Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Owens and Beall to be Featured at April 18 Literary Hour

Poet Scott Owens of Hickory, NC, and writer Glenda Beall of Hayesville will be featured at the Thursday, April 18, Literary Hour at 7 p.m. in the Keith House library on the John C. Campbell Folk School campus in Brasstown.  The Literary Hour is sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network-West and is free and open to everyone.

Scott Owens
Scott Owens is the author of 20 collections of poetry and recipient of numerous awards for his poetry.  His poems have been featured in national publications and he has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and to be North Carolina Poet Laureate.

Owens is Professor of Poetry at Lenoir Rhyne University, and former editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and Southern Poetry Review. He also owns and operates Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse and Gallery and coordinates Poetry Hickory in Hickory, NC. His 21st book, "An Augury of Birds," a collaboration with photographer, Clayton Joe Young, will be out in August. And his collection of haiku, illustrated by Missy Cleveland, will be out in December.

Glenda Beall
Glenda Council Beall has taught memoir writing at the folk school, Tri-County Community College and at the Institute of Continuing Learning (ICL) for many years. She became interested in Genealogy in the early 1990s and compiled a family history book, “Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas C. Council, and his Descendants,” which chronicles the lives of her grandfather and his 10 children born in the late 19th century.

Beall’s short stories and personal essays have been published in online journals including “Muscadine Lines,” “A Southern Journal” and “Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.” Several of her poems and essays have appeared in “Living with Loss” magazine, “Breath and Shadow,” and “Reunions Magazine.”

She is currently the North Carolina Writers’ Network -West program director.  “Now Might as Well be Then,” her poetry chapbook was published in 2009.

The Literary Hour at the folk school is offered every third Thursday of the month through October and brings local poets and writers to the campus to share their work with the community.  The public, and students and faculty of the school are welcome to attend the readings.

The John C. Campbell Folk School offers classes in folk arts and crafts and storytelling.  For information about the school, you can find its webpage and contact information at

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Brenda Kay Ledford's Feature in Grit Magazine

 Brenda Kay Ledford's feature, "Planting by the Signs," appeared in Grit Magazine, (March/April, 2024).

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Chamblee Receives Western Heritage Poetry Book Award for Bierstadt Biography

NCWN-West member Kenneth Chamblee's biography in poems "The Best Material for the Artist in the World" has won the Western Heritage Poetry Book Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Ken Chamblee
The book is a collection of poems which follow the life of Albert Bierstadt, a 19th-century landscape painter of the American West.  The poems "celebrate the timeless spledor of Bierstadt's work through the witness of many voices and points of view... bringing us into intimate contact with the art," according to
New York Times bestselling author Robert Morgan.

"A work of brilliance and depth," Bob Ross, author of "Billy Above the Roofs" said of Chamblee's work, adding, the poems are sober, evocative, and respectful, and they overflow with their own penetrating light."

Bob Joly, director of St. Johnsbury Athenaeum says the poems bring Bierstadt, his contemporaries, the West, and our notions of the painter and his work to full illumination.

The Western Heritage Awards honors individuals who have made significant contributions to Western heritage through creative works in literature, music, television and film that share the great stories of the American West.  Honorees will be presented with a Wrangler award during the 63rd Western Heritage Awards dinner held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum on April 13, 2024.

Ricketson and Dyre collaborate in powerful presentation of their original writing.

Poet Mary Ricketson and novelist Mary Jo Dyre will be the featured readers at Cherokee Cellars Winery's authors night Thursday, March 28.  Doors will open at 5 p.m. with the presentation begining at 6 p.m.   The address for the event is 45 Valley River Ave., Murphy, NC.

Mary Ricketson will read selections from her poetry collection, "Mississippi, The Story of Luke and Marian," about life with her parents, their belief that all people are equal, while Mississippi's time of segregation and the civil rights movement stirred pain and conflict.  Additionally, she read will from her newest collection, "Stutters, A Book of Hope," which delves into her lifelong struggle with stuttering.  The poems speak to the experience of many people- feeling different, challenged, and finding a way.

