Discover the World of Keowee Valley

Katherine Scott Crawford is a writer, newspaper columnist, speaker/lecturer, recovering academic, and former adjunct professor. She’s the author of Keowee Valley, an historical adventure set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and in the Cherokee country. Her essays, book reviews, fiction, and poems have appeared in publications including South Loop Review, Appalachian Review, the Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Wilderness House Literary Review, and more. For five years her parenting/outdoor life column was published in U.S.A. Today newspapers across the United States and abroad. She is Founder & Director of MountainTop Writers Retreats. She holds degrees in English from Clemson University, The College of Charleston and The Citadel, and a MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A former backpacking guide and travel junkie, she lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband, daughters, and dog. When everyone is really quiet, she works on her next historical novel.

“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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Winter Academic Writing Retreat – Feb. 16-18, 2022

winterretreatearthshine

Calling all academic writers, or academics-who-also-write:

Join us for the Winter Academic Writing Retreat at beautiful Earthshine Lodge, February 16 – 18, 2022. Lodging, meals, guided hikes, yoga, professional (optional) workshops/breakout sessions, and more. Click the link for all details.

I’ll be Guest Hosting this weekend, and I’d love to see you there!

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New Year, New Book

newmanuscript

Just before the new year, two things happened for me.

1.) After my first visit to the optometrist in seven years, I got glasses. 

My vision used to be perfect–I was the girl who read the street signs or saw the eagle in the trees before anyone else. I now possess bifocals … or “progressive lenses,” as I’m told they’re called this days (she says, tapping her cane).

My prescription isn’t strong, and it’s mostly glass on the bottom (I need them for distance). I asked the doc, “How often do I have to wear them?”, and he chuckled and said, “You really should wear them all the time.”

I’m being nice: it was more of a snort.

2.) I set a goal to complete my second novel before Christmas, and I’m happy to announce–I did it! 

The manuscript has been revised to the best of my abilities, and read by my faithful alpha and beta readers. For non-writers, these are folks who the author trusts, and who can, on a variety of levels, let her know if the story’s working. Mine always include a small cadre of family members and friends. This time the cadre included two friends who are also award-winning, published authors, and whose insights were invaluable.

I set the specific goal because in November, my literary agent of 14 years retired. I knew I had to go in a different direction than with the agent to whom he handed over his clients.

What does this mean? Well, I’m beginning to query literary agents for the first time since 2007. To do this, I had to craft a query: A one-page letter which hooks an agent on my novel, gives them the gist of what it’s about, explains whose books it’s like and why it’ll sell, and also offer my bio. (Point of reference: the last time I queried I was in my 20s, newly married, and did not have children. Since then I’ve had two children, been a college professor with a newspaper column, earned a MFA, run writers’ retreats, done a bevy of other academic and writerly jobs, and remodeled a house.) A query is like speed dating. With better grammar.

Mine is a historical novel with a dual timeline and a dual narrative: It’s told from the point of view of one character in the present (first person), and one two hundred years in the past (third person close). It’s also a timeslip adventure with romantic elements, the style straddling the line between the fast pace of commercial and the crafted detail of literary fiction.

All this is to say, it’s a beast to query. (And to synopsize–a requirement of many agents.)

So, if y’all would, please send up a wish that I find a literary agent who not only loves the manuscript and believes it deserves a place in the world, but who wants to work with a huge history dork/recovering academic/outdoor junkie/wandering spirit/hyper-focused/has hard time sitting still/would rather be outside/non-makeup wearing/eccentric (and this is kind)/brain full of a thousand stories, writer … on an esoteric and (hopefully) prolific and lifelong career.

Easy peasy.

 

* P.S. The photo is of my printed manuscript, which was a Christmas gift to my husband (at his request). The glasses are Zennis.

* P.P.S. An author never feels a book is “done.” But I some point, we have to stop.

 

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Winter Solstice Poem

Welcome, winter.

I love the cold season. There is something in it that calls to my bones, makes a singing sound down deep that only I can hear. What better way to welcome the season than with a Wendell Berry poem:

solstice

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Ode to a Lands’ End Coat

In my 25 year-old Lands' End coat. Top & bottom left photos: Scotland, 2007. Bottom right photos: today.

