A Day for Writers 2019 - Presenters and Registration form

Sylva, NC, August 24, 2019,

C. Hope Clark, Joseph Bathanti, David Joy, Karen Holmes, Carol Crawford, Pat Vestal, Katie Winkler, Meagan Lucas

9:00 - 4:30, fee includes lunch, coffee, drinks and pastries
Copy registration form and mail with check or money order to:
NCWN-West, % Glenda Beall,
PO Box 843, Hayesville, NC 28904

Register online at www.ncwriters.org before August 19.

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A Day for Writers 2019

A Day for Writers 2019 Registration Form

Showing posts with label Appalachia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Appalachia. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Where I’m From

We are happy to have Valerie Nieman, author of fiction and poetry as our guest blogger today. She has written an interesting post for our blog. I hope you will leave comments for Valerie, and remember she will be in Hayesville, NC July 6, at the Moss library. See sidebar for more information.

Where I’m From


Valerie Nieman

           I’m from New York. And I’m an Appalachian. Born, bred, educated, lived, worked there. Only in recent years have I slipped out of the mountains, living now just a few miles from the “official” border of the region. That world was my world, and still is, appearing in my poems and novels all along, but most strongly in my latest, To the Bones.

          Appalachia, as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission, takes in more than 200,000 square miles, encompassing West Virginia and parts of 12 other states. Despite the stereotypes about “hillbillies” and “mountain people,” there’s no single culture. It’s still heavily rural, more than 40 percent of the population living in rural areas compared with 20 percent nationally, but accents, food ways, ethnic makeup, and economies vary greatly across the region.
          I grew up in Cattaraugus County, NY, one of 14 counties that make up the “Southern Tier” along the border with Pennsylvania. The hills there are low and soft, the Allegheny Plateau, good land for dairy farming. Memories from my growing-up days — maple sugaring, Amish neighbors, big gardens, harsh winters — were superseded by the three decades I lived in West Virginia, yet they continue to crop up in my writing. Darrick, one of the main characters in To the Bones, went to school at St. Bonaventure. Oil City, PA, makes an appearance in a poem in Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse.
          In 1976, I headed south to Morgantown, WV, to get my journalism degree at West Virginia University. The Mountain State caught my heart when I camped with my then-boyfriend at Cooper’s Rock State Park, waking after a late arrival to a glory of dogwoods and bird song.
After college, my now-husband and I bought some pastureland in Marion County. We built a barn, a house, fences. Planted an orchard and an organic garden. That land shaped the landscape of Neena Gathering and of To the Bones.
          It’s a different kind of hills from the ones where I grew up, most notably in the presence of coal mining. The culture, too, was different. Soup beans and cornbread. Pepperoni rolls. But many things were the same—both areas had seen much immigration from Italy, and excellent Italian food was celebrated in both western New York and north central West Virginia. And in both places, I gathered wild berries and apples gone feral, though it was in West Virginia that I came to know the despised wild leek of my childhood as “ramps,” and a really fine food when properly prepared.
          I came to North Carolina in 1997, to the land of barbecue, tobacco, and restaurants offering “meat and three.” Grits replaced home fries on the breakfast menus. Collard greens and pinto beans are Southern kin to creasy greens and soup beans. North Carolina is Appalachian—Gov. Roy Cooper is co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
          Appalachia today is a diverse place, but it always was. Native Americans, Spanish and French and English explorers, Irish and Scot and Scots-Irish settlers. African-Americans brought forcibly as slaves and whose descendants came north to the mines and mills in the Great Migration. Germans who came to work in the glass plants of the Ohio Valley. Peoples from all over Europe, Polish and Italians and Welsh and Hungarians and many others, whose emigration landed them in the coal camps. “Lebanese” peddlers who offered goods to isolated farms and to miners’ wives. And so on, to new arrivals from all over the globe who come to start new lives or attend college or work in the High Technology Corridor.
          The ill-educated, ill-clothed mountaineer with a jug and a hound? That media creation proved useful in denying residents a say in their lands, resources, politics, future. They just weren’t suited to such things, went the standard line, and so needed to be corralled and cozened. When I arrived in West Virginia University in 1975, you could still get souvenirs depicting that hillbilly stereotype in the university bookstore, but the WVU mascot has been for nearly a century the Mountaineer. A heroic bronze figure of the buckskin-clad pioneer has stood on the campus since 1971.
          To the Bones satirizes stereotypes and as a genre mashup, plays with the tropes of mystery, horror, tall tale, even a bit of romance. The stranger comes to town is a recurring theme in Westerns, but is also what John Gardner called one of the two great stories. (The other is a man (woman) goes on a journey—Peer Gynt, Odysseus, Harry Potter, and the list goes on.) But the deep story in this novel is one of love and despair, people who deeply love the land of their birth and rearing, yet who clearly see the despoiling and destruction wrought by the extractive industries that put food on the table.
          Too much has been taken out and too little given back. My place back in West Virginia had a capped gas well in the field, a mine crack in the back field, and no water—the mines had cut off the aquifer. But I loved it.
          Appalachian I was, and remain. You can see it right there in the stories and poems.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ron Rash Story Collection Reviewed by Gary Carden

