The last Dewees Island book club meeting was simply a “share the great titles you are reading” meeting. We had a quick commiseration about finding time to read, and one member confessed that besides the last book club book, she was busy reading the Dewees Island Covenants and bylaws. You can comment in with your own recommendations, and I’ll get the links up on the page. Here’s a quick glance at the books that were recommended (click any photos or title to see more on Amazon):
Our next book club choice is Untamed, and we will meet at 5:30 pm on Thursday November 20th at Huyler House. BYOB and nibbles.
Dr. Peter Cotton, aka the chair of our social committee here on Dewees Island, is scheduled to be interviewed on Lowcountry Live! this morning from 10 – 11. He’ll be talking about his books, his distinguished career as a gastroenterologist, and living on Dewees Island.
Peter’s books include 2 children’s books about “Fred the Snake” and “
The Tunnel at the End of the Light: My Endoscopic Journey in Six Decades”.
Dershie McDevitt, whose book, Just Holler Bloody Murder, was just released in a kindle edition, is a Dewees islander with some great stories to tell. I enjoyed the book, and caught up with Dershie to ask her some questions about it. When she was approached by the Arts Council to do a reading, Dershie graciously agreed to read selections of her book to islanders on her now-famous porch on Sunday, March 24th.
You have set this book on an island near Charleston named Timicau. Is this our Dewees Island? Why name it Timicau?
Timicau is Dewees, at least geographically. The critters, the ocean, the tides, the salt air…it’s all Dewees! I named it Timicau because I love this place so madly that I wanted to set the mystery here. But if I set it in present time, the development of the island would have hampered my ability to tell the story that I wanted to tell. Timicau was the Sewee Indian name for the island and is the name of the lake in the middle of the island.
Were you a writer before coming to Dewees?
Yes, I aspired to be a writer long before writing this book. My first novel, which is thus far unpublished, was my Masters thesis at UNC- Asheville. I’ve been in a professional writing group ever since, for 19 years.
Actually, I realized I was a poet in the third grade when Miss McKay, the Deity’s most tactful third grade teacher, told me my poetry had excellent strong meter rather than telling me I had only half done my assignment to illustrate a small booklet on five of Wyoming’s most common birds. As in…”Dershie, dear, you don’t seem to have spent much time on your drawings or collecting the facts, but your meter, now, that meter is very strong and well rhymed.”
After that, I felt free to take pen to paper in all moments of emotional trial and excoriate the fates. I wrote some of the most meaningless, overly emotional drivel… for example when I was ten and my cat died, I took on God with: “where did you take her? How did she die? Oh Tulip, Tulip, is your tail held high?”. It took a lot of good professors to channel my passion into something you just might enjoy reading now.
How is Dewees different from Timicau Island? How is it the same?
Dewees is really just the Timicau Island of the book about thirty years later.
Can you describe your first experience of visiting the island? How do you think it has changed since then?
There is a whole moving short story I could write about the first time we came to Dewees, but since I’ve shared the Tulip poem, I think I will spare you that. Suffice it to say, I was transported, enthralled, wild with joy when I realized there was a spot so close to civilization where I could return to the wild. I grew up in northern Wyoming, as free as the little Callahan in my novel, and the chance to observe all the elements of nature at such close hand on Dewees, birds, gators, dolphins, shells, shifts in light and weather systems seemed a gift from heaven.
Dewees Island has changed, but not dramatically. The manner in which the island has been developed means that much of the time, it seems like just a few residents are there. Even when lots of visitors are on the island it is still possible to escape all human presence because so much of the island remains (and will remain) undeveloped. A golf cart trip to the northern tip of the island, a sundown cruise around one of the docks on the west side of the island…it is just you and nature at peace together.
