Category Archives: History

Happy NaNoWriMo! Who’s Going to Try It?

For those not in the know, November is National Novel Writing Month, where the challenge is to write a novel in 30 days. It is a contest, of sorts; there’s no real winner and you are really just competing against yourself.  However, thousands of people from all over the world sign up to “compete.”  They even form teams, plot ahead of time, but don’t actually start writing until 12 a.m. November 1st. And the goal? To write 175 pages (or 50,000 words) by 12 a.m. on November 30th.

Sound extreme? Maybe. But what a cool idea to promote writing and reading!

As an English teacher, avid writer and blogger, and self-confessed bibliophile, I love it! And while I am much too busy this month to participate, and I have already written my share of novels. (It’s my favorite form of writing, by the way!)  In fact, I my first novel, Soul Conspiracy, went on to be one of 8 finalists (from out of 200 submissions) in the 1998 International Hemingway Novel Competition.  Alas, I did not pursue getting it published because I still want to re-write it to make it a faster-paced thriller. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a perfectionist with my novel writing.)

At any rate, I thought in honor of NaNoWriMo, I’d select a few novels set in or about Florida. Some of these you may have read, others may be new to you. Feel free to add your favorite Florida-based novels!

20 Great Florida Novels

1. A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith (This author has won more awards from the state of Florida for this novel than any other novelist, including Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.)

2. Crossing the Creek, A Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, by Anna Lillios  (Brand new, but simply wonderful!)

3. The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (This novel won a Pulitzer Prize)

4. Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

5. Seraph on the Suwanee, by Zora Neale Hurston

6. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (This novel is on most lists of 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century)

7. To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway’s only novel set in the U.S. Vastly different from the movie.)

8. Tourist Season, by Carl Hiassen (One of Hiassen’s many outstanding books set in Florida.)

9. Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski (This novel won a Newberry Award, the highest honor for young adult books.)

10. Ninety-Two in the Shade, by Thomas McGuane

11. We Are The Boys, by Glendon Swarthout (This novel was the inspiration for the movie by the same name.)

12. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne (Written in 1890 and has man launching to space from Florida’s WEST coast!)

13. Guard of Honor, by James Gould Cozzens (This novel won a Pulitzer Prize.)

14. Hoot, by Carl Hiassen (This is a young adult novel by Hiassen.)

15. Shadow Country, by Peter Matthiessen

16. At The Moon’s Inn, by Andrew Lytle (This novel adeptly explores De Soto’s ventures into Florida.)

17. Mile Zero, by Thomas Sanchez

18. Remembering Blue, by Connie May Fowler (This is a wonderful young adult book.)

19. Big Trouble, by Dave Barry (One of Barry’s many hilarious novels.)

20. Florida Roadkill, by Tim Dorsey (Again, one of many by Dorsey.)

There are lots of other books set in Florida, and if you love mysteries you can check out this list here.  And here is another good list of many different genres, all still set in Florida.

And, for a final shameless plug about books set in Florida, you can always check out one of my other novels,  Confessions of a Gator Cheerleader which you can get as an iPhone app, too. 🙂

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Education, General Info, History, Just for Me, Literary, Uniquely Florida

November’s Top 5 “Visual Arts” Events

1) 35th Annual Festival of the Masters

November 12-14 at Downtown Disney
We love this annual event that showcases 150 award-winning sculptors, jewelers, and painters, both local and national. It is a FREE event held at Downtown Disney West Side from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm daily. (And, check out all the great dining you can enjoy at lunch or dinner!)

2010 Festival artwork "Coming Together" by Amel Platon

 

Add in the House of Blues special Folk Art Festival, featuring over 40 folk artists and musicians, and then the Central Florida Chalk Association decorating over 6,000 square feet of sidewalks, and this is a pretty cool weekend to see!

One of the sidewalk chalk masterpieces from last year.

Another sidewalk chalk masterpiece, by Orangewood Christian School.

2. Art at the Casa

November 3-10 at Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum
Featuring Bernie Martin, this artist is famous for his look of a 19th Century impressionist. Often featuring ballerinas, we’re excited to see his work in person! Martin’s work has won top awards in numerous festivals, including the Coconut Grove and Maitland Art Festivals, and has sold internationally through Sotheby’s and Mayer’s.

