“Will you work with me on a project where we can use our talents to give back to our community?”
Every year I get together with a small group of faux finishers from different parts of the country to create beautiful murals and wall finishes in shelters and other such “homes” to help give them a feeling of warmth and comfort. So when Barb Burless, a local interior decorator, asked me this question, I jumped at the chance.
When I met Barb, I couldn’t help but like her. She is like a ray of sunshine—warm and bright. I knew then that I’d love to work on some projects with her. Barb owns a business, Space Spiffing (Decorating & Staging), that specializes in creating distinctive styles that just look expensive. She has lots of tricks up her sleeve to create comfort and beauty on a very reasonable budget. She’ll reinvent and repurpose your existing treasures; rearrange to increase function and flow; and shop smart to add new beauty and pizzazz.
I’m Lyna Farkas and my business, In the Spirit of Décor, specializes in adding ambiance and beauty to rooms by creating unique textured and painted finishes. I also save my clients money by helping them turn things they own and love into something different and new. I can, for example, make a simple painted table look like an elegant, solid wood table of mahogany, wormy chestnut (or your wood of choice).
Barb and I brainstormed and got excited about an idea that would give local residents an opportunity to also pay it forward. We’d invite people to write a letter about someone who has touched their heart in some way. Their letter of thanks and recognition would also give them a chance at gifting that person with a free room makeover. But how do we get this invitation out to the residents of the Buncombe and Hendersonville counties—and how could they follow the room makeover project from start to finish?
Immediately we thought of Sandi Tomlin-Sutker, publisher/editor of WNC Woman magazine. Sandi has a huge heart and she immediately became fully involved in helping us make this Room Makeover Giveaway a success!
WNC Woman will be announcing the Room Makeover Giveaway Project (see ad pg 3) in this issue and continuing coverage in the upcoming December and January issues of the Magazine. In the December issue, you’ll hear about who has won the Room Makeover, and in the January issue, WNC Woman will share with you the whole story of the Project.
The three of us have had a great experience recruiting the wonderful sponsors who will be part of this makeover! See page 3 for specifics for emailing a nomination and to view the list of generous sponsors.
How can you be involved?
1. Read the press release and send in an e-mail nominating someone who has touched your life.
2. Encourage your neighbors and friends to send an e-mail about someone who has touched their lives.
3. Visit our sponsors’ businesses and websites to thank them for their spirit of community.
Sandi Tomlin-Sutker, Editor
Have you ever noticed how often people use the phrase “They did the best they could,” or, “She did the best she could given the circumstances,” etc.?
For several years I’ve thought a lot about what that really means. A friend used it a couple of weeks ago about her parents while she and I and two other friends were having coffee. In that context it was about not blaming them for the way they lived their lives and the effect that had on her.
Yet, I was moved to say, rather boldly, since these were good friends who know me… “I disagree that they did the best they could. They made their choices and there’s no blame in that now, but was that their best?”
I often hear people use that phrase when they have disappointed themselves or someone else. And, I’ve thought a lot about it for myself. How often am I truly doing my best?
I think we make choices every day (well every moment) and those are based on, perhaps, faulty or incomplete information or youth or naivete. Maybe in that context we did the “best” that was possible at the time.
But, generally, I think we make choices based on our desires, our fears, our ego, our habits. We may feel at the time that we are compelled to do what we do, to make certain, specific choices. And later, if we don’t get the results we wanted, or we negatively effect someone else, we may believe we did our best in order to assuage our guilt!
But, here’s my main point: wouldn’t life be richer and our psychological and spiritual growth deeper if we say instead that we simply did what we did, chose what we chose? And we recognize our motivations as not always choosing for the highest good.
One friend, at the coffee shop, said to me, “You’re too hard on yourself; you’re a perfectionist.” At times that is true. But how I want to live is to be as fully aware of the motives for my actions even when I choose a lesser path for some reason. In that way I feel I can do better next time (after all, if I say I’ve done my Best, how can I improve?!)
At the same time, I recognize that we are all “just human” and are unlikely to ever be perfect. So, add to the mix a good dose of love and forgiveness and awareness and perhaps the world will be a step closer to the best it can be.
By: Michele Berger
Marjorie Hudson moved to North Carolina to escape her hectic life in Washington, D.C. She also wanted to devote herself to the craft of writing and intuited that moving far away would help. The story goes that on a cloudy day she went to visit a friend in rural Chatham County and that when she saw her friend’s old farmhouse on several lush acres, a rainbow appeared over the house. She took the rainbow as a sign, moved in, and never looked back. Almost thirty years later this award winning writer continues to contemplate the charms and challenges of living in the South.
Her new book, Accidental Birds of the Carolinas, gathers together short stories she’s written over the past two decades, absorbing the lessons of a newcomer in the South. Hudson’s stories document contemporary and historical characters facing love and loss, crossing boundaries between native Southerner and newcomer, and walking a fine line between tragedy and delight.
Her work has garnered many awards and honors, including a Blumenthal Readers and Writers Award and Fiction Syndicate Prize. She has been the recipient of prestigious residency fellowships at Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers (Whidbey Is., Wa.) and Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, Ca.). Her stories “The Clearing” and “Self-Portrait in Camouflage” were Pushcart Special Mentions. Hudson has most recently received the North Carolina Arts Council Writers’ Fellowship which she says she’s been applying to for 20 years. A believer that persistence pays off, she’s thrilled about the recognition.
Long before I met Marjorie I heard about her commitment to creating intentional writing communities and her groundbreaking work gathering and making public the story of George Moses Horton (1798-1883). Horton, an enslaved man who lived in Chatham County, was a poet and wrote about the rural landscape. He often sold poems at local farmers markets in hopes of saving enough money to buy his freedom. Horton’s The Hope of Liberty (1829) was the first book published by an African American author in the South. Through her hard work North Carolinians now claim Horton as a literary forefather.
Marjorie just finished being Siler City Writer in Residence and leading the “We Are Siler City Writing Project” in which she conducted writing camps for kids and adults. The North Carolina Arts Incubator sponsored this wildly successful project and is planning a similar one with her next year.
Hudson lectures on American history topics and creative writing, teaches creative writing classes at universities and privately, and her MFA in Creative Writing is from Warren Wilson College. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Searching for Virginia Dare, a North Carolina Arts Council Notable Book. Her website is http://marjoriehudson.com
MTB: What did you like to read growing up and are there any of those influences in your work?
MH: Gosh, what immediately comes to mind is fairytales. I went through the yellow, green, blue, and red fairy tale books at the library. Dog books were also a big influence. But most of all and still to this day is C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I inhaled that series during a really tough time when I was about eight years old and my family lived with my grandmother. I was very lonely and I missed my dog. I believed in magic. So, I seriously tried to call up Asalan. I wrote a letter to C.S. Lewis and my mother even mailed it. I never heard back from him. I learned later that his wife was dying of cancer at the time. The stories still live inside me and every summer I reread several of his books.