As a matter of fact, the island is such a dynamic ecosystem that there are always thrilling developments. In the sequel to Just Holler, Harry will be astounded, as my own grandaughter was, one day when she came rushing in and said, “Grammie I have just seen–i am not kidding– a pink bird.” And she had! That was four years or so, and now we regularly see the roseate spoonbills mixed in with the wood storks and egrets in the impoundment. The wood storks were rare when we first came here, as were the ibis. Now we see a lot of them regularly. I remember my absorption the first time an anhinga emerged from under water in our pond. No wonder it is nicknamed a snake bird…and then for the last two years, the nesting bald eagles…! Paradise!
Did you do any research while writing this book? Learn anything surprising?
Oh yes, I am always doing research because Callahan Banks, my protagonist, knows way more about the facts the natural world than I do, so I have to keep ahead of her discovering tidbits like why seagulls cry or spiders dont get stuck in their webs. I read and clip constantly.
In your book, most of the island geography is identifiable, but there is a big plantation as a central location in the story. On Dewees, where would Twelve Oaks be located? Is that where Huyler House stands now? Or were you researching where the original plantation houses on the island stood?
No, no historical research here. I had to put the plantation house where I wanted it for the elements of the mystery to work, and your guess is just about right. I imagine it probably would take in the Harry’s house, all the Huyler House property and probably HH pond and the intersection of the roads there.
When Callahan returns to her beloved Timicau Island, there are only seven people who live on the island. Is this nostalgia for the early days of Dewees when it was relatively undiscovered?
Good question, I have read all the books I can find written by people who lived here then, but I don’t think I would quite call it nostalgia, because the early inhabitants underwent great hardship, with few creature comforts. I have given Pepper, Honey and Francie a more cushy, upper class existence than would probably have been possible without considerable means to afford such a life.
In the novel, there is some tension between those people who had always thought of the island as theirs, the same way the sky is… and those who built their homes there as part of the newer neighborhood being established…. Is this rooted in fact? Do you think some of those tensions are still being played out today?
Our developers said for us to consider it a ” private island to call our own”. And a lot of us feel that way so rules and time schedules and limitations feel like we are losing some of that glorious freedom we came to the island to experience. Just like Callahan, in the novel, we all have to keep open and creative minds to figure out how to best live here and yet not infringe on the rights of our neighbors while doing it.
I love this characterization of Lila: she “had decreed that no house of hers would ever have a mirror–”a waste of time and a distraction from what really matters”– is there a character inspiration for her?
Not really, except I personally have always chafed under the expectation that I needed to be coifed and groomed to met societal expectations when all I wanted to do is go out and explore the world. People like Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey are my personal heroes.
There are a lot of Dewees names in the book. How did you come up with the names?
Naming was great fun. I asked the Pasquinis if I could borrow their name because it was perfect for Irene, though she is hardly their stature and nothing like them. I’ve always loved the shortened form of Wharton, so Whart Applegate, the triplets father, got part of our former island resident’s name. Juby T. Roy’s first name came from an obit in the Asheville paper, and the deceased even was wearing that weathered felt hat he wears in the novel. What I didn’t add– it doesn’t fit my character– was that according to the obit, he was also a member of The Columbia Record Club. Lets see, Francie had to have a formal name with a bit of class (Francis), but get shortened to something a bit trashy. Varina needed dignity. I found her in a history book , and Wallace was a dear heart I knew long ago. I wanted the triplets’ surname to appear to have a bit of a Charleston pedigree, but Annie had to be approachable and spontaneous so it took me a while to sort out the right first name for her.
Who am I missing? The triplets? Once I got to know Annie, she told me their names. And then of course Callahan and Pepper. She was the hardest to name b/c the name needed to be distinctive, non-traditional and shorten-able to an affectionate nickname. Larry named Pepper. I was looking for an old SC name that could be his middle name. It had to be shortened to something Charleston-ish and hold a little spice and sex appeal. When Larry mentioned Culpepper , all I had to do was find compatible one syllable names to tack on front and back- John and Dade. Oh, and I saw a really sleazy- looking Ruby who was an embezzler in a newspaper somewhere, which made her great for Juby’s sister. Pepper’s late mother, Mignon, is an old southern name I’ve saved, along with old buttons and funny stories, for ages. Finally that bad guy, Reggie Banks. The Banks (from Kathryn) seemed a solid British name and Reginald a bit snooty while a Reggie could be a rake. I REALLY was writing this long before I got to know another island Reggie.