Mary Jo Dyre will read from "Dark Spot," a mystery novel started by her brother Arnold who died midway through the writing.  Dyre picked up his manuscript and found her own words to finish the "tangled, complex web of humanity that often results when man gives over to evil."  She will also read from "Springheads," which will take you to another time and still keep you wrapped in your own heart.  She weaves truth and tweaks it with what might be, ingrained with vibrant characters set in a world where all returns to two springheads.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Christmas in Matheson Cove

 Brenda Kay Ledford's new children's picture book, Christmas in Matheson Cove,  is upcoming with Catch the Spirit of Appalachia.

This is a heart-warming story how faith, love, and family made a meager holiday during the Great Depression in the Appalachian Mountains, to be a joyful Christmas.

Ordering information will be released soon!

Monday, February 12, 2024

Jeff Stewart Featured Reader at Mountain Wordsmiths Feb. 22

 Award-winning writer Jeff Stewart will be the featured reader at Mountain Wordsmiths’ gathering on Thursday, February 22, at 10:30 a.m. via Zoom. The monthly event is sponsored by North Carolina Writers’ Network-West.

Jeff Stewart
Stewart is a man of many gifts. He is a healthcare consultant, scientist, inventor, author, playwright, and father of seven. He was a Jeopardy! College Champion and runner-up in the Tournament of Champions. Stewart lives in Cary, NC..

Stewart’s book, "Living: Inspiration from a Father with Cancer," was named the best cancer book of 2023 at the 20th annual American BookFest awards. Their review states, “'Living' tells the story of a molecular biologist, Jeopardy! champion, and cancer patient. Cancer patients and their caregivers will find valuable insider advice… 'Living' is more than a book about cancer. 'Living' is a book about life.”

"Living" also received a “get it” rating from Kirkus Reviews, which called Stewart’s book “Complex and thoughtful, with a refreshingly upbeat attitude.” BookLife from Publisher's Weekly called "Living" a "remarkable memoir" and "a final and powerful act of love."

“So many cancer books are downers,” says Stewart. “I wanted my cancer book to be funny and helpful. I’m excited by the award and positive reviews, but it’s when someone tells me, ‘Your book helped me understand what my mother was going through’ that it all feels worth it.”

Ken Jennings—yes that Ken Jennings—blurbed Stewart’s book, calling it “a moving message-in-a-bottle from a great Jeopardy! champion—who also turns out to be a writer with a rare gift for aphorism and insight.”

To learn more about Jeff Stewart, you can watch his interviews on

Mountain Wordsmiths gatherings will always take place on Zoom. NCWN-West is also continuing to stay in touch by using technology to share our writing. We offer writing events and writing classes both online and in person. Writers are enjoying the convenience and flexibility of Zoom meetings because they can join our gatherings from other locations across America. Attendees are welcome to bring a poem or short prose piece to read during Open Mic. Please limit the reading to 3-5 minutes.

Those wishing to attend Mountain Wordsmiths may contact Carroll Taylor at or to receive the Zoom link. Our group is informal, and we We welcome those who would simply like to listen to the beauty of wordsmithing. All who attend are encouraged to enjoy their morning cup of coffee or tea as we share our thoughts about writing.

Monday, January 22, 2024

MaryJo Dyre is a Mississippi native, an author with an interesting story

I wanted to interview author Mary Jo Dyre, a member of NCWN-West, as soon as I heard her read and discuss her two books, Dark Spot and Springheads. 

GCBMaryJo, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about your recently published books. 

MaryJo Dyre writes and publishes novels. This Mississippi native uses the background of her rich environment and an obsession with reading as a child to enhance her imagination.

GCB: MaryJo, tell us where you were born. Describe your family—how many children and where do you fall on the list?

