Come One, Come All, Come Sunday

Bring your own blanket or lawn chairs for an outdoor jazz concert on Sunday, Sept. 25, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring internationally renowned artists performing their own tributes to Duke Ellington’s masterpiece, “Come Sunday.” Between the music and the cash bar, it can’t miss. Cost is $25 for members and $35 for non-members. Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. Info:

Flutter into Fun

Mark your calendars for monarchs! On Saturday, Sept. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., enjoy live music, fun activities and food while learning about monarch butterflies, insects, and birds. Tour the pollinator garden and step into the magical monarch butterfly tent before releasing them to join the great migration. Live music by the Carolina Philharmonic, information from local organizations, food vendors, kids’ activities and more await you at the Village Arboretum, 105 Rassie Wicker Drive, Pinehurst. Info and tickets:

The Free Company

With the creation of The Free Company, author James Boyd played a critical role in combating propaganda and defending democracy in days leading up to World War II. On Sunday, Sept. 18, at 2 p.m., the original 1941 recording of Orson Welles’ radio play His Honor, the Mayor — produced by The Free Company — will play, followed by local historian Bill Case speaking about the origins of the group. A light reception will follow.  Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. There will be a second playing of the recording on Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m. Weymouth Center for  the Arts & Humanities, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. Info:

Photograph By Ted Fitzgerald

Live After Five

Come sail away to the sweet sounds of Carolina beach music from the award-winning band The Castaways as the Live After Five season begins to wind down. Live horns and versatile vocals will swing you through everything from country to Southern rock, while you enjoy the on-site food trucks and activities for the kiddos. Picnic baskets are allowed, but leave those alcoholic beverages at home. Tufts Memorial Park, 1 Village Green Road, Pinehurst. Info:

What’s Sweeter than a Rose?

Two Roses! Check out the dynamite pair, Duo Rose — lyric soprano Elizabeth Pacheco Rose and bassoonist Saxton Rose — as they perform with Lithuanian pianist Skirmante Kezyte in an intimate concert setting on Sunday, Sept.11, at 2 p.m. at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. Tickets are $25 for members and $35 for non-members. Info:

Ruth Pauley Lecture Series

Dr. Marcia Chatelain received the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in history for her book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, which shows how the McDonald’s fast food chain became a great generator of Black wealth, and explores the intersection of race, inequality, food and consumer capitalism in America. Join her Thursday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. as she speaks on “Hungering for Change: Food Justice and Civil Rights.” The lecture is free and open to the public. Bradshaw Performing Arts Center, Sandhills Community College, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. For additional information contact

Little House in the Sandhills

Laura Ingalls-approved: Continue the celebration of the 100th year of the historic Woman’s Exchange when the cabin reopens for the fall season on Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. It will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., serving lunch daily from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sandhills Woman’s Exchange, 15 Azalea Road, Pinehurst. Info:  (910) 295-4677 or

Fall into Fun

Let the fall breeze blow you over to Autumnfest in downtown Southern Pines on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s something for everyone at this festival featuring arts and crafts, live entertainment, a 5K run, youth sprint races and great food. Follow the scent of pumpkin spice to Downtown Park, 145 S.E. Broad St., Southern Pines. Info:

Krazy for Kaboom!

Buckle up before blasting into an educational tour of the scientific method with the famed Doktor Kaboom! The klutzy but lovable educator-entertainer uses humor and comedy to demonstrate spectacular applications of physical science. Who said learning can’t be fun? Join the good Doktor for “Look Out! Science is Coming!” on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 5-6 p.m. at the Owens Auditorium, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. Info and tickets:

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Klea Blackhurst’s award-winning and critically acclaimed tribute to Ethel Merman, “Everything the Traffic Will Allow,” is in town for one night and one night only on Thursday, Sept. 29, from 7 p.m. to 8:40 p.m. in the Owens Auditorium of the Bradshaw Performing Arts Center, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. Blackhurst brings bright new interpretations to Merman’s signature songs like “I Got Rhythm” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” For info and tickets go to:

