S5-03 Valerie Nieman To the Bones and Leopard Lady


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Books Dot Com and see him library dot org or drop by the bookstore or any library. Branch support is also provided by members. There's like you for that. We offer our gratitude along with some awesome member only content. You can find out more about these member benefits Charlotte readers. PODCASTS DOT COM but enough enough with a prologue musket to the stores. I'm your host Landis Wade thank you for listening. Today's episode. We meet author Valerie naming author of the novel to the bones the poetry collection leopard lady a life in verse and three other novels and poetry collections reviews up to the bones call it a parable. Capitalism and environmental degradation set in a strange disconcerted place populated by fault all four people trigger-happy. Rent a cops. zombies and residents can mysteriously evaporate or be stripped to the bone Lisa Shaffer curator the coney island museum calls Leopard Lady a beautifully written book that steeped in sideshow tradition and addressing issues of race gender self concept in creative expression we start the show with reading from to the bones. We learned in the opening pages at the protagonist was not the first occupant and Left for dead horrible smell dark cold. This is how it feels to be dead. Derek raced his head and immediately vomited. The nausea came in waves at every motion of his battered head echoed by his back back ribs legs if he was dead. And this was the afterlife than it seriously sucked. He breathes it in his mouth mouth but it didn't help much. The smell he tried moving has left leg numb and twisted under him and was surprised when it responded ended the pressure on his knees. He rolled over. Put his hands down to push himself to all fours and his fingers slid in something something greasy and file. If this was the afterlife than it wasn't one he'd been prepared for my catechism classes or college philosophy dark. He shook with the cold and the dark. Then I'm not dead. He crawled carefully anchoring his knees into the sloping ground. Pausing never the nausea roiled has got unsteady rock shifted onto his knees and he heard a skittering sound and the last thing he remembered he'd been driving a two lane road. The trees so close an inky tunnel pierced his headlights lights. Maybe the car off the road. Maybe you're buried. His unpleasant thoughts mocked there was a faint lessening. Hang up the gloom ahead. He kept crawling sticks rolling under his hand. Something tightened us and leggy moved across his fingers. He pulled his hand away. Then put it back down. The thin gray light increased. He could see that if not much else with his glasses. Gone and his shoes were gone to the toes of his socks. Dragging across the damper rocks. He seemed to hear things breathing nearby. Waiting no one's coming back for you. Ever he crawled around a rag corner and the light became a crack in the sky. A white intensity that squeezed shut his eyes and made the back of his head spasm and pain. He opened his eyes just enough to see a hazy field Iraq and debris dump he picked up a large round object and product close to his week is a pair. You're empty eyeholes stared back. He flung the skull away hearing at crack and roll to a stop and he realized those rocks and sticks were bones and that he was among the dead fairly name is fourth novel to the bones is as John. Bending satire of the coal industry is effects effects on Appalachia and joins her award winning novels. Blood clay survivors and Nina gathering third poetry collection Leopard Lady. Life verse includes work. The first appeared Meserve You Chautauqua southern poetry review and other journals. Poetry has appeared widely from poetry due to the Georgia Review to the Galway Review and has been published in numerous anthologies including is glowing edge of the woods and ghost fishing in he co Justice Poetry Anthology Values Health State and NEA. Creative Writing Fellowships graduate of West Virginia University in Queens University of Charlotte Charlotte and a former journalist. She teaches creative writing at North Carolina. A and T state university host. Landis Wade is committed to making this podcast. I worth your time. He's recovering trial lawyer award-winning Author Book and Dog Lover. WHO's laid back? Style encourages authors to read and talk about out there published and emerging works. You can listen to this show for free at Charlotte Readers PODCAST DOT COM or Charlotte Mecklenburg Lavery is digital branch website. And and you can subscribe and listen for Free Napa podcast forever. You like to get your podcast. Show notes of this episode with images links and information about the authors are tailable at Charlotte Readers podcast Dot Com Charlotte readers. PODCAST is a member of the twin cities. PODCAST network powered by Ortho Carolina for more information. Go to Queens PODCAST NETWORK DOT COM Valerie. Welcome to the show thank you. It's great being here. Yeah so you're a novelist loosed and a poet. I am kind of like being right handed in lift ended. That's a funny thing because when I was a child I was ambidextrous until they kind of forced the left hand not to be so active because they thought it was better for you to have a dominant hand and so But I was ambidextrous and I still do things backwards including looting shooting so novel writing. Poetry is being ambidextrous. That's a good idea. We're GONNA get to your poetry Book in the second the half the show but first let's talk about to the bones Great toddle did you just come up with that one. Dark and stormy night. Wealth The genesis of this book is kind of interesting. I lived and worked in West Virginia. For many many years I was a reporter newspaper. Editor had a small farm. Tom and was writing. I came to North Carolina. I've written a lot since then and had some some success with the publications nations but I was kind of stuck and I was talking to a writer friend about. I wasn't sure where I was going next. I wanted to start a new book and I got a little frustrated and I said you know back in West Virginia. I always said if I was going to kill somebody had thrown down mine crack and he said we'll do it. And so that was the genesis. So I've got somebody who's been thrown down a mine crack which is An area that subsides from sub service mining. And how did he get there an in. Who put him there? Why we're just go from here? Yeah I mean it's a great hook. You really grabbed the reader with opening read being left among the bones. What's in the book title to the Buns? And it is a honing story and is is that environment Got Got a little honing to it. I think it is haunted landscape in fact that