Around Town: Author recounts journey from fundamentalism to Buddhism

FINDING A PATH: "I finally got to tell my story in my own way," Pamela McConnell says of her new book, The Adventures of a Southern (Baptist) Buddhist. Author photo courtesy of McConnell

By the age of 18, Pamela McConnell had had enough of the fundamentalist religion she grew up with. The disconnect between the words and actions of those who professed a love for Jesus was simply too much.

“For the next decade and a half, I was somewhat agnostic but longed for a spiritual life that spoke to the highest truth, not just the dogma of tradition,” she says. That journey eventually led her to Buddhism, an experience she recounts in a new self-published memoir, The Adventures of a Southern (Baptist) Buddhist.

McConnell, who attends Asheville’s Je Tsongkhapa Kadampa Buddhist Center, writes about pilgrimages to India and Nepal as well as a trek in the Himalayas. And she explains how the teachings of meditation master Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche have affected her life.

But she also takes readers to darker places, detailing her multiple divorces and experiences with child abuse, statutory rape, drug addiction and spousal violence.

“I felt a strong need to be brutally honest,” she explains. “I pretended I was only writing my truth for myself, right up until the day I published. I didn’t share my writing with family or friends until it was finished.”

Now retired and in her 60s, McConnell says she was motivated to tell her story due to concern about the eroding of women’s rights and the loss of religious freedom in today’s toxic political environment.

“I felt the strong desire to stand up and be counted,” she says.  “It was time finally, once and for all, to throw off the yoke of repression.”

For more information or to purchase the book, visit

Dream weavers

In 2012, Lena Eastes spent time in the Mexican city of Oaxaca, where she met and became friends with a Zapotec family who practiced traditional weaving. Building such relationships and seeing firsthand the importance of art to Indigenous communities had a profound effect on her thinking.

“It’s very important that these languages and these life ways and these art ways continue,” she says.

Eastes and co-owner Ernesto Borges opened Weaving Rainbows on Wall Street last month. The Native art gallery features carvings, weavings and other handmade goods from around the Americas, including Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.

Weaving Rainbows also will serve as an event center, educational center and concert venue. For instance, it recently hosted a medicine man from Peru who taught attendees how to understand the storytelling on weavings.

“We decided we can work together to create a space where there’s a cultural celebration aspect within the wisdom keepers of the earth and all the people that possess the knowledge and the connection to the earth,” says Borges, a native of Venezuela and a member of the Caquetio tribe. “We want to have a place where we can share with people different cultures and how important it is to give value to these arts and crafts that are sometimes forgotten.”

Eastes says the gallery is taking an approach she calls “beyond fair trade,” which includes paying Native artists more than they are asking for their works.

“We’re wanting to create more value around the art so that these people and these communities are supported,” she says.

Weaving Rainbows, 62 Wall St., is open Mondays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m., and Fridays-Saturdays, noon-8 p.m. For more information, go to

Two is better than one

The Dark City Poets Society’s Poetry Night series kicks off its winter season with a new format Tuesday, Dec. 20, 6-7:30 p.m., in the education room at the Black Mountain Public Library. Immediately after the new poetry event, a second reading, called Postlude, will take place at BAD Craft from 8-9 p.m.

Poets will have three to five minutes to share their poetry at both events, which are free and open to all ages.

In past years, Poetry Night was held 6-7:30 p.m. at either BAD Craft or The Lowdown in Black Mountain. The new format moves it into a bigger indoor space at the library, while also including a more intimate reading at the Postlude, says Clint Bowman, a writer who helped launch the Dark City Poets Society in January 2020.

“Poetry Night has seen tremendous growth over the past year in the number of readers and listeners attending each event,” he explains. “What started out as three to five readers sharing to a group of 15 people has grown to over 20 readers sharing to an audience of approximately 75 or more. This new winter format will help us ensure that everyone interested will continue to have the opportunity to participate.”

Poetry Night and Postlude will be held on the third Tuesday of each month through April 18. Poets interested in sharing may sign up 15 minutes before either reading.

“I hope every poet sees Poetry Night as a safe space to share their creative work and be a part of a supportive community,” Bowman says. “I hope every reader and listener feel inspired to explore more poetry and hopefully write some of their own.”

The Black Mountain Public Library is at 105 N. Dougherty St. BAD Craft is at 128 Cherry St., Black Mountain. For more information, go to

Isis to close

After a decade in business, Isis Music Hall and Kitchen 743 will close at the end of the year.

Scott Woody and his family opened the West Asheville venue in 2012 inside a 1930s-era movie theater at 743 Haywood Road. In a Facebook post last month, the family said it was moving on to new ventures and thanked the community for its support.

“[We] hope to find someone that will continue to bring a unique musical experience to West Asheville and use our space to its fullest potential,” the post declared. “Our hearts are still very much a part of this building and what we’ve put into it, as well as the musical community around us, and we look forward to what’s to come for Isis Music Hall.”

Later on, we’ll conspire

The inaugural Swannanoa Winterfest, modeled after traditional European holiday markets, will debut Saturday, Dec. 17. 3-8 p.m., at Grovemont Square, 101 W. Charleston Ave., Swannanoa.

The event will feature artisans and vendors selling holiday-themed items under tents decorated with lights, food, holiday treats, hot drinks, music and caroling. Kids activities will include a visit from Olaf, the snowman from Frozen.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to bring nonperishables or monetary donations to support the Healthy Food & Fund Drive sponsored by local nonprofit Bounty & Soul.

For more information, go to

Clapsaddle appointed

Award-winning author and educator Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle has joined the board of directors of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee.

An enrolled citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Clapsaddle holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William & Mary. Her 2020 debut novel, Even as We Breathe, was a finalist for the Weatherford Award and was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. In 2021, it received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.

The museum board includes three seats that are appointed at the recommendation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council. Two seats are reserved for the museum’s recommendation and are subject to approval by the council. Clapsaddle was recommended by the museum’s nominating committee, and the appointment was approved unanimously by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council.

Call for directors

The Montford Park Players, North Carolina’s longest-running Shakespeare troupe, is seeking directors for the 2023 season, which begins with a production of Peter Pan on Friday, May 19.

Other shows include Twelfth Night (beginning Friday, June 23), Treasure Island (Friday, July 28), The Tempest (Friday, Sept. 1) and Alice in Murderland (Friday, Oct. 6).

Applications for directors will be accepted through Sunday, Dec. 31. To download an application, visit

Call for artists

Artists of all ages and mediums, including painting, photography and poetry, are invited to contribute to a June exhibition in Weizenblatt Gallery at Mars Hill University.

The show will celebrate and support the work of Friends of Bailey Mountain, which has worked to preserve public access to the mountain at 889 Forest St. in Mars Hill.

Submissions will be accepted through Sunday, April 30. To submit a work, go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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