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash
New York:  HarperCollins, Publishers
$24.99 - 239 pages

“The term, “sea change” is both poetic and informal, meaning a gradual transformation in which the form is retained, but the substance is replaced:
a marvelous petrification.”

   Ron Rash’s latest collection of short stories resonate with a theme that runs through all of his works:  An awareness that Appalachia is in transition; it is becoming something else.  Of course, this is a quality that is shared by all things - what the poets call “mutability” - but in this instance, the author is mindful of what our world is becoming in contrast to what it once was. Like the drowned girl in his short story by the same title, Appalachia may be undergoing a “sea change” and will emerge as “something rich and strange” ....The substance may be alien, repugnant and/or fascinating.

   However, although the world is changing around them, many of the characters in Nothing Gold Can Stay are trapped, victims of forces beyond their control. Tricksters, fools and doomed lovers abound; many owe their origin to prototypes that are found in Chaucer,  Grimm and Native American folklore. Rash’s Pied Piper is driving a minibus down the Blue Ridge Parkway; he is freighted with marijuana and “magic tabs,” on his way to San Francisco; Coyote, the trickster has metamorphosed into Sinkler, the chain gang “trusty” who plots to win the trust of a mountain girl (who has an agenda of her own).

   There are “good people,” too: mountain veterinarians who venture out amid deep snows to deliver a breached calf in a distant mountain cove because of a promise made once at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea.  Some of Rash’s struggling dreamers will touch your heart - especially the lovers.  Consider Danny and Lisa in “Cherokee,” a young married couple with an overdue truck payment, cutbacks at the cement plant and dwindling funds. Like thousands of others, they harken to the siren call of the big casino in Cherokee. The big billboards glimmer like mirages. Eventually, they gas up the truck for one desperate bid.  Then, there is Jody and Lauren, the doomed couple in “They Who Are Dead Are Only Now Forgiven” are especially tragic since they embody blasted promise. Again, this is a frequent refrain in Rash’s work: Appalachia’s  talented, hopeful youth who are entrapped by poverty, biological necessity or naturalistic forces.  Jody, lonely and discouraged, is in college. Lauren, who shared Jody’s promise, becomes hopelessly addicted to drugs and is slowly succumbing in an abandoned farm house that now contains a meth lab in the basement. When Jody returns from  college to rescue her, he knows that their future is at stake: either she goes with him, or he joins her in the old “haunted” farmhouse.

   There are other responses to entrapment in Nothing Gold Can Stay. Amy, the mentally and physically disfigured protagonist of “Nighthawks,” finds solace in becoming a nighttime d.j. at the local radio station - a job that allows her to interact with other people without any direct contact with them.  She is a “nighthawk” (like the customers in Edward Hopper’s midnight cafe) ... solitary, gainfully employed and finally...needed. Then, there is the nameless woman in “The Woman at the Pond,” a poignant figure who may represent multitudes. Abused, trapped in a loveless marriage and perceiving the future as hopeless, she chooses to slip over the side of a boat with a cinderblock tied to her arm.  This story has a disturbing element.  It may be that the narrator could have saved her.

