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. Her parenting/outdoor life columns are published 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. She is Founder and 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 addict, 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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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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A Beloved Local Business Closes its Doors – Writing About Friends

Young Rion Coadwell in the gelato shop where he grew up

Young Rion Coadwell in the gelato shop where he grew up

It’s always an honor to be asked to write something, especially when it’s for dear friends.

After 13 years, a beloved downtown Brevard business, Kiwi Gelato, is closing its doors. I’m thankful that our hometown Brevard newspaper, The Transylvania Times, published the piece I wrote about it, and for Richard Coadwell and Heather Layton, who trusted me with their story.

Small businesses are imperative to vibrant downtowns, and our community will miss Kiwi Gelato so very much. To read the story, click here.

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What I’m Reading Now: Robert Macfarlane’s “The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot”

IMG_6377This is a special book. It begs to be read slowly, so as to savor each line. Not since reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in my early 20s have I experienced a book like this: one which offers a deeply intellectual, history and science-based analysis of place and of humanity’s experiences with it, but also a gorgeously-crafted narrative. Macfarlane is that rare kind of storyteller who unabashedly balances passion and creativity with academic insight: in The Old Ways, his intellectual pistons are firing on all cylinders.

IMG_6374I read this book over the course of weeks, marked it up with my pencil as I always do with books I know to be special. I underlined passages which struck me particularly or left me in awe; circled names of people, and terms I’d never heard before—words like “dolmens,” “tumuli,” “ogee,” “lacustrine,” “toponym,” and “mafic,” so I could look them up. I sticky-noted pages I couldn’t live without; passages which left me in awe, or struck me deep in that place inside which knows the things that are true. When he writes of the early 20th century poet and essayist Edward Thomas, I felt a homecoming.

Macfarlane says of Thomas that “… he experienced that tension between roaming and homing,” and that Thomas wrote that “‘It is hard to make anything like a truce between these two incompatible desires, the one for going on and on over the earth, the other that would settle forever in one place.’” Above these words, I wrote in pencil, “I know this tension so well.”

Macfarlane gives voice to that which I’ve always known to be true: that to walk in the footsteps of ancient others, whether by trail or highway or boat, “… is to sense nothing so simple as time travel.” And that some places, some landscapes, are so special to us that we “bear them with us,” and that they “are among the most important landscapes we possess.”

The Old Ways is a book I know I’ll return to again and again, much like the paths and trails I trod weekly around myIMG_6375 small mountain town. (They, too, are old ways: places walked by frontier settlers, the Cherokee, and the people before them.) I know that, like those places, it will continue to reveal itself to me, and therefore reveal to me more of myself.

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Mother’s Day Recap: Time away + Mom-xiety + You are enough

184970259_10160035456824252_2560589409128719500_nA few years ago my family started a Mother’s Day tradition of gifting me with a night or weekend at the lake, alone. I laughingly refer to myself as an extroverted introvert, but what is more true is that I just pure love people—but I require a significant amount of alone time to recoup (and recover) the energy I expend.

184795933_10160035456804252_491817943901237768_nFor this Mother’s Day weekend, we’d been planning for months to camp with a group of friends, but life got busy and our kids’ activity calendar filled up. I agonized over missing that camping trip: I knew I’d see pictures of groups of kiddos having a ball outside, or my friends laughing around a fire, and worry that I was depriving my own kids of fun and friendship: the informal and essential community-building which takes place in times like this. Also: it’s unnecessary to say, but the pandemic has been so dang isolating. Also: I don’t like to say “no” to invitations, because there is an insecure voice inside which insists that if I do, I won’t get asked again.

But I needed this time. So I left the kids with my husband and their soccer and church commitments, called my dog, and took it. I filled184599489_10160035456809252_6354610921694841121_n the lakehouse fridge with the following: frozen pizza, guacamole, yogurt, spinach, cheese, Bubly waters, coffee creamer, and York Peppermint Patties. I read books and magazines, and spent time with my novel manuscript. A dear friend took me on a boat ride, and I fed her supper. I did not look at social media once. Until today, that is.

Did my kids miss out? Yes. Did I miss out? Probably. But my friends are good: there will be more chances for fun this summer. Capturing this necessary time with myself? That is rare.

