Discover the World of Keowee Valley

Katherine Scott Crawford is an award-winning writer, newspaper columnist, and college English teacher. She’s the author of Keowee Valley, an historical adventure set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and in the Cherokee country.

“A glorious debut from a gifted author.”
-Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker’s Wife

Keowee Valley is a terrific first novel by Katherine Scott Crawford–a name that should be remembered.”
-Pat Conroy, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad

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Enjoy the Keowee Valley Trailer

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New Column: “Put down your phone, for the love of Pete!”

smartphonesToday’s column in The Greenville News is all about how much I looovvvveee when people–in social situations, i.e. with others present–are completely glued to their smart phones. Yep.

Enjoy it (I hope!) here.

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Literary Pilgrimage, Day 2: Orchard House, Dickinson Museum, Mt. Holyoke

LittleWomen

Whew.

Let me say that again. Whew. I am home, finally, after an almost three-week trip up to New England and back again. In that time I took a two-day novel research trip to Massachusetts, attended my last residency as a graduate student in the MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, graduated (hallelujah!), and traveled back down the Eastern seaboard from Montpelier, Vermont to Brevard, North Carolina–a literary and history pilgrimage I’ll never forget.

In other news, we’re lucky we made it back alive. Five nights in the same B&B and hotel room as a 4 year-old and 14 month-old is enough to make even Super Girl say, “I give!”

As promised, I’m going to detail the trip here. Since I already talked about most of Day 1 of my Literary Pilgrimage, now it’s on to the the second half of Day 1 and Day 2. Buckle up: I ain’t scared to pack a lot in.

“Life is my college.  May I graduate well, and earn some honors!” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Orchard House

Orchard House

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, after arriving at Orchard House (home of the Alcotts, and where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women), I scooted inside just in time to join the last tour of the day. Our guide: a delightfully warm and interesting woman with an encyclopedic knowledge of Orchard House and its inhabitants–and also an obvious love of the Alcott family.

Speaking of love: One of the first things I noticed upon entering the kitchen of Orchard House, with its wide, wood-planked floors, original oven, and low-hanging ceilings, was an overwhelming sense that this was a house full of love. The feeling followed me throughout the tour, settled in around my shoulders like a well-worn quilt made by my grandmother.

Orchard House is a wonder. It dates, historians believe, to the late 1600s, and is full of the Alcott family’s personal possessions, including paintings, clothing, and furniture. (The Alcotts lived there from 1858-1877; Louisa wrote Little Women at a desk her father built just for her in the home in 1868.) The Alcotts, who were dear friends of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, were at the forefront of education. They fostered a love of learning, art and imagination in their daughters. Huzzah!

One of the neatest things about this house is May Alcott’s bedroom. The youngest Alcott girl, May was an side of Orchard Houseartist. Her parents encouraged her art, and let her draw over the doors, molding, and walls of her bedroom. Those drawings have been preserved and can still be seen today. On my tour, standing inches from them and smiling, I couldn’t help but think just how much and how little changes in this world. (I’d have taken pictures, but understandably, no photography is allowed inside.)

I left Orchard House and Concord and headed west, towards Hadley, where I checked into my hotel and literally flopped upon the king-sized bed that I had all to myself. I was supposed to write a newspaper column but had been having computer issues, and so I whipped out my map and planned my next day.

 

Day 2: A Visit to Emily’s House, a Reunion, and up Mount Holyoke

Dickinson House 2I had big things planned for Day 2. Mainly, I was there to research for my second novel, a work-in-progress set in the year before the Civil War in SC and Massachusetts. My goals for being in the towns of Hadley, Holyoke and Amherst were to research in the Archives at Mt. Holyoke College–my protagonist in Novel 2 is a student at Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary in 1860–visit the Emily Dickinson Museum, and meet up with a dear-writer friend whom I hadn’t seen since 2007.

