Today’s Newspaper Column & a Post about 9/11

Today’s column is up at The Greenville News, and it’s about masculinity and the many shapes it takes, and what good male figures in her life mean to a girl as she grows. It’s also in tribute to my father’s oldest friend, who was very dear to me and who passed away just last week. I hope you enjoy.

To read it, click here.

* * *

groundzeropicLike so many, I find it hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since September 11, 2001. I was lucky to be with friends when it happened, and so we watched and grieved together. Our world is a different place–and certainly our country is–because of that awful day. My thoughts are with the families of the people we lost, and I pray for them and for all of us who inhabit this spinning planet: May we find peace. May we make peace. May we live in peace.

My blogger-friend James Lomas posted some thoughts about 9/11 on his blog “Fables of the Deconstruction,” and I think they’re worth sharing. I know that I needed to remember today.

To read his post, click here.

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Two New Author Events Coming Up in the Carolinas

Hi, all!

I’m happy to share that I’ll be taking part in the Birchwood Book & Author Fair, Saturday, September 20, in Pickens, S.C. I took part in last year’s fair, and had a wonderful time. So many great writers and readers make the Upcountry their home!

The Fair is sponsored by the Birchwood Center for Arts and Folklife, a nonprofit whose mission ”is to preserve and promote the arts, folklife, history and conservation of the Blue Ridge region by providing classes, workshops and retreats.  Birchwood instructs in matters of practical and artistic value, so that others my become proficient in these areas and perpetuate them for future generations.” They are a fabulous organization, and also know how to have a good time.

I hope you’ll come out! Authors will be signing, selling, and reading from their books.

For more details, click here.

* * *

In other news, I’ve been invited to be part of the 2015 Blue Ridge Bookfest, which will take place April 24-25th in Flat Rock, N.C. This booky weekend has a great reputation for hosting some of the region’s (and the country’s) best authors, and the keynote speaker is always a treat. Last year, the featured authors were Ken Grossman (founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and author of Beyond the Pale) and Cassandra King (author of The Same Sweet Girls, Moonrise, The Sunday Wife, and more. She’s also married to Pat Conroy.)

At the 2015 Bookfest, I’ll be moderating a panel of writers and also presenting my work (most likely something from Keowee Valley or new work) in a a separate session. Details TBA.

What a perfect chance to visit a gorgeous place, eat some good food, and hear from some great storytellers! Hope to see y’all there.


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New newspaper column today: “It’s funny, the things that last”

Today’s column is up at The Greenville News, and it’s all about the things we hold on to in our lives. In my case, dog toys, towels, people, and more.

“It’s funny, the things that last”

Hope you enjoy!

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Catching Up: Two New Newspaper Columns

Hi, all,

Well, what with my oldest starting kindergarten last week, the Labor Day Weekend, and my youngest starting preschool, I have been remiss about posting the links to my last two newspaper columns. Here they are, and I hope you enjoy:

Sitting down with old friends is the only way to time travel – August 21, 2014

Tips for new college students and their parents – August 28, 2014

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Happy Belated National Dog Day … with Quotes!

backyard buddiesHow did I miss National Dog Day yesterday?

My beloved black labrador retriever, Scout, has been my constant companion for the past 11 years. She’s my best buddy, my trail partner, my parenting partner, and the most patient and loving friend I’ve got (which is saying a lot, because I’ve got some good friends).

In honor of National Dog Day, here are some quotes about dogs:

“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”
~ Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book)

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
~ Will Rogers

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
~ Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts)

“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island)

“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
~ Woodrow Wilson

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What is Your Wild?

This video from The Wilderness Society, featuring actors Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, is too good not to share.

I believe wilderness is worth it.

What is your wild?

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Wyliekinder3Today my oldest daughter started kindergarten. She woke up at 6 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We made pancakes, packed her Wonder Woman lunchbox and got her school supplies gathered up, then walked to school as a family.

She was fine. More than fine, in fact–dropped her stuff in her cubby, ran straight up to new friends and started playing. I was fine until we were strolling down the sidewalk about two minutes away from the school. I feel that I admirably sucked back tears, thanks to some sweet-but-not-so-sweet-to-make-it-worse sympathy from my husband, who was walking beside me.

She doesn’t go back until Thursday–they’re staggering the start of the kindergarten classes, which I think is brilliant. So I still may lose it on Thursday. But I’m thrilled for her, because school is such an adventure! Learning is AWESOME!


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Literary Pilgrimage Day 3: Hiking Mt. Holyoke & on to Vermont

It’s taking me a while to get these posts about my Literary & History Pilgrimmage done, and for that I apologize. My newly-minted five year-old starts preschool next week, I start teaching my college students again this week, and my 15 month-old starts preschool the next week. I am the proverbial headless chicken.

Click here to access Day 1 and Day 2.


Literary Pilgrimage Day 3 

On Day 3, I woke with the itch to see out and over everything. I get this way sometimes in a new place. In the past, I’ve weaseled my way into single-prop planes, onto the roofs of people’s houses, the normally inaccessible top floors of buildings, and generally climbed tall things in order to get an overview of the land around me. I just feel better–breathe easier–when I know the lay of the land.