Much Ado about Mousse

Devotees of downtown Aberdeen’s The Bakehouse will be lining up for the first Lunch ‘n’ Learn of the fall season at the Sandhills Woman’s Exchange. The former owner and renowned pastry chef, Martin Brunner, will present “Making Chocolate Mousse Demo and Tasting” on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 10 a.m. As a professor of baking and pastry arts at Sandhills Community College, Brunner will ensure you and your taste buds both learn something delicious. Cost is $25 with lunch by chef Katrina. Sandhills Woman’s Exchange, 15 Azalea Road, Pinehurst. Info: (910) 295-4677 or

Simple Life

My Poetic Summer Vacation

Like dessert, the sweetest endings are meant to be shared

By Jim Dodson

Whenever our friend Joe comes to supper, he helps himself to a slice of my wife’s carrot cake before we all sit down to the meal. His philosophy, simple and sweet, is “Life’s short. Better eat dessert first.”

Sometimes, though, the best things come later in life.

More than a year ago, mired in a world shut down by COVID, I proposed to my wife that we take our far-flung American clan to Scotland to celebrate her birthday and the playing of the 150th British Open Championship. It would be our first family summer vacation in more than half a dozen years.

As is always the case in revolutions and family vacations, success lies in careful planning. With grown children and two sets of parents converging from compass points as disparate as Los Angeles, Chicago, New Jersey and North Carolina, it took no small amount of coordination to finalize a game plan.

Fortunately, I am married to a woman who could organize a convention of drunken anarchists. With her usual efficiency, Dame Wendy promptly arranged flights, secured tournament tickets, parking passes and rental cars, and booked a dwelling in the East Lothian village of North Berwick, a place I’ve returned to many times since the early 1980s.

Though I’d been to St. Andrews many times in my long golf-writing career, the chance to attend the oldest golf championship in the birthplace of the game was something I’d dreamed of doing since I was knee-high to a ball washer.

So was another bucket list item for the eternal English Lit major in me.

Long a student of English romantic poetry, especially that of William Wordsworth, I’d always hoped to someday find my way to Tintern Abbey in Wales, the ancient ruin on the River Wye that inspired England’s greatest Romantic poet to write one of his most beloved poems of the same name.

It was my clever wife who suggested a way to check two boxes with one trip. By flying to London a few days before the clan assembled in Scotland, we could take our own sweet time motoring through the countryside to Scotland, taking in the abbey and maybe even the Lake District, where the poet once resided.

England’s Romantic Age of poetry was, in large part, a reaction to the 19th Century’s bleak industrialization that robbed mankind of its intimate connection to nature. The world is too much with us; late and soon, warned old Bill Wordsworth. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Unfortunately, in the hours before we set off, the world still seemed very much with us.

News reports of transportation strikes and acute shortages of workers described travelers stranded at airports and train stations amid thousands of pieces of lost or unclaimed luggage.  Queues were said to be hours long at London Heathrow, the epicenter of traveler chaos. To add to the fun, Boris Johnson’s abrupt fall from grace had unleashed the usual jamboree of warring cabinet ministers eager to take possession of 10 Downing Street. Meanwhile, weather forecasters were warning of the deadliest heat wave to hit Britain since Medieval times.

Remarkably — I’m not sure how — we managed to escape the madness, with luggage, golf clubs and most of our dignity still intact, speeding on to the gorgeous Welsh countryside in a zippy eco-rental car.

Few of the world’s iconic landmarks have made my proverbial jaw drop as did the first sight of ancient Tintern Abbey (circa 1131) as we rounded a high meadow curve above the winding River Wye. There it rose in the vale below, startlingly large and bigger than life. Scarce wonder Old Bill was inspired by his first sight of this setting: O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods / How often has my spirit turned to thee!

Two hours of exploring the quiet abbey ruins followed by a plowman’s lunch of crusty bread, local cheese and good Welsh ale, sent us up the River Wye Valley hungering for more. Over the next three days, in fact, we wound our way to the Lake District along rural backroads and narrow hedgerow lanes, pausing only to hike through spectacular forests and explore ancient market towns, including Ludlow, where my other favorite English poet, Alfred Edward Housman, set his famous paeon to over-indulgence: Terence, this is stupid stuff: You eat your victuals fast enough; There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear, To see the rate you drink your beer.

