When I moved to Spartanburg last June, I knew one person. Well, technically that’s not true since this one person was already gone, moved back temporarily to where I was moving from. That person was the sparkling gem of Kansas and South Carolina emerging writers, your very own 2010 writer-in-residence Jameelah Lang.
From 2007 to 2010, Jameelah and I were in the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas together, though I knew her best outside of campus. Jameelah, along with our friend Andy, founded the Bathtub Kansas Writers Collective in 2008, a collective that aims to unify graduate students within the KU creative writing programs and connect them to writers and artists within the community through words. In the collective, we made writing a social event, both with our fellow writers and with the community.
So it was last April on a very long drive across Kansas to the AWP Conference in Denver that Jameelah told us about her experience with HUB-BUB and in Spartanburg. She described dance parties and diners and trees and books, creeks that ran through town and mountains just beyond. She knew I was looking for a job in publishing, and she told me there might be an opening at the Hub City Writers Project.
A few weeks later, I Skyped with Betsy and told her I was sold on Spartanburg and that I wanted to come. Yes, I will move nearly 1,000 miles for you, Spartanburg, even though I have never met you, never seen your streets other than in photos on the web.
When my boyfriend, Jedsen, and I drove down I-26, down Asheville Highway, down Church St, and pulled into the parking lot of my new downtown apartment on that unbelievably hot June day, I knew it felt right. The crape myrtles were in bloom (though it took me weeks to discover their name), the kudzu was lush, and my third-floor apartment had a view of it all. What didn’t feel right were the streets. Where I come from, streets run North-South, East-West, and they stay who they say they are. Where I come from, if you drive long enough on one main road, you’ll run into another. Where I come from, street names are only long enough to be abbreviated.
But what first confused me about Spartanburg and kept me tied to East and West Main (and, to illustrate my point, W.O. Ezell) now has captured my admiration. The streets aren’t tied by cardinal directions, aren’t plotted for ease of mileage, aren’t meant to lead both in and out. No, the streets here move with the land, curve when they need to, heed to hills and creeks, end with a wall of trees.
Though I can’t say I feel like I know even a fraction of Spartanburg–heck, the city surprises me all the time with new-found paths to new-found places–I can say that I have come to love it over these first nine months, thanks to HUB-BUB and the real reason I came, the amazing Hub City Writers Project. I’m so grateful to Betsy and HubCulture for bringing me here, and I’m honored to be Hub City’s Assistant Director. I’m also glad that now I get to spend some time at HUB-BUB each week working on promotion for events.
So, stop by the Bookshop or the Showroom and say hello. I won’t sound Southern, and I probably won’t say “y’all,” but I hope you see a little of the Sparkle City in this Kansas girl’s blue eyes.
–Kari Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)