2013 Carolina Mountains Literary Festival Banquet Keynote Speaker, is the author of the
The Historian. She graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress. Her latest novel is The Swan Thieves.
Photo by Deborah Feingold
Charles F. Price is the author of Nor the Battle to the Strong: A Novel of the American Revolution in the South, an account of a crucial military campaign in South Carolina during the summer of 1781.
Price also wrote the Hiwassee series, four works of historical fiction set in his native Western North Carolina. They are Hiwassee; Freedom’s Altar; The Cock’s Spur; and Where the Water-Dogs Laughed. Freedom’s Altar earned the 1999 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for historical fiction. Recently he has published four titles, Above the Caprock; Four Sixes to Beat: John Wesley Hardin in El Paso; Vengeance on the Sweetgrass; and Call Down Heaven’s Fire. All are works of historical fiction, the first three set in the Old West, the fourth in the medieval period. Price’s nonfiction book Season of Terror was just published by the University Press of Colorado. It explores the consequences of a murderous rampage by Hispanic religious zealots in Southern Colorado in 1863. He is a native of Haywood County, NC and has been a Washington lobbyist, management consultant, urban planner and journalist. He and his wife Ruth are founders of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. He is a member of the North Caroliniana Society.
Stephanie Powell Watts, associate professor of English at Lehigh University, was awarded the Ernest J.Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need. Watts’ work chronicles the lives of young African Americans who come from, or live near, the dark houses out on tangled dirt roads on the fringes of the county. We Are Taking Only What We Need has been frequently honored in the past year. It was one of two finalists for The Hemingway Foundation /PEN Award, as well as a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, the John Gardner Short Story Award, and was on the long list for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. It has been listed as one of the best books of 2012 by The New Yorker, The Kansas City Star, and other publications. Stories from the collection have appeared in the Pushcart Prize anthology in 2008, Best New Stories from the South anthologies in 2007 and 2009, and two stories were cited as Distinguished Stories in the 2009 and 2011 Best American Short Stories anthologies.
Abigail DeWitt is the author of two novels, Lili (W.W.Norton) and Dogs (Lorimer Press) as well as
short stories which have been published in several literary journals, including The Carolina Quarterly, Salamander and The Journal. The recipient of a Michener Fellowship and a Tyrone Guthrie Residency Fellowship, as well as grants from the North Carolina Arts Council and the Asheville Arts Alliance, Abigail DeWitt received her BA from Harvard University and her MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. She has taught Creative Writing at Harvard Summer School, The Duke Writers Workshop, Appalachian State University and UNC-Asheville and has been the Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She lives in Burnsville, NC with her husband and daughter.
Keith Flynn is the author of six books, including five collections of poetry: The Talking Drum (1991), The Book of Monsters (1994), The Lost Sea (2000), The Golden Ratio (Iris Press, 2007), and Colony Collapse Disorder (Wings Press, 2013). Flynn's popular collection of essays, The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing (2007) was published by Writer's Digest Books. From 1984 to 1999, Flynn was lyricist and lead singer for the nationally acclaimed rock band, "The Crystal Zoo," which produced three albums: Swimming Through Lake Eerie (1992), Pouch (1996), and the spoken-word and music compilation, Nervous Splendor (2003). He is currently touring with a supporting combo, The Holy Men, whose album, LIVE at Diana Wortham Theatre, was released in 2011. Flynn's award-winning poetry and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies around the world, including The American Literary Review, The Colorado Review, Poetry Wales, The Cuirt Journal (Ireland), Takahe (New Zealand), Poetry East, The Southern Poetry Review, Margie, Rattle, Shenandoah, Word and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry, Crazyhorse, and many others. He has been awarded the Sandburg Prize for poetry, the ASCAP Emerging Songwriter Prize, the Paumanok Poetry Award, and was twice named the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for North Carolina. Flynn is founder and managing editor of The Asheville Poetry Review, which began publishing in 1994. For more information, please visit: www.ashevillepoetryreview.com.
Holly Iglesias is a poet, translator and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Edward Albee Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her work includes Angles of Approach, Souvenirs of a Shrunken World, Fruta Bomba, Hands-on Saints and Boxing Inside the Box: Women’s Prose Poetry. She teaches in the Master of Liberal Arts Program at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
Sharon Webb began her writing career at the age
of eleven when she won her first author’s award for an original work of poetry. In recent years, her articles have regularly appeared in local magazines and periodicals. Talking to Shadows was inspired by childhood memories of eccentric ancestors, and also by stories that were told and retold of the women in her family who were gifted with “the sight” ¾ the ability to communicate with those who had passed from this world into the next.
