Friday, October 17, 2008

Guest Blogger: Augusta Scattergood


I’m a writer. I’ve never really aspired to radio. Oh, sure, I listen in the car to NPR. I nod, turn the volume up in traffic, tell my husband to keep his hands off when he attempts to change the station. But it never occurred to me that I, too, could be on public radio.

To be truthful, I’d flirted with radio fame once before. My friend Ken claimed he’d heard my magazine essay about the Southern ephemera decorating my powder room. Turns out his wife collects articles for their car trips and was reading to him. Reading my essay in Mississippi Magazine. He was confused. But perhaps Ken planted the seed of what might be.

Still, I was skeptical when an e-mail popped into my inbox, claiming to be from an assistant producer on a weekend public radio show. She’d loved my Christian Science Monitor essay about how I’d left the South but still journeyed to Mississippi from New Jersey each summer to pick figs from my sister’s tree. And would I speak about the fig essay next Saturday on the show?

I stared at the computer screen. Her name sounded potentially spam-ish. But Googling proved me wrong. The show had a legitimate website, filled with pictures. I answered her e-mail. I’d love to talk and here’s my number. I’d hardly hit the “send” button before the phone rang.

A frenzy of calls and e-mails from California to New Jersey followed. Would I travel back to my sister’s Mississippi fig tree this week for an on-site interview? (No) Could we tape the interview in the shade of a New Jersey fig tree? (You’ve got to be kidding.)

In my newspaper essay, I’d written about shopping for figs at our local Farmer’s Market. The price of a ripe fig in New Jersey—even one grown locally—made flying to Mississippi for free figs almost worth it. I would find a fig tree in New Jersey. Public Radio was calling!

At the third nursery, I struck fig paydirt. The address scribbled on the back of a sales slip was a mile from my house. I’d found my figs—37 glorious trees full of budding fruit. I knocked on the gardener’s door, explained my dilemma. He showed me the mature trees he lovingly wrapped in burlap to protect them from the harsh northeast winters. He touched the young grafts lined up in their green plastic tubs. His trees had traveled to his New Jersey backyard from as far as Italy, from as close as North Carolina. I remembered what I loved about growing up around figs.

Off went another round of e-mails to “my” new producer. She hired a sound engineer, and he and I rendezvoused at the fig grove down the street. Feeding me questions via cellphone, the young producer in Los Angeles reminded me to answer in complete sentences. “These fig trees remind me of my grandmother’s trees. Just touching them takes me back to the playhouse my sister and I made underneath those fuzzy fat leaves.” Like that.

A loud 737 headed for Newark International Airport and the street traffic whizzed by, but the sound guy held the microphone close to me and smiled at my comments. Meanwhile my friend the associate producer kept up her encouraging cellphone banter for almost an hour.

I drove home dreaming of my radio career. For the topic of late summer gardens, my charmingly Southern voice was irresistible.

But wait! Another e-mail arrived. She’d forgotten. They needed pictures. Pictures? For the radio? I was wearing sweats and sunglasses. And although the figs on my sister’s Mississippi tree might be plump and purple, the figs in New Jersey remained mostly green and tiny. Hardly photogenic.

But I persuaded my husband to return with me to the grove to capture the essence of those New Jersey trees with a (very) long shot of me fondling a fig leaf. I e-mailed the photos to the producer, for the show’s website, and waited for my big moment. “Pictures are terrific,” she e-mailed back. “You’ll hear from me soon.” I waited. And waited. And waited.

She was busy interviewing the Dali Lama. I could understand that. He surely trumped my fig commentary. Next week, she promised. I alerted my sister, my Writers Group, my high school friends, my neighbors. Tune in next Saturday! I’ll be on the radio.

But alas, my big moment wasn’t meant to be. I was rejected by the radio. My friend the assistant producer had an emergency. She left the country. They filled in with other topics. Perhaps next fig season, I’ll show up talking about figs. I guess I don’t mind being replaced by their pieces on fluffernutter and leaf peeping. And especially by the Dali Lama.

But from now on, I think I’ll stick to writing about it.

Augusta Scattergood is a contributing writer for Skirt! Magazine and Delta Magazine. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the St. Petersburg Times, and Mississippi Magazine as well as the USADeepsouth and Children’s Literature websites. She’s hard at work on two middle-grade kids’ books with her critique groups who, sadly, do not serve snickerdoodles.
Visit her blog at


Kathy L. Patrick said...

Oh, I loved your fig story. Almost as good as the fig leaf one.
What I loved the most is the fact that I too have fell for these seductions of fame and fortune more times than "Joe Six Pack" has been stated in the recent political news. I must of fell for the "I'm a producer for the (fill in the blank, radio, television, agent for Eninem, so many times it is not even funny). Your hopes get all rev'd up, the adrenaline is coursing through your veins, you have told everybody including the plumber who fixed your kitchen sink, that you were going to be on (again fill in the blank, radio, television program)that it's not even funny until one day it really does happen! And guess what? Your life changes for maybe 24 hours then back to normal, I'm yet again, Madeleine's mom or Jay's wife.
You know what I love about this blog site so much? Everytime I read one, I'm going me too, me too!
I look forward to your next blog and when I get my own television show, I promise you, you will be my first guest.
When pigs fly,
Kathy L. Patrick
The Pulpwood Queen or as I'm known around here, Madeleine's mom or Jay's wife
P.S. And remember please don't take my message too seriously. I think I'm being all funny but somehow humor doesn't always translate well through email message. The only thing I get really serious about is books and promoting reading. Suddenly I am having a craving for fig cake.

Kerry Madden said...

I love this fig story, Gusty! Norah's favorite fruit is a fig, so I can see why you go home to your sister's fig tree! Anyway, congrats and welcome to A GOOD BLOG IS HARD TO FIND. It's wonderful to have your beautiful storytelling voice here.

All best
Kerry Madden

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks for your comments. It's always fun to "meet" fellow fig lovers. And it's good to be here with such great writers. Thanks for having me.

mgushuedc said...

Great story. And you're too good for them!

My sister has a huge (2 storey) fig tree in her back yard in Villas, NJ, which is near Cape May down at the end of the state there. I can let her know you're coming!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks for the lead on the big fig tree. I'm always impressed that folks up here actually keep fig trees alive. Maybe it's easier in south Jersey. I'm envious!
Thanks for your comment.