MTB: Where did the idea for Accidental Birds come from?
MH: The bird theme was generated through several small moments. I had this character who was grumpy about moving to and living in the South and his wife wasn’t. He and his wife see a bird; it’s an accidental bird, a painted bunting. An accidental bird is one that is found outside its normal range. My husband and I are avid birdwatchers. On our farm we have a topography of birds. We know where they nest, where they come every year, we assume they are family members. From year to year, certain birds come and certain birds go. This year for example, the meadowlarks came back. It’s a huge part of my enjoyment of life. So it may not be an accident that there are birds in my stories.
Also when I was revising the story, “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas”, I was staying at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities and outside my door was an Audubon painting of a painted bunting. I had seen it many times, but this time I really looked at the painting and it was an answer to many little questions. When I finished it, I thought it should be the title story because the stories that I had published and built up over time were mostly on two themes— both a stranger comes to town and a man goes on a journey. So, it was the combination of the two themes that struck my imagination and an accidental bird seemed like a great metaphor for writing about people on the move and people looking for and finding home.
MTB: Many of your stories in Accidental Birds revolve around the idea that a connection to land is redemptive for newcomers and natives to the South. Why is writing about place important to you?
MH: In the opening story, “The Clearing” there is a young woman who moves south and wants to be a recluse. She thinks the South is empty and so she moves to the end of a lonely dirt road and believes that she’s ready to be alone. After a bad break-up, her interest in men is nil; she wants to be left to her misanthropy. Of course, neighbors come to her door and she soon discovers this web of life, this beauty of biological life on her farm and throughout the landscape. There’s a connection made through her and their almost physical love of the land. Over time she connects with the web of people that somehow take care of each other through storm, fire drought and plague. It is a statement about the sacredness of place and community, being separated from it and being connected to it.
I do see my life here as a spiritual journey. If spiritual threads move through the stories, I don’t impose that on my stories as a kind of instruction. It’s just interesting to me. The South is the ‘Christ haunted landscape’, right? I see that in my own life. I am a little Christ haunted. I really love the spiritual gifts of the land connecting with people. I do feel that there is a kind of redemption there when you connect with your community of environment.
I did enjoy pumping up, and this was fairly deliberate, some angel imagery in the novella, “The Outside World.” My character, Miss Reba, had a strange heritage of a father who made totem poles resembling sculptures that look like fierce angels—black angels with blue eyes.
MTB: That’s not the popular culture representation of angels!
MH: Yes, I know. I’m an outsider artist in my head, so I can make things up. I also write about art and artists. I knew my other character Jolene, in the same story, came from a Mennonite community in the Midwest. I wanted to explore her tutelage, her childhood teachings. So I studied up on Mennonite teachings and I remembered my own kind of magical interpretations of the Jesus stories. And it provided me a way to bring in the scripture about the angel unawares—that by entertaining a stranger, or by taking care of a stranger, you may be entertaining angels unawares. I love that idea and that is what we do when we build community.
MTB: Is there something you want to say about risk-taking in your writing? You have a penchant for writing about very different types of people and communities.
MH: I have broad sympathies and you work with the gifts that you’re given. Some of us know just how to be one thing and we write about that. Some writers can feel connection with all kinds of people and that just happens to be one of my gifts. I want to go into different worlds; I like to travel. It was bold and risky to write from a Native American point of view. I wonder if I am going to get criticized for it, it will be interesting to see. The characters in “New World Testament” were so beautifully laid out in my source material, A New Voyage to Carolina, which is a log of John Lawson, an English explorer, penned by him in 1709. I just knew the people and I knew them as people, not as stereotypes.
John Lawson’s writing impressed me deeply with his love of the Carolinas, and the 20 nations of the people of the Carolinas and his enthusiasm for their “strange habits and foods.” He just was an enthusiast, and not at all goofy about it, but frolicking and having fun and laughing during the whole journey. And then he gets very serious and talks about how the English should live with the Native Americans and should marry them and have children with them. And that “we” should teach them our ways and we should learn their ways because they know a lot. It was one of the most distinguished and sophisticated philosophies of cross cultural relationships of that time.
It is risky and strange to put a historical fiction story in the middle of contemporary stories. I decided to do that because I realized that the themes were welcoming the stranger, the newcomer and the native in South. These are historical characters (John Lawson and Enoe-Will) in an imagined friendship. “New World Testament” is a seminal story about how Natives Americans did or did not welcome English intrusion. It’s about a deep friendship and the love of people who are really different. They have such a great love that one gives the other his son, in order to bridge the gap between the cultures. Lawson’s life and philosophy underpins a lot of what is in this story.
MTB: If you could start your writing career over, would you make any changes?
MH: My writing career is a series of decisions based on a kind of hard rock stubbornness. It’s gotten harder and rockier over the years because it hasn’t been a smooth path at all. There are times I wish I had mentoring early on. I simply was stubborn and shy. I wish I hadn’t been quite so shy about showing my work. I think in life there are certain lessons you’re supposed to be learning and the one that I’m supposed to be learning is ‘stop shutting up.’ Be who you are and don’t pretend that you’re not gifted. I had a habit of pretending that I wasn’t gifted which is true of many artists. Of course rejection is a daily stumbling block for some, but it’s also a strengthening process. I have the 99 rejection plan. I tell my students that you really haven’t mastered the process of a writing career until you have 99 rejections. I haven’t gotten there, but I’m working on it!
MTB: You have this reputation for working well with novice writers, being supportive of them and intentionally building writing communities. Why is that important to you?
MH: I believe in it. It’s one of the most beautiful things that I know. To see people connect with their writing and to watch them go deeper into their minds and the completely mysterious technology of storytelling and language is a privilege. I feel lucky to be able to do it. I adore the idea of people out there scribbling away and getting things started. Writing is a way of thinking and processing information that we are inarticulate about. We understand our worlds better when we write; it makes us better people and makes us feel more connected.
MTB: What’s the most common mistake that beginning writers make?
MH: The hardest thing for beginning writers is to let go of making everything perfect. It’s great that a first draft is shaggy and all over the place, it’s a way to getting deeper honesty in your work. In a first draft, if we shine it up, make it spiffy, and make it fit a formula, you miss out on some things.
MTB: You’ve been an editor and have held a number of positions in the publishing industry. How important is self promotion for authors?
MH: It’s really important! You do have to do self-promotion. The model that I have heard at larger publishing houses is that if they give you an advance you should spend at least half of it booking your own publicity. There’s a lot I don’t know about promotion like creating a Twitter following. It does help to have fun stuff like that to play with on the road touring. I do have a blog. I’m kind of a low budget book tour girl… no iPhone, etc. But, I have plan! It helps to have a team: friends, professional contacts, students, and a local bookstore. Strange as it may seem my background as a community organizer and creator of writing communities is not a bad one when it comes to promoting my work.
