Western North Carolina Woman

reading from left to write
by erica stepanian

My expectations were to be blown away.

I had to be just 12 or 13 and, most certainly, in that jaded-before-I’ve-even-lived stage. And because I knew everything, I knew this would be boring.
Poetry read aloud. “Please…”

Lucky for me, my mother—a librarian and a lover of both the written and spoken work—dragged me, a shy and rebellious teenager, with a fondness for the color black, to a poetry reading at Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain. I don’t remember the title of the poem or even what it was about, but to this day, some 15 years and serious living later, I can still feel the resonating impact of Glenis Redmond’s poetry.

And whether we, as writers, are moved by poetry, the lyrics of a song, or engrossed by the plot and characters of a novel, relating to the words of others is essential, at least in the beginning as we work our way back to ourselves; in reading, we confirm “beauty is truth, truth beauty” and we eventually (and decidedly) commit to the writing of our own truth.

This is perhaps the wisdom that 18th century essayist, poet, and critic, Samuel Johnson, meant for us to discover when he said: “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent reading in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

For when we read and listen with open minds — paying attention to what it is that makes us pause, turn the page faster, nod in agreement, laugh out loud, cry - we learn the magic of allusions, metaphors, symbolism, word choice, structure, foreshadowing, tone, rhythm, and cadence, so that we too, may build castles with our words.

Each building her own unique word castles, local writers Glenis Redmond, Rachelle Rogers, and Emoke B’Racz share some of the books that have influenced them along their individual writing paths.

Glenis Redmond poet, Backbone, Under the Sun, Ms. Poetic (books) Glenis on Poetry, Monumental (CD), Mama’s Magic (video) glenisredmond.com
For Glenis Redmond, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity is “a book that walked off the Malaprops Bookstore table and into [her] hands.”

“The book opened my creative doors. Left the hinges swinging.”
Redmond affirms that “if you want to travel deeper within, this book will take you there,” but warns that “you have to be willing to look at fear, anger and all the other shadows.”

Redmond also, rightfully, stresses that correct timing is crucial. Just now beginning to work through the book myself, I couldn’t agree more; it is a life-changing and powerful and as we all know, there are bound to be thunderstorms when we set sail for the uncharted.

Finishing the book, Redmond “came away wanting to celebrate the beauty and the pain.”

“Julia Cameron was truly tapped into the Universe with this text. It all just made sense to my soul.”

Like many writers, who read with open minds Redmond feels “every book I have read has impacted me.”

“Malidome Some’s Of Water and Spirit. It is amazing. His journey allowed me to be o.k. with the largeness of my own journey and how it all has purpose. It taught me we all have purpose and that even during the challenging times we are where we are meant to be. I love The Intimacy of Relationship by Sobonfu Some’ also. A rich text that has taught me a new way of looking at relationships. Book of Light by Lucille Clifton. A book of poetry with legs that will walk you into a truth that resonates, unflinchingly.”

*See “Reading List” link on glenisredmond.com for more books that Redmond has found meaningful.


Rachelle Rogers poet, writer, editor, author of Creative Crafts Desk Handbook (nonfiction) and the A Love Apart (fiction), recipient of the Wildacres Artist Residency

Although most known for her 2005 fiction novel, A Love Apart, Rachelle Rogers’ background in poetry is more than evident in her lyrical language, smooth cadence, and lush descriptions.

Beginning as a poet, Rogers confirmed “for me it was poetry that first seduced me to put pen to paper. It was the form that seemed to best translate what I needed to express at the time. In truth, I had always been terrified of writing fiction and did not come to it until I was over forty.

Ironically, it’s what I’ve enjoyed writing most these past nineteen years.”
“As far as what kinds of books have influenced my writing—anything I’m reading that has captured my attention through its language, voice, characters, humor, emotion, or perspective, I often find echoing in my mind as I’m working on a present writing project or thinking about a new one.”
“I remember a long cold winter many years ago when I entered the bizarre literary world of Tom Robbins. I savored book after book, staying up late into the night. Unfortunately, I was, at the time, working on my first novel, A Love Apart, which, stylistically, is about as far from Tom Robbins as Romeo and Juliet is from Infinite Jest. But Robbins’ voice was so in my consciousness that I often found myself thinking in paragraph-long list sentences filled with strings of over-the-top adjectives.”

“A few other books that have influenced and given me a lyricism and truth to which to aspire include, The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, The Passion Dream Book by Whitney Otto, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Love Warps the Mind A Little by John Dufresne, Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith, An Ornithologist’s Guide To Life by Ann Hood, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash.”

Emoke B’Racz, translator, poet and contributing writer to the Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe Newsletter

Anytime I stroll through Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, besides losing track of time, I almost always see Emoke B’Racz perched behind a desk, writing or typing away at something—naturally. I wonder to myself what she is working on? A poem? Something for next month’s newsletter? She reminds me of an owl—quiet, intelligent eyes, missing nothing. (And a good writer never misses a beat).

Like many artists (of any medium), B’Racz feels that the writing life is a “gift” that she was born with. However, in reading books by the likes of Italo Calvino, Ursule Molinaro, Carol Maso, and Gretel Ehrlich, B’Racz found herself thinking “writing with such beauty and delight is what I want in my life.”
Of Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers, B’Racz says that the book ...inspires her to write “because the truth is that without writing I am failing at being my true self.”

Erica Stepanian is a free-lance journalist, reading and writing in North Asheville. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she wrote for their award-winning student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.


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