Discover the World of Keowee Valley

Katherine Scott Crawford is an award-winning writer, newspaper and magazine 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. Her parenting/outdoor life columns have appeared in newspapers across the United States and abroad, including U.S.A. Today, The Greenville News (S.C.), the Asheville Citizen-Times (N.C.), The Detroit Free PressThe Herald (Scotland), and many more.

“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

“Katherine Scott Crawford is a fresh and valuable new voice in Southern Literature.” -Ron Rash, bestselling author of Serena and Saints at the River

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Enjoy the Keowee Valley Trailer

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I swear this is not a book blog: and, What I’m Reading Now: Rene Denfeld’s “The Child Finder”

childfinderPandemic win: more books. Another recommendation from a friend … although I probably shouldn’t have read this one at night. Which speaks to the power of Rene Denfeld’s harrowing and atmospheric novel.

The Child Finder is fast-paced, tightly-plotted, and touching in the most surprising moments. Add a national forest in the snowy Pacific Northwest, and I’m in. If you’re a parent, especially, it will have you by the throat.

Denfeld is an award-winning writer, and among other things, a foster mother. I’m looking forward to diving into her other works!

(If you read The Child Finder, consider the fact that the friend who recommended it to me picked it up on a whim on his way to go on a solo camping trip. Yikes.)

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What I’m Reading Now: Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and the Jinni”

golemandjinniBook recommendations from friends have been one of the wins of this pandemic year. I always tend to read very different sort of books from the ones usually on my list when it’s a friend handing it over.

The Golem and the Jinni was no exception: I do not think I’ve yet to read anything like it. A lush and night-lit spelling of the sensual and the strange, a gas-lit 1899 New York City, a richly-researched immigrant story, a potion earthy with myth and magic. I closed the book just this morning, and while I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, I am sure I’m in for whatever ride Helene Wecker takes readers on next.

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Katherine May’s “Wintering”: What I’m Reading Now

winteringbookI finally finished Katherine May‘s Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. I say “finally,” because while I normally read fast, I savored this book. Saved it for bedtime each night, snuggled up under our three fleece blankets (we keep our house very cold), with book light to allow dark to curl and nestle around me.

Wintering was loaned to me by a friend, and so instead of taking pencil to it like I do my own books, I kept a pad of sticky notes nearby.

I love winter. Have as far back as memory goes. I think this love may come from my Northern European and Russian ancestors, people to whom winter was a devout reality. (My parents and sister do not love it, so perhaps I received a quadruple genetic dose.) This pandemic year, and the last two months of it in particular, have felt like May’s idea of wintering to me—more than at any other time in my life. My list of life’s recent tough items likely looks like many people’s.

Wintering, May says, can happen throughout the year. She calls it, “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world … sidelined,” resulting from a “an illness or life event,” “a period of transition,” or—my favorite—a falling “between worlds.” May speaks of wintering, however, as inevitable, vital, and true. She tells us “wisdom resides in those who have wintered,” and that, something I have believed my whole life: “the cold renders everything exquisite.” That it offers us “liminal spaces to inhabit.”

As someone who feels most at home, most true, in liminal spaces both abstract and concrete—places many folks (and definitely society at large) tend to find odd and even dangerous, I got this book. Better yet, it got me.

There’s no better time to read Wintering than in the true winter of this pandemic year.

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“In hell they’ll roast thee like a herrin’!”: Or, In Appreciation of Burns Night

Prized Burns books, a gift from my husband

Prized Burns books, a gift from my husband

Tonight is Burns Night, when Scots and others around the globe celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns.

Burns has been one of my favorite poets since I first read him as a high schooler in English class. Burns is best read in the original Scots (with a translator and a dram of good whiskey close at hand), in order to experience the rollicking, brilliant, in-the-moment experience of Burns’s storytelling.

