New scene–with coffee!–from my historical novel-in-progress

Hot water cask/carafe in the Heyward-Washington House, Charleston, SC

Hot water cask/carafe in the Heyward-Washington House, Charleston, SC

Hi, folks. Here’s a sneak peak at a scene from the VERY rough, very first draft of my historical novel-in-progress. Just to whet your history whistle on a Wednesday morning.

The scene came about because of the very unusual hot water cask in it. I’d seen the cask on a research trip to Charleston, South Carolina, in the Heyward-Washington House–part of the Charleston Museum’s collection of historic homes. In the scene, my 2004 protagonist–an art restoration expert and art historian named Gamble–has landed in the laps of my 1804 protagonists–a miniature portraitist named Daniel, and his sister, Honor.

Enjoy!

* Coffee scene, Charleston, SC, 1804 *

Daniel had been married once before. He had known women in his life—exotic women, women who spoke French and Italian, and read scandalous poetry by candlelight. But this slip of a woman standing on his mother’s Persian [?] rug, in his mother’s dress, with her bare toes peeking out from beneath the hem, was a mystery. He didn’t know her at all, and did not know how to begin.

“You said you’re a painter?” She asked, and it jolted him.

“Yes,” he said.

“What are you working on now?”

“Daniel has more commissions for miniature portraits than he can paint at the moment,” Honor said. She came into the room with a steaming teapot in hand, then used it to fill the silver hot water cask on their father’s favorite mahogany side table. “You must have him show you. They’re in the carriage house.”

“The carriage house?” Gamble asked, surprise in her voice.

“Yes, well,” Daniel said. “Horses do not talk to you when you’re trying to work.”

“I can hear you,” his sister said over her shoulder, as she exited the room with the empty kettle.

Gamble wandered over to the silver cask and bent down to admire it. “Isn’t this a fabulous contraption? It’s gorgeous. It looks just like a hot air balloon, only it’s stationary. Look, it has legs! As if it could walk away. What’s it for?”

Now he was truly shocked, and not just from her disjointed speech and odd pattern of thought. “You don’t have coffee where you come from?”

She straightened. “Oh, you better believe it! There’s practically a coffee house on every street corner.”

He smiled. “How delightful.”

Gamble reached out a hand, touching a finger lightly to the cask’s delicate silver spigot. “It really is.”

There was a lull, and he started to speak, not to say much of anything, only to fill the empty space because he did not know what else to do. Gamble interrupted.

“Can we take our coffee with us?” She said.

Daniel blinked. “With us where?”

When Gamble smiled, it lit the room just as the sun did on winter afternoons, when it came blazing in through the street side windows of his living quarters on the third floor. It near to blinded him.

“To the carriage house,” she said. “So I can see the miniatures.”

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Some initial thoughts: the recent decisions of the special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church

candleIf I were still writing my newspaper column, I’d be writing, this week, about the special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, which met over the past several days to make decisions about church doctrine regarding human sexuality. As of today, the General Conference has decided to continue to deny “the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” and that “United Methodist clergy are not permitted to conduct same-sex weddings on their church property.”

There’s much more to the decision, but that’s the gist. Here are my initial thoughts. I continue to struggle with expressing how I feel, and what I’m thinking–but here goes.

… 

Church has always been a complicated place for me. It strikes me, today especially, that I love the United Methodist Church, and the individual churches to which I’ve belonged, as I love family. And we all know how we love family: sometimes freely, sometimes painfully, joyously and in spite of ourselves. We love family, even and impossibly, when family hurts us, when they abuse our trust. It is a never-ending conundrum. But love is like that. It’s why, I think, love is so like faith.

I’m a lay-person, a parishioner. A church member, no Biblical or Methodist scholar, and certainly nowhere near an expert on church doctrine. I was raised in the United Methodist Church, attended Sunday School, sang in church choir, performed in church plays, played church basketball, participated in youth fellowship. I have participated in the rituals of the Methodist Church: baptism, confirmation, communion, the celebrations of holy days, marriage and more. I found my way back to church after navigating a labyrinth of personal and religious history, after navigating the inherent patriarchy of the Christian religion in general … and, quite honestly, after going against my own intellect. I found my way back after deciding no church to which I’d ever belong would ever be perfect, because it is made up of humans.

