Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Friday evening I attended Writers’ Night Out with my good friend, Ellen, who had traveled six hours in a car to be here. Ellen was first my diabetes educator, and then a very dear friend. She lived in our area for a few years. Now, she comes back to see me and all the friends she made when she was a regular part of our NCWN-West writing events.

Mary Mike Keller read her poetry which I have always enjoyed and so did those who sat in the audience. She has a new one, Innocence, which appealed to her co-reader, Natalie Grant, and all of us. We see ourselves in her poem.

It has been some years since Natalie read here. Tonight everyone hung on her words. She is a high school English teacher, but has furthered her own education and studied with excellent professors. I relate to her poetry and the emphasis on place. Being a native of western North Carolina, she writes about where she lives. We see the houses, walk the trails and feel for those who have little material wealth, but are full of love of family.

Saturday morning Ellen and I drove over to Choestoe SchoolHouse, an event venue, rented by the Georgia Poetry Society for their Fall meeting. NCWN-West joined with GPS this weekend to bring together those who live in western NC and poets who came up from Atlanta as well as counties in North Georgia.

Because the bordering counties of North Georgia, Union, Towns, Fannin, and Rabun are considered a part of the NCWN-West region, many of our members belong to both literary groups. Michael Diebert, current president of Georgia Poetry Society, is the poetry editor for The Chattahoochee Review, Piedmont College's in-house literary journal, and co-facilitates the Writers' Forum on the Clarkston campus. He is a published poet and the author of the collection Life Outside the Set (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013). It was his idea to join our groups for this weekend.

The first workshop of the day was led by Tina Barr. Poems were analyzed with the group offering their thoughts – a very good give and take of ideas. She also left us with prompts to help us write a poem. I was delighted that I found the bones of two poems while in this class. Tina teaches poetry, and like me, she is not a critical teacher but an encouraging and nurturing teacher. 

In the afternoon, our own NCWN-West member, Brent Martin of Cowee, NC gave a reading of his poetry. He is a Georgia native who now lives and teaches in Macon County, North Carolina.

Katie Chaple and Travis Denton talked about the craft of making poems. This also provoked lively participation from the large audience.

I hope NCWN-West might use the Choestoe Schoolhouse in the future. It is an old school house from the 1930s that was restored and is now used for events. Ethylene Dyer Jones told us the story of the school house where she once attended school and later taught.

It was good to see many poets from Georgia that I don’t often see and some members of NCWN-West I look forward to knowing better.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Estelle Rice, my friend and now a widow

Estelle Darrow Rice is a poet, a fiction writer and an essayist. She is also a teacher and retired as a mental health counselor some years ago.

Estelle and her husband, Nevin, have been married 71 years. Now that is a long marriage. Sadly, for the past ten years, Estelle has been the major caregiver for Nevin after he developed Alzheimer's disease.

He and Estelle have known each other since they were in school together. They had a good marriage and raised three girls together.

On Saturday morning, Estelle called to tell me Nevin had died at 6:00 a.m. in bed at home. They went to sleep Friday night holding hands. Doctors had told the family that Nevin would not live more than another day or two. He didn't make it a full day. But before he fell asleep he had thrown kisses to those who cared for him. He was a delightful man, always making people laugh. I will always think of him as loving and caring.

Both of them in their nineties for the past two years, I often wondered if Estelle would be able to continue her patient and loving support. Caregivers had to be hired, and they were life savers for Estelle and Nevin. After a fall that broke Estelle's foot, caregivers were needed round the clock. But her positive attitude and happy smile never quit. She is truly a ray of sunshine to all who know her.

Just last week, my friend, Mary Mike and I took Estelle out in a wheelchair for lunch and then we took her shopping. She had not been out in a store for a long, long time and we had a ball as we shopped together.

We told her today that when everyone went home after the funeral, we would still be here and we would continue to do things together. She wants to take a class at the local college, and I can guarantee she will be attending writing events as long as someone will drive her.

Losing a loved one to Alzheimer's is very hard. But losing him again to death is also hard and she will grieve and mourn his death in the months to come. She will go through the same stages that I and many others have after losing a spouse. Mary Mike and I hope to be there to help smooth the way when we can.

Author of a poetry chapbook and many published poems and short stories, Estelle Rice

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Literary Hour, Thursday, October 19, 7:00 PM


              On Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 7:00 PM, John Campbell Folk School and NC Writers Network West are sponsoring The Literary Hour, an hour of poetry and prose reading held at Keith House on the JCCFS campus. This is held on the third Thursday of every month unless otherwise indicated. The reading is free and open to the public.  

Poets and writers, Mary Michelle Keller and Lucy Cole Gratton will be the featured readers, returning to the Folk School as one of the more entertaining pair of readers.

