You provide a valuable service, and I wanted to express my gratitude for getting to be part of it.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Sorry if you missed the dialogue class on Zoom today. Carol Crawford taught her first Zoom workshop and her students, including me, had an informative two hours with an editor who knows her stuff.

We hope to have Carol teach again in a few months. As we hunker down this winter, would you like to experience an excellent writing class with a well published writer, editor and poet? Let me know what you are interested in learning more about.

If you are an instructor of poetry or prose with a resume', please email and let's get to know each other. 

We are not offering classes or workshops in Writers Circle around the Table, the actual studio, because of COVID and some other problems, but we can continue bringing writers the best writing teachers by using Zoom online. 

Thanks to Carol Crawford and those who attended today.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


Roger Carlton is our guest on this blog. He has another thought provoking post about our political situation today. CAN WE HANDLE THE TRUTH is a good question we must all ask ourselves.
Roger is columnist with the The Graham Starr newspaper.

Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" famously said "You can't handle the truth." This line has stuck with me since the 1992 legal drama directed by Rob Reiner was released. Two hard to handle truth moments arose last week in an article in The Atlantic magazine and with the release of Bob Woodward's new book Rage about President Trump. The first question is whether or not we were told the truth? The second question is what are we going to do about it when we vote in the upcoming election?
The Atlantic magazine has been published for 163 years. Early writers included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The publication's editor in chief is Jeffrey Goldberg who has won many journalism awards and is viewed by his peers as having impeccable credentials. This publication is no National Enquirer that reports weekly about miracle diets, impregnation by Martians and the imminent death of some famous person.

The September 3, 2020 edition carried an article about the President's disrespect for the military. The President was quoted describing military personnel as "losers" and "suckers." Earlier statements disparaging Gold Star parents and describing Senator John McCain in the context of "I like people who weren't captured" were used to show a pattern of disrespect.

Response to the article was strong. The Biden campaign jumped on it to their advantage. The Trump campaign said comments were taken out of context and it was fake news. If there was a weakness in the article, it was that the people who spoke to Mr. Goldberg were not named. This was not about distorting the truth; it was fear of retaliation from the White House.

Rage is the summation of 18 face to face interviews with the President. Woodward is a modern-day reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow. Woodward has covered presidents since Nixon. Along with his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein, their book All the President's Men exposed the Watergate scandal and eventually led to Nixon's resignation. One thing is certain, Woodward is an impeccable researcher and may be my generation's most famous journalist.

Edward R. Murrow was a TV newscaster and commentator who sank Senator Joseph McCarthy in a journalistic evisceration that would probably not pass an editor's scalpel today. McCarthy was a serial liar who ruined the lives of many people by labelling them Communists. The times were scary at the beginning of the Cold War with Russia just as they are today with economic malaise and COVID 19 deaths.

If there is a weakness in Woodward's Rage, it is regarding a journalist/author's responsibility to release news that has a critical impact rather than wait until the book is released. Since the President admitted he knew in January 2020 about the dangers of the Covid 19 virus from sources in China and told Woodward in one of the interviews, why didn't he report on that revelation immediately?  Would not releasing the President's own admission about not wanting to alarm the public have shamed the White House into doing something much earlier and saved many lives? Woodward's response that he is an author and not a reporter seems weak. His stronger response is that many other reporters were covering the White House's denial of the severity of the crisis.

So, what are the ethics that both The Atlantic article author and Woodward should be guided by? The Society of Professional Journalists has a Code of Ethics. This guidance says "Journalists should take responsibility for their work. Verify information before releasing it." The Code also says "Consider sources' motives before promising anonymity." One final piece of advice is "Journalists should balance the public's need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness."

It seems to this columnist that both bombshell revelations last week met the test of journalistic ethics. The air is escaping from the Washington balloon at a faster pace due to these extraordinary journalistic works. The real question is whether or not anyone has changed their mind enough to change their vote? That is something to think about. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Political sign pollution and proliferation

This post is by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper. Thank you, Roger, for contributing to this site.

We tend to think of pollution in terms of air and water quality. After all, we need to breathe, drink clean water and be protective of our pristine Lake Santeetlah. Noise pollution like dogs barking incessantly or loud machinery can add to our woes. Visual pollution is an irritant to some folks. One person's business necessity like sky high triple billboards along I-75 in Georgia is another person's ugliness blocking scenic views.  Additional forms of pollution barrage us with spam, phishing scams, unsolicited phone calls, junk mail and messages left on our windshields.

