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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson reveals how surreal emotions areby Rob Neufeld             Adam Johnson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” comes to Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, 7 p.m., Fri., Sept. 4 to present his new book of short stories, “Fortune Smiles.”            The stories are remarkable…See More
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City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Leanne Brown will Present Her Cookbook at City Lights Bookstore

September 4, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Leanne Brown will visit City Lights Bookstore to present her cookbook on Friday, September 4th at 6:30 p.m. Her book, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day is designed for those on the strictest of budgets, particularly those on the U.S. food stamp budget. This book is great, though, for anyone wanting to eat really well cheaply. Good and Cheap features tips on shopping and kitchen equipment, and more than a hundred easy, flexible recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To reserve a copy,…See More
Aug 22
Spellbound updated an event
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September Teen Book Club at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

September 18, 2015 from 6pm to 7pm
Our new monthly book club for teens meets the third Friday of each month, 6:00-7:00PM. A different book will be discussed at each meeting, and will cover a variety of genres. No purchase is required to attend, but if you do plan to buy the book, we’d appreciate your support of Spellbound as the hosting store! All book club selections are 20% off until the day of the meeting.September's title: SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus Sedgwick.See More
Aug 22
Spellbound posted events
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Betty Smith at Hendersonville culture event September 17

Center Kicks Off New Series With A BangNew “Keeping the Fires Burning Series” Launches With Betty Smith and Songcatcher (from press release) (HENDERSONVILLE, NC, August 18, 2015) – The Center for Cultural Preservation, is pleased to announce the launch of its second season of its popular public program series KEEPING THE FIRES BURNING- Heroes of Mountain Culture.  The series features musicians, authors and heritage preservation leaders who are working to keep mountain culture alive.  The…See More
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Pam Durban, author of Soon, gripping, psychological, Southern stories

Pam Durban: Facing reality with a wide-open eyeby Rob Neufeld             John Updike honored Pam Durban’s story, “Soon,” by selecting it for his anthology, “The Best American Short Stories of the Century.”  Now, it’s one of 11 included in Durban’s new volume, also titled “Soon.”            “Soon,” the short story, is a marvel…See More
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Aug 19
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Mary Joyce Returns with a New Book at City Lights Bookstore

September 12, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Sylva author, Mary Joyce will return to City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, September 12th at 3 p.m. to present her latest book.Underground Military Bases Hidden in North Carolina Mountains compiles information gathered by Joyce over several years about secret military facilities in North Carolina. The information about the secret bases is mostly from those with military, law enforcement and high-security backgrounds plus citizens who have stumbled upon evidence. Joyce is also the author…See More
Aug 18
Bill Ramsey posted an event

North Carolina Writer's Network Fall Conference at Asheville Doubletree Hilton

August 20, 2015 to August 22, 2015
When did you last attended a top quality and affordable writer's conference? The North Carolina Writer's Network is returning to western North Carolina. Membership in the Network is encouraged but not required to attend this event. For more info:http://www.ncwriters.org/2014-01-07-18-05-50/conferencesSee More
Aug 15
katherine soniat posted photos
Aug 12
Rob Neufeld commented on Joe Epley's blog post Speaking about the American Revollution in the Carolinas
"See Joe's website, Epley Writes, including about his novel, A Passel of Hate,"
Aug 12
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

R.T. Smith--Rachel-Rivers Coffey Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at App State

R.T. Smith, poet, story-writer, and founder of Cold Mountain Review, honored with App State roleSee notice of new book at Washington & Lee U.fROM PRESS RELEASEBOONE—Writer R.T. (Rod) Smith has been named the 2015-16 Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at Appalachian State University. Smith will lead an eight-week colloquium during fall semester for students in Appalachian’s creative writing…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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Spellbound posted events
Aug 8

Craftsmanship and craftiness emerge in Bruce Johnson’s world

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Bruce Johnson celebrates his passions—Asheville, the Arts & Crafts movement, history and literature; and the universe that comes to light from his efforts has become a huge draw.

            This coming weekend, the National Arts and Crafts Conference, which Johnson founded in 1988, presents a one-of-a-kind display of objects and an array of aficionados at the Grove Park Inn.

            In time for the occasion, Johnson has published his 16th book, “Tales of the Grove Park Inn”; and, for the Grove Park Inn centennial, he has revised and reissued “Built for the Ages: A History of the Grove Park Inn.”

 

Pragmatic romantic

 

            Johnson devotes a chapter of  “Tales” to Elbert Hubbard, whose Roycroft Furniture Shop provided the inn with thousands of furnishings, helping to make it the number one Arts & Crafts location in the world.

            Hubbard’s “skills as a marketing genius and talented copywriter,” Johnson writes, “had carried him to the top management level of the nationally known Larkin Soap Company.   Then, at age 36 and nearing the peak of his corporate career, Hubbard had done what millions only dream of doing…He quit.”

            Hubbard started following his passion—hand-printing beautiful books in the manner of William Morris, the pioneer English writer, designer, and printer.  Soon, his business skills re-flowered, and Hubbard became a manufacturer as well as apostle of the Arts & Crafts style, which features simplicity of design, craftsmanship, and durability.

            Johnson started his career as a high school literature and history teacher in Iowa.  His graduation to writer and Arts & Crafts expert grew from his love of making history interesting; and from early experiences in New Windsor, Illinois, a prairie town near Davenport, Iowa.

            His maternal grandmother, Violet Hickok, took her eldest grandson with her to yard sales to develop a respect for fine objects and sturdy craftsmanship.  Johnson recalled, in a recent interview, a formative experience from when he’d been in high school.

