The Appalachian Studies Association held its 38th Annual Appalachian Studies Conference last weekend at Eastern Tennessee University. Photo by Max Hunt.

Mountain medley: Reflection­s on the 2015 Appalachia­n Studies Conference

In an ongoing effort to connect those dispersed communities, the Appalachian Studies Association held its 38th annual conference last month in Johnson City, Tenn. The one-of-a-kind event unites scholars and musicians, activists and academics, to celebrate the often misunderstood region’s distinctive heritage, culture and physical landscape.

NESSIE WHISPERER: "The monster in the loch is everyone's internal monster," says Asheville-based author Sara Gruen. "What you do with it is what defines you." Her new novel is set in World War II near Loch Ness and deals with monsters real and imaginary. Photo by Tasha Thomas

Local author Sara Gruen pens an all-consuming new novel

Author Sara Gruen gets lost in her books. “I wasn’t able to immerse myself completely with Water for Elephants,” she says of her 2006 best-seller that became a film starring Reese Witherspoon. “The type of circus I was writing about no longer existed.” For her new book, Gruen spent a total of five weeks in the British Isles, researching, absorbing the culture and immersing herself — literally.

"Chickens are a perfect starting point for anyone who wants to be more connected to their food," says Justin Rhodes, creator of Asheville's newest chicken-raising film tutorial. Photo of key film contributors from Justin Rhodes' Kickstarter page

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng campaigns

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise startup capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. This week: self-reliance through chickens, new adventures at Firestorm Books and a re-published Tarot classic.

BURDEN OF MEMORY: Although Miranda Richmond Mouillot's book includes dramatic stories from her grandparents' years as Holocaust refugees, she says, "Everybody you're around has this depth of feeling and experience." Photo by Tristan Zilberman, La Fabrique de l'Image

Quiet time: Former Ashevillea­n writes of adventure, memories and family secrets

It’s the story of Anna Münster and Armand Jacoubovitch that Mouillot recounts — or, rather, unearths. The couple survived the Holocaust only to sever all ties with each other shortly after the end of World War II. Mouillot also weaves her own story into the text. “A lot of what I was grappling with in the book is the daunting realization that life is always very complex,” she says.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Vandercook­ed Poetry Nights celebrate the intersecti­on of art and writing

If athletics and poetry seem like strange bedfellows, then you haven’t read Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s sports desk columns for The Best American Poetry blog. “Two days later it still feels awfully good to think about that game,” she wrote after the 2010 Super Bowl (New Orleans won). “And yet, like the jambalaya I made on Sunday, […]

SHOOT AND SCORE: David Burris, front, makes his directorial debut with The World Made Straight. The North Carolina native says he was determined to shoot in WNC. "The type of atmosphere it creates for the actors and crew ... to know you’re performing on the actual ground where the story took place  — that’s immeasurable,” he says. Photo by Missy McLamb

Rash’s “The World Made Straight” becomes a very N.C.-centric film

Serena, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, was filmed in the Czech Republic. Similarly, Civil War drama Cold Mountain, from the book by local author Charles Frazier, was filmed mostly in Romania. The World Made Straight, however, was a North Carolina production through and through, down to — and because of — its directors.

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North Carolina writing contests in January

Why wait for the second quarter, or spring or summer to rack up a prestigious writing prize? Local and regional contests are currently accepting submissions. Prize purses, publications and accolades await. Plus, several of these contests honor local literary greats (Thomas Wolfe and Carl Sandburg among them). 1. North Carolina Poetry Society poetry contests The […]

Three out of five worker-owners of Firestorm Cafe and Books show off their new space, located at 610 Haywood Road (the space formerly occupied by Pro Bikes). Photo by Hayley Benton

Firestorm Café and Books finds a new West Asheville home

Firestorm Café and Books is coming back with a bang — revamped, refurbished — and in West Asheville. Soon to be located at 610 Haywood Road (formerly home to Pro Bikes), Firestorm Café and Books originally opened downtown in March 2008 in the Commerce Street space now occupied by the new Ethiopian restaurant Addissae. In April 2014, […]