In my 25 year-old Lands’ End coat. Top & bottom left photos: Scotland, 2007. Bottom right photos: today.

Dear Lands’ End:

Tomorrow this coat is being donated to a coat drive at my 8 year-old daughter’s elementary school. It’s a big moment for me, and I have to say “thank you.”

I was given this coat as a Christmas gift from my aunt my senior year in high school. My senior year was in 1996.

In this coat, I have:

  • backpacked in Scotland (see the photos of me dancing on tree stumps and hugging trees at Blair Castle and bracing myself against the wind at Kiltrock Waterfall
  • cross country skiied on the frozen Talkeetna River in Alaska and on trails in Vermont in 6 degrees at sunset
  • paddled in a canoe in an eely bay, and listened to the rock band Great Big Sea at a pub in a schoolhouse in Cape Negro, Canada
  • horsebacked on a 14+ mile trail ride through rivers and beneath golden aspens in October in Montana
  • downhill skiied on multiple slopes in North Carolina, Colorado, and Vermont
  • winter hiked in weather and in places I had no business being during moose hunting season
  • met the new year of my 30th birthday on a foggy South Carolina beach
  • pushed a stroller through the snow with my first baby in it–my soulmate dog, Scout, by my side
  • built snowmen in the front yard of our house in the NC mountains with my daughters
  • and so much more

I love this 25 year-old coat so damn much. But because y’all build things to last, it can still keep some other person warm and dry this winter. 

Lands’ End, y’all make good stuff. Thank you.

 

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Our Undying Gratitude – Veteran’s Day 2021

American F-15 Eagle pilots of the 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska - photo credit Wikipedia

American F-15 Eagle pilots of the 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska – photo credit Wikipedia

Harry Truman, a veteran of World War I, in a broadcast to the Armed Forces in April of 1945:

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. Because of these sacrifices, the dawn of justice and freedom throughout the world slowly casts its gleam across the horizon.”

For my beloved veteran family members and friends, women and men who have served in every American conflict since the Revolution, in a myriad of ways at home and abroad — to their loved ones who held strong the families, homes, and lives for which they fought — to the highest ideals of our shared country, the preservation and evolution of the real freedoms for which you have all dedicated and given your lives: I am eternally grateful, and I never forget. Thank you for standing for me and my children with what Lincoln so aptly called “the last full measure of devotion.”

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Hallowe’en begins the dark season

A Valkyrie & the Grim Reaper

A Valkyrie & the Grim Reaper

I sure hope all of you had a Happy Hallowe’en, and a good and magical Samhain (as the Celts and others called it). In our family we had a Viking, a Valkyrie, a dragon, and the Grim Reaper. A spooky good time was had by all.

And now we enter the cold, dark, and cozy season I love best.  I hope you enjoy the changing leaves and the crispening air. More from me soon.

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On Retreat: Why making time for ourselves as artists looks different for each of us

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Over the course of my 20 years as a working writer, the idea of being “on retreat” has morphed into many different iterations. I’ve attended writers’ retreats chock full of activities like workshops, craft talks, writing prompts, and more–most wherein I’d been a workshop leader or lecturer. I’ve been a writer-in-residence, where I’ve had chunks of writing time peppered with responsibilities like sitting on panels, giving book talks, or speaking with the public or boards of the organizations who’d financed the retreat. I’ve been offered time in friends’ houses, snuck away to empty family homes for a night, or begged to remain behind when my own family ran errands or engaged in activities.

Each one of these iterations of being “on retreat” offered something different, at different stages in my career and in my personal life. For example: as a 29 year-old Writer-in-Residence at the (now, sadly defunct) Montana Artists Refuge, I spent a month alone in a small apartment in a tiny town in the mountains, hiked for hours a day, read to my heart’s content, and wrote whenever I wanted. As a 30-something year-old graduate assistant at a novel writing retreat, I prepared workshop materials, shepherded writer participants, brainstormed with my mentor, and even washed dishes … and I wrote when I could.

Like many working writers who are also parents, and perhaps are at a certain point in our writing journeys, what I’ve needed most over the past decade is simply time, alone, unbothered, to write. That’s it. Just, frankly: leave-me-the-hell-alone-time. Parents don’t get much of that.