This column is about political signs. NCGS 14-156, 136-18 and 136-32 all deal with political signs. NCDOT Rules which are as long as the Blue Ridge Parkway also give guidance on the subject of signs. If your local jurisdiction is into regulation, there may also be county or city rules. Don't worry about that in Graham County.

Distilling all this with detail would require far more space than available. Here are a few key rules.

  • Signs advertise candidates or issues that will be on the ballot. The content cannot be controlled as this violates the First Amendment.
  • Signs cannot go up until the 30th day before "one-stop" voting begins. That means that political signs can start to be planted on September 15th in North Carolina. Expect an apocryphal locust plague of these signs to be planted in the next few days. 
  • Signs must be removed within 10 days after the election by the candidate. 
  • Signs must be at least three feet from the edge of the pavement. Signs placed on Duke Power poles are placed on private property which must have permission.
  • Signs must not block the view and are limited in height to 42 inches above the pavement. The sign cannot be bigger than 864 square inches. That is six square feet. Anything larger on public right of way is illegal.
  • No sign shall block or replace another sign. Tell that to the people placing the signs in front of Walgreens.

Here is the big deal. It is a Class 3 misdemeanor to steal, deface, vandalize or remove a political sign that is lawfully placed. This infraction carries a fine of up to $200 or 20 days in jail. Marijuana possession in small amounts or hunting without a license are Class 3 misdemeanors so be careful when you are hunting without a license, doing up a doobie or political sign stealing. To our Legislature, they are all equally egregious violations.

Be patient all you folks who get torqued over political sign pollution. Anyone can take down the signs if they remain 30 days after the election without fear of paying the fine or going to jail. Let's hope the candidates do that on their own.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Eugene Z. Hirsch 12-18-31 -- 9-3-20

This post is written by Mary Ricketson

Dr. Gene Hirsch, poet
Gene Hirsch, MD, a poet of our mountains, died September 3, 2020, after a long struggle with cancer.  He was a well-known writer in western North Carolina.  He taught poetry at John C. Campbell Folk School for many years, and helped Nancy Simpson start North Carolina Writers Network West 25 years ago or more.  He regularly attended critique groups, read at organized events, and taught small groups of poets at his home in Murphy.  Gene was teacher and mentor to be remembered.  He lived in Pittsburgh PA and in Murphy NC, and visited Murphy often, until May 2019.

Gene was known as a loving man who listened deeply to every poem from any kind of writer, rustic beginner to polished expert.  He cared about the craft of writing and also cared about the person writing the poem.  As a physician, he had a long career practicing medicine.  In later years he taught doctors and medical students to provide the best of medical and human help to dying patients.  The following is a quote, introduction to his long essay, Intimacy and Dying, written earlier this year, unpublished.
I am a retired geriatrician who, for thirty five years, taught humanistic values in Clinical Medicine to medical students and doctors. From 2000 to 2010, at Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh, I guided students through the ancient clinical art of responding to struggles and needs of dying people. Among other curricular activities, with permission, we (2 -4 students and I) visited patients in their homes, not to learn procedures for obtaining medical histories, but for the specific purpose of listening to their thoughts, feelings, ordeals and supports. They understood that they were being placed in the role of teachers rather than patients. This proved to be important to all.

Gene kept his illness private, made no apology for that request.  He asked me to talk with him late in his dying process, asked me to be “ears to listen, for some day my dying to be worth my life.”  I will have more to say about that after I have settled enough to review the scratchy notes I kept of this time.  He also asked me to organize a memorial after his death. He said he wants to be remembered in our mountains.  Once the world is safe to gather in person, when the pandemic is over, we will have a memorial for memory, poems, and a celebration of his life.

His body has been cremated.  At some time, in respect for his request, his family will spread his ashes privately at his former home in Murphy.  He gave that home to his wife’s son and family, a family who loves the mountains and the privilege to vacation there. 

During the final months of Gene’s illness, he engaged the help of a friend and poet in Pittsburgh, Judy Robinson, to organize and seek publication of his poems.  The result of that effort is indeed a book, published 7-15-20, available from Amazon, details below.

Cards and words of sympathy may be sent to Gene's wife, Virginia Spangler, 139 Overlook Drive, Verona PA 15147.

In fond memory of Gene Hirsch,  
Mary Ricketson

Dr. Eugene Hirsch, Gene, to all who know him, has extended to me the privilege of editing his poetry, an assignment I accepted with pleasure. This collection, “Speak, Speak,” is the culmination of Gene’s long career of writing, and reflects the complexity of his mind and experience. As a physician/writer he joins a distinguished list, and in my opinion as a reader/editor, he earns his place among the others, notably Maugham, Chekhov, William Carlos Williams.
Judith R Robinson, editor