And, if you have yet to visit Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, you are in for a real treat. Currently situated along Winter Park’s famed Park Avenue, the home was once located a long block or two east and sat on the banks of Lake Osceola and was slated for demolition. Alarmed residents rallied together and raised $ to have the historic home moved to its current home. Casa Feliz, or “Happy House” in Spanish, was designed by noted architect James Gamble Rogers II and built in 1932. It is definitely worth a visit!

Casa Feliz at its current location

3. Highwaymen Weekend

November 20-21 at the Orange County Regional History Center
You’ve heard about the legendary Florida Highwaymen that painted the scenes of Florida, right? Well, now’s your chance to meet some of the original painters at the Orange County Regional History Center. With a special exhibit entitled “Against All Odds: The Art of the Highwayman,” you can come and discover what makes this artwork so valuable and highly collectible.

Artist James Gibson showing an original.

The history of the Highwaymen dates back to the 1950s and 60s when a group of self-taught painters from Fort Pierce, Florida banded together to produce over 200,000 pieces of art depicting Florida’s landscapes. The paintings were sold out of cars for a relatively cheap price; however, when rediscovered in the 90s, the values sky-rocketed.

Schedule of events:

  • November 20: Meet Mary Ann Carroll, James Gibson, and Issac Knight
  • November 21: Meet Curtis Arnett, Robert Lewis Jr., and Roy McLendon

4. Season’s Celebration

November 13-December 24 at Gallery on First in Historic Sanford
We love any excuse to go visit Historic Sanford, and this gives us the right reason. “Season’s Celebration,” held at Gallery on First, will feature original artwork by studio artists Stewart Jones, Cindy Sturla, Stan Surman, Robert Holewinski, Sharon Rae Hyder, and Lori Anne Harris. Lots of great work to see!

Artist Stewart Jones at work

"Winter Wonderland" by Stewart Jones

Curious about Sanford itself? It used to be a thriving port town, one of the biggest and most important in Central Florida. In fact, it was almost chosen as the home for Rollins College before a sudden change of heart placed the school in Winter Park. Situated on the St. John’s River, Sanford features bricklined streets, towering oaks, elegant store-fronts and large, nineteenth-century Victorian homes. The downtown, which once featured feed stores and dry good sellers, now showcases antique shops, restaurants and art galleries. And with the marina, Central Florida Zoo, and Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, Sanford is a great pace to visit!

Monroe Harbour Marina, Orlando's closest marina

5. Rob Reedy: Doodah DADA

November 5 – January 5 at Maitland Art Center
Known for whimsical sculptures, Rob Reedy has recently returned to mixed media and painting.  We can’t wait to see his whimsy in person… I mean, check out the name of the exhibit already!

From the artist’s perspective: “Growing up in rural Mississippi was challenging. Traditions, such as storytelling, family, and faith had a tremendous affect in shaping my work, as well as my values. I see it as a refreshing force in a world that can sometimes be cold, static, and impersonal. My philosophy is an interesting balance between intellect and superstition, science and magic, New York and Mississippi….a sort of ‘Doo Da Dada.’ ”

And, if you have never visited the Maitland Art Center, it is such a delightfully artsy place! Founded as founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary American artist and architect André Smith, it continues today as a center of art, education, and excellence. And, the building itself is a work of art, adorned with carvings, statues, and beads. Truly beautiful!

Courtyard at the Maitland Art Center

Leave a comment

Filed under disney, History, Maitland, Museum, November 2010, The Arts, Top 5 Visual Arts Events, winter park

Happy Czech Independence Day! (Yeah, I said it)

On Thursday, October 28, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens will be celebrating it’s namesake’s birth nation by celebrating the traditional day of Czech Independence.  (FYI: museum founder, Albin Polasek, was born and raised in the province of Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic.)

To celebrate, the museum is offering free admission from 10 am to 4 pm, and if you have never visited before, it is well worth the trip to Winter Park!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Museum, winter park

Maitland Art & Historical Association: Groovin’ in the Grove!

The Maitland Art & Historical Association raised over $64,000 at their annual event, this time being “An Orange and White Affair.”  The Sheraton Orlando North was transformed into an orange grove, where guests got their groove on in groovy attire. They also enjoyed fine dining, dancing, interacting with artists, as well as a silent auction. Way to go, Maitland, for uniting behind this worthy cultural association!

Enjoy these photos of the event! (Provided by MacBethphoto.com)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 Comment

Filed under Charity, History, Maitland

NASA: A Historical View

Editor’s note: Yes, I use the more-modern “a” historical view instead of the older “an” historical view. Get over it!