MTB: Are you done writing about North Carolina and the South? Will you give us a preview of what you’re working on now?
MH: What I’m going to turn to most quickly and deeply is a novel that extends some of the characters in Accidental Birds. I finished a draft of it two years ago. The draft is way too long and needs focus but I’m not done writing about them! I also have the beginnings of a spiritual biography of my dad’s life and my life. My dad was a spiritual leader, a peace activist and I published an essay, “Sufi Dancing with Dad” about the day he died. He died on the day that the Gulf War started and there was a Muslim man praying at his feet. He was Sufi. And he told me that he taught my father to Sufi dance, which was something I could barely imagine then, but have been imaging every since. I have some of my father’s sermons, writings and journals from his time with the Civilian Protective Service when he was a conscientious objector. I have had a rocky road as a follower of any kind of religion. I call it ‘stumbling to Bethlehem’ and back again, but I have come to some peace with it. And, I think it’s a compelling thing to explore and write about. That’s my always back burner book. I also have a short story collection started with the keystone story that has been published. The story’s about an artist who makes peace with an old enemy who gave her HIV. It translates and moves into an exploration of Italian artists and some of the research I conducted in Italy when I was working on Virginia Dare. I need a good uninterrupted six months to finish that book.
MTB: What’s on your personal fantasy wish list for X-mas?
MH: I’d love to be read widely.
Michele Tracy Berger is a creative writer and professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. She can be reached at www.creativetickle.com
Britt Kaufmann: One Writer’s Quest to Find Her Wings
By: Cathy Larson PHOTO BY: Marylee Yearick Photography of Spruce Pine, NC
A clear-eyed straight talker, a thoughtful and heartfelt writer, Britt Kaufmann has had a banner year: Finishing Line Press has published her poetry chapbook entitled Belonging, and her original play, An Uncivil Union, pleased summertime audiences at the Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville, NC, her home base since 2003. Another play is in the works for next season. In the metamorphosis from emerging writer to a published author in the public eye, Britt has outgrown her cocoon. Her new wings, though perhaps a bit dewy, are silky strong. Her bright accomplishments are presaged by a journey in which Britt learned to prioritize her art along with, in her words, “all of the other million things I am.” Recently we made room on my dining room table for a tape recorder and sat down to talk about her writing life in Western North Carolina.
CLS: How did you happen to land in Western North Carolina? It seems like such a good fit for you.
BK: We moved here after my husband finished his residency because he wanted to be a small town doctor where he took care of his own patients in the hospital and had a better continuity of care. We knew we wanted to live somewhere other than northern Indiana, where it was flat. We wanted something mountainous and exciting. And so when we visited this area there were two quilting shops in Burnsville and a lot of art. I went to the library to see if they had certain books. I liked the grocery store. And it wasn’t odd for women my age to be canning food and so I figured we would fit in here.
CLS: Was this part of your own family background in Indiana?
BK: Yes. We grew up with a big garden, and canning and reading were always really important at home. Mom had lists of books that she wanted to read to us kids before any of us were born. And they read out loud to us. My parents still read out loud to each other.
CLS: How beautiful. You appear to be such an ethical, mindful person. Well beyond your years. Would your Mennonite background have anything to do with this?
BK: Well, the Mennonite church is a peace church, and because of that, Mennonites tend to live in communities all over the world, where we just want to live peacefully; typically farmer/agrarian. That’s changing now because it – the whole culture – is changing. There is the kind of notion, similar to the Amish, but different, of being in the world but not of it. It’s a trying in some ways to hold your self separate. And it’s very much a works church, also. Like how you behave and how you interact in the world and how you take care of your neighbors is what really matters . . . we view ourselves as global citizens.
CLS: I think many writers share this sense of being global citizens. There must have been other writers in your family.
BK: Yes. My uncle is a very prolific poet but he doesn’t send his stuff out to be published at all. And my aunt is a prolific writer and she has never let anybody read her stuff. I don’t know if it’s just the product of being an oldest child, but I kind of feel, sometimes, like the observations that I make, that come out of my writing about life or whatever, that people should know them. Well, maybe I’m not the writer than my aunt and uncle are, but I think that’s why I keep pushing myself to submit places and to keep trying.
CS: Describe your writing a little bit.
BK: Well, when I was in college, I took a poetry workshop from Nick Lindsay, who is Vachel Lindsay’s son. Nick Lindsay described my poetry as “schoolmarmish.” And oh, I hated that. But I think since being a mother I have kind of given in to my own didacticism. I know that being didactic in literature is frowned upon, but that’s really where I am right now. With raising kids, everything is a teachable moment, whether it’s teaching about how our government works, or about inflation, or: “If it’s shiny and red, that means it’s poisonous – don’t put shiny red berries in your mouth, ever.” I guess having been a teacher also, even in my writing or in a play, I feel like that’s a teachable moment.
CS: How have you managed to bring your own writing to the public?
BK: My first poem was published in Mothering Magazine in 2002, the year of my daughter’s birth. I think it was bad, because it didn’t prepare me for all the rejections that come with writing and it led me to be discouraged easily after that. And that was more with the submissions of individual poems. But by the time I started sending in my chapbook manuscript eight years later, I’d learned how many rejections a writer can receive, and knew that I had to give myself a year to submit to different contests before I was allowed to give up.
CLS: You took a small office in the Heritage Center in Burnsville when your twin sons went to preschool. Was it the proverbial room of your own, so you could work on the chapbook?
BK: Yes. What I would do is, I would drive in, drop the boys at preschool, then go to the office instead of driving the extra distance back home and that was my writing time, three times a week. I just had a kitchen table so I wouldn’t accumulate clutter. It was me, and getting the work done.
CLS: And you also had a critique group that kept you focused, when you followed some advice you received at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, in Burnsville, of which you are one of the original coordinators.
BK: Well, I got to lead a panel discussion with the other authors one year, including two other parents who had young kids at home that both had multiple published books and I got to sit them down and ask them questions. And one important point was that they were both accountable to an editor and an agent, and they had these deadlines. So I talked to my critique group about it and they said, “Okay, well then what’s the deadline? When are we gonna see your rough draft of your chapbook?” And they made me set a deadline, and I had to deliver it to them. I had accountability to them.
CLS: You have also described Andrew Gall, the artistic director of The Parkway Playhouse, where your play was produced, as “the deadline” for your work.
BK: I originally went to Andrew (whose office was also in the Heritage Center), just with the idea of writing a one act play; I felt like I needed somebody to be accountable to. He gave me the idea for the play and I went with it because who would say no to an opportunity like that? “I want to produce this play based on local history, if you can write it good enough.” Well then, there it was: I’ve got a deadline, I’ve got a goal!
