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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25.

East Asheville history and sites

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Feb 27.

The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

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Mark de Castrique posted a blog post
Oct 13
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Oct 8
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at MACA Authors' Booth

October 14, 2017 from 9:30am to 1:30pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be signing her new books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 14, from 9:30-1:30. She will be located at the MACA Authors' booth on Main Street.See More
Oct 7
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Sample 8 Great Smokies Writers at Malaprop’s, Oct. 15

Writers in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP)read atMalaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sun.,Oct. 15 Elizabeth Lutyens, editor of the GSWP’s Great Smokies Review, leads the Prose Master Class and will host the reading. ·        Ellen Carr, who works in the financial industry, will read excerpts from her novel of uneasy relationships, Unmanned. ·        Sarah Carter, an artist and photographer who will publish an excerpt of her novel, Jolene, Joe-Pye,…See More
Oct 6
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Oct 6
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post

How To Kill Your Reader

Danger is a crucial element in a mystery novel. A killer is on the loose and no one is safe. But sometimes the killer can be the writer, and the victim, the reader.I'm talking about when the author turns into a preacher and the story becomes a sermon. Now I am not against using a mystery novel for social commentary. Writing doesn't happen in a moral vacuum, and, after all, isn't a mystery a morality play? As fellow North Carolina author Margaret Maron said there is no topic that can't be dealt…See More
Oct 5
Mark de Castrique posted a video

Hidden Scars - A Sam Blackman Mystery

Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson investigate a 70-year-old death that unleashes a killer.
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a discussion

Black Mountain College as Backdrop for Mystery

My new book, HIDDEN SCARS, is released Oct 3rd.  D.G. Martin notes the star of the story is Black Mountain College.  http://chapelboro.com/town-square/columns/one-on-one/one-one-lost-college-still-shinesSee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Upcoming book--Sacred Sites for Secular Times

Sacred Sites for Secular Times: 50 Commemorative Experiences in Western North Carolina by Rob Neufeld              Among the many sites dedicated to history, there are some—both overbooked and overlooked—that provide full and moving experiences.  They involve a physical component, connecting to landscape; an imaginative one, entering other times and minds; and an interactive one, maintaining relevance.             The entries in this book help create full experiences through descriptive…See More
Sep 25
Susan Weinberg posted events
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Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Aim for Beauty

In honor of my blog Plant Whatever Brings You Joy's 10th Blogiversary I've posted a chapter from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. This particular chapter was also excerpted in Fairview's GreenPrints magazine, which was greatly appreciated. Read more here: http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/aim-for-beauty/…See More
Sep 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

McCrumb ghost-opened world in The Unquiet Grave

McCrumb sees stories behind haunting ghost by Rob NeufeldPHOTO: Sharyn McCrumb and her dog Arthur, 2017.  Photo by Laura Palmer, courtesy, Sharyn McCrumb In “The Unquiet Grave,” Sharyn McCrumb once again demonstrates her mastery at turning a folktale into something larger, different, and greater.The legend of the…See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Vestus Miller

­HISTORIC PHOTO James Vester Miller James Vester Miller had been a boy when his mother, a Rutherfordton slave, had responded to Emancipation by taking her three children to Asheville and getting a job as a cook in a boardinghouse—some say Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse, Old Kentucky Home.  Growing up, Miller hung…See More
Aug 26
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Aug 25

Family life as perceived by 50 WNC authors

by Rob Neufeld

 

            If you have biases against small press books or anthologies of local writers’ work, I recommend you lay them aside and take a look at “It’s All Relative” (Stone Ivy Press), 52 stories and poems by 50 WNC women authors writing about family.

            You also might be skeptical about the theme; it’s so broad.  Yet, there’s a shadowy, down-to-earth, and at times magical quality to the tellings that makes the collection striking and significant.

            The editors, Celia Miles and Nancy Dillingham, who have collaborated on three other such collections, exhibit an eye (eyes?) for good writing.  Consequently, we become familiar with authors who, in some cases, are finding new, powerful voices to employ.

 

Dillingham’s progress

 

            Nancy Dillingham, who has a story and a poem in the collection, is not a new voice.  There’s a Dillingham section in my library that now contains eight books, starting with “New Ground,” an album of stories and poems published by Ralph Roberts’ WorldComm Books in 1998.

            Her latest work is “1950: Poems,” a chapbook published by Finishing Line Press as part of its “New Women’s Voices Series.”

            That’s the way it is with writers.  By the time someone discovers you and calls you “new,” you’ve already got a veteran’s pile of manuscripts behind you.

            At any rate, Dillingham, independent of universities and New York publishing circles, has developed a mastery of her craft as well as a distinctive style.  The wondrous, grim, and familial in her mountain experience come to light in compact lines that are both facets of and links in her narratives.

            What we get is poetic, in a dream-minded way, and accessible, as with these humble garden observations from the poem, “Summer Etude”:

            “Crook-necked squash/ curl like tiny kittens. // Cucumbers hide/ in viny darkness.”

 

The dark

 

            Let’s talk about witches.  If you’re thinking about fairy tale or Satanic characterizations, you’re missing the granny for the grimace.

            There’s a long history of strong mountain women being feared as Baba Yagas.

            Kaye Barley tells a story, “Aunt Peep and Uncle Leo” that starts off as a girl’s fond recollection of summertime visits with her aunt; and turns into something else after she overhears arguments and then gets news of Aunt Peep’s death.