that very term came to me this morning. I'm writing some other pieces. The combination of folklore that has come there from not only the British isles all over the world there are wonderful. Collections of folklore with many many many haunting tanks Rutan music collected these among one of the really famous ones is the Greenbriar coast where a woman's ghost came back and was able to convict the man who killed her grace to us. Oh yeah so. Yeah the the landscape of folklore but also the landscape of mining which is so destructive of up to people who do it and the people who are around it everything from havens in the minds to pollution of the waterways to black lung. All of these things are part of a very very destructive practice but also something that West Virginians have A pride that they are able able to do it. It's it's difficult and deadly job. Yeah and I was going to explore with you in this This idea of setting your novel. Oh and coal country. You spent a good deal time. There you were a newspaper reporter. You covered the coal industry. You covered the police and both appear in this book right and of course the side that appears in this book is is is not the law and order right. Did you see did you. You see much of the kind of thing I guess the other side of the coal industry that Maybe is not something that gets trumpeted in Washington. Lose the well. I think one thing is that we think that a lot of this is in the past that the days of Sid Hatfield being gunned down on the courthouse. All steps of minors being gunned down in their encampments when they tried to form a union literally machine guns mounted on rail cars. That would drive past. I mean I'm just horrendous violence and you think oh that's all in the past but it's it's not so past. When I was a reporter I covered wildcat mine strikes? And you still see as we've seen in recent years some some terrible tragedies like the upper big branch mine disaster where you know there was an explosion and and men were killed. So it's it's something that kind of it may be better today but it's not gone away. Coal still has an inordinate amount of power even as it kind of is fading away. The number of miners and the impact on the economy Goes down every year but it's a legacy of King Cole. And and much of the. The structure of things like taxation is built around extractive industries. Whether it's coal limestone timber you you talked about one side of the coal production industry the disaster the blowout the pollution of the river. Thank you Lou. To a few minutes ago you gotTa Sane in the book where where that happened. Did you see anything like that life. Sure Dad when I was a newspaper reporter and then editor there was a huge blow out on the Cheat River and inscribed with blowout is well acid mine. Drainage happens when the water percolates. Tate's down naturally from from rain and subsurface springs through the coal layers and the coal in the in that region has sulphur so for plus watery quill sulfuric appear Cowesett. And that accumulates in something like an old issues mine where it's not being actively pumped and treated which it is is required to be treated and so there was a blow out on the Cheat River which came from a an old mine. And I had just a crackerjack crackerjack reporter who covered this and who traced back exactly how this this disaster came to be at came to be with some human intervention so that was An inspiration for this and in your book in the scene almost if the river was on fire. Can you get that hot. And it's it's not hot. It's just just this horrible Yellowish or they call a yellow buoy. And it's it's just incredible credible color of the water. That looks like it should be on fire but it it is fact not but it's contaminated from The both sulfuric asset asset and also Iron metabolites as well well it. It sort of fits the theme of Your Book and Speaking of the theme your book And let's talk about this little town which is beholden to the coal industry? this character who you read about in the I chapter. We're GONNA meet again another reading but the plot itself West Virginia town which is dying you. You know the people in positions of authority who feel beholden to the owners of the mind even still There's a mystery here. Of course the Kavanagh's which are evil doers. In this in this book has sort of these supernatural powers. Are there little small towns in West Virginia. That still still exist that The might form the setting for the movie version of your book. Certainly the towns are still there. I I lived My farm was close. Two one in fact my farm over the surface of my my property I on the surface rights. which are you our own? was over the workings of the Farmington Farmington number nine mine which blew up fifty years ago and so those workings ran under and there was a mind crack in the back so a lot of this is very personal and in various ways the the towns are still there you can still go to a lot of little places which are called coal camps which have the the the company houses and that look very much the same in some wages they might have you know twenty or forty or sixty years ago if you just don't look at the dollar store But just look at the houses. But they've found new life. I mean the we reinvigorate themselves even the minds close. There's a there's a do it yourself attitude among people Appalachia that that so you know we can find other ways. And there's a lot of desire to move toward things like wind power. which would use those skills of miners who know how to operate high-tech machinery from operating long walls could could be doing wind farms Tourism is also big thing because West Virginia is in fact despite the the coal industry in its areas. It's still wild and wonderful. It's it's a stunningly beautiful place so there are other things going on but certainly I kind of I kind of stretched with this. I wanted to take it in places you know with genre where you know. If the coal mine honors can be monstrous. They have been then. Let's really make the monstrous. I was going to ask because you get. You can make this a small town even with the where the mines answer going out and you could upset Mr. there and you could ahead somebody killing somebody or something but you take it to another level with this sort of supernatural. You don't know whether these exactly happy with these people are and get strange past. Is that what you're talking about in terms of taking it to a different level. Yeah I actually. I wanted to play with a lot of these sort of stereotypes of the first first one being getting off at the wrong exit lot of horror. Movies have gone there so I I wanted to use those things and this is the territory of just the the area that I will send