This is when writer-friends come in handy. One of mine recently had the opportunity to rent (for a wonderfully

Sunrise on the coast of South Carolina

Sunrise on the coast of South Carolina

workable price) a family friend’s beach home. Four of us writers in total–all writing in different genres, at different points in our writing journeys–spent four days doing what I’d forgotten I’d needed, more that anything else, in addition to writing time. We communed. We talked of our challenges. We discussed industry matters. We shared how we do what we do, from generalities about worklife routines to digging into to the specifics how how we outline, organize, or don’t.

We took walks on the beach, woke with the sun. We shared random snacks around a kitchen peninsula. We had a good meal out. We went to our corners and did what each of us needed, on a very individual basis, to do most. For some of us it was revising, for others plotting new work, or testing out new pages; for others it was creating necessary blog posts or character sketches.

With fellow writers and friends Gina Heron, Heather Bell Adams, and Terry Lynn Thomas in Garden City, S.C.

With fellow writers and friends Gina Heron, Heather Bell Adams, and Terry Lynn Thomas in Garden City, S.C.

What I’d been missing–what I’d not realized I’d been craving in my I’d-never-change-it-for-the-world-but-it’s-not-writing life as a parent and wife–was simply remembering that, yes: I am a writer. This is what I do.

Sounds simple, right? But I feel confident the writers who are also parents of children (young or otherwise) are nodding along. Being a writer-artist is to invest in the long game and in yourself. Because unless you do it, no one will do it for you. And unless your spouse or partner or significant other or best friend is also an artist, it’s nearly impossible for them to get–truly get–how necessary retreat time is for your art.

On the way home from my 8 year-old’s soccer game yesterday, we passed an art supply shop whose name is “The Starving Artist.” “What’s a ‘starving artist’?” my daughter asked. Her dad tried to explain. He did a pretty good job. And while I wanted to laugh and answer (not half-jokingly) with, “It’s your mama,” what I did instead was to try to explain that artists of all stripes–dancers, singers, visual artists, writers, and more–often do work which isn’t rewarded in any sort of traditional sense … work which may take years to see any sort of traditional fruition, like, say, money.

I don’t know if she got it. She’s pretty darned insightful, but she’s 8. She knows Mama sometimes ignores everyone while she sits at her computer in the middle of the house, and that Daddy (who’s generally heroically wonderful about the time she needs) sometimes gets annoyed when her mama blocks out the world, forgets what she’s been told, or doesn’t do something he thinks she needs to. She knows her mama wrote a book a long time ago, and that she’s been trying to write another one for a very long time. She knows her mama likes to read.

It’s got to be weird, to be the children of a writer. I know it’s often frustrating to be the spouse of one. But here’s what

Sunrise on the beach (and so very happy)

Sunrise on the beach (and so very happy)

I know my kids know: After four days on retreat at the beach, their mama came home absolutely jacked up on the art she loves–the art she was meant to be doing. That she didn’t clean or cook much or do what she was “supposed to” the week after she got home, because she was still flying high from her retreat.

If you want to support the arts, offer an artist in your life a getaway, even if it’s just to use an empty room in your house for a few hours. To that artist, it’ll feel like a gift. And if you’re an artist, I hope you claim time for your art.

What we need as writers can seem odd to others, and that’s okay. But don’t ever forget that retreat–whatever it looks like for you–is part of the long game of being a working (or on your way to being a working) artist.

 

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New Book Review: “To the Bones” by Valerie Nieman, in Appalachian Review

Hi, friends.

It’s been a while. Again.

For my family and me, time has both sped up and seemed suspended or slow duringareviewbookreview the year and a half of pandemic life. I know we’re not alone. Like many of you, I thought we’d be somewhere back to “normal” by now. As I type, I’ve been quarantining at home with my 8 year-old daughter, who contracted Covid-19 at school. She is thankfully, fine now, but it’s been a frustrating and scary process. We long for people to be good neighbors. We are tired.

Which is to say, because of the world in which we’re all living, and the unruliness of our pandemic summer, I missed the fact that an essay of mine was published in the Spring Issue of Appalachian Review: a book review of Valerie Nieman‘s literary thriller, To the Bones (West Virginia University Press, 2019).

