The Creative Nonfiction Journal is holding a contest for their spring 2013 issue, “Southern Sin.” I’ve been thinking about it for months now, but haven’t been able to put pen to paper. Not sure why… growing up in Mississippi in the ‘50s and ‘60s where almost everyone’s family seemed to be “dysfunctional,” and then being part of a cult-like religious group in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I certainly know enough about sin—my own and others’—to write this essay. (And I’ve got two book-length memoirs on a shelf that I haven’t been ready to publish.) The first short story I wrote as an adult, shortly after moving to Memphis in the late 1980s, was called, “Southern Sinners and Shakespeare.”
When I was nine years old, I answered all 107 questions in the Westminster Shorter Catechism by heart when asked by the Session (elders) at Covenant Presbyterian Church in order to become a communing member. Number 14 is forever etched onto my soul:
Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
As Flannery O’Connor says:
“The serious writer has always taken the flaw in human nature for his starting point, usually the flaw in an otherwise admirable character. Drama usually bases itself on the bedrock of original sin, whether the writer thinks in theological terms or not. The Christian novelist is distinguished from his pagan colleagues by recognizing sin as sin.” (Mystery and Manners)
The deadline has been moved from May 31 to July 31, so maybe I’ll make a stab at it. If you’re interested in submitting an essay, rules and details are here.