Some of these names were changed three or four times in the ten years that I was writing the book until I felt like I had it right. I think because it was set on Dewees, I unconsciously leaned towards a lot of Dewees names.
One of the main themes of this book deals with connections between people and the natural world around them. I enjoyed this description of a turtle nest hatching:
In a second, the one small creature becomes the many as tiny turtle babies who’ve hatched under the sand and waited, stacked together, for this perfect moment to boil out of their nest high up in the dunes, swarm towards the beach ahead of her. (Callahan) frowns uneasily. Predictably guarding the shoreline, their shadows casting spidery images on the sand, are the ghost crabs, large claws waving in fiendish anticipation.
There are cougars on Timicau. Do you think there are cougars on Dewees?
I do, even though SCDNR says not. I have spent years trying to see that big cat, but no luck so far. My daughter and son-in-law, brother-in-law and niece (both very scientific doctors who drew pictures of its long tail) and the Henry Savages, and several Dewees employees have all described spotting the same cat off and on over a period of years. I think the question is whether it is a released exotic pet or a Florida panther that has somehow survived a shadowy existence on wild islands like Capers, but I want to believe the latter theory and since I get to write the fiction, I have decreed it to be so.
Thanks so much for answering all of these– we can’t wait for your island reading, and the sequel to this book. Kindle copies are now available. Click the link below to go right to the kindle edition.
Need a great last minute Christmas gift? Buy Dershie McDevitt’s novel “Just Holler Bloody Murder.” It just became available on Amazon.com and will be coming out in local bookstores and on Kindle soon. The book follows female lead Callahan Banks as she returns to her beloved Timicau Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The imaginary island is based in part on Dershie’s experiences on Dewees Island.
If you order from Amazon, you can easily get the book before Christmas. I ordered a copy today and it will arrive on Wednesday.
Now, he has produced a beautiful calendar, Shore Leave, featuring birds of the lowcountry. I asked Curt about how he came to publish a calendar, and he told me the story of his friend Myra Vassian, who went to high school with him. Myra was inspired, as we are, by Curt’s photo-a-day facebook posts. She wanted to produce a calendar, and asked Curt to pick a charity that he wanted to designate as the recipient.
Curt got connected with the Jake McGuire Savage foundation years ago when he and his wife Becky donated a piano, and he thought that it would be a good fit: Myra is currently a voice teacher at Julliard. And with this calendar, he has woven together her interests, his passion for photography and wildlife, and his connection to the island community. The website at the Jake McGuire Savage Foundation describes their mission as follows:
“Jake’s Music” is a nonprofit charitable organization created by his family to honor his brief life.
“Jake’s Music” brings free after-school music lessons and instruments to inner city children ages 7-18 as an incentive for developing individual skills, for achieving self-esteem and for strengthening community ties in the neighborhoods it serves.
Our organization receives broad based community support and funds students in a variety of musical pursuits: composition, performance, music technology, recording, and exposure to musical events.
Dewees residents Jane and Carroll Savage created Jake’s music to honor their son Jake, who wanted to be a musician. Jane was very grateful of Curt’s efforts:
We are so appreciative of all that Myra and Curt have done to put this together and to direct all the proceeds to the Jake McGuire Savage Foundation. It is really wonderful that people can enjoy Curt’s amazing photos and know that all the proceeds are going to help bring music education to kids in the Charleston and North Charleston area who otherwise would not get that exposure. This is an exciting time for Jake’s Music with excellent programs going and new ones in the planning stage. Having people like Myra and Curt step forward unsolicited to generate funding for these programs is incredibly generous of them and gratifying to us.
To order your own copy, send a check for $20.00 to 530 Trapier Drive, Charleston SC, 29412. All of the money goes to the foundation.
