About Me

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Nancy Simpson's LIVING ABOVE THE FROST LINE, New and Selected Poems was published by Carolina Wren Press (N.C. Laureate Series, 2010.) She is the author of ACROSS WATER and NIGHT STUDENT, State Street Press, still available on WWW at Alibris and Books Again. Her poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review and other literary magazines. "Carolina Bluebirds" was published in THE POETS GUIDE TO THE BIRDS, Anhinga Press). "Grass" was reprinted in the 50th Anniversary Issue of Southern Poetry Review: DON'T LEAVE HUNGRY ( U.of Arkansas Press.) Seven poems were reprinted in the textbook, SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY,(McFarland.) Two poems were published in SOLO CAFE, Two more poems were published in SOLO NOVO."In the Nantahala Gorge" was published in Pisgah Review. "Studying Winter" was reprinted in Pirene's Fountain Anthology and "The Collection" in Collecting Life Anthology. Most recently, Southern Poetry Review Edited by James Smith, published "Our Great Depression," and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. VII: NORTH CAROLINA,Edited by William Wright, reprinted "Leaving in the Dead of Winter."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Well Blow the Tannery Whistle. Look Who's Come to Murphy.

Appalachian Story Teller, Playwright and film maker Gary Carden entertained a large audience at the Learning Center in Murphy, NC last night, January 30, 2009. The event was sponsored by North Carolina Writers Network West, of which Gary Carden is a member. He was introduced to the audience as a "National Treasure" by Glenda Beall, Program Coordinator. I was there, and I can tell you Gary Carden's is a one man show. His theme was "Blow the Tannery Whistle" and minute by minute he took each and every one of us back to the small mountain town of Sylva, North Carolina as it was in the 1940s.

The story "Blow the Tannery Whistle" is largely autobiographical Carden said. It is the tale of a mountain boy who entertains himself by acting out stories. His grandparents seeing him talking to himself, worry about his sanity. They think he has bad blood from his mother's side of the family. Finally the men family and the men of the town meet to see if the boy should be sent away. The boy's life is changed when it is determined that he might not be all that different from the college boys seen around town. The family decides to send him to Teacher's College down the road in Cullowhee. Those who know Gary Carden, know that he did go to college, and there he had a wonderful time acting in plays and learning how a script is written.

Carden has spent 40 years of his life promoting life and culture in Southern Appalachian Mountains. He was born here in the mountains, raised here and educated here. On August 1, 2007, Western Carolina University bestowed upon Carden the Honorary Doctorate in Letters. Chancellor John Bardo presided over the ceremony.

Through the years Gary Carden made his living as a story teller, playwright and film maker. Here in the last cold, dreary days of winter, my advice to you, especially if you missed the program in Murphy last night, is get some of his audio tapes, and DVDs
to entertain yourself and your family.

Where to get them? www.tannerywhistle.com. At the Cary Carden web site, you can see all that is available, all at reasonable prices. "Mason Jars in the Flood and Other Stories" won the 2001 Appalachian Writers Association Award. It is available. Also "Papa's Angels" , "The Raindrop Waltz" and other plays, also the film The Prince of Dark Places is on DVD. It tells the legendary story of South Carolina outlaw Lewis Redmond. Also available is the film Willa, an American Snow White tale.

Another possibility is that you might invite Gary Carden to come visit your town. He will entertain you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FOXES a poem by Nancy Simpson


The sight of the pair
eating bread crumbs on the lawn
makes me imagine I want you
to come back, stand by me again.

Stunned by their green eyes
I am fooled into thinking
I hear you say, as you said,
in the last days of winter
they hunt together.