To our good fortune, Ludlow’s famous summer food festival was just getting underway, so we briefly joined the fête, discovering what Housman meant when he added: And malt does more than Milton can / To justify God’s way to man.

By the time we reached our cottage in Scotland, I almost felt like a man who’d managed to shed the stresses and cares of modern life, just in time to celebrate an ancient game’s birthplace and The Open’s historic sesquicentennial.

By design, we’d arranged tickets for the first and final day of the competition, allowing time for me to introduce my future son-in-law and his golf-mad papa to a trio of the most celebrated links courses in Scotland. As usual, the stout North Sea winds took a heavy toll on our scores, but we loved every minute of the challenge. Like Joe with his carrot cake, it was the perfect appetizer for the main course to come across the Firth of Forth at St. Andrews.

The hottest and driest summer in memory left the Grand Old Lady (as St. Andrews’ Old Course is fondly called) at her most exposed in many a year. But to the record crowd of 290,000 on hand to shout and serenade their favorite players, that mattered little.

The theme of this year’s historic Open — displayed on everything from grandstands to golf caps — was “Everything Has Led To This,” a fitting coda for one who finally made a journey he’d dreamed about since boyhood.

The finish was predictably rowdy and wonderful. In the end, the veteran favorite faded with dignity, allowing for a young and promising upstart to have his name carved on the coveted Claret Jug, joining 149 previous Champion Golfer(s) of the Year.

My favorite moment, however, came when I walked my daughter and her intended through the iconic Royal & Ancient clubhouse, home to the keepers of the game, where I’ve had the good fortune to be a member for many years. Old friends and fellow members made them feel most welcome.

“Dad,” she said, clearly moved by the history and pageantry around us, “thank you for bringing us here. I never imagined anything so beautiful.”

It was one of those moments that felt, in retrospect, a bit like a homecoming and a farewell. Whichever it was, I shall never forget it.

Her words even called to mind my favorite lines from Old Bill’s Tintern Abbey, the perfect coda to a poetic summer journey:

To them I may have owed another gift,

Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world,

Is lightened: — that serene and blessed mood,

In which the affections gently lead us on  PS

Jim Dodson can be reached at


Songster in the Shrubs

The Eastern towhee hides to survive

By Susan Campbell

“Drink your tea, drink your tea,” the loud, emphatic call comes from dense shrubbery right outside our front door. It is the voice of a common, but frequently overlooked, Eastern towhee. It is hard to imagine that such a persistent songster could keep so well hidden, but towhees’ larger size makes them a target for predators, and keeping hidden is the survival strategy they employ. Belonging to the sparrow family, they are short-billed birds found in brushy or grassy habitat. The bird’s name originates from its typical “tow-hee” call.

Many backyard birdwatchers in central North Carolina are rather confused when they finally catch their first glimpse of a towhee. Is it some kind of oriole? Perhaps it is a young rose-breasted grosbeak? Males are quite colorful with rufous or chestnut flanks set against a white belly with a black hood, back and wings as well as a long black and white tail. The bill, too, is jet black. Females sport brown feathers instead of black but still have rufous sides. Their legs are long and powerful: good for kicking around debris in search of insects and seeds. Towhee eyes, which are usually dark red, may be orangey in the Sandhills population. Farther east, individuals have irises that are a striking pale yellow.

Eastern towhees are found, as their name implies, throughout the eastern United States. Here in the Southeast, they are year-round residents, although we do have some wintering individuals that breed further north. Their diet is variable, consisting of a variety of invertebrates (insects, spiders, millipedes) during the breeding season. However, in colder months, towhees can also be found scratching for seeds dropped by other birds from feeders. Their heavy bill allows them to take advantage of a variety of seeds. The powerful jaw muscles associated with such a strong bill make it a formidable weapon. If attacked, a towhee can inflict quite a bite. Males will viciously attack each other during territorial disputes and may inflict mortal wounds from grabbing the head or body of an opponent. Conflict is not infrequent where food is abundant, so the potential for fights exists throughout the year in our area.