Fred Bahnson is the author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and co-author of Making Peace with the Land (InterVarsity Press, 2012). He holds a masters in theological studies from Duke Divinity School. After being drawn to the agrarian life while serving as a peaceworker among Mayan coffee farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, he returned to North Carolina and in 2005 co-founded Anathoth Community Garden, a church-supported agriculture ministry in Cedar Grove, NC which he then directed until 2009. His essays have appeared in Oxford America, The Sun, Orion, Christian Science Monitor and Best American Spiritual Writing 2007 (Houghton Mifflin). His writing has received a number of awards, including a 2006 Pilgrimage Essay Award, a 2008 William Raney scholarship in nonfiction at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, a 2009-10 Kellogg Food & Community fellowship, and a 2012 North Carolina Artist fellowship in creative nonfiction from the NC Arts Council. He lives with his wife and three sons in Transylvania County and is director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
Janie DeVos’ first children’s picture book, How High Can You Fly?, was published through River Road Press in 2002. It became very popular with teachers, librarians and parents across South Florida, and, in 2003, her second picture book; The Path Winds Home was released. Her work grabbed the attention of a New York publisher, East End Publishing, and, in 2007, Ms. DeVos’ third book, Barthello’s Wing, was published. Scholastic Books included it in their North American school book fairs and to date it has sold over 90,000 copies. In the spring of 2012, the publisher at Little Giggles Press read DeVos’ latest manuscript, The Shopkeeper’s Bear, and published it in November of that year. Ms. DeVos has made numerous appearances in schools, libraries and bookstores. She has been a keynote speaker; selected author for special events; and served on various committees, including being the authors’ liaison for the Reading Across Broward Festival in 2006. Ms. DeVos’ books teach gentle and loving lessons about acceptance, tolerance, and the importance of recognizing the gifts we each possess. Presently, she is finishing her first adult novel, while her fifth children’s book is being illustrated for release later this year.
Mallory McDuff teaches environmental education at Warren Wilson College, a unique liberal arts school in Asheville, North Carolina that combines academics with work and service. A lifelong Episcopalian, she grew up on the Gulf Coast in Fairhope, Alabama, where her parents connected faith to environmental stewardship through actions such as giving up driving for Lent. In addition to teaching for 13 years in Western North Carolina, she has worked as a small-town journalist in Alabama, an environmental educator in Florida, and a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African rainforest. Mallory has a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology and conservation and has published widely in both academic journals and the popular press. Her op-eds make connections between issues like climate change and the realities of day-to-day life and are regularly featured in USA Today, Sojourners, and The Huffington Post. Her books include Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God’s Earth (Oxford University Press, 2010) and Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate (New Society Publishers, 2012). She lives on the campus of Warren Wilson College with her two daughters, Maya and Annie Sky.
Dale Neal is the author of the novels The Half-Life of Home and Cow Across America, winner of the 2009 Novello Literary Prize. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Arts & Letters, Carolina Quarterly, Marlboro Review, Crescent Review, and many other literary journals. A graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, he has been awarded fellowships to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hambidge Center, and the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland. He is a prize-winning writer for the Asheville Citizen-Times, having covered entrepreneurs, police, local government, religion, arts, books, and technology. He is a lifelong native of North Carolina and lives in Asheville with his wife and dogs. When his nose is not buried in some book, he's bound to be out on the trails of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit his website at www.dalenealbooks.com.
Katherine Scott Crawford was born and raised in the blue hills of the South Carolina Upcountry, the history and setting of which inspired her debut historical novel, Keowee Valley. Winner of a North Carolina Arts Award, she is a former newspaper reporter and outdoor educator, a college English teacher, and an avid hiker. She lives with her family in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where she tries to resist the siren call of her passport as she works on her next novel. Visit her website at www.katherinescottcrawford.com for more information, or to connect with her via Facebook, Twitter, and at her blog, The Writing Scott.