was not far from the Pennsylvania border and just a little north of there was George. Romero was filming night of the living dead. So you know there. There's a little bit of nine living Dara's much to to Romero so okay. Well let's talk about the characters and then you're going to have another read here. You've got The protagonist he's Derek Derek. He's a government auditor and he's the fellow who just woke up among the bones right And he doesn't know why or how it got there. He's got not a clue all he remembers. He was driving next thing he knows he's he's waking up and so he'll have to recall and remember some of that and then in this next thing which I think is set the point of view of Ranna. She she works as a sweepstakes operator. And she's GonNa see Derek for the first time in this next scene and then she sort of brings in into the full because she's got a secret past two she's trying to find missing daughter and her daughters disappeared that she came back to redbird. That's the name of the town and went to work for the Cavanaugh Coal Limestone Company which made her mother really angry then she disappears. There's so her. Mother followed her back to the town that she had wanted desperately to leave to try to track her down. And then you also throw a journalist in WHO's become come sort of instrumental and reporting on the oddities in the town and protecting Derek Raina and sort of helping to blow the whistle? was there a little bit of you in this person joined the journalist. Well there's almost a little bit of the writer in every little bit and Derek Rana the reporter Sadie Even one of the Kavanagh's saw well I think you find a little bit of yourself in your work. But the reporters really sort of based on that great reporter who covered the coal mine spill with a little little bit of some other reporters. I've known little shout out to the small town. Reporter does great work right well. Let's let's have this scene where Derek can lower Lorraina meet. Then she saw the man he was coming down the road from the fish camp obviously shit faced drunk and with her luck doc. He'd become her problem. She wished she could lock the door and leave but that would be the end of a job where she was hanging on by Toenail says it was she fingered the a pepper spray in the pocket of her smock hoping he would just keep weaving his way toward town. No such luck. He might have been unsteady but his path brought him right to her door. He pulled it open and stood there on the stoop. Oh she should have followed her first. That coat didn't fit him At all right then the blood Mike God is head and neck all black with an on one side. Finally the smell that wafted on the cold breeze made her gag. Despite her best efforts you best be going right back out. She said trying not to breathe. Please help me. The man stood with his oversized boots wide apart. Thick glasses probably broken from a face. Plant on some roadhouse floor were cocked sideways on his nose. I was attacked robbed. I need help. He moved inside the door shutting behind him. She backed up balancing the pepper spray on her. Left Palm Robbed where do you come from with nothing down that way but the closed up remnants of the fish camp he didn't sound drunk or crazy the how could you tell but the smell robbed or not. How did he come to smell like a deer? Lying dead on the side of the road for three summer days. Let me see your driver's license sweepstakes rules. That should send him on his way. I don't have a tell you what I'll give you something to drink. and You keep moving. You got to have a license to use the machines. Just Laurynas luck that not a soul is inside. Maybe it was time to call the owner. He rubbed his disgusting hands up and down his stubbly face. I know I stink. You've got no idea idea where I've been. I was thrown down a whole left for dead. Please just call the police for me. She laughed harshly and handed him a bottle of water. You don't call the police here about ever. Something seemed to click when she said that his eyes got distant than where I'm from the government and you're here to help us. She finished. She would have laughed again but he looked so stricken this town. It's a strange place. She said things happen. People don't appear here like you they more disappear. You have a serial killer or something maybe something lorraina said the Kavanagh's my path worked for them. they rung every drop of sweat out of him. PAP died because he was used up never called in sick a day. Just playing used used up like everything around here I guess small towns are like that damn. He dismissed her family her life. We've just like that but why me. I don't know anyone here. I have to get to the police. You're listening but oh you ain't Herron KC L. owns the coal. The gas the downtown the trees the land anything worth grabbing either outright or around the back ways that means they own the people to. She didn't care if she sounded bitter. Didn't you say there was a deputy there. Yeah cops ops judges politicians the newspaper even the UMW. Anyone that has any kind of poll because of these Kavanagh's they roost in their mansion behind their iron gates and no one even sees them anymore somebody sees them and I imagine they're creatures see them to get their orders. Valor sounds a bit moss. There with the creatures orders offers and and everything that goes with it too. So Jeff Phone writing this book. How could you tell I did? I had a lot of fun I had struggled with the previous novel. Still struggling with revising revising revising can't quite get it over the top and so I wanted to write something that I I could pull right out of my my heart I was in West Virginia school their farm there. I I was in that that community and so all of this was already in my head and I didn't have to go looking for research or or plotting out things like that I I I knew the landscape this was my landscape and so it wrote very very quickly. I am almost ashamed to say I finished it less than a year because it usually takes me five years or so so I feel like this just flew. That's great you get into that zone. You get moving and so have you always been attracted into this This genre the sort of mysterious of you maybe as you say monsters and creatures go up in the night all right well again west. Virginia's a great place for monsters. There's The flatwoods Monster and the Mothman and all sorts of interesting critters Yeah I grew up reading the classics the classics that were available in in our farmhouse or Roy Mixed Lot and included it shocked spear and Tanna son and Paul. I read a lot of Paul Wasn't maybe particularly age appropriate but those are the books that were there when you lived out in the country and then I