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Ann Miller Woodford posted an event
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Ann Miller Woodford at Gospel Singing program: Liberty Baptist Church, Sylva, NC & Exhibit; WCU Mountain Heritage Center

February 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
WCU's Mountain Heritage Center and curator, Ann Miller Woodford, will present an exhibit on African-American far western NC community, music, and history, based on Ann’s book, When All God's Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina.The exhibit is based upon Woodford’s book of the same name, which examines musical traditions of the African-Americans as practiced at home, work, churches and schools.The exhibit examines…See More
Feb 16
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Rytson

Tyson’s Emmett Till book probes darknessby Rob NeufeldEVENT: Timothy Tyson discusses his book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 6 p.m., Wed., Feb. 15.  828-254-6734.             The headline about the publication of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett…See More
Feb 13
Tipper posted a video

Kudzu Kickers - Waltz Clog

In case you didn't know-we dance too! Our clogging team is called the Kudzu Kickers. In this video we were practicing for an upcoming festival. The Pressley ...
Feb 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Memories and Food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.A few years ago I…See More
Feb 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 8
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Jewish Studies special events March 23-26

Center for Jewish Studies 35th Anniversary Events from press releaseUNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a series of special events on and off campus March 23-26. Rick Chess talk and readingUNC Asheville Professor of English Richard Chess has been director of the CJS for the past 25 years and will deliver the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture on the celebration’s opening night. A poet and essayist, Chess will offer a vision of Jewish…See More
Feb 7
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Feb 7
David E. Whisnant updated their profile
Feb 6
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Second Novel at Jackson County Public Library

March 3, 2017 from 6:30pm to 8pm
The Jackson County Public Library and City Lights Bookstore are co-hosting an event with David Joy on Friday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. He will present his second novel, The Weight of This World, in the Community Room of the Jackson County Public Library. Set in the Little Canada community of Jackson County, The Weight of This World is a story of three people haunted by their past. A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he…See More
Feb 4
Tipper posted a blog post

Hiccup Cures

Do you ever get the hiccups? Every once in a while I do. If I have them once during a day-I always have them again before the day is over. My record is 5 different times in one day.We've all heard drinking water or holding your breath is the remedy to stop hiccups. According to John Parris saying this tongue twister will cure them:Hickup, snicup, rise up, right up! Three drops in the cup are good for…See More
Feb 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The German experience settling WNC

The German migration to Western North Carolinaby Rob Neufeld PICTURE CAPTION: An immigrant family comes down the Philadelphia Wagon Road in the mid-18th century, as had the George Schuck family done, and as this Scots-Irish family is doing in an 1872 “Harper’s Weekly” illustration, titled, “The…See More
Feb 3
Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

March 6, 2017 from 7pm to 8pm
The launch of Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987).In an eleven-day interview Daniel and Anna Winters looked back with honesty on a marriage challenged by moving from Indiana to Mexico City. The book is about an independent white woman, a talented black man, and the times in which these two remarkable people lived.See More
Feb 3
Tipper posted a blog post

How About Some Chocolate Gravy?

A few weeks ago Granny called me one Saturday morning to tell me she had sausage, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy ready if I wanted to come down and eat. It tickled her to death when I told her she was calling me too late - I had already made and eaten my own ham, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy. I grew up eating chocolate gravy on Granny's biscuits. We didn't have chocolate…See More
Jan 30

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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