Where are you in middle Ga? I live in the middle Ga area also. As far as blanks go I don't think pine blanks would do very well. There just isn't much color there. Now I have made a couple of pens from fat lighter and they look pretty good.
When I turn bowls from logs my most available wood is oak and they make pretty nice bowls. Spalted red oak looks really nice. I have only made one pen from oak, for a fellow that gave me some oak slabs, and it looked ok but nothing special.
I have no experience with sweet gum. But knowing sweet gum I would say it would be rather plain. Staining may bring out some color but I don't think it would do much.