            At the funeral, Aunt Peep has a message for her niece that’s intended to not let the truth about Leo die.

            In Patricia Lynn Collins’ story, “Second Sight,” a woman with an uncanny ability to read the future in cards anoints her granddaughter, the narrator, as her spiritual heiress—a mantle the young woman tries out once and then puts aside.

            “Nana was the matriarch of our extended family,” the narrator says by way of introduction, “and everyone did as she said.  She was tough, opinionated, and never missed a chance to state her opinion, which was often critical and sometimes cruel.”

            One could view fortune-telling as a practical way to control others, though in this and other stories, there is a dramatic inclusion of supernatural effects.

            Dillingham’s tale, “Whips and Chains,” is a classic ghost story.

            First, we get a glimpse of dour Uncle John sitting on a porch above a creek; next, we hear the narrator’s daddy saying, after John’s wife, Aunt Dock, had died, that he’d never go back in that house.

            Then comes the telling: how mourners had heard chains coming up stairs and had been trapped in a room with Aunt Dock’s body when the door slammed shut and stuck—“maybe it had swelled from the night before.”

            The story’s not over.  Uncle John’s abuse of Aunt Dock had taken a particularly horrifying form, the narrator learns; and, in the end, she is witness to the agency of John’s death.

 

Transition

 

            The dark stories and poems dominate the first quarter of the book.  They remind me of Mildred Haun’s Appalachian classic, “The Hawk’s Done Gone.”

            Maria Fire’s story, “Everything Good,” tells of a woman, Maria, who tells her mom about being abused by her father, but first confronts her mother about her self-destructive behavior.

            “Mother,” she says, “sober people don’t splash blood around the house or barely miss hemorrhaging to death because they’re too drunk to call an ambulance.”

            “You know,” the mother responds with the head tilt of a predator, “I worry about you sometimes, too, honey, how crazy you get.”

            Holly Simms, in “Don’t Tell,” tells about a mother who says she can’t take it anymore, and is taken to a state hospital.  When she comes home, her daughter hides her liquor bottles, but reveals the hiding place, with a feeling of lost childhood, when her father says, “Holly, tell her where they are.”

            In her poem, “Burdett Barn,” Martha Adams recounts a family trip to Kansas relatives, and recalls swinging from a rope swing, the intimacy of egg-collecting, and flopping down in hay by the horse stalls. 

            Then a boy cousin, “talking softly as if I’m grown, like him/ says he has something for me.  He/ reaches down, takes my hand/ guides it to a bristled place between his legs.”

            By design, it seems, the rest of the book takes a different turn.  There’s Sandra Dillingham’s two-page, one-sentence poem about old ladies gossiping; Nancy Sales Cash’s rendition of a mother and daughter sparring over what to make for Thanksgiving dinner; Blanch Ledford’s genial account of a father competing with his potato-growing brother by planting by the signs.

            The opening and closing pieces in the anthology are poems about protective and nurturing mothers, so there really is a form.  Movement toward the light is discernible, but not simply progressive.

 

A kind of light

 

            Martha O’Quinn’s story, “A Common Thread,” tells about two poor families, one black, one white, who survive a rock-throwing incident by stitching up a gash and returning to a carefree existence.

            Julia Nunnally Duncan, in “Charlie’s Knife,” writes about continuing to cherish a handsome, self-exiled, war vet uncle even after learning about his adulterous and violent behavior.

            In Gwendie Camp’s story, “An Instant Family,” a girl confronts a man who has taken up residence in the house of her grandfather, which her jailed father now owns.

            The man says that he was told he could stay there by his daddy, Reginald Whitehouse, whom everyone calls Sonny.

            “Oh, law,” the girl says.  “Sonny don’t have any kids.”

            “He has me,” the man says,   “He just didn’t know it till recently.”

            The entries in “It’s All Relative” range from one to five pages in length, which works well with tales of the bizarre or with poetic revelations.

            Yet, many of the realistic short fiction works manage to wrap up gratifyingly, too.

 

Conflicted blessing

 

            Celia Miles’ story, “The Forks of Envy,” begins with a nice narrative trick.  The narrator philosophizes about how beauty and brains relate to freedom and success, and notes how she was ordained with middling attributes.

            “But it’s not me this story is about,” she says.  “This is Bryonette’s story.”

            Bryonette is the canary among the Haslip family wrens.  One day, she learns that a clerk had misspelled her name on her birth certificate.  Her mother had named her Byronette—Byr not Bry—and, in a curtain-raising moment, recites a Lord Byron poem.

            A few days later, the narrator sees her sister smoothing her fingernails and blurts, “Does my Lord need anything from the kitchen?”  Bryonette’s face reveals hurt, and then coldness.

            “That implacable coldness could then and always chill my very soul.  I retreated, defeated without a word from her.”

            Perfect.  That ending contains both the love and conflict that bind family members.

 

AUTHOR EVENTS

 

Celia Miles and Nancy Dillingham present “It’s All Relative”; and Dillingham presents “1950,” at Mountain Made, Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave #123, Asheville, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 14 (350-0307).

 

Miles and Dillingham read from their books at Grateful Steps, 159 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, 6 p.m., Nov. 17 (277-0998); and sign books at Murphy’s Curiosity Shop Bookstore, Nov. 28 (835-7433).

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