discovered science fiction and so I was a huge bradberry fan and look when so many many others and so I have a deep affection affection. For all of the speculative areas. My first book was science fiction. Set in Appalachia so I kind of went back to the same landscape but not enough now in a science fiction mode. Yeah and to be clear this is not A. It's not a blood and guts novel it's It has that sort of creeping to you it but it has this mystery to it in his sort of death and destruction. But it's not so over on the page is an intentional on your part. Oh yeah I I like horror but I like classic horror. I don't like slasher films or you know things that are just buckets of blood. So it's I consider it a literary novel that uh uses the genre format so it it It's an it is intended to be a really good read but also I I hope has has something more to say. We got one more short read. You're going to do right before the break here. And this involves a character named Marco tells about more to Lamar Co is a a good cop. There's good cops and bad cops in this town. And he's a good one and he was forced off the sheriff's department because he kept asking can questions about what happened to dream and that wasn't something he was supposed to do. A Dreamer was the daughter of Louisiana. And so he's been kicked off. He's working as a janitor because that's the only work he can find. He's got a wife kids and you do what you gotta do. And he's also got a bit of a crush still on Llerena after many many years. Take it away. Mark opened the door to laurynas sharp. Knock doc eleven right on the top but he pulled back at seeing not one but two figures dark against the snow. What a friend Lorraina said? Let us San Faulk. He thought this was a mistake. Marco didn't allow them entry. So much as Lorraina bulled her way past cost him the stranger in tow he shut the door behind them and they faced each other in the unheeded receiving room breath puffing around their faces under the dim. Fluorescent wrestled boobs. Lose this new boyfriend Marco sized him up with a glance he'd have me on reach but that's it I take it easy. I thought you were wanting to find out something about dream. I told you I wanted to see the mind maps. and and how does that connect with dream and him. He knew how harsh voice was but was surprised to see bafflement moved briefly across her face and disappear an unguarded moments swallowed by her usual flat expression. How could she think this was okay? She already costs me one job. I'm asking again. Who is this? The guy looked nervous kept backing toward the door. Like he might hold the longer markle looked at him the less he thought easy. There's something weird there that creep up the back feeling when you know that hostile eyes on you or the darkness of a room that is Occupied by someone breathing waiting. This is Derek. He's on our side. Which side is that? Whatever side isn't the Kavanagh's right? He was attacked out at the convenience store the other night left for dead might could be. That's what's happened to dream. And the guy turned away and slowly bent his head so that the light could reach. An ugly won't showed with wholly inadequate butterfly bandages. Trying to hold the flesh together but allowing a view right down to the white his skull Marco began the laugh. Laugh Christ on a crutch your the Zombie. You're the fucking walking dead hot damn lawyer Anna you sure can pick them. She cut her eyes at him. Like enough said that's why we want to look at those mind maps. We need to find the mind crack because maybe dreamer is down there markel completed and a bunch of other people said Derrick. Okay so that's where the zombies come in valor the NBA's come in. They think this goes walking around. You just stumbled out of the mine early on He looks probably kind of like the walking dead right. He does us and and he's he's also got a genetic ailment that makes him Unable to keep us balanced very well which has been under control with medication but one everything was taken from him. There's no more medication. So he's he does walk oddly and he's got a huge head wound and he was walking walking down the road toward the sweepstakes parlor in a carload of local saw him and they have started the discussion or rumor that there are walking dead infesting bird and of course that's spreads very rapidly so lots of an unknowns in this book you've got One of the Protagonists Derrick Eric. WHO's got him? Nizhny can't remember what's happened to him. You've got the female character. He's met WHO's in search of her daughter and doesn't know what what happened. Her and when you introduced Kavanagh's later in the book things really get strange right and we don't know what's going on with them so and you know I tend to think of people who go down the minds and and you mentioned this earlier sort of special breed. I mean it's a it's if they sort of become one with the land you mentioned brown lung. You mentioned all the things that happened to them. They they're tattoo industry and it's difficult sometimes to escape. You know that that life the life which is not always healthy for them but in this book and without giving too much away you do something with the characters. Here's the Kavanagh's who don't you don't think of as going down into the minds and yet they're tied to the land even as much as the people who we do blew the smurfs. That's very true. I sort of have a parallel thing happening with them. And the beginning has bones and the end has bones in a different way but definitely they have a strong connection to this land that they own which they started as poor immigrants it's themselves mining their their ancestor literally with a pick and shovels. So they feel that sort of Ownership as the people who mined coal feel a kind of ownership that they know how to do this they they have skilled other people cannot do and you look at minors. I today and and the miners who operate the underground equipment. Two long walls lorraina points out in one place. You know they're college educated. This is this is very high tech equipment to extract this coal from the seems and it's not the image of the the the old time average of the minor. That's long since gone all right. Well get stuff listeners. When we come back we're going to do the writing life segment With Valerie we're also going to dive into her poetry collection leper lady which which has some eccentricities unto itself? So stay with us. Hey listeners you may. I have heard that we now have a patriarch page where listeners. Who like lower doing here Charleroi? PODCAST can help us help authors give voice to the written words and when listeners. Here's do provide that support in facts and ingratitude from that support. We provide some additional benefits exclusive to our member supporters. Aw each month we're going to provide at least one guest author episode. This'll be an author whose appear on the show comes on to talk about the craft or business of writing who also will provide some host curated content each month which could be some behind the scenes content. It could be repurpose content without interruptions. It could be me speaking about a particular topic or issue. 