Holland Perryman, intern at The Pat Conroy Literary Center, in Beaufort, South Carolina!

The Pat Conroy Literary Center is near and dear to my heart, as I had the immense pleasure of meeting Pat Conroy in person at his 70th birthday party in Beaufort, South Carolina. Pat Conroy, my favorite novelist of all times (The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, The Great Santini and others) was everything you’d want him to be in person, and more–magnanimous, big hearted, self deprecating, and above all, sincere. That October, 2016 weekend I spent in his presence with hundreds of his literary fans who came from all over the world to celebrate him as an author and, more importantly, as a person remains one for the archives of my life’s standout moments, and I, along with legions of others, mourned the loss of this literary giant who died the following March. The Pat Conroy Literary Center was created in homage to Pat Conroy, Beaufort, South Carolina’s favorite son, and I was thrilled to come upon the article below just this morning. It showcases the Pat Conroy Literary Center and a bright, young woman named Holland Perryman, who’s making significant strides with the center in such a manner that it bodes well for the future on multiple levels!

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Holland Perryman

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A Great Love of Language, the Arts, and Living Life

story by KAREN SNYDER         photos by SUSAN DELOACH

It goes without saying that Beaufort’s much beloved literary legend, Pat Conroy, will forever represent all that is good about life in Beaufort and the Lowcountry. Well, much like Conroy, who made an indelible impression upon his peers and teachers at Beaufort High, there’s another local high school student doing much the same — meet Holland Perryman.

This vibrant 16-year-old Beaufort High School (BHS) student in many ways represents the finest qualities that Pat Conroy nurtured in others, especially young writers. It seems more than fitting then that Holland serves as the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s first official intern.

Holland joined the Center in the Spring 2019, after already being the recipient of the creative writing award for a competition inspired by the Center’s March Forth partnership with BHS. Later that summer, Holland was selected to attend the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities for their two-week Creative Writing Academy. And in 2020, she was named a finalist in the inaugural Ann Head Literary Prize for Short Story competition, established in honor of Conroy’s first creative writing teacher at BHS.

Accolades and accomplishments aside, for Holland, being a teen is really about “living and learning.” A reader and writer from an incredibly young age, Holland has a passion for language, whether written in print or spoken on stage. It is a part of her soul, she says.

“I’m so grateful for this internship,” says Holland, explaining she first was introduced to the world of publishing during a shadow-day assignment as an eighth-grader at Riverview Charter School. “I visited the Center and briefly met Executive Director Jonathan Haupt, but it wasn’t until I was a sophomore that I approached him about an internship. Mr. Haupt had mentored college students for years elsewhere, but the Conroy Center was still new, and they had never had an intern, so it was a clean slate of possibilities.”


“Holland is an inspiration. I learn as much from her as she does from me. She embraces life with genuine empathy, wondrous curiosity, and heartfelt gratitude for every opportunity to learn, to teach, or just to lighten the burden of another. Over the course of his storied life, Pat Conroy championed hundreds of writers, including me, entrusting each of us not only with the lessons he learned from his experiences and inherited from his pantheon of teachers, but also with the responsibility to teach those lessons to others in our own ways. It’s an honor and an absolute joy to now mentor Holland in that same spirit, and in full knowledge that one day she too will pass on what she’s learned.”
-Jonathan Haupt, Executive Director,
Pat Conroy Literary Center

Holland’s new role would become an expansive one. It would include everything from assisting with events and teaching workshops to TV news interviews to becoming a co-host and presenter at the 5th Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival held virtually in November 2020. Just as Pat Conroy offered his mentorship and guidance to many burgeoning writers, Holland finds herself “inspired by all the wonderful and passionate people and writers” she’s met at the Center.

“Mr. Haupt has been the most wonderful mentor. I am constantly learning about the writing and publishing worlds. Sometimes it’s through intentional conversations and other times through workshops and author events I’ve attended.” Though she’s grateful for these learning opportunities, Holland admits, “I’ve come to find that there is so much to learn from every moment, and some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have been in casual conversations. He’s always teaching me something even when I don’t realize it!”

Much like any high schooler, Holland says she likes to “live in the moment and not dwell too much on the future.” Yet, exuding appreciation for the opportunities before her, she explains, “I try to focus on the present and what I can learn from the people around me. I find that when passionate people get together, amazing things can happen!”

That optimism has served her well as opportunities for Holland have continued to present themselves. She was a virtual camp counselor at the 2020 Camp Conroy, where she worked with kids from around the country. She was also the first writer to be featured twice as part of the “Lowcountry Poet’s Corner” segment of ETV’s Telly Award-winning series By the River.