Last weekend, when the Pro-Birder conference took place on Dewees, I was delighted to receive a gift from Instructor Drew Lanham. I had been admiring this field guide all day, because it is entirely photographic, and does a lot to show birds from a variety of angles in a variety of settings. The Crossley field guide to Eastern Birds is a great new sort of reference book. The photographer/author uses lots of pictures of each species, photoshopped against a natural habitat, to give you a clear picture of each bird.
Another fascinating field guide, this time about butterflies, was introduced to me by Lori Sheridan Wilson, island ecologist. Butterflies through Binoculars has more than just identification tips: it shows you what the host plants are for different butterflies, and explains when and where you are likely to find them.
And the third great find is Living Beaches of the Carolinas. This book has a treasure trove of information about the creatures you are likely to find in our tidepools. It’s a great reference for anyone who loves beachcombing and wonders about the shells and animals you find there!
Local author Mary Gordon Kerr has written her third book for children, again with the help of second graders in Sue Hopkins’ second grade class at Mount Pleasant Academy. And yes, that’s the Dewees Island Submarine tower on the cover. Kerr, whose daughter was in the class, came regularly to meet with the students, allowing them to suggest plot and character developments. Over the course of the year, the students learned about crafting a story, making the details seem real, connecting events plausibly, and editing and rewriting. “The students kept me honest and nudged me into writing faster,” Kerr said. “When Frances told me it was getting boring, we added action. When the other kids asked me when I was coming back, I knew I had to get the next section done for class.” Veteran teacher Sue Hopkins has experienced this project three times in the past six years. “To have a parent come into the class, creating a love of literacy and helping students learn about the creative process is a really special thing,” Hopkins said at the book launch at Barnes and Noble on Saturday October 29th. “And they have experienced just what goes into writing a book and how long it takes!” Now in the fourth grade, the students were delighted to sign copies for patrons, friends, and family.
The Dewees submarine tower got into the book after the group decided that they wanted to set the book in Charleston and include both time travel and history. Kerr had just been to the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, and was fascinated by the things she learned there. Ted, who was in the class, suggested the Sub Tower as part of the setting, and all the pieces came together for a Charleston historical novel about World War II and Operation Drumbeat. The actual history of the tower is fascinating, and we will share more about that later. Kerr’s video trailer for the book uses footage of the submarine tower taken by Reggie and local photogenius Adam Boozer when they were shooting footage for DeweesRealEstate.com.
The class will probably have a book launching party on the island, perhaps in January, where they can get a first hand look at the tower. In the meanwhile, the book is available locally at Barnes and Noble, on Kindle, and at Amazon.com. Hopefully, we can get a few copies to place in our bookstore.
Behind the Grave of Robert J. McCloud opens with an unusual snow day in Charleston, where Alice and Henry Burton find themselves cooped up inside. Their grandfather gives them a deck of playing cards that turn out to hide a puzzle-like map of downtown Charleston. Alice and Henry embark on an incredible adventure while trying to solve this riddle, a quest that will lead them into danger and heroics, asking more of them than they can imagine.
We know him as the arbiter of all things social on Dewees, keeping our Social Committee alive with great activities, bringing us to order with a clap or a bell, and helping improve our quality of live on the island. In his real life, Peter is a leader in his field, and as he gets ready to retire, he has released a book about his adventures.
Dr. Peter Cotton, a resident of Dewees Island, has released his autobiographical memoir of his professional career as a gastro-enterologist. Humorously titled The Tunnel at the End of the Light, the book chronicles his journey from a young resident to a sought-after physician who developed cutting-edge procedures and introduced new procedures all over the world.
His main clinical focus throughout has been in pancreatic and biliary diseases, and the use of the technique called endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (which he named, and is now thankfully known as ERCP).
Peter is scheduled to do his last ERCP tomorrow, May 13, and his family has come to celebrate with him. We look forward to seeing more of him on the island with his retirement.
The book club is discussing this book on Wednesday, May 19th, so think about heading to Dewees for that, if you have a chance. I really enjoyed reading this book… true to the cover, it is a lighthearted look at some pretty awesome medical advances. I caught up with Peter to ask him the following questions:
What made you decide to write your autobiography?
