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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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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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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