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There's a episode along about the forty seven things bestselling author Craig. Johnson taught me about writing fiction. There some great nuggets. It's in here of someone who's written enough books. has has got a netflix series. From those books. Enough there to together some some helpful tips. Alright right whether you become a member support or not we still value you as a listener and we thank you for listening but if you'd like to help us help authors give voice to the written words there. There is a way to do it now going to patriots. PAT OREO IN DOT COM SLASH CHARLOTTE. podcast all one word or to the exclusive use of content page of our website. Thank you for your support. Hey listeners we're back with Valerie Neiman. She's the author of two books that were featuring today to the bones a novel and Leopard Lady a collection of poetry. But we're GonNa Talk Riding Life. We're just a moment Valerie you teach creative writing at North Carolina A and t university. Can you talk about your transition from newspaper reporter to the teacher. I think it was a a long process. I always knew I was going to write that. I wanted to write and I would right. I just didn't know how to get there. My family were factory. People and farmers people didn't go to college and can I really didn't know how to do that. I went to a rural school or most of the girls got married and they kind of didn't know what to do with me. I think and I didn't know what to do with myself so I did go to college and got a bachelor's degree journalism because that seemed while that's writing then I can write and then learn so I went to work at newspapers and I really I treasure that because I had so much experience everything thing was material I was out there doing interviews. I was doing all kinds of stories. I went down and a working coal mine which Certainly gave me material for the book. I did all of these things that that made me a better writer and so I don't regret the year Spanish journalist as opposed to teaching but there came a time when I knew that newspaper journalism was in trouble which I think we all recognize and I thought I should do a plan B.. So you went back to get your. MFA In creative writing. Yes you did it here locally at Queens right. I was Queens University versus Charlotte very early in their low residency program. Graduated in two thousand four and that translated into a full time. Tenure track position in that North Carolina. A and t where I taught journalism humanities and all the time moving more and more till today I teach only creative writing. Yeah but you also told me you teach another course. It's kind of fun right. Oh Yeah I teach a film course on science fiction and horror film see. That's where you're getting all your stuff. It's it's fun to spend the time with the students we focus on mad scientists because it's such a broad field and so every week I go in and we look at clips or we look at a movie movie and they've looked at movies and and we talk about. What does it mean to be a scientist? And how how if movies shown scientists and what are the ethics of science. And it's a blast. So I think of have had journalists on here become authors of novels and but I think journalism and writing a novel is taking sort of two different skill sets. And I'm curious as to what you had to eh sort of. Teach Yourself Guard against from your journalism days. And what's your journalism. Day is actually did to enhance your writing. Well one thing about being a journalist is that you are taught to write very tightly. There's no room for fluff and I don't think that's a bad thing by novels are very tight. And they read fast. Because I don't go off on digression here there and elsewhere I it's not a five hundred page book. It's a very tight read I think that's a good thing commits more the the hemingway style than the Tom Wolfe style. Where there's not a lot of time for character development in a in a journalist pace right you get your your reporting the news? Sometimes unless you're doing a a feature. I did a lot of features to do some a lot of feature writing and there you really are trying to get to character and to a grounding for you then in this in this world I think the one thing that's a drawback for me is that when uh I had someone at Queens University one of the professors point this out to me that as he said my writing was my paragraphs were were democratic. Back we're not that I have no idea what he met and he had to explain to me that I tended to write in a very staccato way. I did have a lot. AWW short paragraphs because you're taught in journalism to do that. So the reader. Can you know. Move along to the story readily so I had to kind of unlearn that and give myself a little breathing. Anything wrong with that. That's true for literary fiction. which is what you're writing here but you also when you're picking up your pace? You go to shorter paragraphs and you go to because readers. There's more white space on the page. They can move through it more quickly. So and dialogue dialogue. You want to be crisp and moving back and forth. That people don't unless they're college professors Give long speeches. Were always interrupting each other and talking back and forth so dialogue tends to out move right along in a very good clip. Well I know that As a reporter. You had deadlines now you've got to come up with your own deadlines stick to them right. Do you have a routine that you follow. Oh dear you're supposed to say the things are supposed to say yes. I get up every morning at four thirty and I write for four hours and I wished that was true. Do I think it could be again. Legacy of being a reporter is that I was always used to working at a very fragmented way. You'd have three different stories working. And then the UH the thing would go off on the wall the scanner and there'd be a four car wreck somewhere and you'd have to drop everything and you go out to that you cover that. And then you pick up the feature stories for Sunday and you learn to have all of these balls in the air and I think that continues. I'm always working on a novel and poetry at the same time and so when one thing isn't moving the other one is moving and I don't find that a problem