MJD: My birth took place in a hospital in Winona, MS. The family home was located near an even smaller Montgomery community, Kilmichael, MS. Our homeplace, as it is called in the South, was in an even more remote area called Poplar Creek Nations. I have three older sisters and one older brother. I was 16 years old before I took in the fact that I was obviously the surprise child. My parents had their daughters and then their son. Seven years later, I came along.

GCB: Did you grow up in the city or the country? What are some fond memories of your childhood?

MJD: I grew up Mississippi rural in the 50s. When I was not yet a year old, my family moved from the Poplar Creek Nations area to Gore Springs, another small, rural gathering of families near Grenada. My father initially managed a dairy farm. My fondest memories involve endless play in the great outdoors. Screen time did not enter my world until I was eight. Imagination was my constant companion. Kingdoms created under pine trees, mudpies decorated with wildflowers, hot summer afternoons cooled with play in nearby creeks were enjoyed barefooted with hands and clothing stained from blackberry or muscadine juice.
Many poignant childhood memories involve an elderly neighbor couple, Mr. Jim and Mrs. Willie. Their farm gave me the opportunity to gather fresh eggs, learn the art of churning butter, and discover the sheer magic of an earth-hewn root cellar. Little did I know that I was living the word “organic” and honing an approach to education that would serve my future career in strong ways.

Reading became a powerful force in my childhood as it merged with a very active imagination. The sheer joy of curling up with a good book for hours of reading, checking out as many books as my arms could carry from the Elizabeth Jones Library soon made a believer out of me -- a tale well told has the power to transport me into the realm of dreams and possibility.

GCB: What were your favorite subjects in school? Where did you go to college and what degrees do you have?
MJD: If reading and writing were at the core of the subjects, I enjoyed all. Hands-on science had my attention, but not the textbook version. Math did not resonate with me until I was introduced to Transformational Grammar in college. I attended Delta State University, a small college known for producing amazing teachers. I earned a BS in Education and an MA in Literature. The Delta itself, the diverse culture, the creativity that poured from backroads Blues establishments, brush strokes with artists and potters, and powerful words from writers, all provided an equally powerful source of education.

CB: Mary Jo, you’ve had a very successful career in education. You started a private school in Murphy and directed it for 20 years.

MJD: In 1983, I founded a private school that became, in 1997, one of North Carolina’s first 33 charter schools. Except for a short year-and-a-half period in the early 1990s, I directed the school until 2019. I remained the Executive Director for another year as I trained and worked with my replacement. I continued to serve the school through May 2022, to find answers for the increased need for expanded and renovated facilities for the growing population of learners we attracted annually.
Working to provide a choice in education was passion work for me. It was a calling that I will forever treasure. The 38-year, rich legacy of students and their families we served will continue to touch and benefit our future.

GCB: Were there challenges that you faced in this process?

MJD: Please understand first, that numerous obstacles on many levels stood in my path, in the journey, the mission to bring a choice in education to this area of Western North Carolina. I have frequently said that building a choice in education was like swimming upstream with salmon. On some occasions, the obstacles came in the form of pointing to the fact that I was not a male and that a male was needed to break through the barriers that seemingly stood in the way of building strong educational choices for area youth.

I learned early in my education career to ask plenty of questions to people who had strengths I did not have. This habit served me well. Additionally, there are many strong examples of females who turned the world of education on its heels for improvement. Again, I “leaned in” to all that I could glean from these strong, innovative women leaders.

GCB: Your brother was an author and had published a series of legal thrillers. He was killed in an accident. Can you tell us about that and where was his unfinished novel at the time of his death?

MJD: Arnold Douglas Dyre published two memoir-style non-fiction collections first. He then moved to fiction with his Jake Baker Mystery series. Arnold died of a massive heart attack while driving back to his home near Jackson, MS. The vehicle wrecked totally without the aid of a driver. The partially completed Dark Spot, the fourth book in the series, was in his computer that was also in the destroyed truck. Recovering the file from a very damaged hard drive took time.

GCB: Had you read his books before he died? Were you and your brother close in age and did you see him often?