It is not uncommon for Eastern towhees to raise three broods in a summer. Each brood involves three to five young. Nests are simple affairs, in short shrubbery or even directly on the ground. As a result, nestlings often do not remain in the nest long after their eyes open and downy feathers cover their bodies. They will move around noisily begging from the adults. Young towhees instinctively run for cover if their parents sound the alarm.

A little known fact about this species is that it was first described by some of the earliest Europeans to arrive in the New World. The artist-cartographer John White noticed towhees during his visit to the English colony on Roanoke Island in 1685-86. It was this trip that documented the colony’s disappearance — the Lost Colony. White’s unpublished drawings of both males and females predated the famous work of Mark Catesby in Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands in the 1700s, since republished with a modern perspective as Catesby’s The Birds of Colonial America.  PS

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photographs at

The Creators of N.C.

The Feature Is Female

The future might be, too

By Wiley Cash

Photographs By Mallory Cash


Erika Arlee and Kristi Ray, co-founders of Wilmington’s Honey Head Films, grew up on sets. For Erika, one of her first on-set experiences was as a child growing up in Chapel Hill during the making of Attack of the Killer Dog, which she wrote, directed and co-starred in with her sister and one of their friends. Recalling the intensity of her childhood fascination with film, Erika says, “I wanted to make movies, and I wanted to hold the camera so badly.” Her early special effects included a plush stuffed animal dog that was tossed at the actors from offscreen so they could be, in fact, attacked by a killer dog.

For Kristi, who grew up in rural eastern North Carolina near New Bern, her first on-set experiences also took place at home, and included casting, producing and directing her older sister and cousin in back porch performances of Beauty and the Beast, Grease! and other movies that had left their mark. “I was always the director and the producer and the costumer,” she says. “And I would cast my cousin and my sister in the lead roles to get them to participate, and then I would play every other character that no one wanted to play.”

Regardless of whether they were handling stuffed animals while shouldering boxy VHS cameras or perusing thrift stores to outfit a cousin for a homemade play, both Erika and Kristi can trace their creative drive to those early days as girls who were desperate to see their dramatic visions come to life on the stage and screen.

That energy, which is apparent to anyone who spends any amount of time with these two women, combined and gathered force to create A Song for Imogene, the first feature-length film by Honey Head. While Erika and Kristi’s paths to filmmaking seem preordained, their path to one another was a little less certain.

After growing up in Chapel Hill, Erika attended the University of North Carolina, double majoring in English and dramatic arts with a minor in creative writing. Although she’d always been drawn to film, it didn’t seem like something that was accessible on campus or in town, but Erika had seen Broadway productions, so she threw herself into acting and dance, thinking those outlets might be the only way for a Southern kid from a small town to find the stage. She never lost her interest in film or her desire to hold the camera, however, and by 2014 she was living in Wilmington, auditioning across the Southeast and working behind the camera with local writers and producers.

Unlike Erika, who headed east to Wilmington after college, as a 17-year-old Kristi went west to Los Angeles to pursue acting after high school. “I probably ran out of money like a year into my journey there,” she says. “I came back to North Carolina and auditioned for a feature film that was being produced in the Triangle, and I got cast in the lead role.” Kristi’s performance as Charlotte in Pieces of Talent was noticed, and she was soon offered a scholarship to the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. As much as she benefited from her education, Kristi found that the atmosphere in New York wasn’t as supportive as the film community in North Carolina, so she came home and settled in Wilmington.


I don’t know how many successful relationships, business or otherwise, begin on Craigslist, but this one did. Erika had joined with a local actor to write and shoot a horror film that featured a number of their friends, but they needed a female lead, so she posted a call on Craigslist, which Kristi happened to find and answer. Their bond was almost immediate. Soon, the two women were filming one another for audition reels, reading scripts together, and sorting through what seemed to be a shrinking market of opportunity for young women in the film world.

Aside from vapid roles that relied on little more than youth and appearance, “there just wasn’t anything interesting for young women that we were finding,” Erika says.

