Welcome to Porch Talk

“Hemingway didn’t know he was Ernest Hemingway when he was a young man. Faulkner didn’t know he was William Faulkner. But they had to take the first step. They had to call themselves writers. That is the first revolutionary act a writer has to make. It takes courage. But it’s necessary.”
Pat Conroy, My Losing Season

I laugh when I read this snippet of Pat’s memoir because, like all his commentary on writing, it is so true, so wise and so very Conroy.

By the time I met him in 2003 and we became friends, he had long crossed the cultural divide from acclaimed to iconic, which he pretty much loathed (his word). He did enjoy obsessing about his obsession, and did so, in his journals and by phone, all the time. He seemed afraid that the rest of his writer friends, not having achieved a quarter of his success, might actually do that thing we all constantly threatened and give up writing in favor of a day job.

To Pat, quitting was not an option, and being both persuasive and generous, he urged the rest of us forward with an enthusiasm that was equal parts drill instructor, evangelist and hustling point guard. He could not actually make the shot for us, but he could get us to the paint with his constant advice and encouragement. They were offered with the ferocity of old Santini, that we play harder, run faster; repent of timidity and write something that made our readers laugh; that made them weep.

A lesser man would have settled for cry, but Pat was not a lesser man. His iconic status wasn’t built on minimalism, and I never saw him, in life or in fiction, choose a pedestrian word when a brighter, older, more emotive word would do. Weep is a good example: a word with multiple vowels and cultural roots, and that sound, that eeeee. In the hands of a good storyteller, on the right part of the page, it could break your heart – which was exactly Pat’s intention; if not to break, at least to bruise.

To him, good writing was like good basketball: a contact sport. In order to achieve loft in storytelling, you had to be willing to wade in and risk ridicule; to lose a little skin in the game. He was the first one to admit it was a perilous occupation. When asked about the high rate of mental illness among writers, he pointed out that one of the requirements of the life was that you sat alone all day in a room, just you and a desk and four walls. It was solitary confinement. With critics.

The solitude would break you if you let it, and when released from his desk, he sought out kindred spirits; fellow writers who were also doing time in solitary, searching for that perfect word. He called a round of friends almost every day, and spent most of his evenings on his favorite talking and visiting spot: the back porch of his house in Beaufort that had a glorious sunset view of Battery Creek. He called it the Cigar Porch because good cigars were the single vice he was allowed to the end – that and discussing his religion: good writing.

Come and join us here on his digital porch where we will let down our hair and indulge in some porch talk of our own, with plenty of laughter, encouragement, and good advice on all the perilous and rewarding aspects of the writing life. Our contributors will be drawn from every state in the union, and every discipline, some bestselling and well-known, others you will be happy to meet. We’ll also showcase a few academics, along with essays by our own writing teachers and staff and snippets of wisdom from the hand of the Master himself, who will loom so close that you’ll be able to detect the smell of a fine cigar.

Please join us as often as you can, either online or in our new home in Beaufort. Trust me, Pat would have been glad to see you. He was a famous host and a devout writer to the end; never happier than when he had a convert.

2017-02-13T19:47:30+00:00 By |

16 Comments

  1. Constance Becton February 13, 2017 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I loved Pat Conroy and even more, his love of the marsh and coastal life!
    His writing was cosmic magic, soul-bearing and raw labor.

    This literary center project has my vote, and my donation!
    A perfect way to honor Pat and keep his memory alive and inspiring.

    • Janis Owens February 16, 2017 at 10:04 am - Reply

      Thank you so much Constance. I was just in Beaufort and his presence is very much a Presence.

  2. Bianca February 16, 2017 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Pat Conroy amazes me on so many levels. Thank you for making this happen.

  3. Dale Carpenter Smith March 4, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

    I remember Pat when I was a little girl, going to all of The Citadel’s home basketball games. He and my father, an English professor there, were friends. Pat would come over to us after each game, tired, wringing wet, and grinning. Always grinning. He would take the time to talk to me which I remember over 50 years later. He wasn’t Pat Conroy then. He was a kind cadet named Pat.

  4. Ronald Joseph Kule March 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    I’m so glad I found this site and this “Porch!” Pat and I shared a few moments in West Palm Beach at an event; we even shared an unexpected photo my sister took of us – a cherished photo! – as we laughed about our mutual passion for Gamecocks baseball.

    Count me in as often as possible to contribute to and learn from others here.