MJD: Yes, I read all my brother’s books before his death. I eventually read them countless times after I said yes to finishing the unfinished manuscript he left behind.
My brother was seven years older. He was a prime mover in my life through my teens.
In many ways I idolized him. He, of course, spent a great deal of time with neighborhood boys near his age. I begged him to let me tag along with everything he did. My mother balanced that desire on my part by having my brother read to me. I was close to seven before I realized he was not reading. Instead, he was spinning a story as I sat spellbound. Even then he was teaching me the art of storytelling. I can still hear him telling me he would someday be an author. Of course, I began to say the same because I longed to be just like him. When my brother went to Ole Miss, then joined the Navy, did a tour in Vietnam, and married, the days of my childhood following in my brother’s footsteps seemed to fade into the past. Time constraints, family commitments on the part of both of us and living in different states kept us separated in many ways. My sisters and I still treasure the time, just months before his death, when all five of us were together in my home in North Carolina.

GCB: I imagine that you had reservations about writing the book he had started. How did you come to be the one to write the ending of his last book? 

MJD: Yes, I had reservations. Perhaps the strongest hesitation was the desire to make sure I remained true to how he would have “told the story.” At the same time, I knew that it was essential for me to have my own emotional connection to his plot and characters. When Arnold’s nephew sent the partial manuscript, I knew I had to feel the first read in my core. No question, I felt it and knew I could take on the project.
Because of my background in teaching literature and writing and the fact that I had my own proverbial dust-covered unfinished manuscript seemingly lost to a demanding career, family members asked if I would consider finishing Arnold’s work.

GCB: How did you continue with the same characters he had imagined? Did you change any of them?

MJD: I often answer this question of how I continued with Arnold’s same imagined characters in this simplistic way: I crawled into my brother’s imagination. The process of tapping into that sacred place began with re-reading the three published novels in his series, carefully creating character sketches and timelines of each. I researched and interviewed people that I felt certain were captured within his layers of fictional disguise. Patterns of awareness began to emerge. I more readily saw the development and growth of my brother’s writing. I became aware of topics being explored in the third novel that he seemed hesitant to include in his earlier writing. The unfinished manuscript convinced me that the horizons of his writing were broadening to yet more topics not yet explored. He had gone bolder with both characters and plot. No question I had to sustain the reach he seemed to prioritize in the fourth book.
The character of Kelly, introduced within the first couple of pages of Dark Spot, spoke to me in strong ways. I sensed my brother’s blessing, so to speak, to unleash my feminine intuition with this character. She offered so much undeveloped potential to bring a fresh
approach to the stereotypical May-December wife, made wealthy through marriage.

GCB: You had been working on your own novel for several years but your work as a founder and director of a school kept you too busy to find time for writing. Did you decide to finish your and his novel after you retired from teaching?

MJD: I took on the completion of Dark Spot when I was still a full-time executive director in the field of education. Delay or hesitation was not in my vocabulary. When the voice in the mind refuses to go silent, the writer in me knows it’s time to write. My brother had a reading audience that was waiting for his next novel and many, many loved ones who were not ready for his voice to end.
When I decided to pick up my novel, Springheads, again, I still worked full-time in education, was involved in the early stages of the Blu Sky Initiative and would soon move into yet another work adventure. Retire is not a word that has any roots in my life as of the present. In my experience, the voice in the mind of the writer is the driver as opposed to
waiting for the ideal free time to write.

GCB: I am a big John Grisham fan, and you say your brother’s book is similar to Grisham’s writing. Tell us your brother’s name and the title of his book that has both of you listed as authors. In what way is your brother’s book like Grisham’s?

MJD: Dark Spot, A Jake Baker Mystery by Arnold Dyre and Mary Jo Dyre
Grisham and my brother both write from the perspective of an attorney. Like Grisham, my brother was an attorney. I know that my brother’s writing was influenced by some of the hard facts that were presented in his career as a defense attorney. The pace, the intensity of character and plot are similar in both John Grisham and Arnold Dyre.