but I think some people might that's just that's just my way of working. I think I'm always writing. I might not be sitting at my desk. But I'm always observing and paying attention and taking notes and one thing my I students have taught me is to put my poems on my phone because they come to class and they say I've got my phone. I've got my phone my home on my phone. That's all right and so I do the same same thing. I'm always writing up my phone poetry. Okay so speaking your students What do you tell your students on the first day of your creative running course? Well I want them to believe in their own stories and their own voices and I think that's the hardest thing mm to learn because it it was for me because growing up in a very rural area in a working class family. I didn't think my stories were interesting interesting and I thought I had to write about you. Know Faraway places an important people and I had to unlearn that and for them. I think it's much it's the same they see what's on television and movies and it's all rich people with fancy cars living in New York and L. A. and to try to get them to come home and to think think about their own families their own communities the stories that emerged from their lives in that are genuine. They know what is at stake and they know the people who were involved solved and they can write with great power. Do Your students inspire you. Oh Yeah I have learned so much They they keep me Current it would be very easy to become the poetry on the phone dryades. It'd be easy to become the sort of hidebound. Professor who you know is still teaching the same same thing. They taught thirty years ago and they won't. They won't let me do that. They keep me honest and they keep me reading new things and watching things movies that I might not watched and paying attention. I can't keep up with the music. I will admit that I've sort of let the music get by me. But I do try to keep up in other areas and you run into him at the oddest places we Recording here at the Edinburgh. St You and you ran into one of your former students today right. I did and the strange thing was. I have terrible terrible memory for name at for names but I listened to his voice. He was over there on the phone and I thought he sounds familiar and then he looked up and he said hello alone and he had to give me his name but I remembered him he had been one of my news reading classes twelve years ago and he remembered me I remembered his voice. Our final question. Then we'll move to a leopard lady rejection your students assume you've seen it Before thoughts what do you tell your students. You have to get a thick skin. You will get a lot of rejection. If you just want got to get published you certainly can do as many people do self publication or seek out more entry level journals but if you are pushing yourself and you want excellence. Then that means you're going to face rejection if you're submitting to difficult markets the take one percent of everything thing they get. Then you're going to have a very tough go of it but when you you achieve that then you can really feel like I've I've made it. I've I've achieved a certain level so I tell them that rejections is simply a fact of life you have so many writers. You have so many manuscripts I've been and An editor for to literary journals and they come. They used to come in stacks of Manila envelopes. That that went to the ceiling. Well now they come in through the electronic portal and it is just almost a ceaseless wave so there are so many good writers and so much good work out there and there just. It's room for all of it but if you're persistent you will find your way. The fact that it's rejected doesn't mean that it's bad necessarily correct just doesn't fit for that editor on that day. I'm looking at the cover here of Leopard Lady. A life inverse. What are we looking at here? Well that's that's another story. The whole story of Leopard Lady in brief is that I was sitting on my porch one night writing in my journal trying to come up with something and this voice began and would not let me go thirteen. Pages of dictation later I came out of it and thought what was that people who aren't writers. I don't understand the split. It happened right it. It just comes to you sometimes but it's usually something that comes to me in my voice. This was not my voice. It was nobody I knew and so I was a bit wary of this and it took me a long time to write this book because I had to wait for Diana China to tell me her story. Donna is the characteristic over this book. Yeah and the image is one that I painted. I am no artist. I don't claim to be but I went to who coney island and they had a workshop in Painting Carnival banners where you learned about the history and why certain look and you know the sideshow uh-huh and its place in American culture and paint and so I went there in search of Dina and painted this image to try to get my hands around. Who is this person who's speaking to me? What is what is her life Bennett? How is she ended up the side show so Yeah okay so so. We're going to have to get as poetry. Sometimes the reads very long Lots of lots of material but not as many words. That's we have but before we read a few Just a little bit about the collection itself you get some characters This is what I I. I guess. Assist is a a collection that tells a story right so he really front to back and it's more than just poems of different types you'd get. Did you get Donna. She's the Leper Lady Right and you got the professor yes. Tolson breath professor The professor joins the book midway another voice that appeared that I couldn't ignore. He's a younger character. Younger man who was a divinity student he was is going to be a member of the clergy but he lost his faith and so he's a wanderer. He's a searcher. He washes up at this to carnival and becomes The professor which is one of the things they called the the man in the sideshow town who goes around around explains the fictional history of these different people who are exhibiting themselves how the terrible snake man became the terrible snake man or take the leopard ladies stories and he and Dinah develop a close friendship and one that is going to it lasts until the end of the book. Now it as attending county fair something in your youthful past as well I love affairs and and the smooth days said and all of these these sort of things when I was a kid however never went the side show there. Were still a few floating running around them. They they really kind of went away in the sixties to seventies because people didn't think it was good to look at people with Various ailments anymore for amusement assessment but in their in their day