I came back to the church in adulthood, by and large because of my children. Growing up, my church was a second home, peopled by folks who knew my name, who hugged and loved me. Who taught me in Sunday School and coached my basketball teams, who supported me at school events, who clapped when I graduated from high school and college, and who embraced me on the day of my wedding. Who made me feel an unaccountable, joyous welcome. The God and Jesus, and the church I knew as a child was kind, benevolent, comfortable. Because of this, I have always felt in my deepest of souls a personal, spirit-filling connection with the Divine.

But I’ve always questioned, even as a child. Once, round about age 12, I was asked to leave my Sunday School classroom because I asked too many of those questions. This was rare—the only time, for me, it ever happened at church. The teacher of the class was a man hired to run our youth programs, and, thankfully, the powers that be decided quickly he wasn’t for us or for our church. Because the truth is, I’m always going to have questions. I don’t understand people who don’t. But that’s for me to contend with.

This is a touch—just a smidge—of my own experience of Methodism. And I don’t know why, but today and this weekend as the special session of the General Conference convened, I had hope my church would find a way forward which embraced the “sacred worth” of all of us. That it would stand up and say, All are welcome. We don’t know everything. But we do know the only way forward is with love.

To my friends deeply rooted in what they see as the traditions of the church—in traditions they see as Biblically planted—I love you. I don’t understand you at times, and I worry you’re being led by fear. But I love you.

To my friends hurt by the church, Methodist or otherwise—friends who have been told, in more ways than one, that their souls are dirty, that they are unworthy: I see you. You are of sacred worth. God loves you.

GOD LOVES YOU.

The older I grow, the less of which I am certain. Details are fuzzy. History is varied and complicated and strange. People are wonderful and horrible. No church doctrine will ever tell me how to love and value my friends or family. No church doctrine will ever determine the sacred worth of my gay, lesbian, or transgender brothers and sisters. After all, there are and have always been, as Dr. King said, just and unjust laws.

I fully believe the decision by the General Conference to reject changes that would make the church more open to all people is unjust law. The decision does not reflect my faith. I firmly believe it does not reflect the divinity and Light and Mystery of God.

This is an ongoing conversation. And if I’m certain of anything, it’s that I don’t know much. It is difficult for me to understand why the modern church would ever close its doors to any of us. It seems to me, always but perhaps now more than ever, Earth is in peril, in more ways than one. That there’s a battle raging for our collective souls. If someone wants to get in the fight, if they are ready to open their mind and heart to the Mystery of God, how can we ever turn them away?

How can the United Methodist Church faithfully and in good conscience continue to use this tagline: “Open minds. Open hearts. Open doors.”

We can’t. After today, we don’t mean them.

I cannot imagine ever questioning the humanity and divinity and downright dignity of another human being. How can we be so arrogant, so compassionless, so fear-driven, to ever deny any human being the anointing grace of God? How can we ever deny any human being participation in the process of Christian life?

Here is where my faith comforts me: because we cannot ever deny, across the wild masterpiece that is time, anyone their sacred worth. It is not up to us, no matter how many people at a conference stand up and say otherwise.

Just like secular law, church law is made by humans: fallible, fallen, mistake-ridden human beings. We hope, quite literally, it is inspired by God. We try, God help us, to do our best. We fail, time and again.

But I have hope, and I have faith, though my hope and my faith may look very different from yours. More than anything else, I want to believe.

Here are a few things I do believe:

We are, every one of us, children of God.

Today my church did not speak for me.

The only way forward for the church in the world is through love.

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A sneak peak at my novel-in-progress

Miniature in the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC

Miniature in the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC

Hi, folks.

It is a wild, woolly, rainy Wednesday here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. 30-something degree rain is just downright depressing. It should be snowing.

That being said, in the spirit of livening things up, I thought I’d give y’all a sneak peak at an excerpt from the very rough, very first draft of my historical novel-in-progress. I posted an earlier peak over on Instagram, and today posted this, too. So I thought I’d share here.

The novel, as it stands, is set in both 1804 and 2004. The following is told from the point of view of my main character, who is an art historian and restoration expert at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. Enjoy!

Excerpt: WIP
There is an excitement historians feel when we’ve made a find. When we’ve uncovered something about a life, or from a time, no one has even seen or perhaps made a connection to before. It reassures something infinite in us: it solidifies this truism we all trust, that somehow, through era and age, across millennia, we are connected. That our stories matter. That we share them, despite the often dissociating construct of space and time.