While you were writing your brother’s book did you feel him with you? What kind of mindset did it take to write what you thought your brother would write?

MJD: To say that I felt my brother with me as I wrote to complete his unfinished manuscript is an understatement. I have shared with many that I feel as if I got an extra year plus with my brother after his death. It was not a great leap to imagine his voice reading aloud his sentences. When I am in my writing zone, I feel the need to go inward. I listen much more than I talk. In fact, I become a bit of a recluse to get “far from the maddening crowd.” This approach was certainly true as I embraced my brother’s writing voice alongside my own.

GCB:   Most of us use some personal background in our novels. Did you do that? If so, what were some of the experiences or places you included?

MJD: A major influencer in Springheads is a specific peninsula of land that I know very intimately in real life. This setting becomes a sense of place, a driving force in the unfolding of the plot line. I strongly felt the need to balance the inexplicable introduction of time travel with characters within a real community. Indeed, the people and places that make up the fabric of my life provided a rich pallet of possible characters and settings. Fortunately, fiction allows hand-picking characteristics and combining them in creative ways to ultimately bring to life the strong characters who drive the Springheads’ story. One of my favorite combinations, Miss Sadie, the midwife/healer full of sage wisdom and visionary thinking, is created with character traits found in three women whose skills, physical appearance, and intuitive genius have spilled into my real life.
My basic rules of thumb with character development: Write about what I know best. Draw on a well-rounded combination of real-life people whose personalities get my attention. Aim for powerhouse characters remembered by readers. Remember that my medium is fictional writing.

GCB: Are there other writers in your family?
To my knowledge, my brother and I are the only two published literary authors.

GCB: Writing a book is not the hardest part of being an author. Now that your books are on the market, do you have a marketing plan in place?

MJD: Dark Spot was published in 2019. Springheads was published in July 2023. With the publication of Dark Spot, the marketing plan grew in momentum around a strong Mississippi reading audience already created by my brother. He had an established presence with several small Mississippi newspapers. I picked up his by-monthly publications with these papers. Invitations to do book events came as a result. Additionally, I created my website: inclusive of a blog and increased social media presence.
Covid-19 threw a curve ball in the plan to strengthen my audience into North Carolina in late March 2020. I am now making use of the July 2023 publication of Springheads to create a growing reading audience around both Dark Spot and Springheads in North Carolina and Mississippi. I make use of opportunities available through Red Hawk Publications, NC Writers’ Network West, NC Writers Network and increased social media presence. Additionally, I work to create a presence in local bookstores and shops. The next step in the marketing plan is to obtain an agent.

GCB: Your novel is published by Red Hawk Publications. How are they helping with marketing your book?
Red Hawk has been instrumental with press releases as well as some in-person opportunities in the Catawba County area for book sales. I link my own website to

GCB: Have you begun another novel or have one in mind?

MJD: Yes, Springheads will have a sequel. My life is busy, but the story does not quieten in my head. An early-stage manuscript is in the works.

Thank you Mary Jo, for your time to answer my questions. Good luck with both of these books.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Karen Luke Jackson and Kathleen Calby Hold Dual Book Launch Event Feb. 1

Poets Karen Luke Jackson and Kathleen Calby will launch their new poetry books over Zoom Thursday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m.  The event is open to anyone wishing to join over Zoom and is sponsored by Redheaded Stepchild Magazine.

They will be reading selections from "Flirting with Owls" and "If You Choose to Come."  An open mic will follow the reading.