One of his most famous poems, “Tam O’Shanter,“ is told (and

An excerpt (it's long, but worth it) of "Tam O' Shanter"

An excerpt (it’s long, but worth it) of “Tam O’ Shanter”

explained) to perfection, I think, by Scottish comedian Karen Dunbar. I wish I’d had this BBC Scotland link when I was teaching British Literature as a college professor. (Nobody tell Rabbie I included him in Brit Lit, please.)

Here’s Dunbar, in her fabulous Scottish accent, explaining what happens when you get into a night of drinking, wander in a party of witches and warlocks, and try to “chase skirt.”

Watch here.

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Madam Vice President

Inauguration day sky, candle in the window, 2021

Inauguration day sky, candle in the window, 2021

Nina Simone singing “Feeling Good” in 1965 feels like a fine way to celebrate the United States of America finally making good on one of its many promises.

“Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, yeah

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, ooh
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River running free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know?
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world, is a new world
And a bold world for me, yeah-yeah

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Oh, freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me
I’m feeling good”

~ sung by Nina Simone, 1965; music & lyrics by Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse

Nina Simone singing “Feeling Good”

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Pandemic Parenting: Sending my kids back to school after 305 days at home

Our home schoolroom, empty now of my children.

Our home schoolroom, empty now of my children.

Today is the first day in 305 days that I have been away from both my children. The last time was March 12, 2020, when they went to school for the day before the Covid-19 pandemic changed all our lives forever.

Today, my kids went back to school. Now, I sit on my couch, drinking coffee, and frankly, trying to regroup. I feel simultaneous relief and the urge to throw up.

We have once again entrusted our children to the schools we love, and it feels like the first day of school in an alternate universe: the fear is there, the worry, the hope, and the faith, the desperate, crazy faith that it’ll all be okay.

I’d already been tired, but I think this is a weariness of the moment. Was I a successful homeschool mom? I like to joke that I’m a great camp counselor, but a subpar teacher, and looking back on the past 10 months—8 of which I was in charge of my kids’ education—I think that’s pretty accurate. Lord knows there were days I did my best, and others where it was a miracle we made it through. Teaching young kids, especially my own, has never been a tool in my varied but sometimes esoteric wheelhouse.

I have not worked in 305 days, we’re in the midst of home construction, and I need to get in shape in more ways than one. We’ve family who are not well and in hospital, and my stalwart husband is stretched far too thin. There is much to do. But right now, I am tired. I am sitting. I am praying my kids have great days at school, that middle school is uncharacteristically kind to my older daughter, that my children won’t become infected with Covid-19. That I’ve made the right decision out of a grab-bag of not-good options.

It’s not possible for me in this moment to feel any sort of pride in myself for the work of the past 305 days, or even relief in the quiet, but heavens, I’m hoping to get there.

 

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Entering the Festival of Lights – Happy Hanukkah!

hanukkah2Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. Here’s a link to my newspaper column last year, in which I wrote about its history, with the help of some of my childhood friends.

To all my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah! Hannukkah Sameach!

Read the column here.

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Do your Christmas ornaments tell a story?

It’s difficult to play favorites. But my favorite Christmas ornaments are those which mean something specific: the ones collected on trips and adventures, those given me by friends, and those which hung on my grandparents’ tree.

A brief history (photos below):

orn11. Our chosen home. (And where my husband proposed.)

2. Senior year in college, Spring Break trip with my cousin and my dearorn2 college friend to visit my aunt in Alaska. My friend gifted me this: of course we’d skiied (cross country & alpine) and sat in hot tubs. #alaskaforever

3. The copper wolf I bought myself at age 26, in a tiny town in Montana, where I was a writer-in-residence at the Montana Artists Refuge (a gift of a month which changed my writing life).

orn3

4. My babies. Aren’t the preschool ornaments killers?

5. Lady Liberty, got at the Ellis Island Museum at the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York City, where my sister and I traveled withorn4 our mom to celebrate her 70th birthday.