I am thankful always for my beautiful mom, who taught me how to mother without saying a word. And for my late mother-in-law, who raised such a good man. Sunday was sad and bittersweet without her.

To all the moms, in whatever form you take, you are not alone, and you are enough.

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Writers Retreat Debrief

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There is quite literally nothing, for a writer of any stripe, like being on retreat. Especially after these 13+ months of living and working during a global pandemic. Because of this, I was even more delighted than usual to serve as the Guest Host at Earthshine Lodge’s Spring Academic Writers Retreat in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, April 13 – 15th.

Being truly “on retreat” as a writer means (or should mean, if the retreat is worth its salt) the following: dedicated and private writing space, dedicated and private writing time, comfortable accommodations, a peaceful setting, ease of experience–whether this includes a helpful itinerary (or none), meals provided, or interactions with others. Most important: being left the heck alone.

Yep. I said it. A writer on retreat, even in a “typical” year, goes on retreat to be left alone … in order to write.

At the Spring Academic Writers Retreat last week, we hosted faculty members from North Carolina State University.

One corner of Earthshine Lodge

One corner of Earthshine Lodge

Their purpose: to utilize the short time away for faculty development, and for time to WORK–to write grants, work on papers, brainstorm combined projects, and more. They held Zoom meetings with their graduate students, and even fielded calls from home.

Our itinerary (always optional, at least when I’m the host): guided, informal conversations; goal setting, and reevalution; two breakout sessions and/or workshops centering on common writing issues like inspiration, pitfalls, and more, and strategies to help; and yoga, meditation, and a guided hike, for good measure. Earthshine Lodge’s 76 acres of gorgeous mountain property, which border The Pisgah National Forest, are a haven.

Really, what I wanted more than any sort of itineraried set of tasks accomplished was for the writers’ personal goals to be met–goals they’d set professionally, but also personally. These could have included brainstorming conversations with colleagues which they’d been saving to have in person, a number of pages or paragraphs written, or even sitting by an evening fire in the quiet, cup of tea in hand.

Yoga on the upper deck of the Lodge

Yoga on the upper deck of the Lodge

A good retreat allows for all the above, but it also allows for sparks of magic, saving graces: the moments you don’t know you need, or have been longing for, until they happen. A laugh over a good meal, a remembered story, a breathless hike to the top of a view yielding miles of mountains. A lean against a lodge railing, chilly spring breeze lifting the hair from your face.

For my part, I found myself rejuvenated just by witnessing

One happy Guest Host

One happy Guest Host

the writers’ retreat: They were colleagues, but more, friends who hadn’t been able to spend time together because of the pandemic. Watching them interact and enjoy time together and away while at the same time being incredibly productive was impressive, and fun for me to see, all at the same time. I so hope they return.

And I am thankful to be part of Earthshine Lodge, and hopeful for future retreats at this unique and beautiful spot. If174227799_10159974976459252_3224668125862564874_n you’re interested in a future writers’ retreat of any sort, we can craft it. Contact me here, or email me privately at thewritingscott at gmail dot com and we’ll get a conversation going. You won’t regret it. The mountains are magic.

More photos below …

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Hammocks across the property

Hammocks across the property

One of the Lodge's 8 rooms

One of the Lodge’s 8 rooms

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Spring Reading: Kate Quinn’s “The Rose Code”

therosecodeI read Kate Quinn‘s World War II era historical novel, The Rose Code, in a fevered (possibly actually fevered, as I’d just received my second Covid vaccination) rush, over the course of two nights while my kids were on Spring Break. I read until 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. each night, unwilling to put the book down.

Here’s what I love and admire about Quinn’s writing, in this book and in others: her fierce dedication to fully-fleshed, flawed, fantastically human characters–people you get to know so deeply you’d not be surprised to bump into them on the street; her intense dedication to research; and her straight-up storyteller chops. 

Too often historical novelists give up the story for the history, or vice versa. But my favorite writers world-build with vibrancy and energy, and never sacrifice character.

World War II England, code breakers, friendships, and bad-ass feminism? I’ll take it any day of the week, and I’ll read whatever Quinn’s got cooking.

 

 

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What I’m Reading Now: “Beach Read” by Emily Henry

beachreadNeed a Spring Break read? Literally headed to the beach?

