Georgia Under Water: Stories


Heather Seller's unpretentious, vernacular prose allows Georgia a persuasive mix of innocence and experience. These are miraculous stories of survival, perhaps even forgiveness. To some of us Georgia's life would be unthinkable. Sellers makes us believe it is well worth living.

"Heather Sellers writes delicious, dangerous prose. She starts you twenty-three floors up in condo squalor, nips across for dysfunction in Disney country, threatens incest in Hotlanta, and comes to grief on the Gulf. The dead-credible life...

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Georgia Under Water: Stories

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Heather Seller's unpretentious, vernacular prose allows Georgia a persuasive mix of innocence and experience. These are miraculous stories of survival, perhaps even forgiveness. To some of us Georgia's life would be unthinkable. Sellers makes us believe it is well worth living.

"Heather Sellers writes delicious, dangerous prose. She starts you twenty-three floors up in condo squalor, nips across for dysfunction in Disney country, threatens incest in Hotlanta, and comes to grief on the Gulf. The dead-credible life of Georgia Jackson—ineffably sweet, thoroughly in love with her own luscious body, half in love with her lush of a father—skids at the edge of the surreal. Her story had me laughing through the lump in my throat. An original. A knockout debut."-Janet Burroway

Marketing Plans
Author tour in Sellers' hometowns in Michigan and Florida Brochure and postcard mailings Advertisements in key literary and trade magazines

Heather Sellers was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and received a Ph.D. in Writing from Florida State University. Her work has appeared in Indiana Review, New Virginia Review, The Hawaii Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Women's Review of Books, and Sonora Review. Her story "Fla. Boys" is anthologized in New Stories from the South, 1999: The Year's Best. She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1999. She currently lives in Holland, Michigan, where she's an associate professor of English at Hope College.

Excerpt From Georgia Under Water

From the short story, "Spurt"

I spent those days watching myself in every reflective surface known to Daytona Beach.

My knees weren't knobs anymore. My knees were lush transitions. My thighs shone golden-brown; my shins, paler, but long and strong. My ankles were slim, bony in a fetching way, my feet suddenly inches too long for my slaps and sandals. My hair swung in a shiny curtain behind me; my legs were in constant motion, counterpoint.

"You've had a growth spurt," my mother said. "Your shorts are way too short. When did this happen?"