It’s how we get a person to walk into a museum. I mean, that’s a pretty big task. In Charleston, especially, there are many other things to do and see. You can eat biscuits which sing in your mouth, for example. Drink cocktails from the jazz age, mixed by clever bartenders. Take in harbor views so delightful the town put up swings. But a historian must lure a person in by other means—the means of a promise. A promise of a glimpse of the past, of an insight into how we got where we are, even with the airing of someone’s 200-year-old dirty laundry. A historian makes the promise that stories matter. That our choices matter, and that they ripple out, as many reverberations as there are waves in the ocean.

I restore art not because I want to live in the past, or because I believe it was in any way, shape, or form a better place to be. I’m a woman, for heaven’s sake. The past is even trickier for my people than the present, and that is saying something. Indeed, I am well aware of history’s fickle soul.

But saying it like this makes the past sound just delightful, even funny. The truth is, the past is marauding. It will mow you down like a Pamplonian bull if you don’t give it the attention it deserves.

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Happy Valentine’s Day from my family to yours! (Plus a column.)

My girls: the reason I celebrate Valentine's Day.

My girls: the reason I celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day from my family to yours! Even though it’s not a real holiday, and the historical origins are dicey (and possibly a bit murderous). Still. This day reminds us that, really, all we need is love.

Today I’m harkening back to my Valentine’s Day column from 2017. And middle school. And how this holiday has mortified me since the 6th grade. To read, click here.

* If you are having trouble accessing my newspaper column because you’ve run out of “free articles” online, try opening a whole new window and Googling “Katherine Scott Crawford Greenville News Valentine’s Day middle school.” It should pop up in the first few results.

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This is goodbye … my last newspaper column

IMG_2668Hi, friends. It’s with a truly heavy heart that I must announce The Greenville News and the Asheville Citizen-Times have chosen to no longer run my weekly newspaper column.

My column appeared in The Greenville News every Thursday for 5 years, and for two years on Saturdays in the Asheville Citizen-Times. It was a joy to write, and I will miss connecting with readers more than you can ever know. Already this morning, my email Inbox has been full of messages from readers of the print version of the paper, many wanting to know to whom they can address their concerns. You are welcome to contact Regional News Director Steve Bruss at sbruss at gannett dot com or 864.298.4284.

I have some plans about making this website/blog a more active place for my writing: I’ll announce something soon. For now, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to this blog: the link is located to the right of my homepage here. It’s free, of course. Here I will share news of upcoming publications, write essays similar to my newspaper column, and share the places and things I love. I promise not to overload your inboxes!

And I hope you’ll connect with me on social media. Lately I’ve been spending a good amount of time on Instagram, but you can find me by clicking through the following:

Instagram
Facebook
Pinterest
Twitter

In the meantime, I have plans to continue working on my second historical novel, and a TBD nonfiction book project compiling and utilizing past newspaper columns. Plus, you know, the wifing and parenting and dog-momming and hiking and reading and what-not.

I believe our stories matter. Thank you all, ever so much, for reading mine.

To read my final newspaper column, please click here.

~ Katherine

 

 

 

 

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New column: “Remembering a poet who wrote in the ‘vernacular of humanity’”

maryoliverEarlier this year, the United States lost one of its best beloved poets, Mary Oliver. Oliver’s words have reached an innumerable amount of people, all across the world, and from all different backgrounds. Oliver was one of those soothsayer writers who was filled with indefinable spirit: who knew we’re all the same, in the deep inside.

This column is in appreciation of her. I hope y’all enjoy it.

To read, click here.

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New column: “Our children belong only to themselves”

My daughters, a few years back. Wishing for snow.

My daughters, a few years back. Wishing for snow.

My most recent newspaper column is about a realization I came to after the birth of my older daughter. It shook me to the core, and made complete and utter sense.

I hope y’all enjoy it. To read, click here.

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New column: “Make 2019 the year of ‘come as you are’”

newyearIf we wait until we’re perfect, we will never do anything. This is a tough lesson to learn–one I struggle with daily. So: that, life, being awkward, scared, and hopeful, and more, in my newest newspaper column.

I sure hope y’all enjoy it. If you do, I hope you’ll share.

To read, click here.

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New column: “‘Mary Poppins’ is just what the world needs”

My family, dressed as characters from the original "Mary Poppins," Halloween 2014.

My family, dressed as characters from the original “Mary Poppins,” Halloween 2014.

My newspaper column this week is all about my thoughts on the new film, “Mary Poppins Returns.” And also: childhood, musical theater, and joy.

I hope y’all enjoy it! To read, click here.

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New column: “It’s okay to embrace the after-Christmas ‘lull’”

We are entering hibernation season, folks. And that’s okay.

Let’s embrace the lull. Here’s why, in my newspaper column.

To read, click here.

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