A Noonatic’s take on history

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Fifty years ago a producer named Mickie Most signed five teen-aged musicians from Manchester, England to a record deal. It didn’t go unnoticed that Peter Noone, the lead singer, resembled a young John F. Kennedy. The resemblance proved more than skin-deep. Peter was talented, charming and Catholic to boot. And he, like Kennedy, spoke with an intrusive R–“Americar,” “Canadar,” “Cubar.” …

Yearning for a good ending

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Yearning. For me, the word brings to mind sadness, loss, frustration, yet it’s such an essential for fiction writers and storytellers. Without yearning, there isn’t much story. A competent writer must take control and frustrate the character, present what the person wants and can’t have easily, if at all. When I began to write short stories years ago, my mentor …

One Summer in America

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Very few people under 90 years old remember the summer of 1927, but all of us have been affected by it one way or another. Prior to picking up Bill Bryson’s new book, “One Summer, America 1927,” I had heard of the big Mississippi River flood, and Babe Ruth’s home run record. I grew up hearing about Charles Lindbergh’s big …

Another idyllic weekend at Weymouth

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In February, I described a residency with writer friends at Weymouth Center in Southern Pines. Those winter days were punctuated with a perfect gentle snowfall and a morning fox hunt across the grounds. Those precious days, we agreed, were unforgettable, magical. For the uninitiated, Weymouth is a sprawling mansion built by novelist James Boyd back in the 1920s with all …

Feedback that resonates

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The dictionary defines “resonance” as “the effect of an event or work of art beyond its immediate or surface meaning.” It’s an effect all artists strive for–to communicate in a special way, to touch a life. Resonance is the stuff that makes all the hours of preparation, practice and honing one’s craft worthwhile. Three weeks ago, I had privileged to …

Speaking of dead mules

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As a Road Scholar with the N.C. Humanities Council, I offer a talk entitled, “What Makes a Southern Story Southern?” It’s based on reading I did for my MFA degree a few years ago. The Southern question sprung out of research on an unrelated topic. As I read story after story, I noticed patterns among Southern stories. And I took …

Read this Harlequin book

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a Harlequin fan. That’s the publisher of fluffy romances, right? While in my MFA program at Stonecoast, I happened across a fellow student from California, Paula Trieck DeBoard, a fiction writer who was working on her thesis project, a child-narrated novel. I was immediately interested in her work since my project …

Books and movies that breathe summer

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July is a perfect time to relax with a good book. I seldom re-read a book because it leaves less time to enjoy something new, so if I were to pick a few favorites, I’d have to pack my bag of re-runs carefully. First off the shelf would be one of my all-time favorites, The Big House: A Century in …

Reimagining my own history

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I discovered the term “re-imagined fiction” as a graduate student at Stonecoast, University of Southern Maine where I had the privilege to work with novelist Adam Braver, author of November 22, 1963 and Misfit, among others. Braver’s work extends beyond standard historical fiction. By re-imagining scenes and characters within an historical context, he creates an emotive underpinning to story using …

Contrivance vs. miracle

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The phone rings when you’re thinking of that very caller. A random airline passenger used to live in your neighborhood. A cloud formation gives an awesome signal to those attending a funeral. Coincidence, miracle or Godwink, they never cease to amaze. We’re eager to share such anecdotes. The world may be large, we say, but it’s also very small. Meet …