My first novel, Who’s There, is an absurd comedy about a family defining its spiritual beliefs on a chicken farm in the rural south. Each day, they have a bizarre memorial service for Bunk’s amputated leg, which they otherwise keep in the freezer. Each looks for love and each waits. Someone knocks, but Momma’s beliefs are not strong enough for her to answer. So she looks for signs to help her understand who’s there. Like a lot of writers, Sande’s writing takes on many forms—plays, screenplays, children’s stories, novels. Her editor describes her work as a cross between Flannery O’Connor and Fannie Flagg.
The love for writing began in grade school with a homework assignment, and from that point, I was hooked. Writing would become for me a place to escape, one where I could enjoy a little control over life. Love for theater came with that first childhood nativity scene and continues today. A few years ago, when I offered to assist with the Christmas program at church, the director asked how I would feel about playing the role of Mary. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ I said. ‘How do you feel about being struck by lightning?’ God spared the director, and I was cast as Mary, a very old Mary.
Inspiration comes from reading great literature like Madame Bovary and To Kill a Mockingbird, and the plays of Eugene O’Neill. I particularly love southern authors like O’Connor, Welty, and Faulkner. Some years ago, I had the opportunity to study with John Gardner at the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference.
Writing for the theater will always be a first love, as there is no magic quite like that of theater. Some of my shorter works have been produced on the campuses of Emory University and DeKalb College, where I met Pulitzer prize-wining playwright Alfred Uhry. My play Jesus Called had won first place in the professional division of the Georgia Theater Conference’s one-act play competition and was to be produced. The day of the opening, I was at Piedmont Hospital giving birth to our second son. With my doctor’s approval, I secretly left the hospital, albeit very medicated, to attend the play. At the intermission, I whispered to Paul, ‘You know you’re not in good shape when you visit the restroom and discover your underwear is on backwards.’
A few years ago, my editor and friend, Joy, encouraged me to finish the children’s story, Tinker’s Christmas. The storyline is the reindeer come down with chicken pox the week before Christmas, and Santa turns to the clumsy Tinker to devise a means to deliver the toys. Tinker was published in 2002 and sold 600 copies in four weeks. The following year, the reality of marketing hit, one from which I am yet to recover. I once shared in a letter to Celestine Sibley, ‘There must be an easier way to persecute one’s self in life than by writing.’ My advice to all would-be writers is that writing is not for the faint of heart. Marketing is a 24-7 job, which at best only skims the surface in today’s marketplace.
My advice to writers: 1) Write because you love it, because you cannot envision yourself doing anything else, because it’s a part of you, your perception of the world or what it could be. Sometimes you own the writing, and sometimes it owns you. When the writing owns you, that is, when the subconscious takes over, although elusive and often exhausting, the writing produced at those times is the most desired and well-worth the effort. Being a spiritual person, I write because I think it is God’s intention for my life and because I derive tremendous pleasure from making people laugh. Who’s There? is an example of that humor and was blessed this year to be named a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s “Book of the Year Awards” as well as the “Georgia Author of the Year Awards.” 2) Read, read, read! 3) Join a writers’ group. Writers’ groups are like hats—if one does not match, try another one until you find one that best addresses your particular needs. 4) Write! Write everyday. As my former writing professor, Dr. Evans of Georgia State University, would say: “Write a page a day, and by the end of the year, you will have a 365-page work.” Of course, Dr. Evans also said about coming to class: “At least it keeps you off the streets and out of the bars.” Although I cannot attest to either, I do write, but I also adhere to “Be still and listen.”