   However, there is little to admire about the unnamed narrator and his buddy, Donnie in "Nothing Gold Can Stay." Rendered stupid by pills and beer, these two young men spend their days trolling the countryside  looking for part-time work or an opportunity to steal something that can be bartered in Asheville.  When they meet  an old WW II veteran with a jar full of gold teeth - a souvenir of from a brutal battle in the South Seas.  The old man ruefully notes that after the experience, he had to “learn to be a human being again.”  Donnie is fascinated.  How much would those teeth bring in an Asheville pawn shop?

   Rash frequently acknowledges the old scars and lingering pain - mute evidence of the Civil War.  There are still bitter memories, like the rope that hangs in a farmer’s barn in “Where the Map Ends” - a place where two escaped slaves experience an encounter that has much to do with loss and retribution.  In like manner, a grievance that had its birth in a 17th century Scottish ballad finally finds a kind of belated justice in “A Servant of History.”  When an erstwhile ballad collector finds himself in an Appalachian cove recording “The Snows of Glencoe” from the lips of an ancient beldame, he belatedly discovers that he has become an unwitting instrument of justice.

   There is humor, of course - a bit dark perhaps, but humor nonetheless. In “A Sort of Miracle,” Rash gives the reader another heedless fool who yearns for undeserved wealth. Denton is not plagued by debts nor does he need funds to improve his education. Watching TV, he has learned that the paws and gall bladders of black bears are valuable, and he begins to develop a scheme.  Why not buy a ham at the grocery store, drive deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, tie the ham to a tree limb and set a trap. What could be easier? After waiting a few days, Denton, accompanied by his wife’s teenage brothers, Baroque and Marlboro (visiting from Florida),  decides to claim his prize.  In some ways, “A Sort of Miracle” reads like a parody of “Something Rich and Strange.”  Alas, poor Denton!  He too, is destined to undergo a transformation.

   This is a marvelous collection.  Like a gifted musician in a midnight speakeasy, Rash glides from muted love songs to funeral hymns to bold marches soulful ballads.  They are all here then, the people of Appalachia. Foolish, flawed, vain and callow.  Many of them elicit empathy for they are all  mortal and foolish.  They are like Chaucer’s pilgrims or Christian’s fellow travelers in Pilgrim’s Progress.  However, unlike the indomitable Christian, many will sink in the muck of the Slough of Despond and vanish, or they will go charging off  in pursuit of phantasms and mirages ... perhaps not  of the Celestial City, but ...a Cherokee casino.

Gary Carden

Ron's book will be released this week and he will be signing at the Community Room in the new library in Sylva on March 15th.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Coffee with the Poets and Writers meets Wednesday, March14, 10:30 a.m. at Café Touché in Hayesville, NC. A member of NCWN West is featured each month. The featured writer this month is Robert S. King.

Robert is a new member of NCWN West. He had been active in the Georgia Poetry Society while living in the Atlanta area. Now living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, Robert said he was pleasantly surprised to find such a large writing community here. He joined Netwest and continues as a member of the Georgia Poetry group as well.

He will be teaching a workshop at Writers Circle in Hayesville, March 17, and will be speaking at the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference in Blue Ridge, Georgia on March 31.

His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Lullwater Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Writers' Forum.

He has published three chapbooks (When Stars Fall Down as Snow, Garland Press 1976; Dream of the Electric Eel, Wolfsong Publications 1982; and The Traveler’s Tale, Whistle Press 1998). His full-length collections are The Hunted River and The Gravedigger’s Roots, both from Shared Roads Press, 2009.

He recently stepped down as Director of FutureCycle Press in order to devote more time to his own writing. He continues to serve the press as Poetry Co-Editor.

The public is invited to come and meet Robert, hear him read his poetry, and to read their original poems or short prose at open mike.

Café Touche, 82 Main Street, serves the best coffee in town and no one wants to leave without having a delicious muffin.

Contact Glenda Beall 828-389-4441 for more information.
This event is free and is sponsored by NCWN West also known as Netwest, a chapter of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.