Bob Watts is an Assistant Professor in English/Creative Writing at Lehigh University. His first collection, Past Providence (David Robert Books, February 2005), won the 2004 Stanzas Prize from David Robert Books, and his poems have been published in Poetry, The Paris Review, and reDivider, among other journals. He was, with his wife, the fiction writer Stephanie Powell Watts, a founding co-editor of Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts while a PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Katherine Soniat's collection of poems, The Swing Girl, selected as Best Collection of 2011 by the Poetry Commission of North Carolina, was published by Louisiana State University Press. Her sixth collection A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge is recently out from Dream Horse Press (2012). A Shared Life won the Iowa Poetry Prize given by the University of Iowa Press, and a Virginia Prize for Poetry, selected by Mary Oliver. Alluvial, a finalist for Library of Virginia Center Book Award, was published by Bucknell University Press. Soniat has taught on the faculty at Hollins University and Virginia Tech. Poems have appeared in recent issues of Women’s Review of Books, Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly,and IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery.Presently an instructor in the Great Smokies Writers Program/UNC-Asheville, she lives on a ravine in Kenilworth with a mother bear and two cubs. website: www.katherinesoniat.com Photo by Tracey Schmidt
Kane "Novakane" Smego is a National Poetry Slam finalist, Southern Fried Poetry Slam Champion, touring artist, and Artistic Director of 2010 Indy Arts Award-winner Sacrificial Poets, a nationally-competing youth poetry organization based out of the Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. Kane has taught workshops and performed all over the country, featuring at such historic venues as the Nuyorican Poets Café in NYC, the 2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, and the birth place of Slam Poetry, Chicago’s Green Mill. In the summer of 2011, Kane helped create and lead the Poetic Portraits of a Revolution (PPR2011) project that traveled to Egypt and Tunisia to collect stories of the popular revolutions, and broadcasted them as poems in an eight-week radio series on the National Public Radio affiliate WUNC. Kane was recently featured on the King Mez debut album, My Everlasting Zeal, alongside such accomplished artists as Lupe Fiasco’s producer, Soundtrakk, and Grammy Award-nominee J. Cole. Kane grew up in the Durham-Chapel Hill area, and graduated with highest distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill class of 2010, where he was awarded the Sterling A. Stoudemire Chancellor’s Award for Excellence. Kane seeks to inspire youth and adults to tell their own stories, and challenges them to transform themselves and their communities through the use of the spoken and written word.
Susan Ketchin’s diverse experience in writing, teaching, and publishing includes her posts as Editor of The St. Andrews Review, Fiction Editor for Southern Exposure Magazine at the Institute for Southern Studies in Durham, NC, and Associate and Fiction Editor for DoubleTake Magazine at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. She has served as Associate Editor at Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill and Editor for the Fiction Series University Press of Mississippi. In 1994, Ketchin established an editorial consulting service, Renascence Literary Services, which she continues to operate. Susan has taught Creative Writing and Religion and Literature of the American South at Duke University, at North Carolina State University, and elsewhere. She was the Eudora Welty Co-Chair of Southern Studies at Millsaps College and a Visiting Lecturer at the Duke Divinity School. She has also taught U.S. and Regional Language and Culture at Duke University's Summer Institute for International MBA Students at the Fuqua School of Business. Susan’s publications include articles, interviews, and reviews, and two books, The Christ-Haunted Landscape: Faith and Doubt in Southern Fiction (University Press of Mississippi, 1994) and 25 and Under: Fiction (W.W. Norton, 1997), co-edited with Neil Giordano. Currently, she is working on a book that explores the impact and healing power of southern music in her life growing up in the Christ-haunted south. In addition to writing and editing, Susan lectures and performs throughout the U.S. on a wide range of topics, such as "Spiritual Autobiography: How Ancient Pilgrim Souls Speak to Us Today," "Music & Story-telling, Essentials of Community" and "God In Southern Story and Song." Susan often weaves songs into a lecture or presentation--such as "Poor, Wayfaring Stranger," from the Sacred Harp in a lecture on spiritual autobiography, or her award-winning original composition, "God Stood Waiting By the Side of the Road" into a talk about modern metaphors for timeless themes for "God in Southern Story and Song." Having studied theology and the arts at Union Theological Seminary, NYC, Susan leads weekend and day-long workshops on topics ranging from "Writing Fiction & Memoir--Do the Same Principles Apply?" to "Writing, Editing, and Publishing in the Digital Age." Susan is an accomplished musician specializing in traditional American music (folk, jazz, gospel, and blues). She sings and plays guitar, banjo, and upright bass and has recorded two award-winning albums with Rounder/Flying Fish Records. She currently teaches nonfiction creative writing at Meredith College in Raleigh.