I was so excited to receive confirmation (and then the press credentials!) for the upcoming STS133 #Nasatweetup…it is just a few weeks away! (Only 150 people were selected to attend…alas, @swimmerjoe was not so lucky!) He and I had a wonderful visit with @AndreaFarmer when she invited us to visit Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Center. (Well worth the trip!)

However, the last (and only time) I was up close and personal for an actual launch was when I was in middle school (think early-80’s) and I was on movie-maker and director Jesse Wolf’s family’s sailboat on the Intracoastal Waterway. And, if memory serves me correctly (since it was one of the early launches) we were able to go much closer than boats would be able to today…I still have the image of the brilliant comtrail against the blue sky burned into my memory banks!

So, when I heard NASA had released some historic photos via their Flickr.com “Commons” account, I just had to check them out. They show some of the very earliest pictures from NASA, including President John F. Kennedy touring Cape Canaveral.  My favorite? Tough to choose but I think the one of President Richard Nixon braving bad weather with the masses (under umbrellas) to witness the launch of Apollo 12.

Enjoy this walk down memory lane…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under History, Just for Me, Politics, Shuttle, Space, Uniquely Florida

Greenwood Cemetery: Orlando’s Most Exclusive Gated Community

With all the terrifyingly thrilling buzz about Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights XX and Sea World/Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream, the Top 5 is embracing the spooky season… we’ve dusted off our collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales, along with Washington Irving‘s ghost stories. (Yep, we’re kind of geeks!)

So, when Don Price, the sexton of the Greenwood Cemetery–the City of Orlando‘s only cemetery–invited us for a Moonlight Walking Tour, we jumped at the chance to stroll among the headstones and crypts, and ponder the souls that dwell there.  So, into the car we went and bravely made our way to the Greenwood Street entrance, where a set of intimidating wrought iron gates lit by flickering lamps awaited us.

With a sardonic smile, Don greeted us, along with a few other unfortunate souls from the Orange County Convention Visitors Bureau and the Orlando Arts Magazine, and so our small pack followed our fearless leader armed with a single flashlight into the night.  Dark clouds masked the eye of the moon and from time to time helicopters cryptically flew overhead as if searching desperately for someone or something. Other than that, the grounds were quiet as we were followed by our own footsteps. Silent owls swooped and the whisk of bats’ wings could be heard. I, of course, shivered despite the heat and humidity, and was fully prepared for a shadowy figure to be stalking us.

What I found instead, was a truly refreshing new look at the city I call home.

The first grave we happened upon was that of July Perry, a black man who in 1920 was stabbed, shot, and then hanged on the property of Orlando judge  John Cheney as a dire warning.  (I had no idea the namesake of Old Cheney Highway had played such a large part in the racial tensions that historically plagued the South!) During the time of the Jim Crow Laws, Perry had been denied the right to vote, and Judge Cheney was attempting to aid Perry, by sending him back to the voting precinct to get the names of the men denying him.

Perry made the ill-choice to return with a friend and a shotgun for support. In Ocoee later that night, retired sheriff Sam Salisbury would be shot in the right arm as he was attempting to serve a warrant on Perry, and things quickly spiraled out of control resulting in a lynch mob, as well as 25 black homes, 2 churches, and a masonic lodge burned to the ground.

Perry was laid to rest in the “black part” of the cemetery, and ironically enough, I discovered the cemetery was segregated in many more ways:  “Union” vs. “Yankee” soldiers,  the “in” crowd and the “out” crowd, the “English” colony vs. the “Americans.”

I had studied Florida’s past, hadn’t I?  Why was all this missing from the history books!

It should be noted we later crossed near the grave of Sam Salisbury, the retired sheriff who got shot while serving a warrant on the tragic July Perry. Karma apparently has a way of finding itself and its unknowing victims…Sam’s right arm was left paralyzed as a result of the gunshot wound on election night in 1920.  However, 54 years later, Sam tripped down the stairs, and the gun he had tucked in his belt went off, killing him with a bullet to the head!

Continuing to meander through the stones, Orlando’s streets came to life as we were told stories about their namesakes.  We met Samuel Robinson, think Robinson Street, who served as county surveyor for 16 years. In his travels across Central Florida, he gathered a large collection of gold and silver ornaments from Native American mounds, a collection that now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And, it should be noted that Sam Robinson chose the highest point in Central Florida for his gravesite.