Holland had her first book review published last summer in The Post and Courier, of the young adult (YA) Lowcountry adventure novel Spellbound Under the Spanish Moss (Lucid House, 2020) by Kevin and Connor Garrett. As part of the Bluffton Book Festival this fall, she and Haupt livestreamed their interview with the authors of this action-packed tale. According to Holland, she’s hoping to continue fine-tuning her “live interviewing” skills together with Haupt as part of a future endeavor featuring more authors. That opportunity may include interviewing Sara Shepard of Pretty Little Liars and debut YA novelist Kalynn Bayron, author of Cinderella Is Dead.

Holland and her older brother Walker moved with their parents to Beaufort in 2010. Holland says, like most Lowcountry kids, she’s grown up, climbing trees with feet covered in pluff mud. “My earliest memories of writing were sitting in the church pew listening to my dad’s sermons, taking notes, and writing about them.” Holland’s father is Reverend Dr. Patrick Perryman, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort. As a self-proclaimed book nerd, Holland says, “My parents always read to me,” also recalling that in her family, there has not only been a love of books, but music too.

Holland’s mother, Sissy Perryman, introduced her to musical theater. “I was in second grade when I went to my first audition” at USCB Center for the Arts Beaufort Children’s Theater. Holland laughed, recalling her audition that included an impromptu rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with a lot of hip shaking and finger wagging. Since that time, Holland has been in 18 shows, most recently appearing in Little Women. Of all the roles she’s played over the years, she shared that the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz was her favorite.

Despite a remarkably busy schedule, Holland seems to have achieved a happy balance among her school, extracurricular, and work commitments. With a course-load of AP classes, Holland hopes to make the most of her high school academic experience. She is also a student leader, serving as the Student Body Vice President and playing Varsity Lacrosse. She is also a proud member of the Beaufort High “Voices” auditioned choir.

Outside school, you’ll find Holland enjoying time with her friends or working at The Kitchen selling gourmet home-cooked meals. She also loves to spend time with her church’s youth group that has a deep commitment to service to others. Holland says, “At the end of the day, I want to learn from those around me and be a part of the good in the world.”

It’s no wonder this driven and caring teen says the most impactful part of her internship experience “is witnessing the relationships within the literary community, both locally and beyond. I’ve learned how much good can be done when people lift up one other and take the time to listen to what each person has to say. It’s empowering to know that there is so much more to do in my own life and for others around me.”

Grateful for Haupt’s mentorship, Holland acknowledges, “He has taught me how to be engaged in every moment and conversation, both as a writer and as a person.”


Notwithstanding a global pandemic that no one predicted would have such far-reaching impact, Holland admits, “My world as a student looks a bit different now. I’m grateful that I’ve been surrounded by a loving family, supportive teachers and mentors, and amazing friends through all of it. If anything, this time has taught me not to rush through life, to be grounded, and live in the moment.”

It seems Holland’s writer’s voice has been found with such wise words to live by.

Pat Conroy Literary Center

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Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy

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Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy is a gift from the heart. Popular author, Cassandra King Conroy must have intuited that legions of her husband’s devotees wanted his wife to speak. Many of us had incorporated Pat Conroy into our lives. We were on an intimate level with the author who bared his soul through story, so when he died, we were blindsided. We hadn’t been given enough time to wrap our minds around a Conroyless world and were totally unprepared. So, Cassandra King Conroy stepped up. In the age-old tradition of a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner, she put her own grief aside and did for others in the only way Southerners know of: she told the entire story with endless detail and heartfelt panache. She gave us exactly what we wanted.

What strikes me about this memoir is its similarity in spirit to all things Pat Conroy wrote. Many of us heard Conroy explain the magic behind his writing by saying he wanted to explain his life to himself in hopes that readers would understand theirs. He unfurled his life on the pages in an artfully veiled manner, and it worked. In Tell Me a Story, Cassandra King Conroy removed the veil completely. With an honesty that can only be described as sheer bravery, she gave us the unvarnished truth, revealing the humanness of not only Pat, but of herself and those lucky enough to be a part of his orbit. The memoir is spellbinding, engaging, heart-tugging, and hilarious. Parts of it read like a madcap ride through a comedy of errors, for how best to describe a union forged later in life, replete with two cause and effect, complicated backstories seeking a semblance of harmony. And yet harmony was achieved, and that bird of a different feather soared. Cassandra King Conroy’s memoir is the construction of a life cobbled together by two world-class authors. It is deeply confessional and told in a voice you’ll never want to quit.