First, a bump in the road. My sporty little white rental car (which I’d taken to calling Kit; there are no good

Kit

Kit

reasons for this–I just like the name Kit) had low air pressure in the right rear tire. Long story short: No other rentals in the area, had to take it to the tire place, turned out two tires had nails, the only tires available the next town over. And scene.

No, really. That’s how it happened. I was stuck in my hotel room until 11 a.m., when I’d planned to be be-bopping about Amherst and Holyoke all morning. But, it was fixed, and I moved on. Had a lovely visit to the Dickinson Museum, which consists of the gardens/grounds of the Dickinson estate, two houses–including the one Emily lived in and the one built for her brother and his wife by their father. There’s a lot of renovation work being done there, which was interesting. The tour guide was another good one; my guess is the woman is literally a Dickinson scholar, she was that well-versed. (Get it? Well versed?)

Emily's footpathI didn’t spend as much time with the Dickinsons as I had with the Alcotts. Emily has always been a bit of a

Looking back at the Dickinson House from the gardens

Looking back at the Dickinson House from the gardens

mystery to me, and I like that about her. I did have a fabulous, nearly private tour. It was just the tour guide, me, and a couple and their daughter, from England. The daughter was lovely, the mother gorgeous, and the father looked like a slightly aging British rock star. They all sported Chuck Taylors, and they were warm and friendly. Which made them so very cool.

Italianate EvergreensAfter this, I grabbed a sandwich in Amherst at the Black Sheep Deli at the suggestion of my writer-friend, a local. The sandwich was delicious, but the guy behind the counter looked at me as if I’d grown a third eyeball when I ordered. No lie: I had to repeat myself three different times. I guess my Southern accent threw him for a Yankee loop.

 

The archivist at Mt. Holyoke with whom I’d been corresponding wasn’t there when I’d dropped by the College–and sugar maple 2really, it wasn’t her fault, since because of the car troubles I’d arrived much later than planned–so I wandered the campus. The Gothic architecture is really formal, a little dark and cool, but most of it was constructed after my protagonist would’ve been there. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get that writer’s jolt. My advisor at VCFA, Connie May Fowler, warned me things in my novel might take a little unexpected twist, and she was right. But more on that later.

I met up with a dear friend of mine in Holyoke, and we wandered a bit, considered hiking Mt. Holyoke but passed since New England was experiencing a record-breaking heat wave. My friend, Kate, and I had met back in 2007, when we were both writers-in-residence at the now defunct (sigh) Montana Artists Refuge. Basically, we were supposed to be writing but all we did was drive from wilderness area to wilderness area and hike snowy, dangerous trails. It was awesome.

Kate and I had a fabulous dinner in nearby Northampton, then busted out, despite a storm threatening, for a little 1600s town called Deerfield.

We arrived in Historic Deerfield right at dusk. Because of the

forttours.com

forttours.com

impending storm it felt more like night, and the street lamps were already on in the town. Deerfield was founded in the late 1600s, and walking through it is literally like walking through time–most of the houses are museums, and were built between 1730 – 1850. The place was attacked fairly frequently by local Indians, and played a bloody part in King Philip’s War. In 1704, an Indian raid took place in which 50 people were killed and over 100 marched off to captivity in Canada.

Suffice to say, when Kate and I walked those empty streets with our umbrellas, a gentle rain falling in the eerie quiet, it was palpably unsettling.

* * *

Coming soon, Day 3: On to Montpelier & the Vermont College of Fine Arts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New column: “Your memories might not be your own”

DNAHi, all! Today’s column is up at The Greenville News, and this one’s all about the theory of ancestral memory, or inherited memories.

Ever wondered if you’ve inherited more than eye color and height from your ancestors? Well, check it out here.

And Happy Almost-Weekend!

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New column: “Independence should be celebrated all year long”

Hi, all! Completely forgot to post the link last week to my newest column in The Greenville News. This one’s about independence, the Fourth of July, and Thomas Jefferson. I hope you enjoy!

