ho springs icons.jpgA few years ago, Montclair writer Pam Satran visited Hot Springs, Arkansas, a spa town with a racetrack that her brother visited every year. The experience gave her an inspiration for a TV show called “Ho Springs” (the T in the neon sign is out) and she wrote a treatment — but it never sold.
Fast forward a few years to her success writing a blog How Not to Act Old, which was turned into a bestselling advice book. “I discovered how much I love writing on the web,” she says. She wondered if she could combine that somehow with her love of writing fiction, a process that is notorious for its epoch delays. Which gave her another inspiration: develop “Ho Springs” as a novel on the web, in a way that makes use of the web’s non-linear nature. And get instant feedback from readers.
Yesterday, Satran launched “Ho Springs” online, in blog format, with the most recent chapter on top, and sections for special characters (written by other local writers, including me) to give their read on events.

The story starts here with the protagonist, Cora, returning to her hometown of Hot Springs after years of living in Paris. Some of the secondary characters include Taryn Piper Forrest, a stripper and meth addict, whose little black book is written by Montclair novelist Benilde Little. Cora’s daughter Juliette, keeps a secret diary, written by creative writing student Danielle Miksza. Susan Sherrill Axelrod, a Montclair food writer, provides recipes and other behind-the-scenes notes from Cora’s Kitchen. And I am the town tarot reader, Jimmie Sue Fallon, who reads the cards here. Graphic designer Katie Mancine created the neon-sign design of the site.
Satran collected her contributors Tom Sawyer style; almost everybody she told wanted to help paint the fence. Contributors write their parts without much supervision so the story will develop “organically.” We’re just instructed to read the main story and add our own perspectives.
In other words, it’s a literary experiment. Or as the Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin tweeted yesterday, the “dawn of a new era for story.” If there’s any other multi-authored novel been written on the web right now, Satran doesn’t know about it.
Here’s a little more about the main character and the setting. Stay tuned. Writing, and reading, just turned a corner.

Ho Springs is the American story of people trying to escape their destiny, but finding no matter how far they run, they always end up back home.
It’s the story of a place as much as of the people who live there. Hot Springs, Arkansas is one of those small American cities that anyone with any brains and gumption has to leave, the way our heroine Cora McAdams did. But even if you manage to get out, you find you’ve taken Hot Springs with you, in your values, your attitude, your soul. And you may find the only way to be yourself is to return to the place you truly belong.
That’s what happened to Cora, the smartest girl in Hot Springs, who ran as fast and as far as she could, marrying a romantic Parisian, having a child and settling down in France. But nearly 20 years later, her husband’s betrayal and her mother’s death, her alcoholic father’s illness and her feckless brother’s loss of the family business bring her back to town, assertively French teenage daughter in tow.

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15 replies on “Welcome to Ho Springs”

  1. “…with the protagonist, Cora, returning to her hometown of Hot Springs after years of living in Paris.”
    Now, is that Paris, Arkansas (Gateway to Mount Magazine), Paris, Texas (mid-80’s Wim Wenders / Harry Dean Stanton flick), Paris Las Vegas (a web-based novel in and of itself), or Paris — the gen-you-ine Paris — France? (From which place anyone relocating to Ho Springs, AR, has more than just the “t” missing.)
    I liked your comment comparing this quest to the white-washing of the fence in “Tom Sawyer.” Perhaps the Wallerooski could be enlisted as Amos Armadillo, chief gossip columnist for the Ho Springs Weekly Shopper, and maybe RoC would like to pitch in as Governor Hildago Clinton Shuckabee, a politician of many talents frequently mentioned in both Taryn’s Little Black Book and Juliette’s Secret Diary. The possibilities here are endless — good luck with the fence, Pam! 🙂

  2. I’ve been reading it. it’s innovative and compelling, and i congratulate Pam on her new project–her most exciting yet. I love living in a town that percolates with the creative energy we find in Montclair, and this whole area. It inspires me.
    Pam, if you are reading this, your new project rocks!

  3. So its a “chapter per “post”?
    Other than that format, where’s the innovation? I was thinking I would see something… ah, new. The video of the “music” isn’t exactly ground breaking…
    Perhaps, that’s it: the “new” is that each “installment” is “posted.”
    But how is this different from a book without a publisher that is “published” online? Because, isn’t that what it is?
    I’m not commenting on the content, because I’m not interested in the subject. But I am interested in how media and artist are changing. (Though the names are enough to get me to not care: LaTonya, Dwayne, DaShawn and of course– Jimmie SUE…)
    But I don’t see this as anything new.

  4. The missing “T” reminds me of a play, later a short lived TV show, called “Hot L Baltimore” were the “e” was missing from the neon sign for the “Hotel Baltimore”.

  5. Twue, but having been there — in the winter — I could see why someone might want to return home to Ho Springs. Perhaps in time for the Arkansa Derb at Oaklaw Par.

  6. This reminds me of “Naked Came The Stranger,” a purposely wildly pulpy novel from some time ago where the chapters in progression were written by different writers from (mainly) “Newsday.”
    But it also provides an opportunity for Debbie to go on a bit again about her own wonderfulness, and then to again tout some of her pals who are already mentioned here with some frequency, and then even for another one of the regulars to devotedly gush about how great it all is. So there’s a certain pushy element of unabashed shamelessness here.
    Still, I think “Naked Came The Stranger” was actually much better written than the current effort in the same direction seems to be at this (early) point. There was certainly less arch nudging of the reader.

  7. cathar, curiosity got me to wiki the word Cathar.
    I found one line that intrigued me:
    Cathar most likely originated from Greek ??????? (Katharoi), meaning “pure ones”
    Is this why you solemnly take exception to Debbie’s alleged “pushy” “unabashed shamelessness” ?

  8. Actually, Spiro T., the word “cathar” is now viewed as a corruption of a medieval German term for cat-worshippers, as the Dualist heretics of that time were alleged to worship Old Nick in feline form.
    I don’t think Debbie’s emotional neediness, on clear display here on virtually a daily basis, is at all alleged. I really do picture her singing “You Must Love Me” from “Evita.” This is her balcony, if you will, and we are intended to be her assembled, malleable campesinos.
    You’ve honestly never noticed this?

  9. Well, that’s one of life’s great riddles solved: It is cheaper to self host a blog than to go to Kinkos.
    Though the question still remains: Doing which of those two things allows you to call yourself a professional writer without the people around you snickering?

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