Samuel Robinson's "terrazo stone" marker.

We also heard about Aaron Jernigan, Orlando’s first settler and the city’s original namesake. It would be called Jernigan until the name was changed to Orlando by Judge J.D. Spear. Spear was a great fan of Shakespeare, and relished the performances of Shakespeare among others at the Orlando Opera House, and so it is rumored that he chose to name the city after one of Shakespeare’s characters from As You Like It.  (This would make sense with Rosalind Street, Orlando’s love interest.) However, other rumors of the city’s naming center around an unconfirmed account of a heroic soldier named Orlando Reeves.

Orlando Opera House

We also heard about other city founders and pioneers, including Holden, Delaney, Gore, Leu, and Beacham.  (I remember my mother telling me stories about the old Beacham Theater.) Apparently, Beacham teamed with J.F. Ange of the Angebuilt Hotel across the street. It turns out, there is a tunnel running under Orange Avenue connecting the two, so Beacham’s actors could make their way to and from the theater in secret. (Yes, the tunnel is still there, although bricked up on either side.)

We ran across other names, fixtures in Orlando’s history, albeit not quite as famous as those with streets named after them. We saw the grave of Ruth Pounds, of Edgewater Drive’s Pounds Dance Studio, where generations of teens have been sent for ballroom dance and etiquette lessons. (Your Top 5 editor is included in this! I spent every Monday night during 7th grade at her dance studio…)  We saw the headstone of Chauncey Boyle, at one time the strongest man in the world.

Strongest man in the world, as shown by the barbell on his headstone

We also saw the grave of Delta Burke‘s father. Apparently she visits fairly often, casually chatting a while with Don and the other caretakers at the cemetery.  (My hubby liked hearing about this as Delta was a companion of his mother, when they both were in their pageant days!)

And then we saw the grave marker of Francis Eppes… who is he?  He is Thomas Jefferson’s grandson (he was even born at Monticello) before making his way to Florida. Want to know why else he’s important? He founded the Florida State College for Women… now known as Florida State University! (Hmmm…shouldn’t we ship him back to the panhandle or something?)

Francis Eppes, Founder of FSU

We also saw large crypts, straight out of H.P. Lovecraft‘s “The Outsider.” (By the way, if you’ve never read this tale, it is my all-time favorite!) The Wilmott family, who owned the Tremont Hotel, has a crypt with a curious window of orange glass in the back, and on certain days of the year, when the sun is just right, the entire crypt is aglow with the eerie orange color.

On certain days, this glows orange

Another crypt, hand-built by its owner, mysteriously has no death date. It simply reads “1836  – 19–”  This leads many a mischief-maker to light candles on the doorstep, in hopes the still-living undead might make an appearance. (Apparently the owner died with no heirs to pay for the remaining numbers, thus it is not quite as mysterious as it appears!)

So as we made our way around in the dark listening to Don spin his sinister stories of Orlando magic, I found myself reflecting on this wonderful city of ours.  It is thrilling to now understand that we have an actual history–one that is great and turbulent and full of true characters that forged us into “The City Beautiful.” (Yes, we also saw the grave of Jessie Branch, the lady responsible for giving Orlando this motto.)

I believe we should all come to understand the factors that led us to today, we should embrace both the warts and the beauty marks. If we don’t, how can we truly appreciate all that Orlando has overcome to be “The City Beautiful” it is today?

Mrs. R. Greer - Orlando's first professional painter

Don retold history in such a respectful yet intriguing manner, that he rivals any professional story-teller. So, in between your trips to the theme parks this Halloween season, make your way to the 100 plus rolling acres near downtown where Orlando’s most exclusive and famous residents now call home. You will be glad you did!

4 Comments

Filed under Celebrity, Convention Center, Education, Fun, General Info, History, Just Plain Weird, Seasonal, TV Fame, Uniquely Florida, Universal

Are you behaving?

If not, you better check out Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford. The show opens tomorrow and runs through September 19.

Built in 1922, the theater is the perfect place to go for a date night. Perhaps have dinner at one of Sanford’s fantastic restaurants (Hollerbach’s Willow Tree serving German fare or Two Blondes and a Shrimp) before hitting an art gallery such as the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery or even one of the numerous antique stores. Then mosey over to the theatre to catch the show.

Believe me, Sanford is worth the trip!

2 Comments

Filed under Fun, History, The Arts