“This was the time when Winter’s Bone almost won an Oscar and there were a lot of really cool roles out there, they just weren’t around the Southeast, and they weren’t being offered to blonde girls who looked anything like us,” Kristi says. “We wanted to prove that we could play someone who wasn’t just a cute little girl at the mall.”

Erika wrote a short film about two sisters called Lorelei that was written specifically for her and Kristi so they could reach toward what they knew was the full range of their abilities. The story of two women settling their mother’s estate in rural North Carolina eventually served as the backstory for A Song for Imogene, which stars Kristi and was directed by Erika.

The two women who had come up through the ranks while shooting one another’s audition tapes are now at the helm of a feature film that’s in post-production and positioned to go out on the international film festival circuit. The relationship they’d built during their formative years, and through the experience of writing and shooting commercial work, had created a foundation that now guided them.

“Erika’s an incredible director. She was the first female director I’d ever worked with, so there’s this huge trust that I’ve always had,” Kristi says. “And her writing is really good, so it’s hard to do it poorly.”

The crew for A Song for Imogene was 70 percent female, including eight female interns from university film programs from around the East Coast. For many of these young women, it was their first time on a film set. Erika and Kristi allowed them to explore what interested them while also playing key roles in the production. While they watched the interns bond they couldn’t help but recall their own experiences of doing the same just a few years earlier. Now, they had become the teachers and mentors.

“When these young women go out into the professional world and work on sets, they won’t be afraid,” Kristi says. “They will have already gotten their anxiety out the door in a safe environment with us.” Erika and Kristi hope that the experience will leave these young women more mental space and emotional energy to collaborate and build community.


Pondering their own struggles in the industry while witnessing their interns thrive, Erika and Kristi had an idea about how to help the next crop of female filmmakers enter film programs or step onto sets with confidence. They partnered with educator Sam McCleod to create a summer camp, called Shoot Like a Girl, that focuses on female filmmakers from the ninth to 12th grades.

“We’re trying to get them at that stage where they’re a little bit more reserved,” Erika says.

The two-week camp, which kicked off its inaugural session in July, allowed the girls to learn cinematography, wardrobe, lighting and grip, screenwriting and directing. By the end of the camp they were casting and shooting their own short films. To ensure that the experience was accessible to girls regardless of their economic circumstances, Kristi and Erika were able to raise $18,000 from community partners to fund seven of the 12 girls at the camp. They’re excited to see what this first group will do next.

“To feel this empowerment and to be in a cohort of women is something that’s going to be invaluable,” Kristi says.

Erika and Kristi’s new film, A Song for Imogene, is certainly a female feature, and, with Honey Head and Shoot Like a Girl, the future of film might be, too.  PS

Wiley Cash is the Alumni Author-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, is available wherever books are sold.

Sporting Life

Field of Dreams

Rekindling an old love affair

By Tom Bryant

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” — Yogi Berra

The  baseball World Series had the New York Yankees battling their archrivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. I remember it so well because the final game was played on my birthday, Oct. 7.

I was 11 years old and had just come out of a Little League baseball season where I had hit my first home run. Everyone knew I was gonna be a baseball player, because that’s what I told every solitary soul who would listen. My hero was Mickey Mantle.

My daddy played baseball in high school and won a scholarship to play at Clemson University. Along came World War II and canceled those plans. He came home in 1946, put his baseball plans on the back burner and proceeded to raise a family of four children. I was the first, and the story was that before Dad left for the Navy in ’41, he bought me a toy baseball bat, ball and glove with the hopes that I would be a chip off the old block. I was 3 months old and Mother often said that the baseball toys were my favorite, sort of like the way other kids had a security blanket.

Pinebluff, the little village where we lived, was the perfect place for a youngster who loved the grand old all-American sport. There were enough kids to start our own competing leagues. The boys on the west side of Highway 1, which bisected the town, comprised one league, and the players on the east side made up the other. Most times, when we played at our makeshift diamond behind Virgil Carpenter’s home, we didn’t have enough players for nine on each side, so we would choose up, and sometimes the opposing west team would have to lend players to the east or vice versa. This was our way of fielding teams, but later, along came our first formal structure of organized baseball — Little League.

