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Asheville area's lively books scene attracts authors

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7/21/2011 - Asheville area's lively books scene attracts authors
by Rob Neufeld - Asheville Citizen Times

AUTHORS SHOWCASED across the region!  With technology everywhere, its easy to forget how to take time to read a great regional-based novel!

 

               Karen White is coming to Asheville. Since having won a mail-in writing contest several years ago, she's published 12 fan-fave Southern fiction novels.

 "One day in 1996 when my children were just babies," she said, "I decided it was time and started writing my first book." 

The former business major thus rediscovered her true vocation. Her girlhood years had been spent, in part, in fantasies about being Margaret Mitchell.

On Thursday, she travels from her Georgia home to Homewood, an event venue in Montford, to give the keynote talk for the Friends of the Madison County Library's annual luncheon.

Her new novel, "The Beach Trees," is just out. Hurricanes in Biloxi mark the storms within the lives of two women who search for a missing woman.

Carden & Houston

Two of our treasured homegrown authors, Gary Carden and Gloria Houston, are good to keep watching.

A little over a year ago, Carden created another one of his great projects, The Liar's Bench, an Appalachian variety show. "Liar," in local lingo, means playful storyteller.

The production has moved, taking its community ethos with it, from City Lights Bookstore, in Sylva, to the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University.

"On the Wings of the Snow-White Dove" was the title of the most recent show, old-time religion its theme. On Aug. 4, performers fill the bill with "Cherokee in a Changing World: Traditional and Contemporary Legends and Lore." Showtime is 7 p.m.

Another news item announces: "Dr. Gloria Houston has been appointed as Distinguished Author for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games on Grandfather Mountain." You can still run up there today for contests, exhibitions and closing ceremonies.

Houston will be filmed for a BBC special on Scots heritage.

Her best-selling picture book, "Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree," highlights Spruce Pine's local heritage movement. Her novel, "Littlejim," is featured as the middle-grades' reading choice for the WNC Community Read sponsored by Mountain Lit.

Recalling childhoods

Three noteworthy works of Southern Appalachian literature have come out in the last couple of months.

One is by the late West Kentucky author James Still, whose 1940 novel, "River of Earth," has become one of the classics of our literature.

After his death in 2001, Still's family's literary advisers -- including Lee Smith -- handed over a broken leather briefcase of manuscript pages to author Silas House and asked him to edit them in the master's style.

The result is "Chinaberry" (University Press of Kentucky) a moving story about a 13-year-old boy who leaves his home to work on a Texas ranch and finds that his employer makes a claim on him as a substitute son.

"I grew up; I remembered," the book concludes about that wondrous and haunted time.

"Chinaberry," the name of the ranch and of the novel, also represents the magical environment of one's coming-of-age. "We each have our own Chinaberry," House writes in the introduction.

Mars Hill College professor Carol Boggess, a James Still friend and scholar, provides background on the manuscript. "He had its pages with him in his hospital room the day he died," she reveals.

Poignant, hilarious

Donald Davis has produced a landmark book. He's taken tales he's told over a renowned storytelling career and perfected them for both oral and written effect.

"Tales from a Free-Range Childhood" (John F. Blair, Publisher) presents never-before-published accounts of his Waynesville-area childhood.

"I have arranged them in the order of their chronological ending places," he notes, "so the whole may have a more integrated memoir feel."

In one tale, he relates: "When I was growing up, there were lots of things that had not been invented. One of those things was called & lsquo;self-esteem.'"

It was 1950. Davis' first grade teacher, Mrs. Annie Ledbetter, used a Fli-Back paddle to punish kids without "touching" them. They "were manufactured for the teaching industry by the Fli-Back Toy Company in High Point," Davis notes, "and they came disguised as toys."

The next year, an outrageous scene in a second grade class led the principal to replace paddling with suspension. Eddie Curtis was directed to look the new word up in the dictionary.

Suddenly, Eddie spotted the definition. "They are going to hang us!" he wailed.

"Two days later in the Waynesville Mountaineer, the following headline appeared ... 'Second-graders petition school board to re-establish paddling as their preferred form of punishment.'"

'Eggtown' tales

Zack Allen, a beloved journalist, has compiled some of his best stories into a kind of memoir.

"Eggtown and Other Stories" (Folk Heritage Books) lassos memorable moments in an Anson County childhood and a Western North Carolina career and combines them with colloquial poems and narrative transitions.

It works well. Allen is a guide to his own lost-but-not-forgotten world, and to the worlds of a host of fellow travelers he's gotten to know.

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly book feature for the Sunday Citizen-Times. Reach him at RNeufeld@charter.net .

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