Around Town: Historic Asheville inn invites writers to interpret history

INN ON IT: John Senechal, seated, owner of The Gray Rock Inn, featured, has teamed up with local author Alli Marshall, left, for a new project that invites area writers to submit short stories imagining individuals who have stayed or worked at the inn during its 111-year history. Also featured is Sara Legatski, the site's Airbnb manager. Photo by Jennifer Castillo

If walls could talk, The Gray Rock Inn in downtown Asheville would likely have some stories to tell. Constructed in 1911, the property has stood firm through several historic periods, including World War I, the Roaring ’20s, the Great Depression, World War II and urban renewal, which decimated many of Asheville’s Black neighborhoods.

Inn owner John Senechal purchased and renovated the property in the early 2000s and later began penning short fictional stories inspired by some of the earliest guests. Now, Senechal is inviting other locals to submit their own creative interpretations of the inn’s history with the launch of The Gray Rock Inn Writers Project.

“One of the wonderful things about historic buildings is the stories they contain,” says project coordinator Alli Marshall. “I’m so curious to know who might have stayed at The Gray Rock Inn during the Roaring 1920s. But I’m also imagining a traveling salesperson in the 1950s who books a room at the inn and wanders across the street to Skateland Rollerdome, now The Orange Peel.”

Writers interested in participating in the project must first submit a cover letter, resume and links to published works of fiction, nonfiction, reporting and/or historical research. If selected, the writer will then be asked to craft a story about one guest, resident or employee from the past, using historically accurate details within their creative story.

Senechal and Marshall hope to continually receive submissions, in order to commission one writer each month to create a 1,000- to 2,000-word story within 30 days. The inn will publish selected stories through various platforms, including blog entries, print anthologies and social media posts.

“Knowing about the Asheville of 25 and 50 and 100 years ago helps us to more clearly envision the future of this city,” says Marshall. “I could see this project continuing for a couple of years. There’s certainly no shortage of historic detail by which to be inspired.”

The Gray Rock Inn is at 100 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to apply, visit

Sharing sonnets

A year ago, the Dark City Poets Society established Poetry Night to provide an accessible reading series for local writers. The monthly gathering encourages writers of all experience levels to share their work, free of cost and without registration.

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, 6-7:30 p.m., the DCPS will celebrate the one-year anniversary of Poetry Night at The Lowdown in Black Mountain. Along with local poetry, the event will feature drinks and limited releases of DCPS T-shirts and stickers for purchase. A portion of all drink sales will be donated to the Friends of the Black Mountain Library.

“Many poets who want to get their poetry published often lack the resources to receive feedback on their work due to financial barriers or the absence of a writing community,” says co-founder Clint Bowman. “Our aim is to create a welcoming environment where writers don’t feel intimidated to share.”

Along with Poetry Night, the DCPS meets on the first Tuesday of every month for a free workshop at the Black Mountain Library. All are welcome to attend. Poetry Night takes place on third Tuesdays.

The Lowdown is at 204 Black Mountain Ave. In the event of inclement weather, Poetry Night will take place at BAD Craft, 128 Cherry St. For more information, visit DCPS’ Instagram page at

Flex your brain

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center will present Constructing Nature’s Architecture: Leonardo DaVinci & Buckminster Fuller, a workshop by mathematician and artist Mark Hanf. The class will focus on modeling the connections between nature and geometry. Hanf will use the new 3D modeling toy Flexistix to build geometrically constructed objects. The all-ages workshop takes place Saturday, Aug. 20, 9:30 a.m.-noon. Admission is $15 per person, $20 for two and $10 for museum members and students with a valid ID.

Also in August, artist André Daughtry will present his latest exhibit, Sketches for Wilderness, a visual travelogue examining the Cauca region of southern Colombia. The free livestream will be on Vimeo and Facebook on Thursday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m.

Lastly, artist Vandorn Hinnant will discuss his visual exploration of metaphysical ideas as part of the Faith in Arts Institute hosted by BMCM+AC and UNC Asheville. The online talk will be available on Vimeo and Facebook on Thursday, Aug. 25, at 1 p.m.

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is at 120 College St. For more information or to purchase tickets for the workshop, visit To access Daughtry’s livestream, visit To access Hinnant’s livestream, visit

Read a romance

Asheville’s Pack Memorial Library will host Read a Romance, an author event featuring local writers Brooke Campbell and Kel O’Connor. The event, celebrating National Read a Romance Month, happens Saturday, Aug. 13, 2-3:15 p.m.

The two authors will read excerpts from their books and discuss their experiences writing and publishing contemporary romance. Afterward, the library will have a selection of romance novels available for library cardholders to check out.

“I hope [this event] will encourage readers to pick up a romance for the first time,” says O’Connor. “I think new readers will be surprised and even delighted at the creativity of the stories, twists and incredible characters available.”

Campbell will read from her lesbian paranormal romance The Warrior Within, the first in The Warrior Series.

O’Connor will read from Broken Bits and Unsettled Scores, the first two romantic suspenses of the four-book DAG Team series, which focuses on agents outside of the law. The third book is set to be released in late 2022.

Pack Memorial Library is at 67 Haywood St. For more information on the event, visit


Hendersonville Theatre is seeking experienced directors for the 2023 season for three plays, two musicals, one youth musical, one original work and three adult readers’ theater productions.

The application requires a letter of introduction, answers to specific questions, contact information, two-three references and a resume. The application is due Friday, Aug. 12.

For more information or to apply, visit

Mental health support

The nonprofit Black Mountain Counseling Center will host Concert for Mental Health at Anderson Auditorium in Montreat on Friday, Aug. 19, 7:15-9 p.m. Prior to the concert, there will be wine, dessert and a silent auction, 6:30-7:15 p.m.

Leslie Applewhite, BMCC board chair, notes that from January to July, the center received 309 calls requesting help accessing mental health services. This year’s numbers will likely surpass last year’s total call count of 360. “The need for affordable and accessible counseling is escalating, and we are actively working to meet that demand,” Applewhite says.

The center’s subsidy program provides over 40% of its clients with accessible mental health services that they could not otherwise afford. Donations from the concert will directly finance this program.

The concert will feature singer-songwriter David LaMotte, national champion hammered dulcimer player Benjamin Barker and kalimba musician Chinobay. All proceeds support mental health services in Buncombe and McDowell counties. Tickets cost $25 per person.

Anderson Auditorium’s “Upper Anderson” is at 303 Lookout Road. For more information or to buy tickets, visit  

Can you be-LEAF it?

LEAF Global Arts will host its annual summer music festival, appropriately dubbed LEAF Down by the River, at the Outpost in West Asheville on Saturday, Aug. 20, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

LEAF Down by the River will focus on giving young performers a space to express themselves. The festival will feature cultural youth performances, dance classes, roaming artists, bounce houses and youth competition finalists.

“This year’s festival is all about our youth and family in the community,” says marketing and communications director Alexa Kincaid. “It is also different in the sense that it is more of an intimate size and is more connected to nature.”

Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and young vocalist Jordan Scheffer will perform. LEAF will also welcome Internacional Dance Academy youth performers representing Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain, in addition to other artists.

The Outpost is at 521 Amboy Road. For more information on the festival, visit


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