Mary Michelle Keller                              

Writer, Michelle Keller has lived in Towns County, Georgia for 22 years.  It is here that she began to write poetry followed by the natural progression into prose.  She is a musician, artist and photographer. She says that all those loves give root to her poetry as inspiration. Her poem, As The Deer, published in the anthology, Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, was inspired by an old hymn by the same name that she plays on the dulcimer. She enjoys words; moving them around on paper until a poem, short story or essay emerges. She finds pleasure in reading to a few or many, be it her own words or those of others.  She says reading at the Folk School is always a treat. To be able to read her pieces to locals and students of the school is a highlight.

Lucy Cole Gratton                     


Lucy Cole Gratton is a retired CPA who has lived in the Murphy, NC area over 20 years.  She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and University of Florida with degrees in mathematics.

Since her retirement she served as Executive Director for the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, Inc for several years and continues to assist with the accounting and tax preparation for the Coalition as a volunteer. She is a member and serves as Treasurer of the Mountain Community Chorus, Inc She is a Cherokee County representative for NCWN-West. She coordinates the reading program at John C. Campbell Folk School and serves as moderator.  

Her poems include various topics, but predominantly center around her concern for the environment and her home in the woods of Lake Apalachia.  Her writing has been published in a variety of venues, but she writes predominantly for the love of writing, sharing it with family and friends. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Novelist and critic, Charles Baxter to be at Young Harris College October 10

Charles Baxter is the author of five novels, including the best-seller The Feast of Love, which was named a finalist for the National Book Award, as well as six short story collections, including the recent There’s Something I Want You to Do. He teaches in both the University of Minnesota's MFA program and the Warren Wilson Low-Residency MFA program, and he’s published two extremely influential books on the craft of writing fiction. In short, he’s one of our nation’s most important fiction writers and critics, and we’re lucky to have him sharing his talents and knowledge with YHC.

Baxter will be reading from his work at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 in Suber Banquet Hall.  The reading, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a book signing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Join us on Sunday afternoon in Sylva, NC

The North Carolina Writers' Network and NC Writers' Network-West are honoring Kathryn Stripling Byer this Sunday. 

Read more here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Fly With Me from Old Mountain Press is filled with good writing

​Fly With Me  is the latest title from Old Mountain Press. Tom Davis has been publishing these anthologies for a number of years. I am impressed with the poetry in this issue dedicated to Kathryn Stripling Byer, 1944 – 2017.
FLY WITH ME, a poetry and prose anthology

The first poem is by Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate of North Carolina.  We know Celia Miles and Nancy Dillingham as writers and editors of several anthologies filled with women writers. In this anthology, both have written poems, The Great Blue Heron by Miles and Dillingham’s Gnat Smoke. These poems are filled with great imagery.

The theme of this anthology is nature and Brenda Kay Ledford’s poem, Tiger Lilies, fits the bill. In her poem, How to Rest in the Afternoon, Mary Ricketson helps us slip away from life’s struggles while we lie in a hammock and view the world from a different perspective..

A touching and beautiful poem by Staci Lynn Bell, August 24, Summers End 1994, is one of my favorites. Marcie Behm-Bultz , in her poem, Drive South, takes us on a ride through the backroads of Edisto in South Carolina. “The backroads of Edisto are lined with summer’s cotton fields.” I can almost feel the heat and smell the air on that drive.

Marian Gowan wrote a simple flash fiction piece about a strapping Paul Bunyan type fellow who stops his work high in a tree he was in process of removing. He asks for paper towels but it was not for a cut or wound. He needs it to save a bird’s nest with babies in it.

The last short piece in Fly with Me is by Gene Vickers who was one of my students. The title is Hit and Run and ends with a twist that catches the reader off guard.

The poets and authors in this book have been published in other journals or anthologies.  Some are regularly found in Old Mountain Press publications.
You can purchase  a copy at http://www.oldmp.com/anthology/flywithme.htm or on Kindle. 

Old Mountain Press Anthologies are open to previous contributors or someone recommended by a previous contributor. Previous contributors may recommend up to two people per anthology.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Locals - don't miss Writers' Night Out, Friday Sept 8, 7:00 p.m.

It's almost time...

Writers' Night Out: 
  • Friday, Sept 8, 7 pm
  • Featured readers: Richard Krawiec and Karen Paul Holmes
  • Followed by open mic
  • Union County Community Center, Blairsville, GA - see signs posted about what room we're in
  • New menu at the all-new View Grill (arrive by 6 if you'd like to eat)

Richard Krawiec is an author, playwright, and founder of Jacar Press.
Karen Paul Holmes, is founder of Writers' Night Out, poet, and freelance writer.

For open micSign up at the door to read 3 minutes of poetry or prose. (If you're a prose writer, feel free to leave us with a cliff hanger. We love that).