in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they were they were really kind of a refuge for people who are different because in the the wider world they would have maybe been institutionalized or locked up by their families because they had these these deformities or ailments but within the world of the side show even though they were could be considered in some way exploited they also had control of their own destinies. They travelled they made money. They had a supportive community unity. So it's a they're two sides to that coin so no. I never went in a sideshow but I always looked at the The banners and I did head coach. Ripley's believe it or not there all right. So let's start with The Leopard ladies speaks. which is the first poem of the Book and it was the first thinks she said to me that night almost intact? The Leopard lady speaks this leopard skin. Come on to me when I lost I love. This is not for the marks to know when my man's absence set a hot kindle up distrust that blowed back on me as lack of faith faith in what is more worthy than some handful of spit and dust. No wonder I lost my natural color. Trying to be all things to him him and him not wanting what I ever was or become or any between turning away like a spoilt child turning away like the Sun. Eat Up by the moon and not my doing or undoing. I- scourged my soul turning myself inside out to make him a better tempt against the weather up the world stretching myself across his failings like a warned through quilt. A wide cold bed. There weren't enough left me down to fill a thimble but gathered myself back up and stood feet reasonable to the earth lever. Light settling back like I've been dropped from from a high place and I was about satisfied. But the letting go of that man him of me than me of him left me streaked specked and spotted like the flocks of Jacob and I opened my mouth to say the truth things that under prop the world so valley we start here it looks like a relationship. That's gone south. There's some abandonment here. Tell us a little uh-huh what This voice was saying you let these words came out well Dina and it took her awhile to give me. Her name is a child who was orphaned at birth biracial child in Appalachia in Kentucky and she goes through cycles of abuse and abandonment. She's of course abandoned at birth. A family is She's given to a family who use her as a servant and she runs away from their joins a a carnival Meets One man who leaves her meets the love of her life shelby. Who leaves her? But she is just indomitable notable she always rises so even though it's a story of of a very difficult life she is triumphant at the end and the spots I would I would say there are metaphorical but We're GONNA scratch right. They are not metaphorical They are a result assault of a an autoimmune condition. Vitiligo where you lose your Melanin in your skin and people of any race can have it. I have it but if you are a darker skinned that is much more noticeable. Because you literally have. Albino Patches with no melanin whatsoever however and it's been a tradition sideshows that you had people with this particular ailment who would call themselves. You know leopard boy Leopard Girl Leopard man and and would be a part of the side show our. We've got another form where the Leopard lady tells her spots. Let's a kind of a transition to that. The Leopard Lady tells her spots. Don't be looking for. Its daubed on that banner. The Leopard lady naked in the jungle brown skin all over with black spots like wallpaper on a wall. I'm more so like a spotted hound or the rump of the APELU. CR Trick Ryder uses white strode over dark but truly like the Banter says I am alive inside the Tantai rest based on a high stool wrapped in red to the professor brings some round and spills a story. That ain't mine. I keep my back to the crowd but they spy hi. My hands spotted like trout fish resting on my shoulders. I hear them Russell and breathe and then I let the silk slide lied down nothing there. One says out my back is perfect brown except for a patch on my backbone. Just about the SPANGLING girdle. I wear for modesty but scarce that the silk be whispering louder than them as the Komono falls and I turn and stand and they see me top to toe all over speckled face to breasts to ankles my affliction being such that where one side I just marked. So we'll be the other here I am. Then the light dims down and the crowd shuffles along to see the the terrible snake man of the Amazon. And I gather up my read to cover my nakedness. So Valerie We don't as you said we don't have sideshows anymore where people pay to go in to see people with Whether it be skin conditions or some other the formity we're we're talking about a public that's attracted to the unusual to exotic. Well I think the public always spend attracted to the unusual and exotic attic. It's just that we do it in different ways. Now it's not acceptable to you. Know Look and point and laugh at someone who who has something different about them I think we've come a very long way. There are still sideshows but they they have lost that freakshow aspect on now. It's a pretty much. Strictly working acts people who have a skill they're sort swallows fire eaters. they sit in the electric chair they are contortionist there people who have trained themselves and those are called working acts as opposed to naturals who are people that are born that way. There's there are a lot of people that deal with a lot of things like this and it's it's just it's just super fiscal thing. It's not doesn't get to the heart who people are right. And and that's that's what Dina knows and put the professor now as as part of this community that now the story that he's that he's telling right fake story. The the strange thing is a lot of the carnival is humbug but a lot of it is true. It's just they they disguise their own histories with these these made up lurid histories of where these people came from and and people with conditions that Speaking of skin conditions there are people that have a particular kind of thing where their skin scales and they have sort of fishy looking skin so they would make up a thing about them having been swallowed by a fish when they were under some some crazy thing like the like that. And it's you know it's a sort of a mask or disguise Of their real. Nature's speaking the professor. You've got one it's a very short read Kobe calling. Could you read that to us. The calling I thought I heard the voice of God God when I was eight a clear snap of something breaking a twig or bone and in the space. That was left. My Name Name Jonathan Jonathan Episcopalians all on my mother's side a glory of gold and lace and proper tales of vocation Noah