Tuesday, October 24, 2017




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.