I was hooked. Many game-day mornings, I would sit on the steps of our front porch, looking toward the clouds, hoping and praying that it wouldn’t rain and shut down the afternoon game.

I met kids from all over the county who loved the sport as much as I did, and later some of us would be on the same baseball team in high school. There was H.B. Ritter who played center field and could hit the ball a country mile. Sonny Smith caught and pitched and was an all-around talent. Jimmy Veasy played third; Marvin Lewis, shortstop; and Billy Marts, second base. They covered the infield like a blanket. Not much could get by that amazing trio. Oh, I played first base and helped where I could. Our coach was Bill Russell, one of the best. He knew the sport and had as much fun coaching as we did playing.

Our senior year we almost won the state championship, losing that game to Southern Pines. I can’t remember the score, but it was heartbreaking. The day after that evening game, Mother and I left for Brevard College to see if I made the cut and could become a student.

It was a melancholy time, my last year of high school and the last year I would ever play baseball for good old Aberdeen High. I was afraid my baseball career was ended but I lucked out, got into college, and was able to play baseball there.

So what got me on this memory road trip about the days of old when baseball was such a big part of my life? It was a character I met recently, at church actually, named Bill Berger. In the Air Force Bill flew those huge tankers that refuel jets in flight. After retiring, he did several years of contract work for the government, having great experiences along the way.

Bill and his lovely wife, Bonnie, live in Seven Lakes, and both are very active in our communities. As a matter of fact, Bill introduced me to our church’s men’s prayer breakfast that meets at Sizzlin’ Steak or Eggs restaurant two Tuesdays a month. It was at one of those gatherings when Bill told me that he and Bonnie were going out to Omaha to attend the NCAA Men’s College World Series. I was entranced.

Baseball was my favorite sport, but after I aged out and laid my glove down and watched a few pro games, I figured I was done. It wasn’t the same. Today’s pros get paid a gazillion dollars to play. They move from team to team, traded at the whim of the coaches or wherever the money is greatest. It was hard for me to develop a loyalty to a team when you have to keep a roster to identify the players. So I let it go and concentrated on other outdoor pursuits.

Flipping through TV channels a day or two after Bill told me about his impending trip to Omaha, I came upon the network featuring the college teams, and I was hooked. I watched most of the competitors and marveled at the young talent on the field. Not only was there plenty of ability, but the players actually looked as if they were having fun.

I remembered the letter to The Pilot that Bill penned after he and Bonnie got back from their road trip out west. “Omaha is a long drive, but the games are worth the effort: not expensive, great new stadium, clean city, good food, and most importantly, exciting games played by the same old rules we all employed years ago. It’s a treat and a trip back to our youth.”

So there you go. Next year, if I can persuade Linda, my bride, we’re gonna head out to Omaha to enjoy a couple of games played by youngsters the way it should be, for the fun of it.

I guess it really is like my favorite baseball coach of all time, Yogi Berra, said in his own special vernacular, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  PS

Tom Bryant, a Southern Pines resident, is a lifelong outdoorsman and PineStraw’s Sporting Life columnist.


September Books


We Spread, by Iain Reid

Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away, provisions were made for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many “incidents.” Initially, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny — with a growing sense of unrest and distrust — starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging, or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling? Reid’s genre-defying third novel explores questions of conformity, art, productivity, relationships and what, ultimately, it means to grow old.

If I Survive You, by Jonathan Escoffery

In the 1970s, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston, Jamaica. But America, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the Promised Land. The family pushes on through Hurricane Andrew and later the 2008 recession, living in a house so cursed that the pet fish launches itself out of its own tank rather than stay. Even as things fall apart, the family remains motivated by what their younger son, Trelawny, calls “the exquisite, racking compulsion to survive.” Masterfully constructed with heart and humor, the linked stories in If I Survive You center on Trelawny as he struggles to carve out a place for himself.

Lark Ascending, by Silas House

As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog, who becomes his closest companion, and a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?

