Friday, September 27, 2013

Show & Tell Friday: September 27, 2013

Well, last week's Show & Tell Friday was postponed due to the fact that I was at the beach with my family. And it was good to take a much-needed break from my laptop. But this week it's back, and I've got a few things to share. I've also got a nasty cold--preschool, and its myriad of little person germs, has begun again--so bear with me if today's post doesn't have quite the same pep. I promise to make up for it later.

To share:
1.) Jan Brett's retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Yes, it's the same old story, retold, but still true to the original. But what's wonderfully different about this version are Brett's incredibly beautiful illustrations. Here, the bears are outfitted like medieval monarchs and Goldilocks looks like a Swedish princess. The illustrations are so rich and nuanced that they seem as if they'd jump from the page.

My 4 year-old received this book in the mail because she's a part of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which sends a free book to children in any county in the U.S. willing to partner with her each month from birth to age 5. I worship at the altar of Dolly Parton, I am not ashamed to stay. She is an American treasure. So more on the Imagination Library maybe at a later date. This version of Goldilocks, however, belongs on every young reader's Christmas list.

2.) Cocomide Diethanolamine (cocomide DEA)

The other day I walked into our one bathroom to find my husband dumping bottles of my shampoo into the trash. When I protested, he pointed me toward this article about cocomide DEA, a "cancer-causing chemical" found in many different shampoos and hair products (Healthline News, Aug. 29, 2013). The chemical is used as a thickening agent, and can be found not only in shampoo but in soaps and other beauty products.

Here's what the Center for Environmental Health had to say after several products were pulled from the shelves at places like Trader Joe's Wal-Mart and Babies-R-Us: "The state has not set a [safety] level specific to cocamide DEA," says  Charles Margulis, Communications Director and Food Program Director of  CEH, "but the levels we found exceed levels typical for carcinogens."

So be wary, friends.

3.) On my bedside table, to be read
I'm currently taking a leave of absence from my graduate program in writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, what with just having had a baby and all. I'm also taking a break from teaching. However, next semester I'll be back to teaching, back in my last semester of graduate school, and will still have a new baby (and a 4 year-old). So I figure I'd better get my for-fun reading done now.

Here's what's on my to-be-read list: Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God's Earth by Mallory McDuff (I got to meet
and hang out with McDuff recently at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival and she seems to me to be genuine, cool, and full of grace); Charles F. Price's Nor the Battle to the Strong: A Novel of the American Revolution in the South (I met Charles at the festival, too, and he generously sent me a copy of the novel--into which, loving this period in American history like I do, I can't wait to dive in); and Kathryn Newfont's Blue Ridge Commons: Environmental Activism and Forest History in Western North Carolina (Kathryn, too, I had the pleasure of meeting last weekend, and hearing her speak so passionately and with such a familiar voice--filled with my own longing for and love of the woods--made me want to immediately buy her book).
It could be weeks or months from now, or it could be next week by the time I get these read. I promise to fill y'all in when I do. But if I forget, remind. Again, I have a baby.

4.) Some September quotes for this glorious time of year:

“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September. There would only be four. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.”
Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories   
"Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields,
The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth
And you walk under the red light of fall
The scent of fallen apples, the dust of threshed grain
The sharp, gentle chill of fall.
Here as we move into the shadows of autumn
The night that brings the morning of spring
Come to us, Lord of Harvest
Teach us to be thankful for the gifts you bring us ..."
~ Autumn Equinox Ritual
"Lord, it is time. The  summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials,  and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that  they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them  on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine."~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Authors & Books in the Mountains: Recap of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, North Carolina, as an author presenter.

I took with me a tube of mascara that hadn’t been opened in six months, the only clothes (read big ol’ sundresses) that fit my current post-baby body, my camera, a couple of fashion magazines (this is funny, really, if you knew me), a notebook and pens, and one of my best friends in the world. I did not take my husband, the 4 year-old, the baby or the dog.

In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard about this festival–lauded in the region and in the NC literary community–for years, and had always longed to take part. When Wayne Caldwell, a NC author (Cataloochee, Requiem by Fire) who’d read an Advance Review Copy of my novel, Keowee Valley, just before it was published mentioned that he thought I’d be a great fit, it made me want to go all the more. I knew that it was a festival for writers AND readers, that Burnsville was supposedly a beautiful place, and that past authors included some pretty wonderful writers: Ron Rash, Sarah Addison Allen, Fred Chappell, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Robert Morgan and more. I also knew that this year’s Keynote Speaker was Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian, one of my new favorite works of historical fiction.

Heading towards Burnsville, North Carolina
Heading towards Burnsville, North Carolina

So, I kissed the babies, the husband and the dog, and headed northwest into the deeper NC mountains. Being a writer-mom on a budget, I only sprang for one night at Ms. Ruth’s Colonial Guest Rooms (more on this later), so I sped away from Brevard after dropping my daughter off at preschool Friday morning.

It was a gorgeous drive, mountain and September-lovely. I popped a little Suzy Boggus in the CD player–

Give me some wheels
put me on the highway, won’t look back

–and rolled down the windows, singing at the top of my lungs. My youngest aunt introduced me to Boggus’s music years ago, when I spent the summer with her in Alaska rolling down glacial highways (another story). I’d loved it since.