The side of historic Summit House

The side of historic Summit House

In Hadley, Massachusetts, not too far from Mt. Holyoke College, is Skinner State Park and the “real” Mount Holyoke. There, it’s a short but steep hike up to the top, where sits historic Summit House. I wanted to see it for a few reasons: 1) It’s got gorgeous views of the Connecticut River Valley, 2) I am a hiking fanatic and like to do it whenever and wherever I can, especially in new places, and 3) my protagonist in the historical novel I’m working on now attended Mt. Holyoke College in 1860. During that time, Summit House was a hotel, and the hike up to the top of Mt. Holyoke was an annual rite-of-passage for the students (they called it Mountain Day).

Me, at the top of Mt. Holyoke

Me, at the top of Mt. Holyoke

Though the Summit House was undergoing some repairs, the workers didn’t say a thing when I smiled, said “hey,”

Summit House

Summit House

walked past them and climbed the stairs to the building. I was all alone, with a gorgeous New England landscape below me and blue skies above. Just what I needed. It was easy to imagine my protagonist and her friends enjoying the same view, or rocking in chairs on the long white porch.

viewI explored the building and rock outcroppings nearby as much as I could. I stood at the railing, breathed in and took in the view. A boat skimmed over the Connecticut River below, and I could see a small town north, in the distance.

Winding Connecticut River

Winding Connecticut River

Boat on the Connecticut River

Boat on the Connecticut River

Porch at Summit House

Porch at Summit House

After the hike, I took a quick shower at my hotel back in Hadley and then hot-footed it back to Vermont and to the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I’d be attended my graduating residency as a student in the MFA in Writing program. There, I made it just in time to check in at my dorm, dump my bags, and sprint across to Chapel Hall, where orientation was minutes from starting.

I plan to write a series of future posts about my time at VCFA in the MFA in Writing program. But for now, the literary pilgrimage takes an 11-day interlude, since I was in school. After graduation, I, my husband, and our young daughters made an epic road trip from Vermont back to Western North Carolina, stopping at all kinds of historic and literary sites along the way. Next week, I’ll post about that, and I’ll start with Day 4: MFA Graduation & Salem, Massachusetts. Witches and ghosts and long-dead writers, oh my!



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New column: “Put some of summer’s lazy pace into your Fall”

sunsetoceanToday’s new column at The Greenville News is all about how to hang on to summer just a little bit longer. Or, at least, my attempt.

Read it here.

I hope you enjoy!

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Some Things to Share: Rock climbing musings, Diana Gabaldon & the Outlander Series, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall

Hello, all.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous mid-August day here in the mountains of Western North Carolina: humidity-free blue skies, green, green trees, and everyone out and about and soaking it up while it lasts. So I’m feeling happy, and just wanted to share a few things:

1.) My dear friend, the singer-songwriter Bradley Carter, is also an incredible rock-climber. Here’s the link to an essay he wrote that appeared in the online magazine Live Vertically: it’s called “The Day I Sent a Triple-Link Up in Red Rock,” but when he used to tell the story when we worked at camp together he called it, “that time I sold my body to science.”

Read it here. And if you want to be transported to Red Rock and get inside the life of a philosophical rock climber, you’ll love it.

outlander2.) Like so many, I’m a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of books. My aunt gave them to me when I was just out of college and bemoaning the fact that I had nothing to read–that I was so bored with everything coming out at the time (this was the early 2000s and I was 22, so what did I know?). The next time she came to town, she plopped these four ginormous, ragged paperback books down on the table in front of me and said, “You will absolutely love this story.” They were the first four novels in the series, and though the covers with their romance-y script and painting of 18th century ships and goblets looked a little sketchy to me at first, I agreed to read them. Immediately, I was transported, entranced, awed. As a burgeoning writer, I was thrilled to see that there was someone doing what I essentially had dreamed of doing: writing novels that repeatedly crossed genres, that delved into history, magic, romance, and more.

All that being said, Gabaldon’s books–20 years after Outlander was published–have finally been made outlanderposterinto a mini-series on the Starz channel. I’ve seen the first episode, and liked it a whole lot. But this article about why men should also get into the series is the best I’ve read about the phenomenon. The author, Anne Helen Petersen, hits the nail on the head.

Read it here.

3.) Some thoughts on actors’ passings:

I was incredibly sad, like so many, to hear of Robin Williams’s passing this week. He was such a huge part of my childhood, playing a role in some of my favorite movies. He made me laugh, he made me think, he made me joy in his effervescent and delightful embodiement of human emotions across the gamut. I hate to learn how he was dealing with obviously crippling depression and addiction, and that it drove him to take his own life. Watching him, especially in interviews, I always wondered that being such a comic genuis–he fairly fizzed with energy–would be a blessing and a burden. My heart breaks for his family. But how lucky we are to have enjoyed his gifts for as long as we did.

One of my favorite Robin Williams quotes: “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

Also, Lauren Bacall’s passing has marked another from the Golden Age of Hollywood moving on. She simply embodied cool on the stage and screen. Reading bacallicon-of-cool-dies-at-89-94579236487.html”>this article about her, I was interested to learn more about her background growing up, about her marriages and personal life. And this got me thinking.

It seems to me that these old-school Hollywood actors, like James Garner (who also recently died) and Bacall, came from very ordinary upbringings and worked incredibly hard to get to where they were. They had, by all accounts, fairly normal, complicated lives. Perhaps their work and the emotion they were able to convey onscreen was so authentic because they’d actually lived–unlike younger actors today, whose parents have moved them to Hollywood since they were toddlers, sent them all the same acting high schools, etc. America’s Golden Age actors also earned their stripes on the stage, much like British actors still do, and are able to reach an entire range those who haven’t can’t. They were more than pretty faces–they embodied the art.

To read the article, click here.

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