Find it here.

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New Column: “Love for soccer is a calling card”

soccer ball fieldHi, folks,

This weeks’s column is up at The Greenville News, and it’s all about “the beautiful game” of soccer. Hope you enjoy!

Read it here.

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Literary Pilgrimage & Road Trip: Day 1 (or, really, Day 1/2)

So, here I sit, in my dorm room at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It’s been a whirlwind of a four days since I left North Carolina, and I know I need to document it as promised. Here we go:

On the first day of my Literary Pilgrimage, I flew into Burlington, Vermont, where my plan was to rent a car and head south to Mount Holyoke College. There, I’d immerse myself in research for my current novel-in-progress, which is set at Mt. Holyoke, partly, the year before the Civil War. But the road trip gods, as they usually do, had other things in mind.

At the Enterprise counter I had a delightful conversation with two young gentlemen who gave me great directions, assorted maps, and set me up with an upgrade: I’d have a sporty Captiva to toodle around in, and I was psyched. I took the keys, assured them I didn’t need help with my luggage, and practically skipped up the escalator to the garage.

Here’s the Capitva. Isn’t she cute?

My Captiva

My Captiva

When I got to the car I tossed my bags in the backseat, adjusted the seat to very-short-person settings, and popped one of the CDs I’d wrapped in bubble wrap and brought with me: a little Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. “If I Was from Paris” ripped out of the speakers. Check it out here. See? Mama was rarin’ to go.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There was a light flashing at me from the dash: “Right rear tire low air pressure.”

Bear with me, because this will be important later.

So, I called the young gentlemen at the rental car desk. “Stay put, I’ll be right there,” one of them said cheerily. Minutes later, a van pulls up with a host of early-twenties looking guys inside, playing music loud. My rental car fella climbs out from the backseat, over a friend, and grins at me. “Let’s check this out,” he says.

Here’s the gist: We drove the car to the maintenance shed at the airport, where they filled the tire with air. It had started to drizzle, and I was so ready to hit the road I could barely stand it. I waved goodbye to the rental fella with my window half down, and just as I was backing up he said, “You should be fine. But if you get to Massachusetts and it says you’ve got low pressure again, you should call the nearest Enterprise and trade out your car.” Then he ducked back into the shed as it began to really rain.

I shook off the feeling that something-wasn’t-quite-right, mostly because I was alone and in a car and listening to Grace Potter sing for all she was worth, and it was time to burn rubber. Leaving the airport, I called my husband to debate my route of choice. At the last minute, and with his encouragement (oh, I married a good man), I decided to head towards the coast and to Concord, Massachusetts, three hours away.

It didn’t matter that I’d been awake since 5 a.m., that my flight was delayed in Newark due to mechanical issues with the altimator–you know, the thing that tells the pilots at what altitude they’re flying–and that when I saw the plane would be leaving two hours late, I sat down for a real breakfast only to see on the little computer thingy in front of me that nope, just kidding, my flight was leaving NOW, and I had to sprint for my terminal with my omelet bouncing around in my backpack.

It didn’t matter, because I was headed for Concord, land of the literati of the 19th century and of Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (among others). I’d been wanting to see Orchard House ever since I fell in love with Jo March, especially when she uttered those very unladylike and un-19th century words I could so identify with: “I rather crave violence.” My only stop: a pull-off in the green hills of Vermont where I took just enough time for a bathroom break and to eat one-third of the cold spinach and goat cheese omelet I’d been schlepping since Newark. Word to the wise: Cold eggs aren’t so yummy. Even with goat cheese.

In Concord, I pulled up to Orchard House with just enough time to scoot in on the last tour of the day. Walking up the gravel path to the house I felt as if in a dream. It looked exactly as I’d always imagined.

Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott

Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott

* * Coming soon: the rest of Day 1, my adventures at Mount Holyoke and in Amherst, Massachusetts on Day 2, and more about my last residency (sniff and hoorah–I can do both at once, right?!) in the MFA in Writing Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

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New Column: “Summer road trips are a rite of passage”

road trip signHi, all!

