For Padgett Powell, the Word of South literary festival was something of a homecoming.
The award-winning novelist and author grew up in the capital city.
“I went to Hartsfield Elementary. We lived on Gadsden Street and then we moved over to Indian Head Acres,“ he said.
Before his reading Sunday, Powell trekked through his old neighborhoods.
“Nothing’s changed in the Wahalaw Nene house… It’s got some siding on it. You know, it looks crappy…Nothing’s changed,” he said.
After the personal journey, he unintentionally inspired the crowd at the literary festival at Cascades Park.
It is unintentional because he does not view himself as anything but a man set on making sense.
He has taught writing for 34 years at the University of Florida. On April 9, he read to an audience of about thirty hosted by the Midtown Reader.
There was continuous laughter throughout the reading.
“It should not be an ordeal. It shouldn’t be painful. It should be fun,” Powell said afterward. “What it comes down to is this: make up some good s—. You just write a sentence and another one.”
From his decades of teaching, Powell said his chief lesson can be summed up in two words on a blackboard: “Make sense.”
“That’ll do it. That’s it.”
But his students don’t always believe it’s that simple.
“They don’t think that’s really what happens. Or, they don’t think that’s really what’s supposed to happen. ‘The sense I have to make isn’t very good, so I can make it better if people don’t grasp it, if people don’t understand it.’ The mystery of nonsense.”
He is careful about what kind of autobiographical information he includes in his work.
“Mistakes are made using too much biography,” he warned. “You don’t write your life and change some names. For several reasons, one of which is it’s impossible to actually get it right. You’d kill yourself trying to get it right. How your heart actually got broken, you’re not going to be able to explain that to someone by reconstructing what happened.”