inclination toward being creative burns within them. The doodle on napkins, they write in journals after everyone else is asleep, they tell an after-dinner story almost every night. And they read, read, read. So don’t let the work of theirs and others vanish into a drawer or a closet. Remember, it was Stephen King’s wife, who saved the story “Carrie” hidden away in a drawer. Remember the philosopher, Eric Hoffer, who spent his days as a stevedore on the New York docks and spent his nights writing. How did he do it? He said he thought about writing all day as he did hard physical labor. Remember Solzhenitsyn, who with his masterpiece, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denesovich, defied the Soviets. How did he do it? After freezing days, working outside in the cold, he committed his thoughts to memory and wrote them down, sometimes on toilet paper.
The written word will never be dead, my friends. So many things can happen to electronics: bad weather, a solar flare, and just advanced age and technology can make it impossible to retrieve files. Guard and protect your letters from friends and relatives, guard and protect your books and magazines. What else will you be able to read by candle light?
Now, Snake Nation Press is going to publish a free quarterly publication, The Valdosta Voice, of all the arts and artists in South Georgia, and there are so many. So write about the people and situations in your life, the mothers and fathers who kept you going. Read valdostavoice.com and send your poems, your short articles, your art work for one-time publication and recognition to valdstavoice.com. The copyright will still belong to you.
Love & prayers, Ro