Karen Luke Jackson
Jackson, winner of the Rash Poetry Award and a Pushcart Prize nominee, draws upon family lore, contemplative practices, and nature for inspiration. Her poems have appeared in "Atlanta Review," "EcoTheo," "Susurrus," "Salvation South," and "Friends Journal," among others. She has also authored three poetry collections: "If You Choose To Come," paying homage to the healing beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains; "The View Ever Changing," exploring the lifelong pull of one's homeplace and family ties; and "GRIT," chronicling her sister's adventures as an award-winning clown. Jackson is a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal. She lives in a cottage on a goat pasture in western North Carolina. Her website is:

Calby lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains and hosts writer events in Henderson County for the North Carolina Writers Network. Her work appears in "San Pedro River Review," "New Plains Review" and "The Orchards Poetry Journal." Named a 2022 Rash Award Poetry Finalist, Calby published "Flirting with Owls" (Kelsay Books) in 2023 and has just completed a full-length manuscript on an Egypt journey she took.  She enjoys fried chicken and biscuits a bit too much, and long, strenuous walks not enough.

Editor Malaika King Albrecht, who hosts these launches, is a wonderful supporter of the writing community. You can sign up on Facebook for the event or email Jackson

Author Karen Lauritzen is January Featured Reader for Mountain Wordsmiths

By Carroll S. Taylor

Mountain Wordsmiths will begin its 2024 year of gatherings with a stellar guest reader, Karen Lauritzen, on Thursday, January 25, at 10:30 a.m. via Zoom. The monthly event is sponsored by North Carolina Writers’ Network-West.

Karen Lauritzen
Lauritzen writes short stories, poetry, essays and memoir. Her work has been published in "WNC-Woman Magazine," "The Chrysalis Reader," "Carpe Articulum," and others. Her memoir, "Nothing Vanishes, Memoir of a Life Transformed," was published in 2012. She was awarded ¬ first place in non-¬fiction for her short story, “Making My Way Home,” in the 2023 Porter Fleming Literary Awards through the Morris Museum of Art. "Just the Right Kind of Wrong" is her first novel. She lives in North Carolina.

“In Just the Right Amount of Wrong," author Karen Lauritzen deftly crafts the story of 23-year-old Toni Margiani, whose flawed and broken life propels her to St. Mary’s Abbey where she sets forth on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth. This book is a page-turner that leaves readers waiting for Lauritzen’s next contribution to literary fiction.” (author Peggy Tabor Millin)

Sandra I. Brown, MA, psychotherapist, writes, “Lauritzen portrays the ‘courageous terror’ a victim of a socially hidden psychopath experiences and the unlikely path of restoration. All recovery is a journey of heroism and Lauritzen deeply portrays the victim’s experience of harrowing fear and courage.”

Readers can find more about Lauritzen on her blog at her website where she talks about the development of her writing process.

Mountain Wordsmiths gatherings always take place on Zoom. NCWN-West is also continuing to stay in touch by using technology to share our writing. We offer writing events and writing classes both online and in person. Writers are enjoying the convenience and flexibility of Zoom meetings because they can join our gatherings from other locations across America. Attendees are welcome to bring a poem or short prose piece to read during Open Mic. Please limit the reading to 3-5 minutes.

Those wishing to attend Mountain Wordsmiths may contact Carroll Taylor at or to receive the Zoom link. Our group is informal, and we welcome those who would simply like to listen to the beauty of wordsmithing. All who attend are encouraged to enjoy their morning cup of coffee or tea as we share our thoughts about writing.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Poet Mary Ricketson to Read at City Lights Jan. 6

Mary Ricketson will be reading at the City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC, from her new book of poems "Stutters: A Book of Hope" Saturday, Jan 6, 2024, at 3 p.m.

Mary Ricketson
"This new collection of poems is my most vulnerable and possibly most creative yet, poems of my own stuttering, which I hardly even discuss," Ricketson said.

She will read a sample of the full length collection, discuss her work, and sign books.  Also, refreshments will be available.  

City Lights Bookstore is located at 3 E. Jackson St, Sylva NC, on Saturday, 1-6-24 at 3 pm. 