The Marsh Queen, by Virginia Hartman

Loni Murrow is an accomplished bird artist at the Smithsonian who loves her job. But when she receives a call from her younger brother summoning her back home to help their obstinate mother recover after an accident, Loni’s neat, contained life in Washington, D.C., is thrown into chaos. Going through her mother’s things, Loni uncovers scraps and snippets of a time in her life she would prefer to forget — a childhood marked by her father, Boyd’s, death by drowning. When Loni comes across a single, cryptic note from a stranger, she begins a dangerous quest to discover the truth about Boyd’s death. Pulled between worlds — her professional accomplishments in Washington, and the small town of her childhood — Loni must decide whether to delve beneath the surface into murky half-truths and either avenge the past or bury it, once and for all.


One Hundred Saturdays, by Michael Frank

The remarkable story of 99-year-old Stella Levi, whose conversations with the writer Michael Frank over the course of six years bring to life the vibrant world of Jewish Rhodes, the deportation to Auschwitz that extinguished 90 percent of her community, and the resilience and wisdom of the woman who lived to tell the tale. With nearly a century of life behind her, Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. Frank came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she’d grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium. Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays that they would spend in each other’s company as Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians began governing as an official possession in 1923 and transformed over the next two decades until the Germans seized control and deported the entire Juderia to Auschwitz. Probing and courageous, candid and sly, Stella’s stories reveal what it was like to grow up in an extraordinary place in an extraordinary time. PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws.



Like a spot of blood against the blue sky,

a Cardinal perches on the shepherd’s hook

where I hang suet and a cylinder of seed-feeders

I gave Sylvia for her last Mother’s Day.

The birds are a gift to me now. Her beautiful

ashes fill a marble blue urn and rest

near one of her crazy quilts in the foyer to welcome visitors.

Buddha is there on a table and guards her keepsakes,

a cleaned-out bookshelf holds her high school portrait,

a cross-stitch she made for me. Every little corner

has its memory of how short a sweet life can be.

— Marty Silverthorne

From Collected Poems of Marty Silverthorne

The Omnivorous Reader

Little Press Success

Big things can come in small packages

By Stephen E. Smith

Since its founding by professor Ronald Bayes in 1969, St. Andrews Press at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg has earned a reputation as one of the most consistent and persistent small presses in the country — which is no insignificant accomplishment considering that the average small press has a lifespan of five years. Within the last few months, under the editorship of Ted Wojtasik, the press has released two books that deserve a wide audience. The first is Ruth Moose’s The Goings on at Glen Arbor Acres, a collection of interrelated stories about life in an assisted living facility.

Moose has long been a creative force in the North Carolina writing community. She has published two novels as well as numerous collections of short stories and poetry. Her work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal and Our State magazine, and she taught for 15 years on the Creative Writing faculty at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Moose’s latest collection will not disappoint readers who are seeking to escape the everyday stress of politics and pandemic surges, neither of which is mentioned in these stories. There may be “goings on” aplenty at Glen Arbor Acres, but only of a benign nature. In “The Major’s Gun,” a character observes: “You have to be so careful around this place. One misheard word and the gossip goes rampant” — which is pretty much the source of the collection’s recurring conflicts.

Moreover, readers won’t be troubled by stories about characters who undergo overwhelming misfortunes that culminate in disasters of epic proportions. Glen Arbor is no Keseyesque Cuckoo’s Nest. There’s no Nurse Ratched in the medication room, no physical or verbal combat, no racial utterances to be heard, or even a mildly offensive exclamation that might raise a wary eyebrow. Moose’s slice-of-life stories simply offer readers a window into the everyday dilemmas of Glen Arbor’s elderly residents who eat, drink and sleep in the gossipy microcosm where fate has deposited them. If they are allowed enough freedom to cause a mild degree of mischief, they’re always on the lookout for a new source of intrigue. They’ve identified an antagonist, Miss Anne Blackmore Rae (Miss ABR aka Always Be Right), the director of  Glen Arbor, and a male protagonist, the Major, a resident who functions as an authority figure who might right trifling wrongs, a tired old god the ladies can turn to in times of emotional discomfort.