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My Exaggerated Life: Pat Conroy, as Told to Katherine Clark.

Oh, the gift of this delightful book. The thing about Pat Conroy is those who get him really get him and can never get enough. It has been repeatedly written that readers feel as if they know him. That he wrote in the first person was part of what spawned the relationship between Conroy and his readers, the rest of it is that he had an uncanny way of unabashedly calling things by name and spoke for us. And any Conroy devotee knew he was healing his shattered history by veiling it in fiction. We knew it and didn’t care because not only was he charming, he was a master storyteller. Conroy wrote from the center of his sardonic personality. Once he had you, he dove down to universal truth and brought you to your knees. This business of life is not for the meek, he suggested, but there is rhyme to it, poetry, in fact, and in his fiction, he figured out how to survive it.
My Exaggerated Life gives us the man behind the curtain. On its cover is Conroy wearing his infamous flight jacket and Citadel ring, which his fans will recognize as symbols of his personal narrative. Conroy was that kind of writer. His books were mind-altering drugs and his readers were addicts who had to have more. Katherine Clark has given us more in what seems to me a labor of love. That she spent two hundred hours listening to Conroy spill out his life over the telephone to assemble this book makes me jealous, but I’ll overlook that in favor of the resounding result.
What struck me most in reading My Exaggerated Life was the realization that there was no separating the man from his craft. It’s Conroy’s voice that does it. In these pages speaks a storyteller of the highest order telling an incredibly entertaining story, it just so happens to be culled from a series of events in his life. You can intuit the haphazard way he stumbled from cause to effect as his writing career took shape. Reading Conroy’s books always made me feel they were born without effort, so to discover in this riveting book just where the struggle had been hit me as staggering—not because parts were painful to read, but because he framed it in such a human way that readers will think, you too?
At the end of My Exaggerated Life, Katherine Clark shares the speech Pat Conroy delivered spontaneously before a crowd of adoring fans in Beaufort, South Carolina at his 70th birthday celebration. In it, Conroy claims “What I wanted to be as a writer, I wanted to be a complete brave man that I am not in my real life.” He did just this in My Exaggerated Life. In an act of bravery, Pat Conroy told his story, and author Katherine Clark captured it in a book that is one for the archives.

The Headmaster’s Darlings by Katherine Clark Book Review

Oh, the sheer joy of this book, which is not outweighed in the least by the rarity of coming across a writer with complete command of language and craft. The Headmaster’s Darlings has so much excellence going on that it’s a challenge for me to know where to slather my gushing praise first! Within its 245 pages of the tightest, page-turning story I’ve read in as long as I can remember, there is comedy, sarcasm, heart-tugging sentimentality, social commentary, and suspense to the point where, when I wasn’t laughing out loud over Katherine Clark’s spot-on Southern cultural insight, I was re-reading her laser-sharp paragraphs as if they were a writer’s tutorial. Crisp, clever, economic sentences lead the reader through the story of the obese Norman Laney, a beloved high school teacher in Birmingham, Alabama, whose job lays in the balance of rumor and false accusation. But it is 1980’s Birmingham society that is judge, jury and executioner, and Norman Laney knows how to game the system. So wise to the eccentricities of an insular, antiquated, upper-class society, Norman Laney beats them at
their own game by being one of them. He is both fish-out-of-water and ruler of the roost in a story that is part comedy of manners and part
emperor’s new clothes. It is not so much the story as the telling of the story that makes or breaks a book for me. Kathrine Clark gives us her all, nay, way more than we expect in sardonically laying bare the mind frame of Birmingham, Alabama’s cloistered elitist society, whose aspirations are maintaining the status quo. Yet Norman Laney is a teacher of principle and integrity, in the field for all the right reasons, which he has to keep under wraps, lest he startle society’s neat and resistant grid of logic by which it defines itself. Written in a tone that both laughs and bites at the nuances of Southern society, there is an undercurrent of nonjudgmental acceptance of a culture as old as the hills as it seeks to raise its next generation in a manner that aspires to keeping it so. Yet it is Norman Laney’s aim to teach his students to aspire to at least something by reaching beyond themselves, and he must lead by appeasing Birmingham’s old guard as he acts as guidance counselor to their offspring. The Headmaster’s Darlings is more than a comedic social commentary on a staid Southern mentality that will be its own hubris in the end; the book doles out a lure that shows the way out, and slips it in undetected from the cunning lead of one impressionable teacher, who knows his way around covert maneuver. I understand there are two more books behind this one. My hand hovers in anticipatory wait over my Kindle.