Please come if you can, bring a friend, and please do pass this notice on to others. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Give Yourself the Write Start in January... with a Folk School class

John C Campbell Folk School

January 26 Weekend: "Your Write Time" 

all genres & levels of writing experience welcome

taught by Karen Paul Holmes

Come be inspired and productive while having fun in a place of beauty. Whether you’re already writing or looking for a place to begin, give yourself the gift of time in a setting conducive to creativity. Magic—inspiration, encouragement, and laughter—abounds inside the studio. 

Gain editing and publishing tips from the instructor and learn from and support your classmates’ polished and unpolished work. Return home with the motivation to continue your writing and maybe even pursue publication. 

Local residents usually qualify for a discount. 

For more information and to register visit John C. Campbell Folk School:

Karen Paul Holmes headshotAbout the instructor:  Karen Paul Holmes won the 2023 Lascaux Poetry Prize and received a Special Mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology. Her two poetry books are No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin Books) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press). She's is widely published in literary journals, including Plume, Gargoyle, and Prairie Schooner, and her poems have been read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac and by the US Poet Laureate on The Slowdown podcast. Karen founded the Side Door Poets in Atlanta in 2010 and still hosts the group monthly. At about the same time, she started a monthly Writers' Night Out in the N. Georgia Mountains and hosted it until recently. She is also a freelance writer and has taught writing workshops at local and international conferences and various venues. Karen is a member of the North Carolina Writers' Network.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

In Memory of a Departed Friend and Fellow Writer

 Raven Chiong 

Raven and Dulce her beloved rescue

All who knew Raven are saddened by her death on Monday night, Dec. 11, 2023. She was a writer, a poet, but she was so much more. After she was diagnosed with cancer in February of this year, she said she hoped she could birth her book before her life ended. We are grateful her book was published, Ode to the Still Small Voice-A Memoir of Listening and now we have it to read as we remember this dear and special person who touched so many lives.

I met Raven when she registered for my writing class on Zoom in the early days of the pandemic. Although she was a quiet person, she was always thinking, and her presence was felt. We learned about her life from the stories she wrote in class. I learned she was a person who liked to run. From early childhood, she found her calling and with the ongoing support of a caring coach, she began to join and take part in events all over Florida and in other states.

Her career highlights include qualifying for the First Ever 1984 Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials and paying it forward with her 19-year cross-country coaching career at DePauw University (IN), Florida Atlantic University, Pine Crest Prep School (FL), and Mills College (CA) where she was also coordinator and grant writer for the N.C.A.A. program, C.H.A.M.P.S.—Challenging Athletes Minds for Personal Success. 

She served as United States Ambassador at the International Olympic Academy in Olympia, Greece, and took 10 ten-year-old students to Australia to run, relay style, in the Brisbane Half-Marathon.

She never bragged about her accomplishments, but she was proud. Running and helping other athletes reach their goals were deeply ingrained in her. The essay she wrote about that coach who saw something special in a child who was suffering after the divorce of her parents, feeling alone and unseen, was authentic and honest. It brought tears to our eyes as she read it, and she choked up as well.

Raven and I became good friends, and I realized she had great potential as a leader and influencer for writers. She seemed to have an aura that made people comfortable with her. She listened more than she spoke. She joined NCWN-West and was dedicated to helping the organization in any way she could. She volunteered to help sell books we had on hand and soon she had Echoes Across the Blue Ridge in every shop and store in Hayesville and in other cities in the area. The books sold and the income was added to the Netwest bank account.

I realized what a talent she had for working with people. We asked her to be our Clay County Representative for NCWN-West and she accepted.

Our monthly meetings had come to a halt during the COVID period when everyone stayed home. But Raven revived the Netwest poetry critique group that had met monthly for twenty years before the pandemic. She gave it a new name. The Netwest Bee City Poets met at the Moss Memorial Library. The meeting time had to work with her job, so she began at 1:00 PM and ended at 2:15. The number of participants grew every month and many of the poets who had begun with me twenty years ago attended Raven’s group as well as new poets who had moved to town. I heard compliments and praise for Raven from many.

Raven has worked for Best Friends Animal Society since 2008 before she came to the mountains of Appalachia. It wasn’t long before she worked for them again from home on her computer.

