june 14, 2018

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“Fill your heart with what’s important and be done with all the rest.” ~ Unknown

 

top shelf

 

Solidago hit the stores tonight and what an honor to be shelved beside Bobbie Ann Mason. Our forth issue made its debut at Brier Books who hosted a launch party to celebrate. Brier Books is also our first brick and mortar store! They’re very focused on Kentucky writers. They happened to be looking to add more journals to their fold the day we walked through the door. Perfect timing.

 

words matter

 

Though Solidago is not exclusive to Kentucky – we have writers and artists from all over the world – we have had several writers from Kentucky make the cut. Five of those writers were with us tonight to read from their submissions (above: Sean Corbin, Bobby Steve Baker, Pat Holland, Allison Thorpe, and Kimber Gray). Corbin and Thorpe have chapbooks being released in the next few months, and Baker’s latest is already in stock at Brier Books. It was thrilling to hear their beautiful words. Pat Holland’s short story really struck a chord. A former National Geographic employee, she wrote a great piece about Barrow, Alaska, which resonated with me as a one time resident of the polar city. Finally, Kimber Gray closed the evening with her exquisite poetry. I predict great things for this young writer whose works are laced with humor and raw honesty. 

 

the team

 

The evening would have never happened without Catherine Brereton and Susan Stewart. The journal was their idea, and they inspire me every day, especially when I see the stacks and stacks of writing they sift through after every submission window closes. I feel so fortunate that, out of all the talented people they know, they chose me with whom to partner. I am very, very honored by that, and right proud of what we’ve done so far. But we’re just getting started, and that needs to be true for no other reason than we need better selfies than this one. I love these gals from the bottom of my heart, and I love our little journal. 

april 20, 2018

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“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

 

two gooduns’

 

Apollo Pizza in Richmond is a groovy little pizza and beer joint that also happens to have a big brain. Their Pages and Pints gatherings feature a variety of local and regional authors who read from their works while patrons enjoy pizza on handmade crust, or cauliflower crust if you need to go gluten-free, or in my case, you’re on a diet. A bunch of us Happiness Gals met last night to hear readings from Ronni Lundy, author of the James Beard Foundation Award winning Victuals, and my old friend Robert Gipe whom you met back in March 2015 signing his first book Trampoline. Here’s a great little video of Robert talking about Trampoline and how he came to create it. You ought to watch it. Last night he read from the second of his trilogy released last month called Weedeater.

 

happiness

 

In virtually every writing class I’ve had the subject of writing an accent, specifically a mountain or southern dialect, always comes up, and without fail everyone says the same thing: don’t do it because it inevitably reads like a bad face job looks. It’s extremely rare to find a writer who can make it work. But there’s one writer who can and it’s Robert Gipe. His books are transformative in several ways, not the least of which is his ability to stay true to the regional vernacular without losing his reader or making the characters sound devoid of intellect. Plus, if you ever have the chance to hear him read his work, take it. You will be changed. And ask him to read his ghost sex scene (tell him I told you to ask). His brilliant words will make you howl with laughter, raise an eyebrow, and most importantly, think hard about the lives and circumstances of his characters. He just gets better all the time. I’m real proud of him.

 

old friends

 

Then there’s Ronni Lundy. She’s sweet as the day is long. I heard her read for the first time last night, and what a delight she was. Though Victuals is touted as a cookbook, it’s far from your run-of-the-mill Betty Crocker tome. The description reads; “Victuals is an exploration of the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia. It explores the surprisingly diverse history–and vibrant present–of food in the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions, and innovations.” Ronni’s insights into how food is a gateway into the larger Appalachian culture is as thought provoking as any prose out there. I’m a fan for sure. Remember I said last night was awesome? Robert and Ronni are just two reasons why. 

december 9, 2014

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“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

writers
writers

 

This is as fine a group of writers as I’ve ever had the privilege of sharing space with. Each is unique with their own voice, their own sense of style, and courage. They are, left to right, Gurney Norman, Megan Henson, Amy Copelin, Sarah Abbott, Jordyn Rhorer, Sean Madden, Sean Corbin, Ben Honea, John Duncan, Robin Rahija, and Joy Bowman. These folks gave me a multitude of gifts over the semester, among them the gift to step outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t always easy for me, and I got more than I bargained for, but I mean that in a good way.  I’m the only one who isn’t enrolled in the MFA program, so I was feeling unworthy most of the semester. Yet, several of my classmates encouraged me to change that tonight, even seemed disappointed that I’m not taking another course next semester. I was genuinely touched, and speechless. It was a complement of the highest order.

 

storyteller
storyteller

 

But wait, there’s more! In 2012, Gurney published a compelling book called Ancient Creek. It was a long time coming. The book includes three essays written in response to the story. Gurney very graciously gave each of us a signed copy tonight. He talked at length about how it came into being. Though it was penned in 1975, and originally made available on June Appal Records, I found the story even more relevant today (I read it when it came out in 2012, so I already know the story) what with mountaintop removal and the other environmental and socio-economic changes we’ve endured. This really was a special class full of great writers lead by a wonderful, wonderful mentor. I’m so glad they let me hang out with them.

 

gifts
gifts