"I think yesterday and/or the day before," I said. We were in

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In Georgia Under Water, Heather Sellers has perfectly captured the voice of a character caught in the painful, confusing, and hopelessly self-aware place of not yet woman but clearly no longer child. Her irrepressible character, Georgia Jackson, a self-proclaimed teenage Florida blonde babe, is enthralled to find that she has grown new long legs seemingly overnight in the story "Spurt": "My legs were so lovely, I couldn't keep my hands off them...they were simply too beautiful, too much perfection." Sellers smartly links her stories together (à la the blockbuster bestseller, Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing), and provides a convincing portrait of a young woman struggling to find her place in a disorienting world blaring messages that conflict with her own heightened hormonal impulses. In "It's Water, It's Not Going to Kill You," Georgia watches helplessly as her mother's precarious sanity leads her into deep water, threatening to engulf the already fragile security of Georgia's unstable family. And in the nine remaining stories, Georgia's voice will work its way into your heart, leaving readers wondering how Heather Sellers managed to pull off a character with the ideal blend of innocence and experience in her very first short-story collection. (Summer 2001 Selection)
Katherine Wolff
Unlike other coming-of-age fiction, this collection flaunts its messy contradictions and offers no safe place from which to view the family's destruction. Georgia Under Water is as disturbing, and frequently as absorbing, as adolescence itself.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Too often collections of vaguely related stories are given chapter numbers and passed off as a novel; here what is essentially a novel is divided into short stories. The nine sections are chronological installments in the life of Georgia Jackson, from ages 12 through 15. Georgia lives in Daytona Beach and later Orlando, and comes from a deeply dysfunctional family. Her father, Buck, is an irresponsible alcoholic; her mother is depressed and irrational much of the time; her brother, Sid, is her mischievous ally at the beginning, but slowly drifts away. Though extremely bright, Georgia is, like most girls her age, confused about love and life in general. She is obsessed with her developing body and sexuality, but she often has to play the adult when dealing with her parents such as when her father gets drunk and makes a scene at a block party or when she is forced to hide out in an apartment with her mother, who sleeps in the tub. There is more than a hint of a not quite incestuous relationship between father and daughter, and it reaches a crescendo during a bizarre, seedy road trip to Atlanta. Sellers's prose is strong and vibrant, full of striking imagery and inventive turns of phrase. She perfectly captures the harrowing experience of adolescence and infuses even the darkest situations with an appealing absurdity. Readers will find it hard not to be charmed by Georgia's buoyant precociousness, and will want to read the gloomy final story as the end of her trial by fire and the beginning of a better life. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In "It's Water It's Not Going to Kill You," the first story in this eccentric, edgy collection, Georgia Jackson wonders if her parents "might be mental cases." This fretting echoes like a drumbeat in the pages that follow. Throughout these nine interconnected stories, Georgia and her brother, Sid, who swim in the ocean in Orlando nearly every waking moment, seem more like fish than humans. Sid enjoys hanging from the balcony railing by his feet, and their mother, Mary Carolyn, unhappy in her marriage and her life in general, curls up like a crab on the couch night after night. Buck Jackson, meanwhile, is oddly happy-go-lucky, blotting out the world with his drinking. In fact, he can't drive anywhere without a supply of plastic cups and booze bottles on his front seat. If her parents and brother aren't crazy, they are as close to it as they can get; neurotic behavior clings to them like mold on cheese. Georgia learns at a very young age (she is 12 when the book opens) to overcompensate for her parents' shortcomings Sid compensates by leaving home yet during this time she also grapples with the same issues that any adolescent would. The fact that she crosses the line at times and looks for attention in the wrong places is her own way of making up for what she doesn't get at home. These stories are provocative and melancholy; they will seep under your skin and stay there. Recommended for public library collections. Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This smart, edgy book of interconnected stories follows Georgia Jackson from her 12th year through her 15th. Someone in the family seems always to be running away from home. Her depressed mother tries driving the family car into the Atlantic; her charming, alcoholic father says mildly, as though quitting a job, "I'm giving you my notice"; her younger brother and only friend goes off to live on a relative's farm. The protagonist has her own methods of escape: pretending to be drowning, dreaming of marriage to Oscar Love (a misfit with a "port-wine stain in the shape of Florida" on his cheek), and thinking constantly of sex while admittedly having no clear idea of what it entails. What she does know a lot about is her parents' problems and spectacles. Though her unstable home life causes her some embarrassment and anger, Georgia is mostly happy, and this is what makes her wonderfully unique and honest. She isn't a stock character who either wallows in her troubles or keeps her chin up, smiling through the tears. She cries and screams freely when necessary, then gets back to the business of being curious about human behavior, enjoying her gifted-and-talented science class, picking her scabs, and flirting with grocery clerks. Be prepared for some raw language, though none of it seems gratuitous. A memorable offering.-Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781889330563
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 236
  • Sales rank: 1,290,688
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Sellers
Heather Sellers

Heather Sellers is the author of the story collection Georgia Under Water and several books on writing. A poet, essayist, and frequent contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine, The Sun, and other publications, she teaches at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

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Read an Excerpt

In the good days, my family lived in a condo, on the twenty–third floor of Pleasure Towers in Ormond Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

One afternoon, when we got home from school, my mother was up against the stove, her hands behind her, fingers laced across the cool burners. My father rifled through my mother's orderly Tupperwared leftovers in the fridge, yelling at her, "Why can't you have fun? Why?"

Since I had turned twelve, they'd been fighting. And actually, I noticed, they'd always been fighting. Whenever one walked in the room, the other one was already mad. "I think our parents might be mental cases," I confided to Sid. "I hope no one ever finds out."

Sid thought no one would find out. "They never go anywhere," he reminded me.

"Well, I wish they would," I'd said. "We'd be better off on our own." I had in mind Austrian get-ups, Sid sporting a green pointed felt hat, a cute little house in the woods, lots of pets, newspaper articles on Sid and Georgia Jackson, the amazing fairy tale of two children making it on their own! Here in the heart of Daytona Beach in the middle of 1976!

I stood in the doorway to our galley kitchen, leaning in. But my body was out. I was in. I swung my hips to the side to keep Sid from entering the kitchen, and bent myself into a C in the doorway. They did not see me, their flexible daughter, their daughter in the shape of a good letter.

Sid scooted between my legs and went to the fridge.

"Scuse," he said.

I could see the ocean between my mother and my father.

I thought he was about to wheel around and hit her.

"Get out." I wanted to say.

I realized I was talking to myself.

My brother and I were wet in those days, always something of us was wet. Well, me anyway. Sid was dark; he dried faster. My long planks of yellow hair held water like seaweed does, and it was nearly down to the small of my back, where I wanted it. My palms sweated, balls of juice came out of my armpits, and the soles of my feet felt sweet and squishy. Welp, I thought, I'm a girl. Such is my lot.