They are misplaced, they are starving.
But what power! They change me,
change you 800 miles away, wherever
you are. We are at the window
looking out, married in the agreement
that the free suffer.

by Nancy Simpson

First published in Portfolio 1984
Included in NIGHT STUDENT, State Street Press

Monday, January 26, 2009

NC WRITERS NETWORK WEST announces two LOCAL LITERARY EVENTS Before the January Calendar Page Turns

Has January gotten you down? Is Winter keeping you in? It's time to get put on your coat and go out to see what our mountains writers are doing. Visit with fellow writers. Drink hot chocolate. Two current literary events are offered in the Netwest area on January 30th and Jan. 31. Mark your calendar. Make your plans.

1) It's Story Telling Time in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Gary Carden, the best story teller for mile and miles will be here to tell his own stories on the evening of January 30th, 2009. Location. The Learning Center, 945 Conahetta Street in Murphy,NC 7:00 p.m.

On Saturday morning 9:00 - noon, Gary Carden will teach a workshop TELLING YOUR STORIES OR SOMEBODY ELSES which will also be held at The Learning Center.

Register now. Mail to NC Writers Network West, Glenda Beall, Program Coordinator, 581 Chatuge Lane, Hayesville, NC 28904. Info: (828) 389-4441.

Gary Carden Story Telling Event - $10.00 adults, $5.00 children.

Story Telling Workshop Fee $20.00.

Come One. Come All.

2) NC American Association of University Women Juvenile Literary Award Reception will be held Saturday January 31, 2009 at 2:00pm at Macon County Public Library 819 Siler Rd Franklin, North Carolina 28734. Get Directions.

This Reception is for Cathryn Sill, Frankiln author who won the 2008 NC AAUW Juvenile Literary Award for her children's book ABOUT HABITATS: WETLANDS, which was illustrated by her husband John Sill. Reception is cohosted by the Bryson City branch of AAUW and by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee. It will be held in the children's section of the Macon County Public Library in Franklin at 2:00pm on Saturday, January 31, 2009. The public is invited to meet and to honor this award-winning author.

Cathryn Sill Received Award for Juvenile Litertature given by American Association of University Women (N.C.)

Cathryn Sill of Franklin, North Carolina received the AAUW Award for Juvenile Literature at the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association 108th Meeting held on Saturday, November 8, in Raleigh.

Mrs. Sill received the award for her latest book called About Habitats: Wetlands. This is a basic text aimed at grades PreK-3. Each page details a characteristic of a type of wetland in simple and succinct language. Sentences are short and simple for young readers to understand. As children look at the colorful illustrations, they will gain additional knowledge of the habitats by learning words that depict different environments.

An appreciation of our environment through Sill’s book at such a young age, is very important as we seek to protect our world from the ravishes of pollution and other environmental hazards. Besides the succinct text and the beautifully detailed illustrations, there is an afterword which contains a description of the various habitats.

Sill is a former elementary school teacher and the author of the About… series. With her husband John and brother-in-law Ben Sill, she coauthored the popular bird-guide parodies, A Field Guide to Little-Known and Seldom-Seen Birds of North America and Beyond Birdwatching. Husband John is a noted wildlife illustrator for all the About books. Other Sill books for young children include About Marsupials, About Birds, About Mammals, and About Insects.

The American Association of University Women Award for Juvenile Literature is presented by AAUW of North Carolina and administered by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


ANSWER: There are only two times you need to use an exclamantion mark.

1) Use an exclamation mark at the end of a statement sentence that tells with great emotion. Examples: "You stepped on my face!", or "The House is on fire!"

2) Use an exclamation in an imperative sentence where you are addressing someone and yelling/telling them to do something.
Example: "Help me!" or a command not to do something: "Do not step on my face!". There is a choice to make using the imperative. You will not need an exclamation mark if you are quietly telling someone to do something such as: "Hand me that book of poems."

Otherwise, when writing a poem or story, try to forget the exclamation mark. Trust the English language to do its work.