I picked up Emily Henry’s Beach Read from my local library on a total whim yesterday. The premise—two very different writers (with a shared college past) stuck in neighboring lakehouses, who forge a plan to rid themselves of writer’s block—sounded like too much fun. And I really need some fun.

Beach Read is my favorite kind of fun, in fact: skillfully drawn, fast-paced and fresh, and sexy as hell. Whip-smart, funny dialogue had me flipping pages deep into the night. I gulped it down in one sitting (despite the fact that I’m a mom and it was a school night). I’m so happy to have found a new (to me only: she’s a New York Times bestseller) author to enjoy.

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Over the Weekend I Pretend I’m a Writer

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Just kidding. I know I’m a writer. It’s taken a while to accept it as a fact inside and out (yes, I’m aware that’s nuts; and yes, I have seen a therapist), but I’ve got it now. I may not be where I want to be, but I’m on my way.

Still: Writing as a parent was never an easy task, never the smoothest path to choose, even before a global pandemic had us all at home, all together, all the time.

Over the past weekend I ended up with nearly three days, and definitely three nights, all to myself. I hesitate to even whisper this aloud for fear my other writer-parent friends (mostly moms) will pluck my eyes out in jealousy. (I get to say this because I am a member of the sisterhood.) The three days to myself were unintentional: we’d originally intended, as a family, to spend a long weekend at the lake. But we were (happily) sidetracked by friends returning to town, played too long outside, and hadn’t made a move by Saturday morning.

“Why don’t you go alone?” My husband said. “You’ve been talking about needing writing time.”

Reader, I neither hemmed nor hawed at his offer. I packed my bag, my laptop, my dog, my coffee creamer, and skedaddled. I stole a box of Annie’s Mac-n-Cheese from the pantry, because a girl’s gotta eat.

At the lake, I hunkered down with the novel manuscript on which I have been at work since November of 2017. Here’s an example of a real writer-parent timeline, for all you folks in the cheap seats. (I’m not being unkind. It’s just that, when you’re a writer, and you haven’t had a book come out in many years, and well-intentioned friends and family ask you how it’s going, and you tell them, you get Very Perplexed Expressions in response.)

November 2017: I leap into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a couple of days late. I’ve never done this before. I am desperate. The historical novel I’d slogged through since graduate school isn’t working. I go with a new idea, one hatched on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, with my husband (he worked, I walked). At the time, I’m teaching as an adjunct professor and writing a weekly newspaper column. My children are 4 and 8 years old, respectively.

I write at the most random times, sometimes only for 15 minutes a day. Then it’s time for final exams (all college profs know what this means) and the holidays, including school break (all parents know what this means). The writing halts.

August 2018: Yes, we’ve skipped this far. There was another semester of teaching and writing a weekly column. Also all the momming, through the summer, no childcare. Over the summer we decide that I will temporarily step back from teaching, in order to (finally) work on another novel. It has been nearly six years since my debut novel, Keowee Valley, was published. It’s a tough decision–I love doing life with my college kids–but it’s the right one.

Also in August, my younger daughter starts Kindergarten. All the angels sing on high.

September to November 2018: I write like a woman on fire from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. most weekdays. I am Hamilton, writing like I’m running out of time. Which I am, because …

November 2018 to January 2019: It’s the holidays again! You try working on a long, heavily-researched prose project while children are around. Stock your liquor cabinet first.

January to May 2019: I write and write. It’s coming fast, and it’s fun. For the first time in years, it’s fun again. The newspaper stops using freelance columnists, and cancel my column. I’m heartbroken. I complete the first (very rough) draft of my second historical novel.

June to August 2019: It’s summer in the city, “someone in a rush sniffin’ someone lookin’ pretty.” Sorry, Hamilton on the brain. But it’s summer, and I’m with my children–which I love in summer–but again: no childcare.

August 2019 to November 2019: Write write write keep writing! I am writing! 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. is my time, and it’s glorious. I’m happier than I’ve been in years, and this is saying something, because I’m a happy person.

November 2019 to January 2020: Holiday. Celebrate. “If we took a holiday, took some time to celebrate….” (Now it’s Madonna.) But you get the picture. Holidays, wonderful, time-consuming, all-encompassing, no childcare.

