Archive for June, 2011

Valerie Gribben talks fairytales, medicine in New York Times

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 by Noelle Matteson

The Fairytale Trilogy by Valerie GribbenAn essay by NewSouth Books author Valerie Gribben, “Practicing Medicine Can Be Grimm Work,” appears in today’s New York Times Op-Ed pages. Gribben, a medical student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, is the author of The Fairytale Trilogy, a collection of three of her young adult fantasy novels, including one she published with NewSouth when she was only sixteen years old.

In her essay, Gribben remarks on how her fascination with fairytales has informed her understanding of her patients as a medical student. Though for a time she set aside her storybooks for more scholarly pursuits, she realizes now how those stories illuminate human behavior, both good and bad. From the essay:

The Grimm fairy tales once seemed like they took place in lands far, far away, but I see them now in my everyday hospital rotations. I’ve already met many of the eternal cast of characters. I’ve taken down their histories—the abandoned prince, the barren couple—or seen their handiwork—the evil stepmother, the lecherous king.

Fairy tales are, at their core, heightened portrayals of human nature, revealing, as the glare of injury and illness does, the underbelly of mankind. Both fairy tales and medical charts chronicle the bizarre, the unfair, the tragic. And the terrifying things that go bump in the night are what physicians treat at 3 a.m. in emergency rooms …

Fairy tales also remind me that what I’m seeing now has come before. Child endangerment is not an invention of the Facebook Age. Elder neglect didn’t arrive with Gen X. And discharge summaries are not always happy; Death in his tattered shroud waits at the end of many journeys.

Healing, I’m learning, begins with kindness, and most fairy tales teach us to show kindness wherever we can, to the stooped little beggar and the highest nobleman. In another year, I, too, will be among the new medical doctors embarking on another phase of my training. The Brothers Grimm will accompany me.

Read Gribben’s full essay at the New York Times website.

Valerie’s own Fairytale Trilogy features dragons, sorcerers, and fairies, but at its heart is a young woman whose struggles with relationships, deceit, and responsibility are not so different from our own. The Fairytale Trilogy, perfect for young adult readers, is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson recalls Charles Rose, vibrant and true

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

A Ford in the River by Charles RoseOne NewSouth author remembered another this past month. Syndicated newspaper columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson called her former Auburn University English professor Charles Rose “vibrant and true” in her weekly column; Rose died June 6, 2011 at the age of 80.

Johnson, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist and author of Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir, took Rose’s creative writing course at Auburn in the 1970s. In her column “The Outline of a Man,” Johnson recalled how Rose (whose students called him “Charlie,” not Dr. Rose) held office hours at a local hamburger joint, and taught writing often by reading to his students. Johnson recalled:

I remember to this day tips he gave me about dialogue. Turns out a lot of dialogue is “understood,” and doesn’t have to be “expressed.” He improved my short stories with a few deft marks of his pen and a quiet suggestion or two. I’d leave that restaurant thinking I might have some kind of future with words, or at least some kind of future. And the ability to give an insecure kid that feeling might be the best definition of teaching that there is. 

Later Johnson would learn that, as well as writing short stories and screenplays, Rose was a talented jazz musician and dedicated hospice volunteer. He recounted his volunteer experiences in his book In the Midst of Life: A Hospice Volunteer’s Story. Rose’s book of short stories, A Ford in the River, is forthcoming in July from NewSouth Books.

Read Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s full column, “The Outline of a Man.”

Charles Rose’s and Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s books are both available direct from NewSouth Books or your favorite local bookseller.

Ted Dunagan wins second Georgia Author of the Year Award

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 by Lisa Harrison

Secret of the Satilfa by Ted DunaganTed M. Dunagan was honored with his second Georgia Author of the Year Award for Young Adult Fiction for his novel Secret of the Satilfa, published by NewSouth Books, in an award ceremony held June 11 at the KSU Center in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Mr. Dunagan won the 2009 GAYA for his debut novel, A Yellow Watermelon; the book was also named to the inaugural 25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read list compiled by the Georgia Center for the Book.

The Georgia Author of the Year Award is the oldest literary competition in the southeast. Submissions are evaluated for their narrative quality, creativity, enduring message, and ability to evoke emotion.

Katherine Mason, Assistant Professor of English Education at Wichita State University and lead judge of the Young Adult category, commented, “Dunagan’s engaging writing style and language choices allow him to depict seemingly small events in rich detail (e.g., the thrill and danger of the Spinning Jenny; the smells, tastes, and textures of home cooked food; the boys’ apparent ease of setting up camp and catching, cleaning, and frying fish on an open fire). Young adults and adults alike will enjoy tagging along on another of Ted and Poudlum’s adventures in Secret of the Satilfa.”