My Thursday column is up at The Greenville News. This one’s about the glories (and bumps) of the summer road trip.

Read it here.

Hope you enjoy!

 

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Friday Stuff: New Column & Upcoming Literary Road Trip

outerbanksvacations.com

outerbanksvacations.com

 

Hi, all!

My new column is up at The Greenville News. This one’s all about fatherhood–and is especially for fathers of daughters.

Read it here.

 

In other news, on Monday things get wild in my world. I’m headed first to Massachusetts on a literary pilgrimmage/novel research retreat, where I’m going to spend some time exploring the archives and the campus of Mt. Holyoke College (for work on my new novel). Then, I’m off to Montpelier, Vermont and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, to complete my final residency and graduate from the MFA in Writing Program there. Hard to believe I’ve come to the end of this long, challenging, and rewarding experience.

My family and I are going to take a week to road-trip it back to Western North Carolina, checking out all kinds of sites along the way. On our list (okay, on Mama’s dream list–a 13 month-old and a 4 year-old might have more to say about it): Saratoga Springs, NY; Gettysburg, PA; possibly Philadelphia, Monticello & Mount Vernon, and assorted small towns and gorgeous countryside along the way!

If you have any great tips for places to hit on our trek from Montpelier, VT to Brevard, NC, I hope you’ll write and share them with me. We’re talking tips about anything–roadside stands, state parks, places to stay and eat, things for kids to do, etc. My husband would like for me to ask about food.

I plan (and hope) to blog about it all–my literary pilgrimmage, my last residency in the MFA program, the trek home, and more, over the next three weeks.

Happy Friday!

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New Column: “Summer can still be magic for young and old”

lightning-bugsHi, all!

Today’s column at The Greenville News is up, and it’s all about childhood summers in the South, and regaining some of that summer magic today–no matter how old we may be.

Read it here. And if you like it, I do hope you’ll share!

 

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My Writing Process – Virtual Bus Blog Tour

 

Author Kali Van Baale

Author Kali Van Baale

 

 

Author Amy Wallen

Author Amy Wallen

Y’all ever take a long trip on a Greyhound bus? Perhaps in middle or high school, where you went to some exotic (to your teenaged self) new place? Growing up in South Carolina, we headed to Charleston and all its requisite plantations and haunting slave quarters, to soak up Gullah history, culture, maritime life and more. When I was a high schooler, my theatre troupe traveled from Greenville, South Carolina to Orlando, Florida, where we got to go “behind the scenes” at Disney World.

What I remember most from those trips? The bus ride. Twenty some-odd students, plus teachers and chaperones, packed into what was basically a madhouse on wheels. Back then, everybody had a walkman or CD player turned up at eardrum-bursting volume, things went on in the back of the bus the mama in me cringes now to remember, and woe to the poor kid who got stuck next to the bathroom.

Today, I’m riding a better bus. One with luxurious plush seats that fully recline, hot coffee and tea served any time you like it, and instead of overhead luggage compartments, it’s filled with a library’s worth of great books. Filling those seats are authors and writers of every ilk, and we’re all ready to talk.

It’s a virtual bus tour of writers, and this is my stop. Kali Van Baale, author of The Space Between (River City Publishing, 2006) and graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing program, invited me along. Kali’s a college writing and literature teacher, author, and mama to three children. Plus, if you met her you’d see doesn’t look a day over 27. She’s a bad mamma jamma. I met her in Montpelier, under a bunch of big trees out in front of the VCFA quad. There were a bunch of us sitting there, watching a poets versus prose writers softball game. Kali tossed out a couple of dry, hilarious observations, and I liked her on the spot. She’s totally the cool girl on the bus—the one who’d shrug and look at you like you’re nuts if you told her this. But that makes her even cooler.

