They are women of words, a Greenwood mother-and-daughter team bursting with ideas and projects and the will and talent to see them through to completion.
Erica Sandifer’s novel “Sunshine in the Delta” was published in 2017. Based on stories her grandmother told her when she was a child, it portrays migrant farmers in Money and North Greenwood in the 1960s as they struggle through.
That book was followed this year by her mother Tracy Lynn Sandifer-Hunter’s sequel “Clear Skies in the Delta,” which picked up the main characters of the earlier novel as they evolved and journeyed from Greenwood to Lagos, Nigeria.
Sandifer-Hunter’s paintings grace both covers, and both writers read and signed copies at Turnrow Book Co., where Sandifer once worked. Their books do well there, as they do online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The paintings were plucked from the walls of Sandifer-Hunter’s home, which is adorned with her paintings and sculptures and contains a studio where she does more, dreaming of enough art for her own show. She has exhibited her works at Cottonlandia, now the Museum of the Mississippi Delta. When she isn’t writing, painting and sculpting, she teaches English at Greenwood High School.
Sandifer’s novel starts with a poem she wrote at the sales desk at Turnrow, inspired by the words around her and the blues music playing from the shop’s sound system. She lives in Huntsville, Alabama, now writing about food for a magazine there and doing freelance marketing for her brother and a Chicago company.
Sandifer is working on a new novel, co-writing it with another Greenwood writer, and expects to have it published in the fall. At the same time, the mother-and-daughter team is using Sandifer-Hunter’s summer break to turn their novels into a play that Sandifer wants to direct. She wants to see it onstage next summer in the Delta. Don’t bet against her.
That’s a lot of work and a lot of words, but they all seem to be connected with the tales each woman heard when growing up, the stories that inspired their writing and painting and are coming together to form their play, which will bring the words back to life.
Sandifer-Hunter has been painting since she was a teenager and writing poetry at the same time. She said the novels started with her daughter’s decision to enroll in Full Sail University to pursue her master’s degree in creative writing with a focus on screenwriting. She had earned her undergraduate degree from Mississippi Valley State University, the same university from which her mother graduated. Sandifer’s master thesis generated a screenplay that flowed into her novel “Sunshine in the Delta.”
Sandifer-Hunter said both books were “fictionalized memoirs” and include the neighborhoods her family had lived in when they moved from Money to Greenwood. Sandifer-Hunter easily slides into first person when recounting portions of the novels that revolve around one character’s coming of age.
“It tells my story as I became an older child and a teenager,” she said. “After I graduate from high school, the book becomes totally fictionalized. After I graduate, the readers are introduced to some characters that are also in ‘Sunshine in the Delta.’”
The women have differing views on whose idea it was for Sandifer-Hunter to write the sequel. The mother said her daughter gave her inspiration to do so when Sandifer was too busy with school to satisfy the demand from readers for more of the story. She had already been writing a novel and was able to move into the new story.
“I was excited but also just: Really?” Sandifer said. “But not in a bad way. I just didn’t imagine it as a series.”
Now, the mother and daughter work to piece the two books together into a play. Sandifer said she wants to direct it and sees it on stages in the Delta and Jackson.
“I would love to have this play in production next summer,” she said.
And while this mother and daughter move through their goals, they have other plans, too. Sandifer talks about wanting to become a writer for television and sees herself working in a room of writers, perhaps in Los Angeles. Sandifer-Hunter sees herself publishing a collection of poems and artwork, building that one-woman show at some gallery somewhere, and working on the sequel to the sequel. She’s even got a title, “Overcast Skies in the Delta.”
And both women seem to be inspired by Sandifer-Hunter’s mantra that “you should always start with you.”
“And if you have a dream inside of you, don’t give up on it,” she said. “You can achieve any dream you set out to achieve, and it doesn’t really matter what age or stage you’re in life. What matters is that you actually begin the journey.”
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.