CLS: An Uncivil Union is a romantic comedy that revolves around an incident in which a group of Yancey County women broke into a Union warehouse to steal bags of flour for their families during a cold winter in the 1860s. Was that a challenge for you, as a newcomer to the area, depicting a period deeply ingrained in local history and folklore?
BK: Well, I’m curious. I’m a curious person. I want to know more about things. I’ve transplanted from a different culture and I’m curious about . . . oh, how people say “Aye, law’.” Where did that come from? What’s that about? Or they say, “It pours the rain.” Little linguistic things. I realize: “Oh, it’s like pouring the rain from a bucket.”
I would spend mornings sitting in the local greasy spoon, eavesdropping on old timers who were in there having their breakfast, and then try to get the rhythm, but when it came down to rhythm, the cast changed some things I didn’t have quite right, which I would then go back in to fix. And Andrew did a really good job of casting people from Yancey County in several of the roles, so that it had a more authentic sound than I was able to write.
CLS: What was it like, dipping into a new genre after writing mostly poetry?
BK: It was hard. Andrew handed me Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, which is for screen writing, and he said, “This is how to figure out the pacing, because playwriting isn’t like a novel, which can be a hundred pages or it can be several hundred.” It’s still going to have that arc that we expect, but there’s a lot of leeway. However, for plays, there is not so much leeway, because people will only sit for so long.
You’ve really got to get these elemental things to keep the audience’s interest, to build the tension, to make it feel satisfactory, all within a certain amount of acts, and it feels like a giant. My dad is a math teacher and he really likes story problems. I also have this same love of story problems. And that’s kind of what a play feels like, like one of those logic puzzles: “How am I going to get all these things together to form a cube?”
There’s room for innovation, but within the paradigm. And I get to make up a couple of the pieces. I find that I’m better at being creative within structure. You know, then I can get in there and wiggle around a little bit and it really pushes me to do things in new and interesting ways. So it’s not the same thing that you’ve seen before, even though the structure might be exactly the same.
CLS: You are now working on a second play (we’ll keep the plot a secret) to be produced next year. How does that feel?
BK: When I’m writing this play, it’s so different, because I know it already has a place on the schedule. So it’s less a leap of faith in the writing. It doesn’t feel so fraught with anxiety. I’ve got a time, a place, a deadline, a thing that has to be done and now I have to come to that table and put my butt in that chair and do the work.
CLS: This second work is also based on an idea proposed by Andrew Gall.
BK: Yes, but I get to make it what I want it to be. If Andrew says, as director, “I’ll show a play about this, with these three male leads I would love to cast,” I’d be silly not to take the assignment. At some point if I have this passionate, burning desire to do my own thing, or I have some message, I’ll do that, but at this point I’m helping the community theatre, I’ve got an outlet for my work, and a motivating factor, which is what I need because I tend so frequently to put my artistic stuff off because there are other immediate needs. I have three young kids, a husband who has a demanding job, and it’s so easy to say, “Well, these poems – nobody’s expecting them. This is kind of my hobby.”
CLS: Would you describe some other tools, besides deadlines and accountability, that have helped you keep your artistic goals a priority?
BK: I am very fortunate that my husband is supportive. I go on about two writing weekends a year. He stays at home with the kids, and I hole up in a hotel with my laptop. I do silly things to keep myself writing and in the chair. For example, I’ll say No going out for dinner until you’ve got 15 pages written. And then I get it done. That’s how I wrote most of An Uncivil Union.
I’ve also done the Artist’s Way (a workbook for developing artistic creativity by author Julia Cameron) twice – once on my own and once with a group – and each time noticed a significant growth in my production and quality. I also noticed an increase in my “luck” or serendipity. Of course, it’s because I was doing the work and being balanced in my care of my creative side, physical health, spiritual health, etc.
CLS: Do you have a philosophy that you might pass on to other creative women?
BK: Pray and run both. It’s like the Hawaiian tradition of prayer-action. Cameron talks about it in the Artist’s Way: if you’re late to catch the bus, don’t just stand there and pray that the bus will be late. Pray and then run! That’s what I’ve got to keep working on in my own writing life. Not just wishing that I become a better writer, but doing the necessary work, submitting despite rejections.
For instance, with my chapbook. I didn’t actually win or place in the competition, but they offered me publication anyway, so this just all fits in with the prayer-action idea. I wanted to be published, and not winning was a bummer, but that’s the way it is. Still, I got the opportunity to publish, so if I hadn’t submitted to the contest, this never would have happened. And then the chapbook opened up a lot of other opportunities for me, like getting to read at Wordfest in Asheville, because the director had met me through the Carolina Mountain Literary Festival. It’s just the serendipity thing.
CLS: As we close, do you have an image of the way you see your life as woman and as artist?
BK: You could think about it as a mobile . . . a kind of revolving balancing act involving many components of my life.
Enjoy Britt’s words and works at: brittkaufmann.com and brittkaufmann.blogspot.com
Cathy Larson Sky writes novels, poems and freelance articles and holds an MA in Folklore from UNC Chapel Hill. A performer and teacher of Irish traditional fiddling, she currently lives in Spruce Pine, NC. Visit her at: cathylarsonsky.blogspot.com
Two sisters, Mary and Linda Pannullo catch up via the phone and email
By: Mary Pannullo
Mary Pannullo: Let’s start with the name, Disegno do Pezzi, Mosaics for the Home and Garden
Linda Pannullo: Well, I am Italian and love all things Italian-Disegno di Pezzi means Bits and Pieces design and since a single mosaic can contain hundreds of tesserae (individual pieces) the name seemed appropriate. I enjoy creating functional art that will stand up to wear and tear and the elements.
MP: Why mosaics and why now?
LP: I remember being really engrossed while painting the border of a mirror when I was young. Today I do that with mosaics, and the possibilities are endless-mosaic s can be 2 or 3 D, and made with a variety of materials for indoor or outside applications. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the planning stages to the finished product. Now that my 3 children are older I can make more time for my art.
MP: How do you fit mosaic work in around your massage and teaching practice?
LP: I arranged my massage practice to be on certain days to concentrate more blocks of time to mosaics. Above one of my desks is The Artist’s Creed, written by Jan Phillips. It is a reminder about the importance of uninterrupted time for honoring the space to create.
MP: What kicked off your mosaic hobby?
LP: In 2006, I took a week long workshop at Arrowmount School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. It was taught by a wonderful mosaic artist from TN, Sherri Warner-Hunter. We created a personal totem pole made of 3 objects-banged rebar and made fake rocks, carved foam for armatures and practiced direct and indirect techniques and I was hooked!! Since then, I’ve been out to Oakland and learned how to use a hammer and hardie to cut marble and stone, been to Sherri’s workshop in Bell Buckle, and taken several classes in Charlotte at Ciel Gallery. I’ve learned how to carve “wet” concrete! Each time I gained a little more confidence in my ability to play with new materials.