About Krawiec's work:
“She Hands Me the Razor [poetry] is an edgy and satisfying marriage of tenderness and well-honed attentiveness to the connections, often fraying, among people and the various places in which they find themselves, both physically and emotionally..." -  Kathryn Stripling Byer

Of the novel, Time Sharing, “Possesses an engaging, off-beat humor…and considerable poignancy. First rate satire. Genuinely touching.” - Richard Eder of the L.A. Times

About Holmes's poetry collection, Untying the Knot:
The poet's "voice pushes readers forward into the unknown with confidence, precision, and empathy."  - Dorianne Laux

 Click here for the flyerIf you can, please print and post the flyer where interested parties can see:


Karen Paul Holmes

Saturday, August 19, 2017

NCWN speaks out on the White Cross Blog and I speak here

The North Carolina Writers' Network  posted on the White Cross Blog a statement for all writers.

All we have heard the past week has been the ugliness that took place in Charlottesville, VA, the murder of a young woman, the hateful voices of young people who evidently are ignorant of the terrible history of the organizations they espouse to promote. 

I grew up in a deeply segregated south where black people worked on our farm and in our house, but I never knew a black child my own age because we went to different schools, different churches, and even at the movies, the blacks had to sit in the balcony of the theater.

I was young when the world turned upside down in our town. I paid little attention to all the hoopla about blacks sitting at the counter in Woolworth's. Because I did not know any black people personally, I, as a sheltered white girl, did not feel their humiliation and pain when they were turned away because of their skin color. Like most of the white kids, I lived in my own little world which consisted of who I was dating on Saturday night and what I and my friends would be doing on the weekend. After all, I had my own cross to bear. I was a skinny girl who wore glasses. I had that to overcome! 

When I heard my father talk about a black man being lynched in Baker County and the sheriff condoned it, I was outraged at the injustice. How could a man of the law turn his back on a murder of someone? Why did he let the evil men get away with it? Why didn't good people do something about it? 

As I reflect on those times, I realize that white men like my father felt as helpless as the victims of these horrendous injustices. My father had no power. He had no money and no voice and if he did make a fuss, how would it affect him and his family? His first responsibility was to keep his own family safe. 

I am ashamed to say those things did not touch my personal life so I put them out of my mind. Looking back now I see the two separate worlds I grew up in -- seeing black people but not knowing them. Hearing of their hardships, but feeling I could do nothing to help them. 

I never heard any hate from my parents toward any other race. In fact my parents empathized with the black people in our community. But whites and blacks did not socialize. My brothers played corncob war with the neighboring black boys who were their age. That was before they were old enough to go with girls and go to parties.

Someone asked me how I could have grown up in the deep south and not be prejudiced. I had no reason to be prejudiced. No black person ever did anything that hurt me. In fact the maids that cleaned for my mother were sweet to me. I always felt a little guilty after I was in my teens to have someone come and do chores I should have been doing. I could never have felt hate or even dislike for those kind people. When I went with my mother to take the maid home, the sight of their housing and neighborhood bothered me. But I accepted it as just the way things were.

Unlike my peers who grew up more affluent than I, we did not have a nanny or live-in maid. Mother was lucky to have someone come once a week to help with the heavy house work. My friends who had a black woman help raise them, loved that woman and still believe she loved them. The feel their nanny was well taken care of by their parents. 

It has only been in recent years with movies made from the point of view of the Negroes of that time such as The Butler and The Help that I received an education about life from the other side. Now I can put myself in their shoes and feel empathy for all the hurt caused by white people. I think I saw some of that when I was younger and it made me angry when some cocky white man intentionally tried to make a person feel bad about himself. And I felt the frustration when the black person just laughed and did not defend himself. 

After I finished college and came home to Albany, Georgia where I grew up, emboldened by my knowledge gained while away, I called out a minister of my mother's church because of the racism I knew prevailed there. 
"No blacks will ever come to this church. We'll meet 'em at the door and send them packing." That was what I heard some members had said. 

I told him I could not believe the message preached each Sunday when I knew the congregation hated a group of people just because of their color. "What kind of church, what kind of minister would turn away those who would want to worship in your House of the Lord?"

I give that young preacher credit. He went back and talked to those folk, but it only caused problems for him. He was gone a short time later. The attitudes of the Christians I knew then had a great deal to do with my feelings about Christianity today. I am still scorned by some of my Baptist friends for being a Presbyterian, a more open-minded and inclusive denomination. 

I was brave as a first year teacher right out of college. I stood for my beliefs even though my father put me down for being too liberal. Within a  couple of years, I taught the first black student to enter our elementary school. The white children had no problem with her being there. They worked and played together just as they had always done with classmates. 

As a mature adult who lived in that other world, I can only speak out by writing about those days and urge others to bury their prejudice and hatred and accept all people, no matter their race or religion. 

I go back to my country roots now. If we don't reach out in kindness and understanding, our country is doomed to split apart like a rotten watermelon when dropped on the ground -- inside all the fruit is mushy and sour, the heart having given up.