This project is made possible by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Kathryn Newfont studies the rich temperate forests of the southern Appalachians and the people they have sustained, with a particular emphasis on environmental activism and national forest history. She teaches history and works with the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill College. Her first book, Blue Ridge Commons: Environmental Activism and Forest History in Western North Carolina, came out in February 2012 from University of Georgia Press. She finished drafting the manuscript with support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Blue Ridge Commons won the 2012 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association, and the 2012 W.D. Weatherford Award for Nonfiction from the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College. She is currently collaborating on an edited volume exploring oral history and public lands.
Chris Schweizer was born in 1980, grew up in Louisiana and Kentucky, and went to college at
Murray State University. He majored in art, then theater, then history, then English, then ended up back with art, earning a BFA in graphic design. The first book in the Crogan Adventures series, Crogan’s Vengeance, came out in 2008. Chris made the book while he was in graduate school, studying Sequential Art (that’s the academic name for comics) at SCAD-Atlanta, the metropolitan branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design. He received his MFA in 2008, and began teaching at SCAD-Atlanta shortly afterwards as an instructor in the Sequential Art and Animation departments. He is now a full professor in the Sequential Art department. He lives in Marietta, Georgia with his wife Liz and daughter Penelope.
Mark Schweizer In 1974, Mark Schweizer, a brand-new high-school graduate, decided
to eschew the family architectural business and become an opera singer. Against all prevailing wisdom and despite jokes from his peers such as "What does the music major say after his first job interview?" (answer: You want fries with that?), he enrolled in the Music School at Stetson University. To his father, the rationale was obvious. No math requirement. Everything happens for a reason, however, and he now lives and works as a musician, composer, author and publisher in Tryon, North Carolina with his lovely wife, Donis. If anyone finds out what he’s up to, he’ll have to go back to work at Cracker Barrel. He actually has a bunch of degrees, including a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Arizona. I know! What were they thinking? Mark is the author of the "Liturgical Mysteries," twelve highly acclaimed comic mysteries set in the fictitious town of St. Germaine, North Carolina and a 1940s Chicago police thriller, Dear Priscilla. His writing and wry sense of humor can also be found in the classical music section of Faking It: How to Seem Like a Better Person Without Actually Improving Yourself from the writers of collegehumor.com and published by the New American Library.
In the field of bad writing, Mark had the distinction of receiving several Dishonorable Mentions in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, an annual contest in which the entrants compete for the dubious honor of having composed the worst opening sentence to an imaginary novel. When it was discovered that people would actually purchase a book of these, these entries were included in It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: A Collection of the Worst Fiction Ever Written, edited by Scott Rice and published by The Friday Project. Mark is the proud father of Chris Schweizer, graphic novelist, also here at the CMLF. www.sjmpbooks.com
near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine, where she started in the circulation department answering telephones before moving to the editorial department. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 80-year-old publication in 2009. In 2011 and 2012, under Elizabeth's editorial leadership, Our State won Gold Eddies for "Best Issue" of a regional magazine in the country, the top honor from FOLIO, the magazine industry's leading publication.
Robert Lynn "Bobby" McMillon, a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient, was heir to numerous strands of Appalachian culture. From his father's family in Cocke County, Tennessee, he learned Primitive Baptist hymns and traditional stories and ballads. From his mother's people in Yancy and Mitchell Counties, North Carolina, he heard "booger tales, haint tales," and legends about the murder of a relative named Charlie Silver. In Caldwell County, he went to school with relatives of Tom Dula, learned their family stories, and heard ballads, gospel songs, and Carter family recordings. "The real storytelling," Bobby says, "was so intertwined that a bear tale or a fish tale or a witch tale or a tale of some history that had really happened—a family tale—they were all equally believable." He was always drawn to old songs and stories, but as a teenager he discovered the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore in the Lenoir Public Library and got a glimpse of the historical background and significance of the things he knew. This inspired an enthusiasm for folklore documentation that has made him an invaluable resource to his community. By the age of seventeen, he had begun taping and interviewing family members, neighbors, and friends who knew old songs and stories. Even before that, he had begun to develop his skills as a performer. He and his cousins "would get together in the evenings" and "just tell everything in the world that we had heard." Bobby McMillon has performed throughout the state as a singer and storyteller. He has appeared at events such as the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife, the A. P. Carter Memorial Festival, national storytelling conferences, and the Festival for the Eno. For a decade he served public schools as part of the Artist in the Schools and Visiting Artist programs. Filmmaker Tom Davenport produced a film, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, that features Bobby singing the ballad and telling stories passed down in his family and community about the murder. Because these songs and tales have deep roots in his own family and experience, Bobby has a passion for them and for sharing them. "Eventually, I began to realize," he says "that if I didn't perform the songs I was learning, most of the repertories of the people I learned from would be lost because they didn't have family members of their own to hand them down to." His greatest gift is his rare ability to convey to listeners a feeling for the world from which the stories come.
