Writing What He Knows — Spotlight on James D. McCallister by Kirby Knowlton
James (Don) McCallister grew up in Kershaw County, where he dreamed of one day writing big, literary novels. Now, a published author and teacher, McCallister has created an entire fictionalized world: Edgewater County, SC, where most of his writing is set. This summer, McCallister returns to his Storytelling Workshop at Midlands Technical College after a year-long hiatus during which he finished Dixiana, a three-book series. He brings to the workshop — which begins June 16 — the bonafide authenticity of a Southern novelist writing about place.
McCallister sees a range of experience in the students of his Storytelling Workshop. “I have had everyone from an adolescent who had exhausted the creative writing options at her high school, to middle-age and retiree scribes looking to memoir or write that mystery series,” McCallister says. For McCallister, writing and teaching are not mutually exclusive. Rather, the two fields influence the other. “Not only do my workshop environments improve my own editorial eye,” he says, “I often learn from the work of my students and look forward to hearing their points of view.”
Though place is important to McCallister — enough so that he created one of his own — he hopes his work is able to thematically reach readers outside the South. “I’m writing about human beings and their consciousness-journeys, who happen to live in this area,” he says. Most writers have heard the advice “write what you know” and McCallister does, as well as encourage his students to. “I don’t think you can write authentically unless you’re describing in some fashion, even if only metaphorically, an environment that you know well,” he says.
McCallister’s favorite place to dine in Columbia is Lamb’s Bread. If he could recommend one book to a stranger at the moment, it would be James McTeer’s Minnow. His Storytelling Workshop runs June 16th through July 14th at the Midlands Technical College Beltline Campus.
(Photo courtesy of Michael King.)