  5. Geneen Gibson March 4, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    I discovered Pat Conroy at the Savannah Book Festival several years ago. Through his words, I have fallen in Love with the Low Country and feel very blessed to live here. My favorite vacation memory is one where I spent a long weekend in Beaufort. I was staying at a bed & breakfast down in the historic district. Pat had a special event promoting “Death of Santini” on campus followed by a reception in one of the old rice plantation homes. Pat was “holding court” at the kitchen table telling stories surrounded by fans, family and friends. This same weekend was also the time of the Beaufort Tour of Homes. It was a beautiful time!

    I love the idea of “Porch Talk”!

  6. Helen March 4, 2017 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    His literature tells me that his life was filled with pain as well as joy. A lot of pain. He was/is my favorite writer. Where did the words come from?

    • Cynthia Rice July 16, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      “Where did the words come from?” is the exact question I ask when reading his beautiful stories. The only answer I have is from God. How else could so many be so deeply impacted by His words?

  7. June Barry March 5, 2017 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    My favorite Author. I was delighted to hear him speak in Virginia at George Mason University and also once in Hilton Head. I would have loved to have had a conversation with him. He understood what human emotions
    were in all of the situations we face in a lifetime. His lovely, soulful words made such an impact. What a gift!

  8. Maria McDermott March 5, 2017 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Pat Conroy helped me to understand my Dad, a USMC war veteran. I am so very thankful for this. His writing is beautiful and profound. We all know this. I just wanted to say say thank you.

  9. Jim Todd March 6, 2017 at 1:41 am - Reply

    I was raised in South Carolina, but didn’t discover Pat Conroy until after I moved to Iowa. I was in Denver for a convention and another of the attendees recommended I read “Beach Music.” I fell in love with Pat’s writing and I’ve read everything he’s published. When I read “My Losing Season” and “The Great Santini,” I felt I was reading about my own childhood with an abusive father. I felt like he was writing my story. In “The Prince of Tides,” he wrote about moving the town of Colleton to build a nuclear weapons plant. I once lived in New Ellenton, SC, which used to be Ellenton, SC, until the town was moved to make way for the Savannah River Plant. Or, as my step-father called it, the “bomb” plant. I can relate to Pat’s stories in countless ways. I recently decided to read all of his books again, in chronological order. I’m currently about half-way through “Beach Music” and can’t wait to get to the next book. In my second adventure through Pat’s work, I’m discovering things I didn’t pick up on the first time through. It’s like reading them for the first time. I only wish I could have met him at a book signing.

  10. Ken Shelton March 6, 2017 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I first fell in love with Pat’s writing when I read Beach Music. I simply couldn’t put it down. I’d never read anything like that before. Then came, The Water us Wide, Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and the rest.
    After reading, The Water us Wide, I began culling my journal entries for my own truth. Before long I had written several essays that later became a memoir; my very first book.
    For me, reading Pat’s books was transformative. It changed me and it changed the way I read.
    I’m forever indebted to his brave truth telling.

  11. Nancy April 22, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    The writing is delicious…leaves you wanting it to never end. As in previous comments, I am now “re-visiting” several Conroy books–checking for some phrase or thought that I may have missed!

  12. Mrs. Mary Kapellas July 9, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you. Pat Conroy touched people’s hearts, he shared his very personal life experiences. He was vulnerable. He reached out through writing 🖊 and inspired others to forgive, be the best they could be. His spirit will live on for years to come. Thank you Pat.

  13. Catherine Beckham July 11, 2017 at 10:55 am - Reply

    The (Pat) Conroy Literacy Center is full of Pat’s low-country love for books. His memory will be supported by me again this year. I hope to make it to Beaufort again for the Literacy festival and to spend a little time with his family members and so many other talented authors. storytellers , classes and speakers.

  14. Pamela Gallegos July 14, 2017 at 2:37 am - Reply

    I try to share Pat’s masterpiece My Losing Season with everyone I know who loves basketball. It is the greatest frank discussion of the damage a father with no empathy can do to a son.

    I was raised with “Marine brats” near El Toro Marine base in ORANGE COUNTY, CA., now decommissioned, but in its day one of the largest in America. I remember the discipline and rigor with which those girls (and boys) were raised. One, my best friend from 6th grade all through junior college, couldn’t get away too fast nor far enough. Went to France and never came back. They all had anxiety issues.

    I know the stories my sister in law has told me- daughter of the commanding officer and trainer of the young men who went off to Vietnam to operate the helicopters he’d been training them on-many never returned. She remembers the farewell dinners her mother would arrange for the young soldiers and to this day, cannot watch war movies and refused to go to Cuba with her husband because “her dad would be spinning in his grave”. He was standing off Bay of Pigs, providing cover when that debacle occurred.

    I love everything Pat write, but somehow My Losing Season really grabbed me. What a talent.

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