Ryan Sparks

The Most Expensive Thing You Own is Time

Ryan Sparks

First off, thanks for taking the time out of your day to click this. Whether you’ve been following Southern Glossary from the beginning or just showed up today, you have my gratitude for giving it the time of day.

There are over a million articles, columns, blog posts, and rants posted to the internet every day. All that on top of user comments, social media posts, and content that isn’t even created by humans but by language-harvesting bots. You’re focusing in on a tiny sliver of that wave of words, and I thank y’all for it.

Hopefully, you’re looking because you see something you have an affinity for, maybe a little bit of detail you haven’t found anywhere else. Hopefully, you buy into our idea that there is a South unburdened by archetypes or stereotypes, full of art and enterprise.

Southern Glossary has its origins in a conversation my partner Brad Rhines and I had shortly after New Year’s last year. Sitting under the dim Christmas lights of of Snake & Jake’s, an infamous bar here in New Orleans, we were having a “cain’t get no satisfaction” type of conversation about the local startup news blog we had written for. Writing for a hyperlocal, online-only outlet had its perks (we could go beyond the three short paragraphs allotted most coverage in an alt-weekly) but definitely had its downside as well.

The question that stumped us that night: Who else would publish the kind of hybrid feature/profile/subjective essay we enjoyed writing?

Six months later I was fed up and decided it was time to throw my energy behind something I felt more personally attuned to. The New Orleans cultural coverage market was approaching oversaturation, so taking up the whole South as a beat seemed like a good idea.

Southern Glossary didn’t have a lot of definition to it at the beginning aside from “interesting stories.” I just wanted more of what I was having trouble finding. I reached out to writers and photographers of all stripes at the beginning with some grand but vague hopes. The elevator pitch to potential contributors was “less literary than Oxford American, grungier than Garden & Gun,” or, “Natural Geographic meets Juxtapoz, below the Mason-Dixon.”

Since then it's been a crash course on web design, online typography, social media engagement, and headline tweaking along with the constant discovery of new artists, makers, storytellers, museums, and independent galleries across the region. I’ve still got some work to do yet on refining the voice and role of Southern Glossary, but the site has come a long way since its initial layout and meager offerings. At the very least, it’s the kind of place that will publish these misfit features.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done in the past year and of the people we got to speak to. That’s the idea behind this Annual: we get to show off our strengths a little bit. When I spoke to Elaine McMillion, the woman behind the groundbreaking interactive documentary Hollow, she was driving around West Virginia (into pockets of poor cell reception) giving demonstrations of her work in universities and town halls. Now, coming up almost a year later, she’s got an Emmy nomination, a Peabody, and has screened Hollow at the United States Capitol. I don’t claim any part of pulling her slingshot back, but I got to share a look behind a type of work that the country has been waiting for, a type of work that can bring the story of rural Southerners to millions without being condescending, and I got to go beyond an artificial 500-word limit.

So linger a little longer, if you can. Read and share.

Over the next month we’ll be focusing on inviting more contributors to add something to the fire. That part proved difficult last summer, but it's a year on, now, and we’ve made a nice clearing. We’ll have more details on our blog and social media soon, but in the meantime if you’re a photographer or writer interested in participating (or know someone else who is) send us an e-mail.


Ryan Sparks

View the Southern Glossary Annual