I didn’t really. Someone, maybe Marion, suggested that I write down some of the stories that I tell at dinners about my odd experiences around the world. At the same time I decided to write letters to my grandchildren telling them how life was very different 60 years ago. Suddenly I had most of a book.
How long did the writing process take?
About a year in spurts.
What is the most interesting thing you learned writing this book?
Good question. Maybe how lucky I am to have found a vehicle for my career that allowed me to flourish academically, but also to travel and make great friends around the world.
You have been at the leading edge of some exciting developments in Gastroenterology. Which one was the most influential?
My main contribution has been in the technique I describe called “ERCP”. I have been very closely associated with teaching it all over the world, but also in driving research and quality initiatives.
You feature a number of quotes from colleagues past. Was it a fun adventure to look them up, or had you stayed in relatively constant contact?
The ones I asked have all remained friends. Others were a little slow to respond.
Were you surprised by any of their recollections, like Dr. Howell’s recollection of your way of dealing with particularly difficult cases?
I wish I could remember things as well as they apparently could!
You have also recently published a book for children. What was that process like?
That book called “When Fred the snake was squished and mended” was actually written for my kids when they were small, a long time ago, but I could never find an appropriate illustrator. I was stimulated to try harder when my kids had children that wanted to hear the story. I am working on Fred2 and Fred3 at present.
Your career has led to some interesting friendships all over the world. Where are your favorite places to visit?
I am not a great tourist, despite having seen many of the world’s wonders. My idea of favorite places is much colored by the people that I know there (and maybe the quality of the local golf courses). But, since you ask, Hong Kong (New York energy with class and beauty), Australia and New Zealand. England can be beautiful in parts, but is really too crowded.
Your last ERCP is scheduled for this month. What special plans do you have? What are some of your goals for retirement?
I am doing my last patient procedure on friday 13th(!), live on CCTV to our big annual GI meeting at Wild Dunes. It seemed a good plan a year ago! The main focus of the meeting for me is to publicize the book and raise money for the new training fund that we have established. Many of my past trainees from Britain, Duke and MUSC will be there. Although stopping patient work, I will remain at MUSC part-time. I have a large research grant from the National Institues of Health for a multi-center study across USA that will keep me busy. Marion said she married me for life but not for lunch. I have interests in several biomedical companies, and in organizations trying to improve quality in medical interventions, and to reduce their risks.
How does someone buy a copy of your book?
The book is available at www.amazon.com, and signed copies from www.peterbcotton.com. You can send a check for $35 in favor of MUSC Foundation, addressed to Peter Cotton, 25 Courtenay Drive, ART 7100, MSC 290, Charleston, SC, 29425, USA. Do not forget to add your address. All proceeds will benefit the new Endoscopy Training Fund.” — Dr. Peter Cotton
All island owners and guests are welcome at the island book club function next week; bring an appetizer to share and your own beverages. Wednesday evening at the Huyler House. We wish Peter all the best in retirement!
Captain Buddy Ward drives the ferry on weekends. What many people don’t know is that Buddy is a published author. After reading his Tales of The Anna Karrue, I was curious to learn more about Buddy, his writing, and his books. You can get your own copy by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The price is $10.00 plus $5. for shipping. Buddy was kind enough to answer the following questions for me:
How did you get started with writing?
More than a writer, I’m a storyteller, and I have been for most of my life. My first professional work was done in high school and was a piece I submitted to Surfer Magazine. My storytelling took a twist with the publication of “The Tales of The Anna Karrue” when I learned I was able to share my stories with a much wider audience.
Who were your major influences?
Just prior to beginning “Anne Karrue” I had read the entire Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey and I was enthralled by her technique and approach and have emulated her when I can. I also find that I borrow from Tom Clancy’s writing style. And as almost all writers do, I aspire to become a combination of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway.
How close to real life are your stories?
Very close. A very wise person once told me to write about what I know. Many of the stories in “Anna Karrue” actually happened to myself or people I know.