Ted Dunagan’s books, set squarely in Southern literary tradition, chronicle the adventures of young Ted and Poudlum, friends despite the racial divide in the rural South in the late 1940s. In Secret of the Satilfa, Ted and Poudlum have their post-Thanksgiving fishing trip to the Cypress Hole on the Satilfa Creek interrupted by unwelcome visitors — fugitive bank robbers. They manage to escape and return to the creek to search — along with seemingly half the locals — for money rumored to have been hidden there by the criminals. Their escapades help them grow in character and understanding about their world and themselves.

A Montgomery Advertiser review recently lauded Ted’s books as “magnificent literary works that are realistic and relatable.”

NewSouth will publish the third Ted and Poudlum adventure, Trouble on the Tombigbee, in August 2011.

Secret of the Satilfa and A Yellow Watermelon are available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online or retail bookseller.

Tom House talks poetry, songwriting with Nashville Byline

Monday, June 20th, 2011 by Katharine Freeman

The World According to Whiskey by Tom House

Guitarist and songwriter Tom House, author of the poetry collection The World According to Whiskey, sat down with Radley Balko of the Nashville Byline blog to discuss his poetry and play a few songs. House began writing at 17 and moved to Nashville, where he tells Balko that singing got you “free beer, maybe a sandwich.” In addition to The World According to Whiskey, House founded the magazine Raw Bone, has written several poetry and chap books, and recently released a new CD.

From the interview:

Are there any poets who particularly influenced you?

[W]hen I discovered Bukowski, it really hit me that there was a whole other kind of poetry, a more conversational sort of poetry. It was more storytelling. I think that’s where poetry and songwriting started to convene for me. I have a friend, David Rigsbee, who says poetry is a slice across the throat of time. You walk into a scene and you pick out all the details that are important to the scene, and that’s the poem. Songwriting is kind of like that too.

You write about some unsavory characters. Drunks, addicts, mental patients, murderers, scoundrels. How do you get into the heads of the people you write about?

I think on those first-person songs, it’s about getting locked into the head of the character, and then to not feel any embarrassment about being there. It’s a lot like method acting, I think. You try to become the person you’re writing about, to speak like they do, and think like they do. I love Tom Waits and Richard Thompson, who are both so good at that. But I like the old time stuff, too. There’s some unabashed darkness in those old songs.

Talk about one of the songs you played for us, “Nothing at the Core.”

That song was inspired by the book Things Fall Apart, by the South African author . . . Achebe. That’s one of the lines in the song, “things fall apart.” The song is a somewhat pessimistic view of the United States in the 21st century. I’m not anti-American. I’m very pro-America when it comes to the things America is supposed to stand for. I just don’t think we stand for those things anymore. We’ve lost our core.

Tom House – “Nothing At The Core” from Mark Crozier on Vimeo.

To read the full interview, visit the Nashville Byline blog.

The World According to Whiskey, by Tom House, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Phil Noble meets Student Freedom Riders in Anniston

Friday, June 17th, 2011 by Katharine Freeman

Beyond the Burning Bus by J. Phillips NobleRev. J. Phillips Noble, author of Beyond the Burning Bus: The Civil Rights Revolution in a Southern Town, took part in the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides this May in Anniston, Alabama, where the 2011 Student Freedom Ride passed through to commemorate the 1961 bus bombing. He reflects on the role the citizens of Anniston played in the celebration, and what the restorative power of forgiveness and respect can do to the town once divided by hate.

Anniston welcomed the forty Student Freedom Riders on May 11, 2011. The painted bus with “Freedom Riders” written in large, bright yellow lettering pulled on to Noble Street to be warmly welcomed by members of the Spirit of Anniston Board. They were treated with an elegant dinner of southern food at the Classic Restaurant on Noble Street. The forty Freedom Riders were selected from an application list of about one thousand who applied. The ones selected were from all over the United States and several foreign countries. Most of them had never been to the South and were not familiar with its history and culture.

After the dinner, the group was taken to the Anniston Public Library for a reception and program. With about fifty-plus Anniston citizens, the Freedom Riders heard from members of the Spirit of Anniston details about the bus burning and various ones were recognized for the part they played in helping the city to deal with the crisis and issues that were brought to a head by the burning of the bus. They were surrounded by pictures that traced the events leading up to the bus burning to the graphic conclusion with the bus in flames and Freedom Riders lying on the ground and KKK men standing around with their clubs.

The program was highlighted by the introduction of several of the original Freedom Riders, all of whom were quite elderly. And also the girl who brought water to the injured Freedom Riders, now living in California, was there. She was a real heroine. Several who were on the bus when it was attacked made moving statements about their experience. While deep emotion was being felt as stories were told, the most moving thing that happened was when Richard Couch stood up and said his father was a part of the KKK attacking the bus and he wanted to apologize and ask forgiveness for what his father did. Being near Hank Thomas, one of the Freedom Riders, Richard extended his hand and Hank reached out his hand and they embraced with eyes filled with tears, and there were many tears all around. It was a profound moment with deep and maybe spiritual meaning for everybody. The students seemed especially touched. What a contrast from the hate fifty years ago and the expression of forgiveness and love in this moment.