MP: What is a hammer and hardie?
LP: Traditionally, mosaic pieces were cut by a sickle-shaped hammer. A piece of marble was held over a chisel imbedded in a log and then sliced with the hammer. Although the hammer and hardie are still used today one can use a more contemporary tool like wheeled nippers to cut materials.
MP: What types of materials do you use?
LP: A project determines what I will use- we are fortunate that Asheville is the home of Van Gogh glass, a colored reflective glass, made by a Touch of Glass, -I use that in my mirrors and artplates; my latest piece, Gaia the Mother, is my 1st attempt with smalti and Orsoni gold. Smalti is a beautiful enameled glass use by the Byzantine (Istanbul today) particularly for religious decoration in churches. Orsoni is the name of the Italian family that has been making the smalti and 24k gold leaf pieces since 1888. Millefiori (thousand flowers) is imported from Murano, an island in Italy. These are small pieces with various inlaid decorations and colors that add a good pop-Seems like I can’t get away from that country. I also have drawers full of ammonites, geode slices, crystals, beads, you name it, even some armadillo exoskeleton that I have a purpose for when I get the time. I also save china and broken pottery which is for another technique in itself, called picasiette. Broken crockery is fastened to objects for a new look-good way to repurpose! You can imagine how hard it is to throw anything away just in case I may use it in the “late’ future.
I also enjoy working with concrete-it will take any mold and pick up the smallest details-it biggest drawback, of course, it its weight.
MP: Gaia the Mother is your latest piece-can you tell us where you got the inspiration for her?
LP: I sketched the vaguest idea of her several years ago –a female deity connected to the earth. She didn’t manifest until I took the hammer and hardie class and purchased a book on Italian mosaics from the 300-1300AD. Then she gelled, based on a 13th century Madonna from a church in Trastevere, Italy. Smalti was the only way to go, to create a traditional piece. Her original name was “God the Mother”-generally speaking, in our culture, the word goddess can invoke a lesser deity, and I wanted someone with power, strength and compassion. I changed her name to Gaia , because Gaia is the Greek primordial earth goddess, from whom all creation sprang. It is also the name of the Gais hypothesis,that sees the world as a living functioning organism for maintaining life on earth.
MP: You are going to use her as a fund raiser for Manna?
LP: Yes, this is my 1st time doing something I have wanted to do for a long time-combining my art for social and environmental purposes. The Asheville community is very generous with deserving causes. Gaia is being printed on a recycled cotton bag by Gallery MIA (Made in Avl.) on Lexington Ave. (Details on how to order the bag will be at the end of this article.) After costs and taxes, 100% of the sales will go to Manna. In Western NC, 1 out of 6 people are facing hunger and every dollar donated to Manna will help provide food for 3 meals.
MP: Any particular influences?
LP: I keep getting drawn back to the Art Noveau period-Gustav Klimt is greatly admired and I just stopped by the Biltmore House to see the Tiffany display. Antonio Gaudi. Niki de Saint Phalle, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Wassliy Kandinsky are a few more and there are many inspiring contemporary artists that are pushing the edge of mosaics.
MP: What are your subject matters?
LP: I have experimented with human and animal portraits, children’s art, mirrors and 3D designs. Exploring where art, nature and biology intersect will be another focus.
MP: Are you planning anything in the near future?
LP: Well, I may have an opportunity to cast a 4 ft. Thai Giant Elephant Ear leaf and I am really excited about that and will need some help picking it up. I am also going to try and create a piece for the Mosaic arts International Show coming up in March that may combine a barn owl with some Tiffany like design but don’t hold me to it!
MP: Where do you work?
LP: I work outside when I am making my concrete leaves. I converted a room in my home for my mosaic studio.
MP: Any last words?
LP: It is incredibly important to move towards your dreams and desires. I would encourage everyone to follow their impulses and pay attention to their intuition.
Mary Pannullo works in advertising and lives in Virginia Beach, VA. Linda Pannullo is a mosaic artist/massage therapist/teacher living with her family in Asheville. Her artplates are carried by the Grovewood Gallery, K2 Gallery and The Arch. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook to order a bag to help MANNA ….and Mother Earth!
By: Roberta Binder
“Never let anyone you care about walk out to an empty mailbox!”
~Jim Rohn, international motivational speaker & business philosopher
hen is the last time you actually received a card in the mail?
When was the last time you actually sent a card through the mail?
In today’s high tech world of the Internet, you can climb out of bed on the morning of your birthday and find your Facebook page already filled with greetings from around-the-world. But is that actually as emotionally the same as ripping open the envelopes that you discovered hiding in your mailbox among the stack of bills and catalogues and finding that friends loved you so much they went out, purchased a card, signed it, took it to the post office and now you are holding it in your hands? Hazy Oberski has found a great way to resolve the time consuming issues of sending out cards for important occasions or just because, and filling friends mailboxes with surprises filled with Love.
Although Hazy is among the top 2% of Realtors here in the Asheville area and, in a way, this story involves her Real Estate business; it is about much more than that. Marlene, a Realtor friend of Hazy’s shared with her how she was growing her business success with SendOutCards (SOC). Hazy thought it was interesting and was happy for her friend, but she couldn’t really see an application that would work into her already busy Real Estate life.
In November last year, Hazy and her husband Ron took a trip to Florida, where they had lived until 10 years ago when they relocated to Asheville, to visit with friends. Once again another friend brought up the subject of having made SOC her main business. Still nothing was sparking for Hazy. It was on the flight home when the realization struck… she thought about all those 600 plus Christmas cards that needed to be sent for her Real Estate business and time was getting closer for that project.
Each Christmas season Hazy and her assistant devoted three or four days to signing, stuffing, addressing, stamping and mailing cards to her entire client list… and then there was the other personal list that she and husband Ron worked on at home. Although Hazy looked at this as a loving gift of recognition, it was also a huge consumption of the precious commodity of time. And so that is how it started.
Hazy decided to take the step to opening a personal account with SOC, but just for Christmas, or so she thought. Her client address list was easily uploaded from the office computer to her personal SOC account. After about twenty minutes of work, she had selected a three-panel card that included a cookie recipe as a nice gift. She uploaded the company logo, and with the push of a key on the computer, all 622 cards were printed, stuffed, addressed, had a real stamp applied and they were delivered to the post office for her. And all that was completed even before lunch, talk about buying extra—and stress free—holiday time; we can all use some of that!
And the bonus: the cards are Green – printed on recycled stock with soy ink! Hazy notes, “It only takes a few minutes to encourage someone with a personal greeting card…but the effect can last a lifetime.”