According to Peg Russell, a writer is only allowed to use one or two exclamation marks in their entire writing career. I agree with her.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cabin Fever, I Guess You Could Say


Some of you are thinking, she's obsessed with a specific poem and its line breaks. Others who know my situation would say, "She is obsessed, obsessed with her frozen road." Still others will defend me to the death, and they will say, "Give her a break. It's only a case of cabin fever."

Meanwhile, my car has been to the village and back and slid only on the switchback going down. I had to get a running start to climb back up the drive, but yes, my car is parked exactly where it is supposed to be now, and not stranded on the north ridge as it has been for days. The household is stocked with all we need, including copy paper, dog food, cat food, bird seed. After a week of lock up, the old mountain road is for most of the way navigable. All is well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"When wintertime comes to the mountains" - first line of the poem by Dorothea S. Spiegel

WINTER by Dorothea S. Spiegel

When wintertime comes to the mountains
bare branches make windows that show
an expanded world, with vistas
not seen by October people,

who come for the colorful autumn
and go before the leaves fall.
I see mountains tipped with tree-frost,
and a church; I see a steeple.

Now the sun can reach my house; it's
shining through my kitchen window.
There's a spring behind that rock, there,
sending water down to the creek.

There's a house just built last summer;
there's another on that mountain
where I saw the bear last winter.
There are squirrels playing hide and seek.

I'm so glad I stay through winter
in these mountains that I love.
Even when the days are cloudy
I can always look outside

and watch the birds come to the feeder.
On a clear, cold day there's sunshine
making speckles on the the tree-frost.
Bright views to see; I'll take a ride.

Previously published in LIGHTS IN THE MOUNTAINS
Stories, Essays and Poems Written in and Inspired by
the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Dorothea S. Spiegel lives in Hiawassee, Georgia.
She has been writing poetry most of her life and
at age 85, she still writes. Her poems have been
published in Atahita Journal, Freeing Jonah V
and in the anthologies IN THE YARD and in

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Poet Elizabeth Alexander

Meet Elizabeth Alexander, Inaugural Poet. Today she answered the call of President Barak Obama to grace his swearing in ceremony with a poem. Her poem, titled Praise Song For The Day is a poem of masterfully controlled free verse form. Alexander began reminding us how we pass each other, look or do not look at each other. She lamented: "all about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din." She kept to the topic of change, what is needed. "Say it plain, that many have died for this day," she said and she urged us to go beyond merely what's right to choose love, "love that casts a widening pool of light."

Elizabeth Alexander is only the fourth poet to read at an inauguration, following Robert Frost in 1961, Maya Angelou in 1993 and Miller Williams in 1997.

The New York Times Web Site has posted a copy of the text, however the poet's line breaks have not been preserved. Also, I note that the last line as reported by NYT is not as read to the world by the poet. Graywolf Press will publish a chapbook of Alexander's inaugural poem.

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC. Alexander has degrees from Yale University and Boston University and completed her Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania. She has published five books of poems: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and was one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Books of the Year;” and, most recently, her first young adult collection (co-authored with Marilyn Nelson), Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color (2008 Connecticut Book Award). Her two collections of essays are The Black Interior (2004) and Power and Possibility (2007), and her play, “Diva Studies,” was produced at the Yale School of Drama.

Professor Alexander is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks, a Guggenheim fellowship as well as the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at University of Chicago. She currently teaches in the Department African American Studies at Yale University.

Monday, January 19, 2009

YOUR POETRY - Journey Into the Interior Writing Class will be Taught

Your Poetry - JOURNEY INTO THE INTERIOR is a poetey writing class I teach at John C. Campbell Folk School. The original class was first taught in September 2007 with exciting results. Some of the students from that class are: Bill Queen of Virginia, Lee Limbird of Tennessee, and Georgia poet, Rachel Bronnum. One of the highlights of that week was a field trip to the Nantahala National Forest. (See photo above of poet, Bill Queen.)

A Repeat and new variation of YOUR POETRY: JOURNEY INTO THE INTERIOR will be taught by Nancy Simpson, April 12-17, 2009.