Was there really a smuggling incident aboard a banana barge like the one you describe in “Billie’s Ride?”
Not exactly, although there have been many intricate plots involving smuggling in the history of the maritime industry. I did, however, always think that that would be a great way to do it, if one was so inclined, so I wrote it into the book.
What more can you tell us about Tales of the Anna Karrue?
The novel itself began slowly. I was working with a gentleman who had lost his captain license when a girl on waterskis slipped under his tug. I wrote that story and a few more. At that point, I intended to simply present them to my parents as a gift. I was encouraged to submit them for publication and was accepted by two publishing companies. I chose Tradd Street Press because of the wonderful letter that Betty Hamilton had written to me and her enthusiasm for the project. I tried to include her in the book’s dedication but she refused to let me do so.
What are you working on now?
I have a collection of original Christmas stories that I’ve written through the years. I am hoping to find a publisher for them in the near future. I also have two magazine articles, one that has been submitted and one in progress. I have finished about one-third of a new novel called “Brave West Wind” about a charter boat captain in the Bahamas. I have another completed manuscript entitled “Suffer the Little Children” which is a novel “looking for a home” about my experiences with the Juvenile Court. And finally, I would like to do a yearbook-type book based on my collection of magazine articles about Charleston Harbor that have been previously published in “The Waterlog.”
What do you like about working on the Dewees Ferry?
The people. It is a rare gift to be a part of an operation such as this where the owners and the employees get along so well on a day-to-day basis. My fellow captains are some of the finest I’ve ever worked with and the overall feeling of pride that runs through our entire crew is reminiscent of times gone by.
You have done a wide variety of jobs– working with the juvenile justice system and on the Charleston County Substance Abuse Commission. What do you do now during the week?
Other part-time jobs. I am an instructor at Sea School. And I pick up odd jobs as they appear. And I write.
How do you find time to write?
That doesn’t seem to be a problem as I have always found that the writing has a mind of its own. At times, the words just refuse to come and yet, on other occasions, I have been known to stay up all night plunking away on the keyboard. The stories will only come when they’re ready and when they’re ready, they must be written.
Is it true that you were a student at the Citadel with another local writer?
“Catfish” Brown was a classmate of mine who has published numerous works and is an accomplished artist. There are two other classmates, one who is a well-known author in the fantasy genre (whose name escapes me at the moment although I can see his face clearly in my mind), and John G. Richards, who writes historical fiction. Beyond that, I don’t know who else you might be referring to.
Are there stories about driving the Dewees Ferry that might make it into a book?
One of the truisms that I heard years ago is that you never want to meet a writer because you’ll end up in his next book.
There are two island authors that have new books for children out this year, and they might make great presents. From Peter Cotton, there is the just released When Fred the Snake Got Squished, and Mended. A poetic tale, Fred the snake must be put back together after an accident. With delightful illustrations and clever rhymes, this book will be a fun family read. Peter dedicated it to his grandchildren, after originally conceiving it for their parents many years ago.
The doctor then, immediately,
or rather, when he’d had his tea
prepared the thread and started sewing
Fred-Fred’s coming to his going.
Toone Lapham’s mother, Treska Lindsey, has two children’s books out. When Bastine Baked Bread is an adorable story about an incredibly industrious young lady who bakes bread. The illustrations are wonderful, as we might expect from the illustrator of the Dewees Wild Things Cookbook. Toone says,
“How Batistine Made Bread” was first published by Macmillan years ago. Even though it was chosen by New Yorker for its yearly list of Best Children’s Books she was never quite happy with some of the changes that were made by the publisher. Her other book “In The Land of Warminess” was accepted by Simon and Schuster but rather than make changes that she might regret she decided to team up with Whitney Blake, a publishing executive, to form Treska Lindsey Books.
These two gems are their first efforts.
If interested in ordering you can either order through Amazon or just e-mail me with what you would like (12.50 each) and we will mail them. (or you could bug your local bookstore to order them.)