The next morning the group, including professional and media photographers, and the Spirit of Anniston leaders and other Anniston citizens gathered at the site of the Greyhound bus station to see a wonderful mural painting of the Greyhound bus. Then the group moved to the site of the Trailway bus station where there was a mural painting of the Trailway bus. It looked so real that one almost felt they were standing there waiting to get on the bus.

The Freedom Riders, with amazement and excitement, got on the bus for a four hour ride to Nashville.

Many of us who knew Anniston fifty years ago and could see the transformation that had taken place had a strange feeling inside and were grateful that now a whole race of people have the harsh system of segregation removed so they may feel a new since of freedom and experience a new world of opportunity.

Beyond the Burning Bus: The Civil Rights Revolution in a Southern Town, by Rev. J. Phillips Noble, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Friends, colleagues remember Kathryn Tucker Windham

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Colleagues of Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died this past weekend at the age of 93, remember her as a writer, storyteller, and mentor.

Windham’s hometown paper, The Selma Times-Journal, interviewed NewSouth editor Randall Williams, who’s edited Windham’s writing for almost twenty years. Williams told the Times Journal, “She was a pioneer in a lot of ways as a journalist and storyteller — helping to popularize the genre of storytelling and remaining one of the most popular on the national circuit. She wrote nearly 30 books, including cookbooks and ghost stories, and she ranks as our best seller as an Alabama author.”

Williams also spoke with the WBHM radio station in Birmingham, one of many stations that aired Windham’s storytelling segments on National Public Radio. Reporter Bradley George soke with Williams about editing Windham’s books. “[Williams] says she’d come to him with fully formed manuscripts that didn’t need much editing … Windham was a clear communicator and that’s why her work resonated with so many readers.”

Williams told Bradley, “[Windham] could say it better than you could, but for people who had grown up in Alabama, especially people of a certain age, she understood how to capture those experiences that were common experiences to people in the South and to the culture.”

On NPR’s All Things Considered program, reporter Debbie Elliott recalled meeting Windham while in college, and many years later how Elliott brought her children to Windham’s home and attended Windham’s induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor. Windham had contributed to NPR for over thirty years.

Ted Parkhurst, chairman of the National Storytelling Network, noted that Windham has “one of the most-invited performers in a community of professionals.” In remembrance, he wrote:

Not quite five feet tall, stooped but raising her head to look the audience in the eye, she admonished introducers and audiences alike. Emcees citing anything more than her name, hometown, and occupation — “storyteller” — received curt reprimands. Audiences expecting “sugar and spice” were often shocked by her earthiness. One day in private conversation, I made the mistake of including her among “sweet little old ladies” of my acquaintance. She arched a wicked eyebrow and shot back, “Don’t you call me ‘sweet!’” Her thin voice and halting delivery could not hide a ton of heart, and that’s why audiences coast-to-coast filled her venues beyond capacity and sent her off-stage with standing ovations.

Finally, Auburn University journalism professor Ed Williams shared a special web page commemorating his Newswriting Class’s trip to visit Windham in November 2009. Windham spoke with the class about her career as a newspaper reporter, and also led the students in a rousing rendition of the Auburn University fight song, played in inimitable Kathryn Tucker Windham style on a comb. You can visit the page for photographs and video from the visit.

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s latest book was her memoir, Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees. Information about a memorial will be forthcoming. We invite anyone with a story to share about Mrs. Windham to leave a comment below or on the NewSouth Books Facebook page, and help us remember our friend and author.

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s photography recalled in Encounters

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died Sunday, was well-known as a story-teller and an author. Less well-known was her considerable talent as a photographer. Among Mrs. Windham’s favorites of her own books was Encounters, a 1998 collection of photos and essays edited and published by NewSouth editor Randall Williams. In the introduction to that book (now sadly out of print), Williams wrote:

In an essay in her 1996 book, Twice Blessed, Kathryn Tucker Windham tells how she got started taking pictures as a child in Thomasville, Alabama. She got up before daylight one day in the summer of 1930 to be first in line at the People’s Drug Company to receive one of the half-million Brownie cameras that Eastman Kodak was giving away to twelve-year-olds for the company’s fiftieth anniversary. Her conscience, she wrote, always troubled her that she never properly thanked Kodak for that first camera.

Over the years her cameras have included a Speed Graphic, a Yashica, a Cannon, and a Pentax. But the Brownie was the beginning, and this book includes several images (“First Airplane Ride,” “Basket Maker,” “Uncle Hiram Davis,” and “Woman With Spinning Wheel”) made with that camera, a git that led to her life-long interest in photography.