Hazy and her husband Ron were on another trip to Fort Myers in January. This time they were there for three weeks to catch up with their large circle of friends. One evening while out to dinner with several of those friends, one of them mentioned the beautiful Christmas and birthday cards she had received and wanted to know where Hazy had gotten them. As Hazy told her a little about SOC, “She told me, ‘I want my own personal account right now. Sign me up!’”
During that trip she gathered another group of thirteen more friends and showed them the program. All thirteen wanted to also become part of the organization! It was on the flight home that Ron said, “You know, I think this would be a great idea for you as a business. Networking is critical in today’s world and the cards are a perfect tool for you.” As they talked, that networking idea is exactly what clicked in Hazy’s mind. And when they got off the plane and settled back at home, Hazy signed up for the full system as an independent SOC distributor.
That was the end of January. And her enthusiasm only grows. As with her think-outside-of-the-box approach to Real Estate, she has turned that same approach to SOC. Not a day goes by without a card going out to someone! As she meets people at networking gatherings, talking on the street, social events and just in daily life—a card of greeting and “welcome to my life” goes out that day. When a friend calls and they are down, perhaps that card includes a box of chocolates or a Starbucks card… easy to add either one, and says, “I hope this picks up your spirits.”
Recently Susan, an independent distributor and friend, who also works at a car dealership, told Hazy a great story about selling her boss, the owner of the car dealership, on the system. He was so impressed with the possibilities, and wanted to see what his staff could do with this great new tool that he credited each member of the sales staff with $100 per month to send out cards to clients. At the next sales meeting, one of the old-timers on the staff stood up to announce, “For six months I’ve been calling and emailing past clients with no response. Last month, I sent out ten of these greeting cards, and sold three cars—just from those ten clients! I’m going to be doing a lot more of this kind of networking!”
The SOC independent distributers form a virtual community. There is an active communication system that when a distributor has a celebration or a tragedy it is posted and other distributors reach out with their support. Hazy and Ron witnessed this first hand when their son, Bill, was killed in a motorcycle accident in June of this year. Not only was there an instant out-pouring of heartfelt cards and messages—those cards continue to show up in their mailbox. “The love that has been poured out to us and the encouragement that each card holds will last a lifetime in supporting our healing,” says Hazy.
Check out Hazy’s ad (this page) with its offer of free cards to the first 200 responders). I tried it, it’s easy… the directions are so simple to follow. And as Kody Bateman, SOC CEO repeats, “Sending an unexpected card, for no reason, often means the most.”
Hazy Oberski is an Independent Distributor for SendOutCards. If you are interested in learning more about the company and the opportunities it has to offer you can reach her at Hazy.SendOutCards@gmail.com or call 828-684-5655.
Roberta Binder is a Writer, Editor and Photographer who works with international authors bringing their words to life at: RobertaEdits.com. As a Feng Shui Master, she brings Peace and Balance to the lives of clients throughout W N C: SacredEarthWisdom.com and Facebook page Facebook.com/AshevilleFengShuiMaster featuring wit and wisdom.
By: Mary Jo Amani
If I Can Understand the Last Line of that Poem
I Might Just Eat Another Slice of Cake
little statue of buddha with his hands in the air
belly hanging out you know he loves to cook
licks the bowl and even dips a spoon in the peanut butter
smears it onto a banana and rolls his eyes toward heaven and sighs
on earth which is heaven which is infinite which is yes
despite all the goddamn uncertainty
gathers all the world’s wondrous herbs and eats
phad thai and beef bolognaise (but not at the same time)
and drinks merlot and a South African blend of shiraz and pinotage
skips now and then
those bougainvillea vines draping over the crumbling brick wall
is the vendor sitting on a muddy piece of cardboard
selling gum and candy to the passersby
eyeing with delight the strut of the full-breasted young chick
envious or curious
playful or teasing
another whole rotten tomato altogether
and what gods are we talking about anyway
get rid of all those gargoyle pernicious
insistent envious look at those love-handles
and my god your arm flab is flapping
you carried the child up the steep mountain
tied him down and raised your hand
plunged in the knife
breathing heavily from that arduous climb
carrying the weight of that double chocolate hot fudge sundae cake
from Betty Crocker’s in the extra fold over your waist
but just over there in a c`lump of grass
that cricket trilling as if she hadn’t a care in the world
unleash Isaac dance
pull out that most delicious raisin bran moist muffin
from your pouch take a bite and sigh
little buddha raise your hands to the heavens
rapturous sweep of your arms
parting the red sea of doubt
what good are you anyway who wants to read such drivel
it’s all a pipe dream get a damn job
feast on the gift
on the mountain you just climbed
on the man sitting
on that second piece
of there must be a god if this tastes so good
walnut carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
lick your fingers but leave
a little crumb for when the
the envious ones swoop in
Going Home & Love Among Enemies By: Lorraine Tate
By: Mary Ickes
As Faith longed for peace, she didn’t expect life to drastically improve overnight, but neither did she expect Reconstruction’s all-consuming hell. Not only is her beloved Confederacy annihilated, but the Yanks “. . .want us to pay for our insurrection.” Her three brothers survived the war merely to starve to death along with everyone else? Small game hunted out of the woods, beans, acorns and nuts barely stave off starvation. More disheartened than ever, Faith laments, “What did we gain after four long years of [war]? Nothing, but thousands dead, destruction of our lands and crops, and an infliction of poverty that lays on us like a hardened layer of dung.” Faith and Athel decide to move back to Rome, Georgia. If their aunt, uncle, and cousin Harriet, foundry owners, fled during the war, the city still promises safety and employment.
Faith welcomes adventure and change, yet dreads leaving the family farm.
Visiting the graves of her mother and siblings for the final time, she forces herself to recall . . .the corn shuckings, the singings and quilting bees;. . .the warm embrace of her mother and Charity. . . . Also, she worries that Jonathan will never find her. Despite Athel’s sneers that soldiers are liars, Faith is convinced that the man who risked his life for her family makes no empty promises. She leaves a letter with a trusted friend.
To Faith’s relief, Mistress Malone, the local healing woman, announces that she will accompany them to live with her sister Birdie in Rome. As they prepare to depart, Faith seethes when Mistress Malone introduces people she invited to travel with them, including April Tisk, a young woman with two small daughters. Twenty-one days later, with 98 miles and a river-crossing disaster behind them, they arrive in Huntsville. Faith and the children long for hotel beds and hot food, but Athel orders them to camp on April’s parents’ farm. Faith soon realizes that April wants Athel to restore her parents’ farm to prewar prosperity. Betrayed by Athel, Faith declares, “I won’t do . . . what I’m told . . . anymore” and continues on to Rome with Mistress Malone.
