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The solidarity was evident.

Sitting onstage this past Monday at Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City, I conducted another episode of “Smoky Mountain Voices,” where local characters and officials are interviewed during an extended face-to-face conversation. It’s in an effort to learn more about the people and places that make Western North Carolina such a unique and cherished region.

The books have once again piled up in stacks up to three feet high in many corners of the house. It’s time to get organized. Easier said than done. Un-shelving and reorganizing and re-shelving books is tricky business, with multiple options that can be endlessly fascinating and frustrating. But it’s an innocent species of self-therapy that I look to — for the most part.

Miss Julia Springer lives in a small town near Asheville, where she is mourning the death of her husband of 44 years and trying to settle his affairs, including the enormous estate he has left her. On this particular hot day in August, Miss Julia — she goes by this title despite her long marriage — discovers that she has one last affair to face: her husband’s years-long adultery with Hazel Marie Puckett, a scandalous relationship known to nearly everyone in town except for Miss Julia.

You could see it in his eyes.

Sitting across from James “Jim” Joyce in his office in downtown Waynesville, his direct eye contact, and even more direct answers to questions, alludes to a man who has seen as much destruction as creation.

There is no middle ground.

With Jackson County storyteller/playwright Gary Carden, you either love the guy or you tolerate him, a curmudgeon some might say. Luckily, most folks in Western North Carolina appreciate and revel in the singular, beloved personality that is Carden — an increasingly rare voice that serves as a vital window into the past.

As a writer, it’s easy to feel that one’s ability is never quite good enough; as a writer in the American South — long a befuddled region characterized by ugly stereotypes highlighting ignorance and violence — even more so.

What would you do?

A pile of drugs. A stack of cash. More money than you’ve ever seen in your life, and more illegal fun and chaos than you ever thought possible. And yet, while standing at this crossroads there’s a dead body on the floor, bullet hole through the head, blood spilling across the floor, ever closer to your shoes, and also your link to the situation.

Novels written by a Western Carolina University professor and by his former student are among the 147 titles in the running for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award, widely acknowledged as one of the top — and most lucrative — honors in the publishing world.

Ron Rash, WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, is nominated for his Above the Waterfall, while David Joy, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WCU, is among the nominees for his Where All Light Tends to Go.

The Fourth of July, 1976, was just around the corner when George and Elizabeth Ellison embarked on a hike that would change their lives forever. The two were walking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when their wandering brought them to the park’s edge, a remote and beautiful cove with a bubbling stream flowing through it.

SEE ALSO: Ellison releases new title

Can you find redemption within your own consequences?

In The Risen, the latest work from famed Southern Appalachian writer Ron Rash, the plot focuses on two Jackson County teenage brothers, an out-of-town femme fatale, and a decades-old question of what really happened to her — and also them — in the process.

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