Good News from the Great Smokies Writing Community

by Tommy Hays, Executive Director, Great Smokies Writing Program

Martha O. Adams published a new collection of poems, “Buried Seed” (March 2015, House of Myrrth). She presented a program at the Henderson County Public Library in April, titled “The Power of Poetry In Times of Abundance, Loss and Dramatic Change; Stories, Poems and Conversations with Martha O. Adams.”

Christopher Arbor published a children's book illustrated by his students and colleagues at Asheville School. All proceeds go back to Asheville School's Art Department. He provides a link: Arbor/dp/1511662204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449795962&sr=8-1&keywords=%22wide-eyed+surprise%22

Tina Barr’s latest book, Kaleidoscope (Iris Press, 2015), has been reviewed recently in American Book Review, with reviews also in Tar River Poetry and North Carolina Literary Review. The Washington Independent Review of Books said of her work: “It takes a champion to write like this.” Her poems have appeared recently in Tar River Review, Kestrel, PoemMemoirStory, Gargoyle, and elsewhere.

Kevin Baxter has recently had articles published that fulfill his goal of continuing his work with child advocacy. As a recently retired teacher from the Buncombe County School System, after having been selected as their county Teacher of the Year in 2006, he found the Great Smokies Writing Program and a class with Christine Hale, which gave him the tools to write about working with children. Below is a link to one of his pieces, from Teachers and Writers Magazine, Nov. 30, 2015:

Danny Bernstein's Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South was published in early 2016, with a book launch at Malaprops on April 8. Danny then went on a book tour all over the South. Part of the book was written and workshopped in Dale Neal's “A Well-Wrought Reality” nonfiction class, and an excerpt was published in the Carolina Mountain Literary Festival anthology. Her piece on “The 900 Miler Club” was published in the Spring 2015 issue of Smokies Life. Danny taught a workshop on “Guiding Others through Places You Love,” at the NC Writers Network Conference in November 2015.

Lenny Bernstein's novel, The Great Rebellion, was published in August 2015 by Kimberly Crest Books. It is the first book of an alternate history trilogy set in a world in which Washington's crossing of the Delaware led to a catastrophic defeat and the collapse of the American Revolution. Told as the autobiography of eighty-year-old William Watson, who as a thirteen-year-old boy was at Washington's side when the rebels surrendered, the novel follows William as he grows to manhood, learns a trade, and fathers sons he will never see. The story was workshopped in Great Smokies Writing Program classes taught by Tommy Hays and Elizabeth Lutyens. The King's Own Virginians, Book Two of the trilogy, will be published later this year.

Cheri Brackett’s story, “Falling Leaves,” was accepted by Empty Sink magazine for publication in its March issue. The editor’s comment: “Nothing short of incredible. What a story … this is a great, great story." Cheri has also been published in the Laurel of Asheville (January 28, 2016)—not as a writer but as the cover artist. She was a student in the Great Smokies Prose Master Class last spring.

Bob Brooks, writing as R.R. Brooks, has published his novel Justi the Gifted (Leo Publishing Inc., January 2015). This 320-page epic fantasy novel of a special gift from a god gone awry has attracted some 4.5-star reviews in the usual places. His new short story, “To Believe or Not,” a tale of the unexpected consequences of a past love and breakup, went live on Feb 25, 2016, at Infective Ink (

Ginny Callaway has taken a number of GSWP classes, most recently from Tommy Hays. With his encouragement, she submitted a story to WNC Magazine, which appeared in the January/February 2016 issue:

Ann Ceraldi has been accepted into the New York University MFA Writers Workshop in Paris. This is a low-residency program running winter and summer residencies over two years, with faculty including, among others, Nathan Englander, Meghan O'Rourke, Zadie Smith, Darin Strauss, and Colson Whitehead. Ann has been a student most recently in the Great Smokies Prose Master Class.

Nancy Dillingham has published a new book of poems, Horizons, and a fictionalized memoir titled Buried Lives: Memoir of a Survivor. Both books are available on Kindle. Nancy and her co-editor, Celia Miles, have published their fourth anthology, It's All Relative: Tales from the Tree from 50 WNC Women Writers.

Hannah Epperson’s short story, “It Will Be A Better Land,” has been accepted for publication in Anchor and Plume's Kindred literary magazine for March. Hannah wrote the story in Tommy Hays' MLAS class during the fall, 2015, semester.

Janet Ford took a GSWP course, The Heart of the Story, in Spring 2015. She published a short story in It's All Relative: Tales from the Tree, a women's anthology (Stone Ivy Press, 2015), and she completed a residency at Weymouth in Southern Pines, NC, in February. Also in February, she read at Malaprop's, along with other contributors to the anthology.