6. George and Martha! From Mount Vernon, where I took my older daughter as part of a special, big-kid Spring Break when she was in 4th grade.

orn57. Ornaments from Colonial Williamsburg—the King’s Tavern and Governor’s Palace—from an after Christmas adventure with my in-laws. They gifted all of us the trip, and it was a ball.

8. A Nordic star, from Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, and an unforgettable orn6Disney trip with my parents, sister and her family (a Christmas gift from my parents to all of us).

9. A birthday gift (I’m a Sagittarius) from a dear friend, which entreats me to “listen.”

10. Two ornaments, old and precious, which hung on my grandparents’ tree. One of them spins from the heat; as a child I’d crawl as far as I could get under their Christmas tree and stare up into it, fully believing in magic.

orn7

Stories are light in the dark, and I can’t think of a better time for them than now. Do your Christmas ornaments tell a story? I’d love to hear it.orn9

orn8
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A Christmas Story for your Kindle

EvergreencoverLast December (what a different world!) I wrote and published Evergreen and Expectations: A Keowee Valley Christmas Story via Kindle. It’s a brief dive back into the 18th century, the Southern frontier, and a chance to spend Christmas with Quinn, Jack, and Ridge Runner, the protagonists from my 2012 historical novel, Keowee Valley.

Here’s the gist:

It is Christmas in the Keowee Valley. Over a year since Quincy MacFadden Wolf and her half-Cherokee husband, Jack, returned from adventures abroad, it should be a season of celebration and good cheer. Quite unlike herself, Quinn is surly and sad, longing for the good company of friends and family. But the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring surprising revelations and unexpected guests, and Quinn will discover she is capable of great purpose–and that she is more at home on the frontier than ever before.

Katherine Scott Crawford returns with a short story filled with characters from her awarding-winning historical novel. Set on the wild Carolina frontier in the years before the American Revolution, the Keowee Valley is still beautiful and mysterious, and Quinn and Jack a pair of lovers as rare and real as they ever were.

I wrote the story as sort of a Christmas gift to readers of Keowee Valley, those of you so faithfully asking for so long about when you’d get to read more. But really, I wrote it for myself. I’d missed Quinn, Jack, Ridge Runner, Fire Eater, their adventures, and the gorgeous and wild land which is their world, more than I’d thought. I also wanted to explore the history of what Christmas was really like on the frontier in those wild and woolly days, for the Cherokee people and settlers, including so many German families in the South Carolina backcountry, and more.

Right now, Evergreen and Expectations is FREE with Kindle Unlimited, and only 99 cents otherwise! I hope you check it out, and I hope you are having the happiest of holidays.

Keowee-Valley-screen

 

 

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Pandemic isolation and small divinities

A friend of mine posted yesterday a simple message asking us to offer compassion and even small gestures of kindness to ourselves and others. She’s a nurse, and so is her sister. To say this pandemic time has been hard feels woefully inadequate; anyone who knows a healthcare worker knows it’s getting harder. Too many people are suffering, in ways many of us, including myself, have yet to experience.

Lately, I’ve felt mostly the strain of isolation: a wave of grief mixed with my own over-analyzation about what suffragettemugrelationships this pandemic may have changed, on a number of levels. About how connections I’d assumed were solid have seemed to fade—due, perhaps, to all of us living daily under the combined pressures having to work, parent, cohabitate, and simply exist during a global pandemic. I know I’m not alone in these feelings because I’ve heard others express them, too … and I know most of us are putting one foot in front of the other, even in times of joy.

My brain works like this: The questions create more questions. I tend to hunker. All this is to say, over the past two days I was the recipient of the kindnesses my nurse friend mentioned. Dear friends reached out in small, personal ways: the gift of this perfect consignment store mug, a thoughtful note, a funny text, a walk around the block. And it’s no exaggeration to say that these were nothing less than small divinities, bright as an unexpected glimpse of stars, or the moon, through a break in the trees.

So I echo my nurse friend. Show compassion. Reach out. Offer a smile to a stranger (because even in a mask, we can all recognize a smile in the eyes). I will do the same, and we’ll get through this together.

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