Through teacher-directed assignments you will travel the inner journey, reach home, and find the self whose voice speaks words of life and wisdom. Write new poems in different free verse forms. Learn where to break the line and how to rev up the music. Gain insight through feedback from your instructor and classmates.

Publication will be discussed and a list of markets given. This class is open to all practicing poets.

Classes meet daily. There will be time for poets to work on their poetry collections. $480.00.

Ask about one half cost if you live in the local area.

John C. Campbell Folk School is located in the southern Appalachian Mountains at Brasstown. NC. Pre Register Now at 1 800 FOLK-SCH or 828 8372775 or on the web www.folkschool.org. Call to register.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Weather Report for Poets From Above the Frost Line - First Snow

Our first snow of 2009 fell last night and this morning, covering the road. The hard freeze did it's damaging deed in December. The only thriving plants are inside potted plants.

Poems? Yes, they thrive here above the frost line. So far, all our poems have endured the bitter cold of a southern Appalachian winter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Do Poets Watch The Moon More Than Others Do? You Tell Me.

Photos of setting Moon at Perigee, and a close up of Herself.

If you saw the full moon on Jan. 10, 2009, Congratulations. According to N A S A this is the Moon at Perigee, and it will appear to be the largest and the closest of all the moons you will see this year.

Johanne Kepler explained the phenomenan 400 years ago. "The moon's orbit around Earth is a not a circle." he said. "It is an ellipse, with one side of the ellipse closer to Earth than the other." Astromoners call the moon at its closest point, Perigee.

I wonder about poets and other moon watchers. Recently more poems and more photos of the moon have appeared on the sites I read most often. Here and on the NC Poet Laureate's blog photos of this famous Perigee Moon were shared with you.

I'm curious. How many of you poets watch the moon? How many of you saw this "biggest, "fullest" moon? Scientists. Yes. I'm sure you saw it. But what about you poets?

Did you see it? Tell.

Friday, January 16, 2009

WRITING ASSIGNMENT Instructor: Poet, Nancy Simpson


It is January, and it is the coldest day of the year. Your car stalled. You have to walk the rest of the way home, carrying something heavy. It is not your only burden on this cold day. Write a poem or write a scene for a short story.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's STORY TELLING TIME in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

It's Story Telling Time in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Gary Carden, the best story teller for mile and miles will be here to tell his own stories on the evening of January 30th, 2009. Location. The Learning Center, 945 Conahetta Street in Murphy,NC 7:00 p.m.

On Saturday morning 9:00 - noon, Gary Carden will teach a workshop TELLING YOUR STORIES OR SOMEBODY ELSES which will also be held at The Learning Center.

Register now. Mail to NC Writers Network West, Glenda Beall, Program Coordinator, 581 Chatuge Lane, Hayesville, NC 28904. Info: (828) 389-4441.

Gary Carden Story Telling Event - $10.00 adults, $5.00 children.

Story Telling Workshop Fee $20.00.

Come One. Come All.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Moon. We caught her
out on a limb,
wanting to get away,
early, before daybreak.
I admit it's a blur. You say
for sure you know,
she's going down.

Good morning, Writers.

I know you recognize this is not a poem. It can't be called anything more than an image even though I added someone other than the speaker, and even though I added a conflict , some emotion with words like "I admit," and "it's a blur," "she's out on a limb," and "she's going down." At daybreak I took the blurry photo of the moon and looked to see what I had captured. I started to write. You know the truth. A poem cannot be made with cliche and puns. It's bad writing, but it was fun while it lasted, and it got me started. We have to start with words.

William Stafford and Robert Bly had a conversation where Stafford talked about writing a poem every morning with the first thing that came to his mind. Bly asked him what did he do if it didn't turn out so good. Stafford said, "I lower my standards."

This morning, I lowered my standards, played with words and got started writing.

