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Wednesday, 07 November 2007 00:00

Paging all book lovers

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Readers of the Smoky Mountain News are acutely aware of the writing and storytelling talent here in Western North Carolina. Several writers for this paper have seen their work published, and a score of local authors have seen their books reviewed in these pages.

Now readers — and budding writers — have a chance to meet some of these writers and to hear them speak first-hand about their work and their lives. This Friday and Saturday, Nov.9-10, the fourth annual Great Smoky Mountains Book Fair offers presentations and book signings by more than 50 writers, along with the chance to meet a few musicians, a painter or two, and an Off-Broadway actress.

The Book Fair features an eclectic collection of authors.

Susan Reinhardt’s latest book, Don’t Sleep With a Bubba Unless Your Eggs Are in Wheelchairs, opens the door to her wild takes on spouses, children, mothers, and life.

Gary Carden, Sylva native, storyteller, writer of short stories and plays, will meet his many fans at the Book Fair.

Hattie Caldwell Davis and Louise Nelson have both written and published a number of local histories ranging from Appalachian letters written during the Civil War to the history of Maggie Valley, from Appalachian tools and houses to the story of Cataloochee Valley.

Doug Woodward, who has personally navigated the rivers of our part of the South, will be on hand to discuss his whitewater experiences, which he has collected in his book Wherever Waters Flow.

George Ellison, who has written many insightful columns for The Smoky Mountain News and who included some of this work in his book Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains, will serve on a panel discussing art and nature writing along with his wife, Elizabeth, who provided the illustrations for another of their books, Blue Ride Nature Journal.

On this same panel are Catherine and John Sill, whose brightly illustrated “About” books — About Insects, About Mollusks, About Arachnids, and more — have become a staple in many public and school libraries.

Other panelists who should be of interest to younger people are David LaMotte and Betty Smith, who are serving on the panel Music for Children of all Ages, and the panelists for “Writing for Young Adults:” Judith Geary, Alan Gratz, and Kerry Madden. The moderator of this panel is Sue Ellen Bridgers, best-selling author of books for young people whose visits to local bookstores, libraries, and schools have won her a large following here in Western North Carolina.

Other panels, which occur hourly throughout the day, include “Mysteries of Publishing,” “Stories with a Sense of Place,” “Poetry: Finding a Voice,” “Food and Memories,” and “Traveling These Mountains.”

In addition to these discussion panels, several authors will read from their work at different times throughout the day. Kathryn Stripling Byer, North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, will read selections from her poetry. Ron Rash, author of The World Made Straight, Saints at the River, and One Foot in Eden, will also share his work with the audience. Poet and Smoky Mountain News writer Michael Beadle will present an interactive poetry performance for children and adults. Helen Moore, the author of Trek with Floyd, the story of her llama Floyd, will be present with Floyd and with Kristen Jensen, who illustrated the book.

The Book Fair will kick off these events at 6:30 p.m. on Friday evening, Nov. 9, when Barbara Bates Smith takes the stage with her adaptation of Lee Smith’s On Agate Hill. Accompanied by musician Jeff Sebens and directed by Suzanne Tinsley, Barbara Bates Smith (no relation to Lee Smith) brings alive the character Molly Petree in this story set at the time of the Civil War in Southwestern Virginia. Bates Smith, who has already won renown for her creation of Ivy Rowe from another Lee Smith novel, Fair and Tender Ladies and for the Pulitzer-Prize winner Wit, has won widespread praise for this latest play.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres and musical entertainment precede Smith’s performance. Following the play, Barbara Bates Smith and Jackson County librarian Dottie Brunette will participate in an open forum to discuss On Agate Hill, which was chosen as this year’s Together We Read selection for Western North Carolina’s literary program.

Tickets for the Friday evening performance may be purchased at the Friends of the Library Bookstore on Main Street in Sylva, City Lights Bookstore, the Jackson County Public Library, and the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. The admission price for “On Agate Hill” is $25. This ticket also serves as an entrance ticket for the Saturday events. The cost for the Book Fair is $5 for adults. All proceeds from the ticket sales of both events go to the Jackson County Library Building Fund. Twenty percent of the Saturday Book Fair sales will also go to the same fund.

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