Susan Woodring grew up—for the most part—in Greensboro, North Carolina. She also
lived in California, Alabama, Illinois, and Indiana as a child. Upon graduating from Western Carolina University, she spent a year teaching English as a Foreign Language in Vologda, Russia. When she returned, she spent a few years teaching middle school in Lenoir, North Carolina before resigning to begin a family with her husband Danny and to spend more time on her writing. In May 2004, Susan received a Master in Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing from Queens University, and in September 2007, her first novel, The Traveling Disease, was published by Main Street Rag. Her short story collection, Springtime on Mars, was published by Press 53 in May 2008. A new novel, Goliath, is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press. Susan credits a number of people and books with helping shape and sustain her work. Early on, Carol Carney, her next-door neighbor in Claremont, California, encouraged her very first stories and introduced her to a number of great books, including Gulliver’s Travels and Anne of Green Gables. Years and years later, at a Salvation Army thrift store, Susan picked up a copy of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. From Irving, she learned an appreciation for the architecture of the novel, and a few years later, she learned the power of voice from Bret Lott’s Jewel. Other influences include Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Gilead, Brad Watson’s The Heaven of Mercury, and Aimee Bender’s The Girl in the Flammable Skirt.
Susan lives in the foothills of North Carolina where she homeschools her two children and writes.
Beth Revis is the author of the NY Times Bestselling Across the Universe series,
published by Razorbill/Penguin in the US and available in 17 countries. The first book in the trilogy, Across the Universe, is a “cunningly executed thriller” according to Booklist, and the second book, A Million Suns, was hailed by the LA Times as “a fast-paced, action-packed follow-up.” The final book of the trilogy, Shades of Earth, will be released in early 2013.
A former teacher, Beth lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and dog. Her goals include travelling around the world in 80 days, exploring the moon, and finding Narnia.
Myra McEntire knows the words to every R&B hit of the last decade, but since she lives in Nashville, the country music capital of America, her lyrical talents go sadly unappreciated. She’s chosen, instead, to channel her “mad word skills” into creating stories.
She’s an avid Doctor Who fan and will argue passionately about which incarnation is the best.
David Boone local wood carver of nationally renowned fame and accomplished painter and musician, has pulled a new trick out of his hat of artistic talents: that of master story teller. With his newly published book, Sing Me Back Home, Boone at long last brings to the public his Vietnam War stories that give credit to veterans as few books from that time have done. He will read from his collection at the Burnsville Town Center Friday evening, July 19. Told in a voice that is rich with the heritage of the Black Mountains in whose shadows he grew up, Sing Me Back Home is a collection of tales and photographs that bring to life in an often humorous fashion some otherwise very dark moments. “I wanted to tell about the Vietnam War the way I saw it, not how Hollywood tells it,” Boone reports. “So many negative things have been said about this war. All the movies dwell on the gory aspects, on bombing villages, whatever. But that’s not what I saw.” Boone was drafted into the Army in December of 1966, barely a year after he married Elaine Hensley, also a Yancey County native. Less than a year and many funny tales later, he landed in Cam Ranh Bay to join the 1097 Medium Boat Company, only to discover on his first night there that his arrival would mark the very first time the giant, sprawling base was to come under enemy attack. “I could hear machine gun fire, small arms fire, and mortar rounds coming from everywhere. It did not sound very good,” he dryly recounts. From that point things went down hill fast for the next 12 months, as he so clearly relates in his humorous story teller’s voice honed as a youngster sitting at the feet of his grandfather Ewart Wilson, long regarded as a master story teller of Western North Carolina mountain lore. Why the humor about such a grizzly experience, one might ask. “Well, it wasn’t really a lot of fun in Vietnam, but I didn’t want to be a whiner. If you sort of didn’t put a bit of a twist on things, it could get under your skin pretty bad,” Boone explains. “It could get you a bit crazy, and I didn’t want to be that way, so you sort of put a wall up. You needed that wall so that you weren’t upset and nervous all the time.” Humor was that wall. Boone’s Vietnam book is actually a memoir, recounting how he tried to get into the Nashville music scene, then met his wife Elaine and settled down a bit, and then got his unexpected draft notice at age 27. He recounts in great detail his training experiences and his surprise posting to of all things an Army boat company. His stories unfold through some of the worst fighting in the Mekong Delta, all the way through the infamous Tet Offensive. He does not gloss over the fighting and bloodshed, but he does not dwell on it either. “Everybody knows it was a war,” he notes. Instead, he goes to great pains to humanize his fellow soldiers. “I wanted to tell about what went on between the battles, what we were really like.” Boone also wanted to leave a legacy to his children and grandchildren, and his next project will continue that effort. Called “Papa’s Bear Stories,” his second book will be a collection of tales as told by his grandfather Ewart Wilson, grandson of Big Tom Wilson, a famous bear hunter and guide from Yancey County. “My granddaddy, whom we all called ‘Papa’, and his granddaddy did a lot of bear hunting together, and my brother and I heard his wonderful stories over and over again sitting at Papa’s knees. These tales are really worth preserving.”