walked with God I learned and laggard. Moses heard his name twice called in Sunday school school and seminary I sought out the stories. I labored in the fields of Aramaic Hebrew and Greek as if new letters would invite vite that voice again I did not ask for the earthquake nor the fire nor the great and mighty wind only only the still small voice to once more say my name instead. It was my Leka Paul. Why are you here ear? What had I to do with God? I walked and waited. Slept inside dreamed for a dream but the lamb of God had long ago gone out and never again was my name called in the night. So how'd they piscopo aliens getting this one. Well yeah he's he's lost his faith. He's here at this side show Dinah on the other hand is a woman of of great great faith and so the two of them debate this whole issue of God and man and she knows her Bible very well and schools him sometimes. It's IT'S A it's a fun and sort of by play between the two of them That she was not well educated as a child. They didn't think that was necessary but she taught herself. In the book walks she had available where the King James Bible and a volume of Shakespeare so her language is definitely affected by that. So can you give our listeners A little bit of teaser. Here about what they're gonNA find When they read this from start to finish don't give away the ending? Kinda give awesome direction where we're going. Well it is a life story at Sits Dinas Life Story from her birth Until she's about age forty five and half of the book is concerned with her relationship with the professor and he also was afflicted he was a blue baby. Baby which people don't know that anymore. It's not a term we use but in the from the mid fifties before Children who are born with a particular congenital deformity of the heart didn't get enough oxygen and they were blue. Their lips were blue. Their skin had a bluish tint and they died young because they were misrouted and a an interesting team a surgeon a an African American reckon surgical assistant and a female nurse figured out how to fix that and they started these surgeries to fix blue babies. ABC's and they did and he was one of the first ones but the they they continue to have problems. I mean they. They had ongoing issues and he has ongoing issues so he has an affliction of his own and Dina certainly has has her spots to deal with. She goes through a lot of Different roles in the book she starts out as a dancer they put on the stages Hoochie Coochie dancer. She's fourteen years old. Then she becomes a psychic learns how to be a fortune teller and it finally becomes the Leper Lady and exhibits her her physical form so by the end of the book she will have come into into a real acceptance and in a power in herself. She no longer feels like you know the the abandoned around two or misuse child. She is a woman of strength and character and And a place of her own in the world and you can hear a a little bit of that and and the poem. The Leopard Lady tells her spots. I suppose this came you and you said I'm going to write this News Poetry Book. But how did you know whether it should be poetry or a narrative It came as poetry and at first I thought that I burst. I thought well maybe that's all the rest of the poems kept coming and then the second voice came in and so oh I realized I was going to have to take it as it came. which was the through individual homes that added up to a life story which is is not many people have done this? When you're making this sound like a little bit here like you know it's it's very And the voices were different in the form of the poems hers were always free verse and when the Professor Started speaking it was a much more educated voice but there was something about the rhythm and I was trying to figure out what it was and I realized realized. It's blank verse. It's mill tonic blank. I it's I anti pentameter and so his poems are all in that form and hers are in free verse but it was more that it was the form came with home which it often does. I you know I'll start palm to form makes it self evident pretty clear pretty pretty soon. So that's not unusual to this book but it is something the the poem itself will tell you what it wants to be. We've got one more. It's about that forty-one seconds pretty short When I was flipping through reading the different poems in the book I saw this and I said I'm not sure exactly how this fits him but don't WanNa hear this one the let's read you? Don't leave it on the side of the road. You don't leave it on the side of the road. Only the skunk who is precious in the sight of the Almighty for his first fingers marked. Its back like you'd stroke cats that Piss Kitty. He just humping across the road heading for what egg breaking or cricket hunting. It does in the night when the tire finds it and the wheel the bump too small to be a body broken but it was raises up a smell from Earth to heaven like a mortal soul clinched for the longest time to the ankle of its death. You're making me think about Scott in a different light now. Well what I see that white more on the back hand of God touch the sky. Well that's the way Dinah would see she's an observer for the world there are quite a few nature poems in the book because she pays attention to the natural world because for her it's a manifestation of the divine so God is God is present even with the the skunk even with the Scotto. That's a great way to wrap things up today. It's a it's been wonderful having you on the show. I'm going to have information in the show notes or or how to Connect with Valerie there a website and social media has some other links there and some pictures book covers and things of that nature valujet wonderful having. You showed how this was a great interview. Thank you landis really enjoyed this well. That's it for today. Another found author giving voice to the written words next Tuesday. We'll I'll have another in-depth episode with readings and conversations about the written word and the writing life of a local or regional author before that be on the lookout for another under the covers covers episode where we do much the same thing we do here but quicker and sometimes away from the studio because there are just too many good authors. Not Enough town if you like what we're doing. Please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or the podcast platform of your choice because when you do our authors voices travel much farther and wider in podcast Hi Kathleen and if you're inclined to help US Cup authors give voice to the written words and you'd like some member only content cultivated by authors is our thanks. Please consider becoming a number supporter. 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