Faith’s decision to leave Athel behind redefines her character and her life.
Without Athel, Faith survives dangers entirely foreign to her. Dressing like a man fools no one, leading to accusations that a woman outside domestic confines is wanton, crazy, or both and undeserving of male assistance, four young children notwithstanding. After a man sneers that the only law’s God himself since the war, Faith and her Spencer rifle help Him keep law. The Faith Davis who left Winston County and the Faith Davis who arrives in Rome, Georgia are not the same woman.
New reports of Sherman’s march through Georgia little prepared Faith for Rome’s devastation. Her aunt and uncle dead and her cousin Harriet living in a boarding house, Faith moves into Birdie’s toolshed. Her family safe, Faith commences a plan to earn a living that violates Reconstruction policies and is preposterous for a woman to consider, let alone implement. Faith persists, because she . . .hated how women were generally perceived as weak, useless when the job required physical labor, mindless when a task involved finance, and emotionally vain and inferior when endurance was demanded. Simultaneously, she will establish schools and libraries for Black, Indian, and White children.
Jonathan, if he appears, is the only drawback to Faith’s new independence and confidence. She will never again relinquish her position as head of her family to anyone.
Readers’ primary objection to these books will be Faith’s credibility: how could a girl, age 13, protect a farm and her siblings during four years of war? The same way her brother, age 16, survived the Battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, and Antietam. Like Athel on the Southern front and Jonathan on the Northern front, disobeying orders on her home front never occurred to Faith. Beneath the Civil War’s natural bombast, Going Home and Love Among Enemies salute the bravery and sacrifices of Faith and her Civil War peers.
Going Home opens with the observations of Unionist Mary Henry after the Battle of Bull Run (1861) and Confederate nurse Kate Cumming following the Battle of Shiloh (1862). Then Quentin opens the narrative by yelling at Leisha to get ready for school, an interesting first page, but crucial plot twist. Leisha and Sylvia, her mother, weave the story’s numerous viewpoints into a chronicle preserving women’s history for future generations.
In Love Among Enemies, Jonathan learns Southern ways from a wide spectrum of women. At one end shines Miss Breeda, whose hospitably encompasses everyone; on the other end lurks a woman refusing to patronize a restaurant until the owner ejects a Black child. Midway lives Mahilda Cox whose family teaches Jonathan that Southern families are patriarchal. From her letters, he can’t imagine Faith accepting domestic dominance.
Likewise, Faith learns from other women, especially Mistress Malone, always the voice of reason and kindness amid chaos. April Tisk’s scheming causes anguish anew for Faith’s family and future. Cousin Harriet, though kind and generous, longs for prewar society: “I want my life back – a house, clothes, entertaining, theater, teas.” Isabella Smathers introduces Faith to familial brutality; her father does “. . .anything for money. Hire any of us kids out . . . to do anything . . . for the right price.” From the diminutive Birdie, everyone learns lessons of compassion and courage.
Ms. Tate’s historic research lends Faith and her peers credibility; she spares no details of the Civil War’s brutality: the battlefield slaughter and the surgical tents; the Lawrence Massacre (1863), booshwhackers (bushwhackers) butchering murdered victims, and Home Guard atrocities. Neither does she gloss over Reconstruction’s smug tyranny over dispirited Southerners. Through the darkness, hope constantly glimmers as Faith and her peers forge new lives from broken spirits, property, and families.
Their stories will continue in Blood on the Coosa, to be published in January
Going Home and Love Among Enemies are not Ms. Tate’s first and second books, but her third and fourth. At lorrainetate.blogspot.com. she teaches us writing hopefuls a succinct lesson on working toward success. She begins, After more rejections than I like to count. . . .
Since I’m writing Mary’s bio, I’ll start at the beginning. Once upon a time, in April 2010, Mary saw my picture at the veterinary’s office. Since I’m a tuxedo cat who looks like St. Duffy (so entitiled when he went to that cream bowl in the sky), she wanted to meet me. Nothing more! Not sure about her, but I’m living happily ever after.
Purrs and cream,
Interview with Melissa Watson the author of The Falcon Guides: Hiking Waterfalls in North Carolina
By: Lorri Gifford
I love the water. For most of my adult life I have chosen to live in a coastal city so that I could be near an ocean. Even growing up, I loved playing in the creek. One of the biggest things I missed when I moved to Asheville from San Diego was the ocean. The thing that made missing the ocean bearable was the knowledge that this area is surrounded by waterfalls. There is something magical about waterfalls. In fact, my birthday present to myself when I first moved to Asheville was a guided tour and visit to Triple Falls. My fantasy was to spend the day swimming at the base of a waterfall. It was heavenly.
Recently I was speaking to a friend and mentioned that I would love to find a good book that outlined hikes to waterfalls in the area. I will admit that I am geographically challenged and my map skills are almost non-existent. I pray and pay homage frequently to Map Quest and Google maps. Alas, there are no waterfall features on these online sites and although I have attempted to google local waterfalls and get the directions they are not easy to follow. And I have tried. Believe me I have tried. That is why when I was asked to review The Falcon Guides: Hiking Waterfalls in North Carolina and interview the author, Melissa Watson, I accepted and looked forward to the assignment with child-like glee.
When the book arrived in the mail I did a little happy dance. As I opened the book I offered up a little prayer that the directions would be easy to follow. I even picked one: (hike #80) Falls on Long Branch, Hendersonville Reservoir Dam, and Falls on Fletcher Creek. The directions seemed easy enough and just to test them, I googled the Henderson Reservoir Damn and mapped it online. These directions were very different and seemed to send me on a more complicated route. How can I explain the comparison? Oh…Have you ever heard the saying “I went around my a** to get to my elbow?”
Obviously I decided to follow the directions in The Falcon Guide and my quest was successful. I noticed that the book provided driving directions from 2 different points. This depended on where you chose to approach the final destination from. (North or South, Parkway or Interstate)
I chose my hike by using the table of contents at the front of the book. The table breaks the hike down into geographical areas. I wanted something within 45-60 minutes from home so I looked under the Brevard to Asheville, Mills River section. The other deciding factor was the beautiful color photo that was shown on page 214 in the book. Before looking through the index, I did sit and look through the book at all of the photos of the waterfalls. The pictures alone inspired me to want to hike to them.
Another feature I really enjoyed was the fact that each waterfall hike has it’s own table that noted it’s height, a beauty rating, distance of the hike, difficulty level, and other helpful information. Being a true novice, I also really appreciated the For Your Safety section at the beginning of the book. It listed the “10 Essential Items” every hiker should carry as well as some really important advice.
One of my favorite features was the Trail Finder. It is located on pages 5 & 6 of the book and includes: the author’s favorite waterfalls, best hikes for back country camping, best swimming holes, most crowded and least crowded waterfalls and roadside waterfalls. There is even a map in the middle of the table of contents that is labeled with the numbers for every corresponding waterfall hike in the book. This bird’s eye view is helpful if you want to see more the one waterfall in a day.