So, since it is my stop, let me hop off for a second and tell you about myself.

What am I working on?

Like lots of writers—admittedly, we’re all a little nutty—I don’t like to share too many details about what I’m working on. I worry it’s bad juju. That the magic that has to be present for a story to shine will scitter off into the dark when I shine the flashlight its way.

That being said, I can say this: I’m working on another historical novel. (My first, Keowee Valley, was published by a small press in 2012.) It’s set in the span of the year 1860, just before the first shots of the Civil War are fired, in both Charleston, South Carolina and at Mount Holyoke College, in Massachusetts. The central character is the descendant of some of my characters from Keowee Valley. She’s a lot of things, including a sort of Southern Jo March (a la Little Women). She’s also a seer and a secret-keeper.  

This is the novel I’ve worked on since I began the MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts back in Winter 2011. I’ll graduate with my MFA in Writing in fiction on July 5.

I’m still finding my way through the story. For me, it’s a bit like walking a ridgeline in the Southern Appalachians on a crisp winter night: leaves crunch underfoot of some big animal, the trees bare their black-lace branches against the sky, and there’s just enough starlight to see the trail.

I’m also a newspaper columnist. Each week I write a parenting/outdoor life column for The Greenville News in Greenville, South Carolina. I generally link to them here.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m a genre-crosser. I leap genre lines in a single bound. Wearing a Wonder Woman costume.

Seriously, though: my writing, whether it’s novels, essays or newspaper articles, doesn’t just dip a toe into several different genres at once—it tends to dive right in. I honestly know of no other way to write and create. Part of this is because of my adventurer’s soul: I’m fascinated with so many things about the world, I enjoy so many different types of literature, that I’d like to travel to the ends of the Earth and read it all before my time is through. My husband likes to joke that I’m such a travel junkie, if someone gave me a plane ticket to Siberia I’d go. He’s right.

My favorite novels aren’t bound by genre rules. They tend to incorporate a bit of everything. My first novel, Keowee Valley, has elements of historical, romance, adventure, commercial, literary, frontier and wilderness fiction, but doesn’t toe the line on any. Labels serve their purpose, certainly, but I’d much rather buck the norm and smile doing it.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve been a history nut since I was a kid. I’m fascinated with the past, but not in a knights-in-shining-armor kind of way: I think that history is cyclical, and binding, and that we ignore it at our peril. Mostly, it’s a helluva lot of fun to write about.

I also write family stories; stories that reflect how  our family histories are inevitably and irrevocably tied to the land.

How does my writing process work?

I used to have a process. It was a beautiful thing: I’d wake up, and on the days I didn’t teach (I teach college English courses) I’d go for a run, return, brew a fat pot of coffee while my laptop was booting up, and then write for hours.

After my oldest daughter was born (she’s now four), I would wake up around 5 a.m. and try to get at least an hour and a half of writing in before she woke up. That didn’t last long–she’d hear me and wake up, which defeated the ever-lovin’ purpose. Now I also have a 13 month-old, so not much writing gets done in the wee hours. Lately I’ve been retreating to the office at the College where I teach to write there.

Generally, a scene forms in my mind. Nothing but a moment, a place, a place in time, a person, a flash of color, some bit of dialogue. And I go from there.

My writing process has changed in innumerable ways since I had children. I expect it’ll change even more as they (and I) grow.

Passing the baton:

The bus stops next with the wry and brilliant Amy Wallen, author of MoonPies and Movie Stars (Viking, 2006). Amy is a baker (of savory pies), a fellow graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing program, a teacher (she teaches at the New York State Writers Institute, and hosts literary salons at her home in San Diego), and an incredible writer. She’s currently at work on her memoir–she’s led an amazing life on several continents–and when it finds a home it’s going to sell like hot cakes.

Visit Amy at her author website here. To read about her writing process, and to visit Amy on the next stop of the bus tour, go here.

 

 

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