At night, in the room we shared, Sid would feel the back of my neck, and the wet mats of hair under my topcoat of hair.

"You'll mildew before you're forty," he said. "Your hair is going to rot, you know. You're going to get that crud on your neck, like old people."

"Well, at least I have a brain."

"We should be nice to each other," he said.

"You start first," I said.

Every day, we went from the condo to the pool to the ocean to school, and back, through the pool, up to the condo for cheese and water, and to the ocean, and back for dinner, and then back to the sea until dark.

To Sid, my dark bristly brother, I said, "People will think you're a vermin, and shoot you."

We'd tussle, embarrassed, rolling around on the long white shag carpet; we were too old to be sharing a room, too old to be fighting like dogs, like that.

In my family, the father wasn't supposed to get out of bed before the kids were off to school.

"But don't dads go to work in the morning?" I asked, eating my favorite breakfast, shrimp on toast.

"I get him off after you two are processed," my mother said. She woke us up at six in the morning; we had time to race the elevators (Pleasure Towers had two) down to the Pool Level, dive in, then run down to the beach, and throw ourselves into the cold green sea. Then, we ran across the hard sand, always on the eye–out for shark teeth, raced the waiting elevators, back upstairs, and put our school clothes on. "Our skin could rot off," I thought. But that's the only really bad thing I thought could happen. Or, sometimes, because we never showered, rarely bathed, I thought we might dissolve. Like maybe it was too much swimming, too much salt drying to powder on our skin, too much lying on the bottom of the pool and watching the sun become a free kaleidoscope, a little too much pulsing with the waves. As though we might stop being children at all.

On Friday at 11:00 A.M. there was another space launch down the road at Canaveral. School was canceled so we could go with our families to see the launch.

"Why not us?" Sid said. We were sitting in the condo. It was late morning, and odd to be on the sofa with my mother. My father's snoring came from their bedroom. My mother's nest of blue blankets was still on the white circular sofa, where she'd slept, curled in the curve of the rented sofa.

"We aren't the kind of family all that interested in space," my mother said.

I said, "I'm very interested in space. I am studying the galaxy."

"You aren't," Sid said.

"I want to someday. I want to be a deep–sea diver."

"Then study the ocean, which you don't know anything about." €‚"It's all related, Sid. Mom, tell him, it's all related."

"Georgia, honey."

"It's all related." I flung myself to the floor and executed a perfect backbend. My shorts pulled up, and I let them, I let the seam tighten between my legs, like I was inside a rubber band. "Tell him!" I felt good and strange, too.

Sid was playing the spoons at the table. My mother drifted to the floor, slunk down. She sprawled out on her side, like a nursery schooler at nap. She put her head down. I sprang onto her.

"Honey," she said softly, not kindly. "I am utterly exhausted. Play with Sid?"

I could see she was exhausted. I could taste her exhaustion. She put her hands over her ears, like I was a shout, just being on her. "I'm too old to play with him," I said.

We'd already been swimming. My braid lay on my back like a wet horse tail. I looked out the sliding glass doors: these were our walls, all along the front and side of the condo. Glass walls! I didn't belong here at all. I belonged at the space launch, and not with the kids. I belonged in the rocket. I vowed to start studying the sky. Forget jockeying for the position of keeper of the homonym bulletin board -- why was I wasting my time on fifth grade?

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Table of Contents

It's Water, It's Not Going to Kill You 11
Spurt 27
In the Drink 51
Sinking 73
Gulf of Mexico 95
Florida Law 119
Myself as a Delicious Peach 135
Sleep Creep Leap 169
Fla. Boys 193
About the Author 219
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2001


    The prose is succinct. The images are tight and new and tearing, and the characters will not leave your head for days. While Heather Sellers' collection of short stories gets off to a slower start (the first piece is more useful for the sense of place and time it gives the reader), the rest is phenomenal. From the first paragraph of its second piece, Spurt, to the end of the collection (and you'll not wish for it to end), you will be caught in the mind and world of Georgia. It's a wonderful place to be -- not a 'perfect' wonderful, or an 'ethereal' wonderful, or even a 'happy' wonderful. It's a real, sink-your-teeth in wonderful. Georgia's thoughts and observations reflect that wonderful, paradoxical, adolescent mix of altruism, paranoia, and self-obsession. She stares at her legs on the reflective surfaces of meat counters, is afraid that her hair is molding, and is in love with a boy named Oscar. She is everything that I was at her age and would never, if you asked me, say that I was, but I love her for it. I love her for her faults, for her daydreams, for her tiny mental victories, and for her inability to love any one member of her family more than another.

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    Posted July 24, 2011

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