In memory of writer and teacher Charles Rose

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Writer and teacher Charles Rose died this past week in Auburn, Alabama. He taught literature at Auburn University for thirty-four years, and was the author of numerous short stories, screenplays, and the memoir In the Midst of Life: A Hospice Volunteer’s Story. His collection of short stories, A Ford in the River, is forthcoming from NewSouth Books.

The Alabama State Council on the Arts awarded Rose a fellowship in 2004; in 1999, Rose served as a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. He is also a past Hospice Volunteer of the Year.

The Southern Humanities Review wrote that in In the Midst of Life, Rose “masterfully blends poetic prose with journalistic detail. He writes about death — the inevitable, the equalizer — but does so in a way that he demystifies its power to destroy and emphasizes instead its ability to forge the least likely connections among people, reminding us in the process to celebrate the magic surrounding even the most ordinary lives.”

Long-time friend and colleague Jay Lamar, director of Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities at Auburn University, attended the memorial service for Rose. “What impressed me,” Lamar said, “was how beautifully Charlie’s sense of humor, brilliant mind, and genuine human kindness were conveyed. Family, students, colleagues, and his many friends shared as many laughs as tears, and Charlie would not have had it any other way.”

Our condolences to Charles Rose’s family and friends on his loss. Contributions can be made in Rose’s honor to the American Cancer Society.

Remembering Kathryn Tucker Windham

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

We at NewSouth Books were saddened at the passing of our friend and author Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died at her home in Selma yesterday.

Mrs. Windham was not only a favored author and storyteller of such works as the “Jeffrey” ghost story series; she was also a groundbreaking journalist — one of Alabama’s first female reporters — and a frequent contributor to NPR. Her latest book was Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, a memoir.

NewSouth enjoyed sharing a number of occasions with Mrs. Windham, remembered in the Kathryn Tucker Windham section of the NewSouth Books blog.

In a feature in the Montgomery Advertiser, former Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce president Jamie Wallace called Mrs. Windham “a national treasure, a woman of remarkable talents who paved the way for others in the pursuit of journalistic excellence … She will forever be remembered for her love of life, family, friends, community and preservation of stories.”

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s books available from NewSouth include Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, Ernest’s Gift, Alabama, One Big Front Porch, Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees, and Simon Went Fishing on Sunday. We join with the Alabama community in fondly remembering Mrs. Windham.

Billie Jean Young wins Women of Distinction Award

Friday, June 3rd, 2011 by Sam Robards

Fear Not the Fall by Billie Jean Young

NewSouth Books would like to congratulate Billie Jean Young on being selected by the Alabama Department of Education and AT&T for inclusion in the 2011 Alabama African American History Calendar as well as being recognized by the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama as one of the recipients of the 2011 Women of Distinction Award. Young is the author of Fear Not the Fall, which was published by NewSouth Books. Fear Not the Fall features her play Fanny Lou Hamer: This Little Light.

According to the Alabama African American History Calendar’s website, “The individuals featured on the African American History Calendar are shining role models for all of our children. The 2011 calendar honorees have excelled in various areas such as education, business, entertainment, sports, public service, civic and community leadership.”

An excerpt from Young’s profile reads:

Billie Jean Young is Artist-In-Residence on the faculty of Judson College in Marion, Alabama. The talented Choctaw County native, born July 21, 1947, is poet, author, actor, activist, and educator, and has spent a lifetime merging her various talents into a unique and multi-faceted career focused on the Civil Rights Movement, rural women and Alabama Blackbelt life. Billie Jean Young was educated in the public schools of Choctaw County. She is a graduate of Judson College and she holds a Juris Doctorate from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.

Young is a prolific writer. Her book of poems, Fear Not the Fall (2004), includes her one-woman play, Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light… which Young has performed for twenty seven years throughout the U.S., and abroad on four continents. Her newest book entitled, Now How You Do? A Memoir (2010) is a book of letters written by an Alabama woman, Susie M. Young, to her daughters. The letters cover a span of thirty years and provide a running commentary on life in the impoverished Alabama Blackbelt. Besides her best known play about Mississippi freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer, Young has written and directed several other plays with Civil Rights Movement heroes, among them: Jimmy Lee (2009) which commemorates the contributions of Jimmie Lee Jackson of Perry County, and Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep: The Margaret Ann Knott Legacy, (2007) which memorializes the martydom of Margaret Ann Knott of Choctaw County.

The Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama also honored Young by awarding her one of the 2011 Women of Distinction Awards.

According to the Girl Scouts’ website, the award recognizes and celebrates “women from Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Marion, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties who have a personal record of significant contributions in their communities and professions, and are positive role models for past, current, and future Girl Scouts.”

Fear Not the Fall, by Billie Jean Young, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.