This upcoming Saturday we have yet another author signing during this busy holiday season. Tracy Revels, author of Upon the Face of Waters: A Brief History of Wakulla Springs, is a graduate of Florida State University and currently a professor of history at Wofford College. Her book gives a detailed account of the rich history of our regional gem found just outside Tallahassee: Wakulla Springs. I reached out to Tracy this week in order to get to know her better, and to provide a little background information for our readers and visitors.
1. Your historical interests are found in the South, Wakulla Springs to be even more specific, what led you to being interested in that particular location and then to you publishing a written work focused on Wakulla Springs?
TR: Wakulla Springs is very close to Tallahassee, and when I was at FSU it was my favorite place to go to relax, so I’ve loved it for a very long time. When I began my PHD program and was in search of a topic for my dissertation, my major professor told me that he had always wanted someone to write the history of Wakulla Springs, so I was very happy to do it.
Ten years after I graduated, the Friends of Wakulla Springs contacted me about publishing my dissertation. The staff at the state park had been using my dissertation for some time, to help orient new workers to the history of the site. We published WATERY EDEN: A HISTORY OF WAKULLA SPRINGS in 2002. A little over a year ago, the Friends asked me if I would be interested in revising and updating that book, which was now out of print. I agreed, and did a major overhaul to make it more more reader-friendly and to catch up on all the issues that have arisen in the park since 2002. We now have a paperback book—UPON THE FACE OF THE WATERS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF WAKULLA SPRINGS—that I hope will be enjoyable and informative for guests of the park and local residents alike.
2. What would you say is the best way to sum up the purpose of your historical account of Wakulla Springs, and the area's rich history? To be more direct, why did you feel Wakulla Springs' history needed to be recorded and published?
TR: Wakulla Springs is a treasure. It has an amazing natural history as well as a rich archeological and written history. Mankind has been enjoying this wonder for almost 20,000 years. And now, Wakulla Springs is endangered; indeed, all of Florida’s springs are threatened. I believe that if people can learn more about the history of their environment, if they can appreciate the amazing story that is right in their backyard, maybe they will be more motivated to protect it.
3. As familiar as you are with the area, what's your favorite aspect of visiting Wakulla Springs?
TR: My favorite aspect of being at Wakulla is to be on the river cruise, slowly floating along the river and seeing all the birds and wildlife. Once the boat is away from the dock and around the curve, it is easy to imagine that I’m back in Florida before the Spanish arrived, seeing what the First Floridians must have seen and hearing the same sounds. The river cruise is also special to me because I got married aboard the Heron, one of the boats, with Wakulla’s alligators, birds, and manatees as witnesses.
4. Do you enjoy working with local areas such as Wakulla Springs when writing, as opposed to larger or more well-known cities?
TR: I’m always interested in social history, how ordinary people really lived, as opposed to writing biographies of famous people or deconstructing battles or revolutions. So places where ‘everyday life’ happened are very important to me, especially places in Florida. All my historical writing is about Florida, which I think is a very misunderstood state. Wakulla Springs is part of the story of Florida’s tourism industry, which I explored in SUNSHINE PARADISE: A HISTORY OF FLORIDA TOURISM. I do enjoy learning about the big cities and their role in shaping our state, but to me the Florida that is nearest and dearest to my heart is the “Real Florida,” the state parks and natural preserves that I hope we will be able to save for generations to come.
5. What's your favorite aspect of being a writer thus far? You say you've experimented with fiction, can we expect a publication anytime soon? That would be exciting!
TR: I love to write---it’s something that I do every day, whether working on a particular historical project or toying with fiction. It’s like a form of exercise to keep the mind and spirit healthy. So far, I have five published works on Florida history, and I have three small Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels: SHADOWFALL, SHADOWBLOOD, and SHADOWWRAITH. They all play on the idea that Sherlock Holmes is more than a detective, he is also a wizard (so many of his clients called him that!). Sherlock Holmes is the other great love of my life---I teach classes about him, and through this hobby I’ve made friends around the world. At some point I hope to have a completely original novel written, and my next history project will be a comparison of Northern and Southern women during the Civil War. There’s nothing like staying busy!
6. Any parting words for our readers and customers who may come visit you on Saturday?
TR: I look forward to meeting your readers and customers and will be happy to share my love of Wakulla Springs, Florida history, and Sherlock Holmes with them! I was raised in Madison, Florida, so I’m virtually a local and will be happy to be so close to home over the Holidays.
We know our customers enjoy our rich selection of regional books - so come on down and visit Tracy during her signing this Saturday (12/17) from 2PM-4PM. You will not only get the chance to meet this wonderful author, but you can also check out her book on Wakulla Springs. Maybe check the area out on a nice day! We've also got a special story time for the kids this Saturday with author Ben Wilder of BIG AND SMALL, GOD MADE THEM ALL from 11AM-1PM. We hope to see you this busy weekend - knock out all of your holiday shopping with us at The Bookshelf and our specially curated selection of books and gifts available in the store. And don't worry, we can also order something for you if you can't find it in the store! See you there!