Robin Gaiser’s book, Musical Morphine: Transforming Pain One Note At A Time, was written and critiqued in Tommy Hays’ class and edited by Julie Abbott, Submissions Editor of The Great Smokies Review. It will be released June 1 in print version through Pisgah Press and in audio format through SpokenWord. Her poem, “Kalanchoe,” composed in Tina Barr's poetry class last spring, will be included as an Epilogue. Grateful Steps publishing named her a finalist, for the third year in a row, in their annual short story contest, and the publisher is creating an anthology of all the finalists' stories. Updates about book readings and signings are available on her website:

Rebecca Gallo’s nonfiction piece, “Resolution 2016: Walk the Camino de Santiago,” was published on

Ginger Graziano published her memoir, See, There He Is, in July 2015. She has taken Great Smokies classes with Chris Hale, Cathy Smith Bowers, and Katherine Soniat, who says about the work: “For Ginger Graziano to write this powerfully honest memoir, See, There He Is, she had to cultivate keen insight, fortitude, and distance—then have the talent to knit these various threads of lives together: her own and her family’s, while central to the memoir is always the tragic death of her son. A unique story only one woman can tell, and only once…”

Anne Green’s poem “Flight” was published in Art Inspires Poetry: An anthology of ekphrastic poems and the art that inspired them, published by the Craven Arts Council & Gallery, New Bern, N.C. “Flight” is an adaption of a poem she began in a GSWP workshop on ekphrastic poetry taught by Ken Chamlee in 2014.

Connie Gunter, a student of Vicki Lane in the Great Smokies Writing Program, was the nonfiction prizewinner of the 2015 New Southerner Literary Edition competition for her piece titled “Degrees of Poor.” A celebratory reading was held January 30 at Bard’s Town in Louisville, Kentucky featuring the winners, finalists, and semi-finalists in poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. The competition judge, Richard Goodman, commented:
“With grace and affection, the author gives us a moving portrait of her parents and the struggles they went through to provide for their family in a small Appalachian town, where every penny counted…The writing is lyrical and honest, and the story carries with it a deep resonance, because, even with the profound admiration the writer has for her parents, she does not avert her eyes to the internal conflicts those difficult and humiliating circumstances created.”

Christine Hale’s memoir A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations (Apprentice House, July 2016) will launch at Malaprop's on June 30 at 7:00 p.m. Advance praise from Dinty W. Moore: “Christine Hale’s A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice is an exquisite engagement with those tough human questions that must be asked even if they can never be answered. Hale writes toward acceptance, every page brimming with honesty, insight, and deep understanding. A truly beautiful meditation in lovely, lively prose.” Chris is a member of The Great Smokies Writing Program faculty.

Elizabeth Heaney has taken classes with Tommy Hays and Katey Schultz. Her non-fiction book, The Honor Was Mine, about her years counseling combat veterans on military bases will be published by Grand Harbor Press in Sept. 2016. From one of the press releases: “This book is about the stories carried deep in the hearts of our combat veterans, the courage it takes to share them, and the grace of having someone truly listen.”

Mickey Hunt has short stories forthcoming this year so far at AntipodeanSF based in Australia, in a book of the Dark Mountain Project based in Great Britain, in the Mad Scientist Journal, and at the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Vickie Lane's workshop class helped him with the story for the Dark Mountain Project, “more or less about bears and beekeeping.” He is also self-publishing his Jonathan T. Barron weird paranormal series at

Ric Hunter took a Great Smokies class from Vicki Lane that helped him in getting his historical fiction novel Firehammer published (Red Engine Press, 2013), with an audio version forthcoming. It has won several awards and was entered by its publisher for Pulitzer Prize consideration. He has also had several editorials published and two Guest Commentaries in the Asheville Citizen-Times. In his “Come Fly With Me: the F-4 Phantom and the End of the Vietnam War” presentations to civic groups, he visually walks the audience around the aircraft he flew in the last battle of the war, shows them the battle graphics he published in Aviation History and Vietnam magazines, followed by discussion of his novel.

Brian Lee Knopp just had his personal essay “Isaiah 11:6” accepted for publication by Stoneboat Journal, slated to appear in late April. He read an excerpt from the essay last year at one of the Malaprop’s Writers at Home readings. He reports: “The audience seemed to like it. At least they laughed more than they frowned. That was encouragement enough for me to send it off.” Brian teaches in the Great Smokies Writing Program.

Patricia Looper has just had her second book published: Dear Budd: Wit and Wisdom from a man with MS who never gave up. The book will inspire those who are disabled and those who care for loved ones in similar circumstances. Budd is Patricia's late father, weakened by multiple sclerosis until he no longer could walk. His sense of humor remained despite his loss of a physically active life and having to enter a nursing home when only 52 years old. Friends encouraged him to share his wit, wisdom, faith and love of life through a local church newspaper column. The book reproduces the columns, along with comments from Patricia.

Constance Lombardo, who took Joy Neaves' writing classes twice, has some good news to share: her second illustrated middle grade novel, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins) will be published in September.

Kim Winter Mako has been a student in Eric Steineger’s poetry class and Elizabeth Lutyens’ Prose Master Class. Her essay on being a Writer at Work appears in this issue of The Great Smokies Review. Kim’s short story, “If There is Anything Else You Can Do,” has been published at Cosmonauts Avenue.

