North America has Bigfoot. Nepal has the Abominable Snowman. Ireland their Banshees. Everywhere you go, there are monster stories. Well, West Virginia is not one to be left out. My home state has several mythical monsters of its own. Our uniquely Appalachian monsters include . . . The Mothman – This is the legend that inspired a 2002 movie starring […]
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. […]
It’s officially the time of year when seed catalogs become irresistible. I pore over gaudy pictures of corn with luxurious silks, scandalously red tomatoes, strawberries glinting like jewels, and squash that make me wonder why I don’t eat vegetables ALL the time. And I begin to dream of gardening. Of course, the dream is nothing like reality. There’s no thought of the tractor breaking down while disking the garden. I forget the bazillion rocks we “harvested” from the freshly plowed rows on the farm each spring. And weeds? Come on . . . as long as we don’t let them get ahead of us . . . But my husband is the voice of reason. And he reminds me that I’m not even very good at gardening. Last summer I estimate that I got at least $15 worth of cherry tomatoes from the $14 plant I kept in a pot out front. (We won’t talk about the cost of potting soil.) And my herbs are certainly a savings over buying those plastic packs at the grocery store. As long as I remember to use them. Last summer’s potatoes were certainly a savings since I just planted some old, store-bought spuds that had sprouted in the pantry. I at least broke even on that one. And yet . . . When I see the sign at Southern States advertising onion sets. And picture sweet peas flowering on a trellis made from […]
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 […]
I got to spend a few days last week back home at the farm in West Virginia. While trips are usually steeped in family time, I did have a solitary morning to soak in the peace. I thought you might like a little dose of that as well . . . Just me, the morning mist, and a few deer for company.
Okay, so not many folks think of Lent, which starts this Wednesday, as a celebration. This is, after all, a serious time when we’re meant to reflect, repent, and ponder Christ’s sacrifice for us. But I love Lent and, for me, it’s a somber celebration. I relish the notion of having a time set aside to actively anticipate and prepare for the best worst thing that ever happened. It’s the ultimate looking forward to. So, how to celebrate Lent? First, I like to consider whether to give up/sacrifice something or add something. I’ve given up specific foods (French fries!), credit cards, shopping, checking reviews of my books, and one year I even gave up fear. That one was tough! I think I’ve only added something once–it was the fruits of the Spirit. Now that was a good year! If you’re giving something up, it should be a challenge. If it’s not hard, what’s the point? One year I gave up candy. Where I work there’s a candy dish in every office. It was tough not even snagging a mint! On the flip side, this probably isn’t the time to stop smoking if you’ve been a pack-a-day smoker for years. I’ve toyed with giving up sugar, but recognize that would be setting myself up for failure. If you’re adding something, make sure it’s something you can stick to as well. Pray as you drive to work each morning. Read one of the Psalms […]
There’s no shortage of great story ideas in the hills and hollers of Appalachia. But my favorite place to mine for stories is my own family. A few years ago, I used Ancestry.com to research Dad’s side of the family. We knew our farm had come down through the Phillips line, but I hadn’t realized just how STRONG that line […]