West Virginia coal country. A burning river. An old house. A hint of zombie. This is not my usual read, but I was immediately immersed in this wild and dark world, rooting for its people.

bookreview2Appalachian Review is truly a “literary sanctuary,” highlighting work from emerging and established writers across Appalachia and beyond. Past contributors include folks like Wendell Berry, Crystal Wilkinson, Wiley Cash, Barbara Kingsolver, Silas House, Ron Rash, and many more. You’ll never regret subscribing.

The fact that I forgot my review had been published should tell you everything about our pandemic life, and the state of my brain.

To the Bones is a thrilling supernatural read, and especially perfect as we deepen into Autumn and near Hallowe’en.

tothebones

 

 

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What a long, strange trip it’s been

Hi, friends.

It’s been a while. First, there was summer. It was, by far, the fastest summer of my life. As usual, my children (ages 12 and 8) were home, so there was no writing to be done. But we made the most of it: swimming, family time, small adventures, camps, and more. Though I’m always sad to see summer go, I’m even gladder in my heart of hearts to know Fall is right around the corner. Here, in the mountains, it’s a glorious thing.

Of course, with the ending of summer has come the inevitable news that we are not through with Covid-19, not by a long shot. The new Delta variant is scarily contagious; my own extended family dealt with a bout of it after contracting it from an outdoor birthday party. Here, where we live, the debates over whether to mask our children in schools or not has been a long and infuriating one. At our recent school board meeting, a blustering, fear-mongering politician incited upset: and I watched, online, as our county’s most beloved and devoted pediatrician stood up in defense of common sense and science. The school board decided to follow the politician, and his yelling compatriots, over a man who has served the children of this county faithfully and well for a lifetime.

Which is all to say, it’s been a lot. Any parent sending, or who sent, their children back to school in August–who continues to send their children to school each day–lives on a precipice, clinging to the hope that “all will be well.” We do this in spite of case numbers rising, especially in children. We do this in spite of our nurse friends telling us how the hospitals are full of unvaccinated Covid patients, while other patients facing heart or respiratory problems, broken bones, and more, are forced to wait long hours to be seen.

There have been parents raising children during every major event in this country and world–including war, famine, and natural disaster. But I’d be so bold as to say that parenting during a global pandemic, with fellow citizen parents fighting each other over whether to believe science and doctors about that health crisis, may be unique. And that’s a nice way to put it.

So. I have coped, as I’ve done since I was four years-old, by reading. I’ve likely read more books over this summer than I have any other summer of my life, and that’s saying something, considering I’ve been an unapologetic book addict my entire life. To end this post on a high note, I’ll leave you with a few of the books I particularly enjoyed:

Grown-Ups by Marian Keyes ~ funny, dialogue-driven, full of Irish slang, with a brilliant style of plotting

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow ~ genre-bending epic with a completely unique heroine

reddit.com

reddit.com

and a ton of beauty and heart

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith ~ my husband and I were introduced to Smith and his work on a long road trip, as we listened to Smith being interviewed by Brene Brown about this work. It’s smart, deeply felt, empathetic, and important.

I Hold a Wolf By the Ears by Laura Van Den Berg ~ short fiction full of women on the precipice; “unsettling,” honest, and richly drawn

I also listened to several of podcasts:

Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us

Kelly Corrigan’s Kelly Corrigan Wonders

Glennon Doyle and her sister Amanda’s We Can Do Hard Things 

 Krista Tippet’s On Being 

clintsmithI read and listened to these things because I find hope and solace in stories, perhaps because stories are something we all share, no matter what.

I hope as we move through these truly unique times that you take care of yourself and your neighbors, and find solace and comfort in the stories which move you.

 

 

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Fabulous new Southern fiction coming in Spring 2022: THE LOST BOOK OF ELEANOR DARE

KIMSBOOKDEALUtterly out of my mind excited for and proud of my dear friend, the author Kimberly Brock. Our first novels came out the same year (2012) with the same small publisher. We met at a conference in North Georgia touring for those same books, and were immediate friends and kindred spirits.

A six-figure book deal is rare, y’all–and a huge accomplishment. I don’t know anyone who has worked harder to make it happen, and who fires on all her creative pistons like Kim does. This is a wonderful book by a rare talent and a true Southern storyteller. I cannot wait for y’all to read it!

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