            “My grandmother called me up one day and said, ‘I want you to come out to the farm.’  I went out there, and she had dragged out of her basement this antique maple bed.  It was dark and grimy, and she said, ‘We’re going to refinish this bed for you.

            “I remember that day,” Johnson continued, “when we rolled up our sleeves and got out the steel wool and denatured alcohol…I will never forget that afternoon in her driveway.  She and I stripped and refinished what we used to call a cannonball maple bed.  Even though it was not Arts & Crafts, I never let that maple bed go.  I always hung onto it, and today that bed is my son’s bed.  I passed it along to him.  It is a symbol of my grandmother’s love for antiques and family heirlooms.”

 

The human condition

 

            Johnson also credits his grandmother as a storyteller.  In the classroom, Johnson as teacher strove to turn the dust of the past into revived life—through stories.

            “You quickly learn,” Johnson commented, “that you have to make history interesting.  The two things that (do that) are unanswered mysteries and personalities.”

            In his 2011 mystery novel, “An Unexpected Guest,” he turned the well-known ghost story about the Pink Lady at the Grove Park Inn into an exploration of the personality of the inn’s overseer, Fred Seely.

            In “Tales,” he composes chapters that relate the saga of Fred Seely, Edwin Wiley Grove, and the Grove Park Inn; and others that reveal the dreams, flaws, and fates of famous individuals associated with the inn.

            For instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who stayed there for a couple of years, while both he and Zelda, ensconced at Highland Hospital, struggled with their personal crashes.

            Johnson’s research is far-reaching and thorough.  He doesn’t provide footnotes, but he includes references within his narration, and if you care to search out the original documents with keyword searches, you can.

            I knew of Fitzgerald’s mention of Asheville in “The Great Gatsby.”  I did not know, until reading “Tales,” of its mention in his short story, “The Ice Palace.”

            Johnson pulls up the journal of Laura Guthrie, Fitzgerald’s secretary during those GPI years, and quotes her.

            “He lives the most unnatural life of any man I know,” Guthrie observed.  “He lives on beer, as high as 37 bottles in one day…He smokes all the time, too, Sano cigarettes, by preference, as he thinks they do not hurt him.”  When she fed him soup, he only consumed the broth, and left the vegetables.

 

Business people

 

            The tales do not immerse you and keep you under like novels, but they do provide material for several novels.  Johnson, in his pursuit of mystery, does not shy from controversy.

            Seely and Grove were complex, visionary, ambitious, and disciplined battlers.  One of Johnson’s chapters is titled, “A Family Feud.”

            In an early chapter, Johnson tells how Grove had traveled to Detroit to see if Parke, Davis & Company could help him turn his quinine medicine into pills.  The head of the tablet department there was Fred Seely, age 26, who let Grove know that Parke, Davis did not own the patent on the tablet-making machine.

            Soon enough, Seely was working for Grove, using their own tablet machines, which Seely had improved with a pill counter; and Seely was engaged to Grove’s daughter, Evelyn.

            William Warren, Park, Davis President took out a warrant for Seely’s arrest.  Grove had Seely return to Asheville to make a sworn statement under oath.  “Meanwhile,” Johnson writes, “Grove took an overnight train to Detroit, where he confronted William Warren and, in the presence of two stenographers, grilled the supervisor until Warren admitted that his accusations had been based solely on reports from other employees.”

 

The beautiful book

 

            Johnson has self-published his book of tales.  He’s got the name recognition to make that work.  For his recent coffee table book, “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture,” he collaborated with Popular Woodworking Books, designer Brian Roeth, photographer Al Parrish, and illustrator Kevin Pierce.

            It’s a model of design and content.

            There’s a lot of history about Arts & Craft.  The photos are composed for maximum information and allure.  The drawings present plans that woodworkers and cabinetmakers can follow.

            “The wonderful thing about Arts & Crafts furniture,” Jonson noted, “is that it doesn’t require expensive machinery; or a lot of intricate carving.  It’s very achievable by even the novice woodworker.”

            The Arts & Crafts style lives, not only with those who buy and sell antiques, and those who make accurate reproductions; but also with those—such as Brian Brace in Black Mountain and Rob Kleber, creator of new panels for the GPI’s Great Room columns—who respect the style in new forms.

            The Arts & Crafts Conference is the art form’s phenomenal showcase.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

The Arts & Crafts Conference

 

Times of the conference: 1 to 6 p.m., Fri.; noon to 6 p.m., Sat; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun. at the Grove Park Inn

 

Number to call: 628-1915

 

Charge for parking outside: 0

 

Number of people who attend: 3,000

 

Number of exhibitors: 125—50 antique dealers, 50 contemporary craftspeople, and 25 booksellers

 

Percentage of items for sale: 100%

 

Lowest price item: decorative tile, a few dollars

 

Highest price item:  last year, a $36,000 Frank Lloyd Wright desk

 

Time that Bruce Johnson wakes up to get to work each day: 5 a.m.

 

Website: arts-crafts.com 

 

 

THE BOOKS

Tales of the Grove Park Inn by Bruce E. Johnson (Knock on Wood Publication trade paper, 2013, 374 pages)

Built for the Ages: A History of the Grove Park Inn by Bruce E. Johnson, revised edition (Grove Park Inn hardcover, many photos on photo-quality paper, 2013, 128 pages)

Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture by Bruce E, Johnson (Popular Woodworking Books large format hardcover with glossy paper, 2009, 175 pages, $35).

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