Finding Inspiration – Smith, Rash & Cash

The Appalachian Studies Association held their annual conference in Asheville this past weekend. Can you believe it? An entire association dedicated to the study of Appalachia. While I didn’t have a chance to go to the full conference, I was able to attend the keynote event. It featured Appalachian author Wiley Cash interviewing fellow authors Lee Smith and Ron Rash. […]

Read More →

Show Don’t Tell (a new take)

It’s a common refrain among writers. Don’t tell readers what’s happening–show them. Imagine the difference between watching a movie and having someone tell you about it. The telling can get tedious fast, but watching it . . . And so, when writing a story, the trick is to pull readers into the action so that they’re seeing it unfold in their imaginations. I try to keep that in mind as I’m writing my stories. But what about when I’m living my life? Last week I read I Peter 2:11-12 – Dear friends, I urge you . . . to abstain from sinful desires . . . Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. And it occurred to me that this is the biblical version of “show, don’t tell.” Sure, it’s important to share the gospel. To tell people the good news. But it’s even more important to live it in such a way that people SEE the gospel. I can tell people all day long what God says about love, but how much more will they understand it if I, in fact, reflect his love through my treatment of them? We live in a world where people are eager to tell each other how to live. Everyone has an opinion and altogether too many platforms for sharing […]

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – Weeeeeelllll

A friend and I were talking recently about our families–mostly the senior ladies in our Appalachian families–and how they can take a single word and communicate a wide range of meanings. The perfect example is the word, “well.” Depending on the accompanying tone and expression, “well” can express a variety of messages. Here are a few: Well. (Short, clipped, with lips pinched.) An expression of disdain suggesting that you can think that if you like but you’re completely wrong. Weeellll. (Smiling, drawn out, sly sideways look.) I know what you’re getting at you devil, you! Well. (Blank expression, flat tone.) I never would have thought it of you, but there you have it. Well-ell-ell. (Laughing with a jolly expression.) Aren’t you the cutest thing I’ve ever seen? Well. (Downcast eyes, soft voice, a little breathy.) I guess that’s all there is to say about that. I don’t suppose this is exclusive to natives of our mountain region, but it’s surely been perfected here. And it’s one of my frustrations in writing. It’s so hard to share the full range of meanings on the printed page. I often end up editing out a slew of “wells” that really don’t convey what I’m after without the finer nuances of body language. Which is frustrating. But oh well.

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – You’uns or Y’all?

A reviewer recently commented that she really enjoyed one of my books but took issue with my use of you’uns instead of y’all. Now, in both of our defenses, I’d like to point out that she thought the story was set in Wise, Virginia. Now, that’s a real place where locals probably do say “y’all.” My story, however, is set in the fictional Wise, West Virginia, where locals definitely say you’uns. So, what’s the difference between the two colloquialisms? Growing up I knew lots of folks in central WV who said you’uns. As in, “You’uns come on in for supper.” Or, “Are you’uns going to the swimmin’ hole today?” Then I moved to South Carolina and fell in love with y’all. And, honestly, I’m much more likely to say y’all than you’uns. It just trips off the tongue. It’s true that you can use the terms interchangeably. They mean, essentially, the same thing. And yet, there are nuances to each. Here’s a definition of you’uns from urbandictionary.com – “A term used in southern and central Appalachia and adjacent areas to address a group of people.” Or, to be more specific, “An expression used to describe a group of people that can fit into the cab of a 1964 Dodge Stepside truck.”  I do enjoy specificity. The definition for y’all, on the other hand, is simply, “a contraction for you all.” The urban dictionary does go on to make the point […]

Read More →