She had four “monkeys” of her own, four dogs she had rescued and loved immensely. The only thing she asked as her days grew shorter was for her dogs to be taken back to Utah to live out their lives where she knew they would be well cared for. Many of her friends offered to make that happen.

Community Support

Raven was a member of the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association (CCCRA), Clay County Historical and Arts Council (CCHAC), Friend of the Moss Memorial Library, and a supporter of Historic Hayesville, Inc., Celebration of Pets Foundation, and One Dozen Who Care, Inc. You can see her impressive resumé here.

Raven could always be depended on to be there when she was needed. She often called to ask if she could do something for me. She helped me in so many ways and always with a big smile and loving spirit.

She was here in Clay County only a few years ago, but she left us an example to follow. Raven gave of herself and her time to others. When she saw that someone needed encouragement and support, she quietly gave it. If it meant driving to another town miles away to attend a friend’s art exhibit, she drove there.

Once the cancer had been diagnosed, and she was told it was terminal, she did everything possible to beat it with natural means – hiking in the woods, soaking in the calm and energy of the trees, grass, and animals. She embraced acupuncture, energy healing, and a strict diet. She lived longer than the six months predicted. She continued her activities including mowing her yard up until only a few weeks ago. She had a Caring Bridge account where we followed her through the ups and downs. There I found Raven had many friends in Utah and how much they loved her.

Raven Chiong will be missed in Clay County for a long, long time. We will do all we can to continue her work for NCWN-West. The outpouring of love and admiration for her has been amazing. I hope we can follow her example of loving and caring about others, encouraging, and supporting each other, as we continue our own journey with dignity and kindness. 


The Netwest Bee City Poets. Raven is standing on second row right



Memory of Raven Chiong

 Memory of Raven Chiong

We lost one of our own,
Raven led the Poetry Circle
and touched many lives.

Her gift will live forever
to those who read,
Ode to the Still, Small Voice.

This gentle, soft-spoken woman
was devoted to her animals:
the dogs she rescued.

Strong and humble,
the marathon champion
connected with the good earth.

Like a butterfly, this soul
stayed just a short time,
we are better people

for knowing and loving her;
the privilege of friendship
with Raven Chiong.
          --Brenda Kay Ledford   

Friday, December 8, 2023

Brenda Kay Ledford's Poetry Published

 Brenda Kay Ledford's poetry has been published in  the following journals:

"A Blue Ridge Snow," appeared in West End Poets Newsletter, December/January/February 2024

Created and issued by:  Carrboro Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources Department


Her poem, "Unicorn License," was published in Tigershark Magazine, an international publication based in the United Kingdom;  Issue 34, Autumn/Winter 2023

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Maren Mitchell, poet and facilitator for poetry group at Young Harris Library

Maren Mitchell, a member of NCWN-West for a long time, has had a busy year. Her poems have been widely published in literary journals, online publications, and most recently in a chapbook, In My Next Life I Plan by Dancing Girl Press.

 Three of her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She has received a 1st Place Award for Excellence in Poetry from the Georgia Poetry Society.

If you are a poet, you might want to check out these publications.

The Lake, (UK) November 2023 issue, "As They Go, So Go We" and "The Theory of Everything." 

POEM, #123, May 2023 issue, "Light Enough To See." 

The Antigonish Review, (Canada) Spring 2023 issue, "I swear the most" and "Nothing to Say, II." Silver Birch Press, September 8, 2023, the "Spices & Seasonings" series, "Nasturtiums." 

About Place Journal, The More-Than-Human World issue, Communion, "Dermodex Brevis; Dermodex Folliculorum." 

Twelve Mile Review, Winter 2023, "The gravity of our situation is what we want to escape from and" and "Greeks favor red mullet."

Maren O. Mitchell, is a poet and author of a nonfiction book, Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider's Guide

 In my next life I plan... (dancing girl press, 2023)

 Learn more about Maren on our membership page.