Toe River Anthology Group
Ruth Pope, Donna Jean Dreyer, Pat Riviere-Seel, Mary Helmle,
and Susan Larson
Thirty-five years ago a group of novice writers began meeting in the mezzanine of the Burnsville Library under the tutelage of Francis Pledger Hulme. Sharing from his deep reservoir of literary knowledge, Dr. Hulme cajoled, encouraged and teased the 23 members into producing poetry, fiction and memoirs, from which he selected the contents of the Toe River Anthology 1979. After publication, some of the original writers have continued to meet, giving helpful and open feedback. In this session four of the present group will read, some from the Toe River Anthology and some from their current writing, and will share what the experience of being in this writing group (now called the Scribblers) has meant to them. Donna Jean Dreyer and Pat Riviere-Seel have both published books. Ruth Pope is working on her memoir, and Susan Larson is continuing to organize writing classes.
Ruth Pope has made her home in Celo, N.C. for many years. She was born in Europe and has lived on four continents, traveling throughout the world with her mother, the pianist Lili Kraus, and her husband Dr. Fergus Pope and their three children. The Popes worked with Dr. Albert Schweitzer in his jungle hospital in Africa. Fluent in five languages, she has served as a translator, and she trained and worked as a singer, actress, and Montessori teacher. She was co- founder of Music in the Mountains, which brought classical music to rural Western North Carolina. Later in life she began university studies and received a degree in psychology from UNCA. She currently teaches classes in yoga and physical fitness in Yancey County.
Donna Jean Dreyer grew up in the Philadelphia area and has lived in North Carolina since 1970. Writing was a major component of her work in public relations, development and administration. Retirement brought the opportunity to explore creative nonfiction. Her first full length book Decrescendo: A Memoir of Love and Caregiving was published in 2010, and she writes regularly about the joys, issues and vicissitudes of old age for her blog. She was married to theater director Bill Dreyer until his death in 2003, and has three children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. For more information visit: djdreyer.blogspot.com
Pat Riviere-Seel’s third collection of poems, Nothing Below but Air is forthcoming this winter from Main Street Rag. She is the author of two previous collections, The Serial Killer’s Daughter, winner of the 2009 Roanoke Chowan Award for Poetry, and No Turning Back Now (2004) a Pushcart Prize nominee. She was awarded a fellowship from the Hambidge Center for Arts and Sciences and has served as Poet in Residence at the North Carolina Zoo. A 2003 graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Queens University of Charlotte, Pat is a former lobbyist, publicist, award winning journalist, and editor.
Susan Larson moved to Western North Carolina in 1973 with her husband Dr. David Larson and two small children. An English major at Kalamazoo College and The University of Chicago, she used her skills first as a high school English teacher in Chicago, then as the first executive director of the Toe River Arts Council, and finally as a fundraiser at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her creative writing has been published in the Great Smokies Review and Gateways. In retirement she has been active organizing classes for nonprofits (MainPRO) and cajoling UNCA to offer classes in Burnsville through the Great Smokies Creative Writing Program.
She summoned her artistic strengths from her early childhood, in a log cabin without a mother or father present, as well as from her inspirational teachers along her path. She is a registered nurse by trade, but she found most inspiration from her family, her art, and her writing. All four of her children, most of her grandchildren, and her great-granddaughter are also artists in different genres. She is active with several
local groups and enjoys contributing to many local organizations in the Yancey County community. Helmle is one of the few surviving members of the original group of writers known as 'The Scribblers'. She continues to share wisdom and strength to the community just as her husband Robert Kuhl Helmle did for several terms as mayor of Burnsville, NC. Her heart is with the people of this community, and her written words and visual art are a reflection of her devotion.