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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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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Calling all Academics: Need time and space in which to write? Meet us in the mountains April 13 – 15, 2021!

3Calling all college and university faculty: Are you in need of time and space in which to write? Are you having trouble meeting writing deadlines? Has Covid life and the shake-up in your teaching schedules and format–i.e. all of us, at home, all the time–made it near to impossible to make headway on important papers and projects? Do you have grants and/or other funds allocated for conferences, retreats, workshops, and professional development, which must be used by a certain time?

Come join us in the beautiful Western North Carolina mountains at one-of-a-kind Earthshine Lodge for our Spring Academic Writing Retreat, April 13 – 15, 2021.  

At Earthshine, you’ll have comfortable, private, and dedicated space in which to write–and a community of faculty to support and encourage writing progress and goals. It’s a 3-day, immersive retreat which includes dedicated writing time, professional workshops, and opportunities to connect with your fellow academics. Otherwise known as: folks in your boat.

There’s also yoga, guided hikes, nature time, meditation, and rocking chairs looking out over a rolling mountain view as old as time. Best of all, everything on the schedule is optional: this is your time.

I’ll be your Guest Host for the retreat, and I couldn’t be happier. Earthshine is a unique spot, and I can’t wait to help you take advantage of everything it has to offer. I’m a recovering academic, former adjunct professor, and a writer myself, so I also know that what you need most of all is quiet time. Let’s meet on the mountain!

For more information about the Spring Academic Writing Retreat at Earthshine Lodge, Earthshine’s Covid-19 safety protocols, and to register, click here.4

 

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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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