Here's Suzy singin':

I met my buddy at the Conference parking lot (she, too, sans baby, husband and dog). We ran across the gravel to hug each other; it had been way, way too long. After visiting Author Check-In we wandered over to where Asheville, NC’s Malaprop’s Bookstore had set up shop. Shameless, I meandered down the table, looking for my novel. Just as I found it, a woman smiled at me, said, “Excuse me, I need this book,” and reached past to grab it from the stack.

My friend, of course, jabbed me with her elbow. I cleared my throat.

“I wrote that book,” I said, unable to hide my grin.

“You did!” The woman enthused. “I’ve been looking for you!”

Burnsville, NC ~ Carolina Mountains Literary Festival
Burnsville, NC ~ Carolina Mountains Literary Festival

Thus was the beginning of a truly fabulous two days and one night in the Norman Rockwell-esque town of Burnsville, at probably the most enjoyable literary festival of which I’ve ever been part. There were some great moments, and I’ll list more than a few because this is my blog and I can:
  • Staying up late, talking non-stop with my friend in our cozy little room at the Colonial Guest Rooms, a beautiful old Victorian farmhouse/guesthouse run by the spry and lovely Ms. Ruth. It had two beds, a porch, a bathroom with a claw-foot tub, a mini-fridge, a flat-screen TV, and was just a skip from downtown Burnsville.
  • Calling my friend, Erin, “Eric” all weekend. The organizers had given her a “guest of the author” nametag with the wrong name on it, assuming, I suppose, that I’d be bringing a date with me. It was pretty darn fun watching people bend down and squint at her nametag. I think I’ll continue to call her “Eric” for the rest of the year. Maybe into 2014. She’ll love it.
  •  Meeting and getting to spend time with other authors, like the amazing Elizabeth Kostova–who offered some encouraging words about getting through the early-childhood years as a writer-mama–the fabulous Charles F. Price and his equally fabulous wife, Warren Wilson College’s Mallory McDuff, Fred Bahnson, from my adopted hometown of Brevard, and many more.
  •  Spending time and presenting at the absolutely delightful book and antique store, Off the Beaten Path, where I was made to feel so much at home. They set me up with a cup of hot tea at a big, gorgeous wooden table tucked between the stacks. I’m proud to say that the fine ladies of Off the Beaten Path had to search for folding chairs for my presentation audience, and that at one it was standing room only. Such fun!
  • Meeting readers and other festival-goers. Because the festival was so user-friendly, I had the pleasure of spending true quality time with new writer-friends, hanging out in the author lounge–one of the prettiest little courtyard gardens this side of Charleston, SC–eating lunch beneath the vine-filled trellis at Garden Deli, sitting on a bench in the sunshine on the town square and sharing chocolates from the local Amish bakery with other festival-goers, and so much more.
  • Listening to gorgeous poet and playwright Britt Kaufmann introduce the lovely and wry Elizabeth Kostova so poetically and originally. And then getting to sit at a delicious meal as Kostova told us stories. A joy!
The old Yancey County Library ~ Burnsville, NC
The old Yancey County Library ~ Burnsville, NC

Literary festivals always have their own personalities, and some are more “literary” or more
the town square ~ Burnsville, NC
academic, even more of
a place to “sell yourself” as an author, than others. Nothing wrong with this! But the best thing about the CMLitFest is that it’s truly a festival for everyone–writers, readers, book lovers, history lovers, mountain lovers of all ages. It’s informal, warm, and just a little bit magical, the way that it all comes together. Kudos to the founders and organizers for continuing to craft a venue for the arts that truly represents the unique spirit and literary heritage of the NC mountains.

* On a side note, there’s always a chance in this age of arts-cutting that the Carolina Mountains Festival won’t receive its grants to fund next year’s festival. Please be sure to let your state legislators and representatives know that you want it to keep going–that you value the arts in NC. And please consider attending next year!

I feel lucky to have been part of it, and I hope they invite me back next year!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Ann Hite at Asheville's Malaprop's Bookstore

Hi, all. I’m back from a wonderful and much-needed beach vacation with my family, including my sister, brother-in-law, and my brand-new nephew, quite possibly the cutest
baby boy on the planet.

Though a vacation with babies and a 4 year-old isn’t always that, we had a great time. September might just be the perfect month to hang out on the South Carolina coast.

* * *

Saturday night I’ll be headed to Asheville, North Carolina to hear my author-friend Ann Hite speak and read from her new book, The Storycatcher, at Malaprop’s Bookstore & CafĂ©. She’ll be joined by Karen Spears Zacharias, author of Mother of Rain.

I met Ann last Fall at the Dahlonega Literary Festival in Georgia. We hiked across the campus of the University of North Georgia (formerly known as North Georgia College & State University), talking the writing life, the mountains, and motherhood. Ann is a mountain girl deep in her soul, and her novels will sweep you into a deep, mysterious, spirit-filled world. I hope if you’re in the area, you’ll come out to hear her on Saturday.

For more information about the Malaprop’s event, click here.