Sebastian Matthews’ third book of poems, Beginner's Guide to Surviving a Head-on Collision, is due out from Red Hen Press in fall 2017.

Denise Meyers’ screenplay, Ride the Wind: The Bessie Stringfield Story, about the first African-American woman to be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the only woman who was a motorcycle dispatch rider in World War Two, won a coveted spot on the 2016 Athena List as part of the Athena Film Festival. In the six-year history of the Athena List, Denise is the only writer to have two screenplays reach the final round of judging. Her Lucky 13, about the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, was also announced as an Athena Finalist. Denise took a Great Smokies class from Heather Newton.

Jim Murphy writes a monthly feature for The Laurel of Asheville, “On a Personal Note.” He reports that he particularly enjoyed interviewing Tommy Hays for one of his stories, as well as Mary Grant, the new Chancellor of UNC Asheville. “It’s a great gig,” he says. “I get to hold the most interesting people in Asheville hostage for an hour or two, picking their brains for revealing little tidbits. I enjoy the process, grabbing bits of information and puzzling them together to make some sort of picture in no more than 800 words. Heady challenge.” Jim has taken Great Smokies classes from Vicki Lane and Elizabeth Lutyens. (Link to Tommy Hays profile:

Bob Mustin recently published Collateral Damage and Other Stories (AuthorMike Ink Publishers). In the collection’s centerpiece, writer John Fromme suffers a mental upset caused by his refusal to confront a family murder he witnessed as a child. Quirky, richly imagined characters populate all of these stories, inviting readers to measure them against their own lives and to want to read these stories again and again. The book is available in both print and digital formats on the publisher website, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and all other major book sources. Distributed by Ingram.

Jon Michael Riley announces the publication of Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat (Dry Stack Media, July, 2015).

Bryan Robinson follows the hardback release of his debut novel, Limestone Gumption: A Brad Pope and Sisterfriends Mystery, with the launch of the paperback version at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe on March 4. Crime novelist and Derringer Award winner Joe D'Agnese interviewed Bryan about his writing career (35 nonfiction books in addition to the novel), followed by an after-party at Isa's Bistro. The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine said about the novel, “Robinson has crafted a nicely nuanced debut written with wit, humor, and pathos in this promising series opener.” Acclaimed novelist Ron Rash had this to say: “Bryan has written a mystery that keeps us guessing as well as a humorous look at small-town Southern life. Bryan Robinson has written a highly enjoyable novel!” Bryan began his Southeastern bookstore tour in March, which continues into June. The second novel in the Brad Pope and Sisterfriends series, She'll Be KILLING Round the Mountain, set in Asheville, will be published later this year. In the meantime Bryan works on the third book in the trilogy, Michael Row the BODY Ashore set on St. Helena Island, S.C., as well as a nonfiction book for writers titled, Don't Murder Yourself Before Finishing Your Mystery.

Susa Silvermarie is happy to report the following publication successes: Four poems accepted for WeMoon 2017 Datebook; two haikus published in the new Mountain Light Haiku anthology; three poems published in Goddess Pages Issue 28 Winter 2015/Spring 2016 from Glastonbury UK; a poem accepted for Smokey Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, Spring 2016 (also in SBLAAM Summer 2015 issue: one photo, one poem, and one nonfiction essay).

Pete Solet had a story, “Shooting Stars,” accepted by Gravel Magazine for its March issue. Pete has been a student in a number of Great Smokies classes, including, most recently, Elizabeth Lutyens’ Prose Master Class.

Katherine Soniat’s poetry collection Bright Stranger (April, 2016, Louisiana State University Press) is available in bookstores nationwide and online. Praise includes this from Kevin McIlvoy (The Complete History of New Mexico; Hyssop, Little Peg, The Fifth Station): “I have read no single book of contemporary poems that I admire more.” Katherine, a member of the Great Smokies faculty, has also had individual poems published recently in these literary journals: ONE, Anthology on Intimacy, St. Katherine Review, Artemis, Pedestal, It’s All Relative, an Anthology, and Absinthe Poetry Review.

Margaret Steiner’s short story “They” was a finalist in the 2016 Rash Awards. Margaret took a writing course under Vicki Lane five years ago and the Master Prose Class with Tommy Hays at the NCWN Conference in Asheville in November 2015.

Porter Taylor submitted one of his stories from Tommy Hays’ class to the Collegeville Institute and was accepted for its 2015 weeklong writing program “Apart, and Yet a Part” in July 2015. The conference was taught by Michael McGregor, author of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. Afterward, Porter submitted an excerpt from his memoir in progress to the Institute, and they are publishing it in May as part of their online journal, Bearings Online. Most recently, Porter has been a member of the Prose Master Class.

Emily Wilmer's poem Morning Will Come was published in KAKALAK 2015, a regional anthology of North and South Carolina poets.