Moose focuses on her characters’ foibles and eccentricities — there is a nudist yoga teacher, a wig maker, a troll-like man who intrudes himself into the ladies’ daily walks, and the mystery of the director’s runaway dog who may or may not be dead. The most “teachable” story involves a resident who submits a poem to a national poetry contest and is notified by mail that she is a finalist who should attend a dinner meeting to receive her award. Of course, it’s a scam perpetrated on the unsuspecting — in this case, the elderly — but the aspiring poet buys a new dress and attends the ceremony. She doesn’t win (there’s a surprise), but she’s received by her peers at Glen Arbor as a literary luminary, proof that there is success to be had in the waning years, and that good friends value us for who we are, not for what we do.

There’s a good deal of irony and wit in Moose’s stories, even if her characters don’t see themselves as the object of humor, even when the situation and context are obviously comic, and readers will find themselves amused and charmed by her subtly crafted narratives.

Another recent St. Andrews Press publication, Collected Poems of Marty Silverthorne, is justification enough for supporting small presses. Silverthorne died in 2019, and it’s unlikely, regardless of his talents as a poet, that a mainstream or university press would publish a book by an author who isn’t around to promote it at readings and in bookstores.

As a poet, Silverthorne had talent and perseverance to spare. He devoted himself to writing verse while working for 30 years as a counselor for persons suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Left a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident in 1976, he faithfully dictated his poems to a caregiver and companion, and until the pandemic, he was a steadfast participant at regular meetings of the North Carolina Poetry Society.

Silverthorne is a “plain language” poet. His poems are straightforward retellings of the events that shaped his life, the loss and redemption, the small pleasures he experiences, the troubles and pain a person in his predicament suffers, as in “Inside of Me,” where the poet muses on what others expect of him after accepting his disability: Inside of me you expected to find/a motorcycle wrapped around a tree,/whiskey bottles beside the road./You did not expect to find daffodils/blooming in a pine thicket,/crape myrtles close enough/to threaten their beauty//Inside of me you expected to find/the soiled pages of Penthouse./You did not expect Yeats and Keats/on a linen table cloth,/one large candle with a wavering flame,/a bottle of chardonnay.

Much of Silverthorne’s later poetry was written while mourning the loss of his wife, as in “Delicate Ashes:” . . . Back at home our neighbor held you in his hands,/his fingers around the beautiful blue bowl/of your body, the delicate ashes of your life . . .

Silverthorne makes rich and various uses of rhetorical devices — humor, anger, wit, irony, and juxtapositions of conflicting and indecorous feelings. In doing so, he has left readers with a rich record of a life lived to the fullest despite almost overwhelming adversity.

We are fortunate that St. Andrews Press and other small presses continue to publish books that might otherwise, for reasons unrelated to literary quality, go unread. The pandemic has hit little presses hard. Readings at bookstores and arts organizations have dropped off, and live audiences are difficult to gather in dangerous times. If you’d like to encourage small press publishing, buy their books. Poets and Writers magazine lists over 370 such literary entities that desperately need our support.  PS

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of seven books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press Awards.

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(August 23 – September 22)

Before a Virgo bakes a pie, they have already sliced it a dozen times in a dozen different ways. They have considered everything: how the vegan butter might affect the flakiness of the crust; whether the pie should be chilled before sliced; which knives to use for scoring and cutting; et cetera, et cetera. We know you’re analytical. But birthdays are meant to be fun. No need to dissect the flavor out of every slice. You’ll kill your own buzz.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

The knots will untangle themselves.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Don’t overthink it.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Rinse and repeat.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Three words: Know your audience.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Cut the rope. You know what I’m talking about.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

The answer is chocolate.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) 

Take a breather.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) 

You’re paddling upstream again.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Do they know that it’s a game to you?

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Someone needs a hug.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Go for the upgrade.  PS

Zora Stellanova has been divining with tea leaves since Game of Thrones’ Starbucks cup mishap of 2019. While she’s not exactly a medium, she’s far from average. She lives in the N.C. foothills with her Sphynx cat, Lyla.