January 2020 to March 2020: Write and write and then–

Errrrrttttt Sqquuueeeaaaakkkk SLAM. March 2020: World-wide pandemic. Screeching halt to life as we know it. (That was my best slamming-on-breaks impression.)

So, I had three full semesters (I’m a recovering adjunct professor with kids in school; I still think in semesters) to write, and in that time I wrote the entire first draft (rough, rough) of an entire damn novel. I’m still proud of it.

I supervised my kids’ school until January 2021, when they returned (part-time).

Which is a frightfully long-winded way to say: When my husband said, “go to the lake alone,” I went to the lake alone.

***

At the lake9851BA09-04E1-4071-8B3E-DB091F603121

At the lake I pretended I was a writer. Am a writer. I am a writer, and at the lake I acted like one. Which can sometimes look like doing a lot of nothing to folks who are not writers.

- I went back over key parts of the novel.
- Made revisions.
- Read books.
- Texted with an author friend entering the glorious light at the end of a long tunnel she’s slogged through, determined as hell, for years. Huzzah!
- Read three back issues of Poets & Writers Magazine–issues I’d not been able to truly sit down with for months because of pandemic life/motherhood/my children–catching up on industry and creative news, considering submitting work to journals listed, and pretending that when I highlighted and underlined writers’ residencies I might actually be able to attend one. I was inspired by fellow writers’ journeys, by the ways they’ve brought them along like a rabbit’s foot in a pocket.
- Paced the house, thought-walked, considered. Writing anything good takes stare out the window time. This is Truth.
- Was alone with my thoughts, enough time to let them fly, like mica flung out over a deep, cold, and magic-green creek in a lush wood.

I acted like a writer.

Now I’m home. One child is doing virtual school, one at school-school. My desk (in the living room), along with my laptop, are buried beneath family detritus. My coffee grows cold. I’m avoiding eye contact with my to-do list.

It occurs to me that, until life reaches anywhere close to a new normal, my writing life will continue to look sporadic, porous, even schizophrenic, strange. I may not be able to hear myself think (again, necessary for writing anything worth, well, anything) unless I am physically removed from my family. Those times may be few and far between. And like most writer-parents, especially the writer-moms I know, it’s a brutal and beautiful dichotomy.

But I’ll take it.

From Sarah Layden's essay, "Reading in the Bardo," in the Nov-Dec 2020 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine

From Sarah Layden’s essay, “Reading in the Bardo,” in the Nov-Dec 2020 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine

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Books & Candy: A Thursday Shout-Out

IMG_5728This is a Thursday shout-out to books and candy — one of the best combos around.

First, The Once and Future Witches, by Alix E. Harrow. I honestly don’t know that I’ve read a thing like it. It’s a wild, intensely-plotted, deeply researched, epic ride with three very different sisters. Think historical fiction + magic + fantasy + Salem + 19th century + feminism + witches + suffragettes + battle + sisterhood in ever so many forms. As a reader, my wish list is always an epic story which straddles multiple genre lines, envelops me in the rich details of place, and makes me feel — no matter the time period or how fantastical the themes or plot — that I am right there alongside its characters, the same wind in our faces. The Once and Future Witches did exactly this. Dear Reader: gather your family recipes, your broomsticks, and your women, and make ready.

Second, we lost my beloved mother-in-law in February. Anyone who has endured a death during this pandemic knows how rough is the deep sea of grief; how exhausting it is to manage family dynamics, Covid concerns, and the details of death. But our friends and family have buoyed us in their care.

That care includes this artisan sea-salted caramel from Stirred By Hand, out of Fort Mill, South Carolina, and brought to us by a friend. I didn’t think I liked caramel: I’ve never liked it before. I was wrong. These gourmet caramels — proceeds of which benefit organizations serving neglected children and mothers abroad and at home — are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I’ve not tasted anything like them. To make your mouth happy, and help folks in need, check out Stirred By Hand.

As we transition into spring, I hope the days ahead for you all include a good book and a bite of something sweet.

www.stirredbyhand.com

www.stirredbyhand.com

 

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Herstory

womenshistorycollage1Happy Women’s History Month!

My life is lousy with incredible women, past and present. Women I’ve known and women whose courage and work seeped into my DNA. My God, am I thankful for them.

In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a throwback to 2015, and a column I wrote:

“Anything you can do, I can do better”

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