“It’s about appreciating everything along the path, not just getting to the waterfall.” Melissa Watson
The Falcon Guides: Hiking Waterfalls in North Carolina is a direct reflection of the wisdom and dedication of its author, Melissa Watson. When I asked Melissa what inspired her to write her book her answer was simple. After 15 years of hiking, she realized that the existing resources containing directions for driving and hiking to local waterfalls could be improved and simplified. She includes directions from 2 points in her book because the existing references had one set of directions that didn’t always include forest roads and sometimes a person would have to overshoot a location passing 3 unmarked roads before realizing that they had passed their destination and had to double back. Melissa also held out for color photos to be included in book as most of the resources out there contain black and white photos. Speaking from personal experience, the color photos REALLY make a difference.
She also made sure that all of the waterfalls in the book are accessible to the public. Some guides include waterfalls that exist on private property. To me that seems silly. Why would I want to be shown a beautiful waterfall in a hiking book that I had no access to? In The Falcon Guide, some hikes do cross onto private property but Melissa attained written permission from the property owners stating that it is okay that hikers are on their property to view the waterfalls.
How Melissa’s quest for hiking waterfalls started:
Twenty-two years ago Melissa took a trip to N.E. Georgia for one week because she wanted to see a waterfall. Raven Cliff Falls was her first and she immediately knew that she had to see more. By the end of the week she had seen a total of nine waterfalls.
The following year she returned to N.E. Georgia for a month and saw about 35 waterfalls.
This blossomed into a quest to see more and more. She traveled from Georgia to North Carolina to South Carolina following her passion.
Melissa is a walking, talking source of waterfall information. During the interview, she mentioned that there are 250 waterfalls in Transylvania County alone. And even though it is known as “the land of waterfalls”, a lot of those waterfalls are on private property. Good to know.
Her method for providing the simplest most accurate directions begins with her walking with a tape recorder and talking into it while she hikes. As she walks she constantly comments about what she sees. She also continually shares the directions she is walking in. If she reaches a fork in the road and takes the right path, she says, “I am approaching a fork in the road and veering to my right.”
After that she makes written notes, collects any free literature from the sites and compiles it into her computer. For Hiking Waterfalls, she sent her information to each State and National Park to get the blessings from the rangers there regarding her accuracy. She corresponded back and forth and fine-tuned the information until all parties were satisfied.
“My church is in the forest. I look at a leaf or a little caterpillar and I see God there.”
Less then a year ago, she re-hiked every trail in her books (She also wrote another book on the waterfalls in Georgia and South Carolina) to double check the accuracy of her directions and to make sure that all of her information was up to date.
Melissa took every picture, wrote every word, hiked every trail and created all of the trail maps in The Falcon Guides: Hiking Waterfalls in North Carolina. The experience contained within the covers of the book consists more then 20 years of hiking. Melissa wrote the book over a 6-year period. To put this into perspective, this breaks down to approximately 2 ½ years of a Monday through Friday 9 to 5 job.
Melissa smiled as she shared, “My mom was my preliminary editor for my books and really made them the quality products that they are.” Her family was very supportive during this process. One of my favorite stories is about her nephew Corey.
It seems that sixteen-year-old Corey was determined to be in one of the photos in her book. If you look at the photo on page 166 for Sliding Rock, there he is in all of his glory. What you don’t know is that this picture was taken Thanksgiving weekend. While all of the adults in the family were in their winter coats (including the author who was taking the picture) Corey was on a mission. He braved the cold, donned his swimming trunks and slid down the waterfall with a big smile and two thumbs up. As soon as he reached the bottom, he was surrounded with blankets and layers of clothing. Go Corey!
When she is not writing books, Melissa is a firefighter in Palm Beach County, Florida. She actually drives the fire truck and teaches the 3 mandatory classes to firefighters who want to become driver engineers. She has been a firefighter for 19 years and is also a paramedic.
In her free time she loves Adventure racing. Adventure racing is a three-part competition that takes place in the woods and consists of: mountain biking, paddling and running. It is all done with a map and compass. These 3-4 person co-ed teams are given coordinates to find and must do so while biking, paddling or running to complete the course.
Melissa prefers the 30-hour overnight course and is the “navigator” on her team.
“I’m just a chick that likes to play in the woods.”
While we were sitting there, Melissa excused herself and went to her car. She told me that she wanted to show me something. When she came back she was carrying a walking stick. She explained that her walking stick had seen over 10,000 miles. I felt honored that she shared this with me.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Mikey: her dog, best friend and constant companion. He has hiked most of the trails in her books. And if you look closely at the photos in her hiking guide you will see this handsome fellow in a few of the shots.
This month, Melissa is working on her next book: A Falcon Guide to camping in North Carolina. Her goal is to document every public campground in the state. This includes those in: National parks, National forests, State parks and City and County campgrounds. In North Carolina there are 100 counties and she has already spoken with a representative in every county to find every single one.
The Falcon Guides: Hiking Waterfalls in North Carolina was released on September 1st of this year. This spring will be filled with book signings so look for her locally at places like Malaprops. When you see her she will probably be in her trademark hat, with a big smile and Mikey by her side.
For a copy of her book: contact falcon.com or for a signed copy you can contact Melissa directly at gypsyfool.com.
When Melissa retires, she plans on retiring locally. She bought a house near Brevard and when she retires it is her dream to live there and facilitate hikes to waterfalls. Warning: her passion and joy are contagious so if you don’t want to play in the woods and be in the moment, don’t hire her.
Lorri Gifford has been reading Tarot Cards since 1986. While living in California, she worked at The Chopra Center for Well-being as their Spa Director and a Lead Educator. In 2009 her intuition guided her to move to Asheville. Lorri enjoys writing, giving readings, coaching and helping others develop and deepen their intuition. She can be reached at www.readingswithlorri.com or 828.505.4485.
By: Virginia Kaufmann
Are you still
I fear your days are done.
Although your eyes are open
is almost gone.
Please don’t be frightened,
you’ve always been
I’m coming back,
sweet Mother Dear,
to hold you
in my arms;
just like you did
when I was small
you’d always make me warm.
You’ve given lives
and though we all have grown,
we share your heart,
with children of our own.
I cherish what
I’ve learned from you
I am who I am
because I took a different path
and you helped me
find my way.
are what I hold most dear
I only want
the best for you
now that the Angels near.
Please give her Peace
Dear God I pray
to you she does belong.
For she has always lived her life
to be with you
Virginia Kaufmann lives in the hills of Weaverville surrounded by the love of her wonderful chef-husband, Daniel and her beautiful, amazing daughter, Bridget.