The main thing is to write every morning. You might get a pearl, but probably not. You might get the real item, a real poem, along about 3:00 p.m. You can't wait until 3:00 though and think the pearl will be sitting there waiting for you. Get started.

Write, Dear Ones. Write, and keep me posted.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Waking up Without an Alarm - a poem by Karen Holmes

You asked for it. Here it is -- a new poem by Karen Holmes.

Waking up Without an Alarm

a day without obligations
slivers of silver spilling from the shades
a small ceremony of jasmine tea in the Japanese pot
ten minutes of Qi Gong, twenty rubbing Rascal’s belly.
in the evening, a pang of regret for a lazy day
then remembering
a well-deserved retirement
a chance to do something or nothing
innate joy arising
and Rascal smiling, sleeping in his basket.

Karen Holmes


Saturday, January 10, 2009


Karen Holmes is an award-winning business writer with 26 years experience in marketing and corporate communications. She has had her own writing and consulting business, HYPERLINK "http://www.simplycommunicated.com" Simply Communicated, since 2000. Her career in the corporate world included several years as Vice President of Communications at ING's North American headquarters in Atlanta. Now Karen splits her time between Atlanta and Hiawassee, Georgia, focusing on her freelance writing work and her poetry. She also enjoys classical music, Ikebana and contradancing.


Liven Up Your Writing + Increase Your IQ
By Karen Holmes, www.simplycommunicated.com

To be or not to be? A famous question, yes, yet did you know that remembering “not to be” can improve your writing? Avoiding “to be” verbs, a discipline known as E-Prime, livens things up and makes your writing more precise at the same time.

What exactly should you try to avoid? As a reminder, the “to be” family includes be, is, am, are, was, were, been, being; plus contractions — ’m, ’s, and ’re.

Sound tough to do? It is (oops, I mean, “It can seem so.”). Without these stalwart standbys, composing your prose takes some creative thinking and a little extra time, but your readers will thank you for it. E-Prime sentences join an elite minority: Studies show that from 25 to 50 percent of English sentences use a “to be” form.

To help illustrate the point, some samples follow.

To be form: Her singing voice is beautiful.
E-Prime: She sings beautifully. (shorter, more precise, more active)

To be form: The stars are bright white dots.
E-Prime: The stars appear as bright white dots. (more accurate)

To be form: Your application will be approved in 30 days.
E-Prime: We will approve your application in 30 days. (changes from passive voice to active, more informative, more personal)

E-Prime helps clarify thought for the writer and therefore, delivers clearer meaning for the reader. It also challenges the writer to come up with stronger alternatives to the bland “to be’s”. For example, take this sentence: “This movie was wonderful!” It tells us that someone liked the movie, but fails to explicitly explain how it personally touched the reviewer. A more thoughtful sentence, such as, “This movie gave me goosebumps and made me want to hug someone!” certainly packs more punch. (continued)

Lazy writers may just settle for the first alternative. Those who take the time to discover the best sentence each time find their reward in satisfied readers.

In his Guide to Grammar and Style (http://andromeda.rutgers.edu), Jack Lynch agrees, saying:

Overuse of verbs of being makes writing lifeless, and no one should object to more action verbs. In fact, beginning writers may profit from the exercise of removing all the verbs of being from their writing, since it forces them to find more forceful means of expression.

Does this mean that you should use E-Prime all the time? Probably not, though some scientists and philosophers argue in favor of writing—and even speaking—in E-Prime exclusively. Writers, however, should consider that it enhances interest and precision. On the other hand, employing E-Prime religiously can sound stiff. Sometimes, the “to be” verbs just work better. Charles T. Low ( HYPERLINK "http://www.ctlow.ca/E-Prime/E-Prime.html" http://www.ctlow.ca/E-Prime/E-Prime.html) states that if the use of E-Prime “does not clarify thought, nor enhance meaning” but only “constitutes blind rule-following,” then it defeats its own purpose. I agree. In my writing, I sometimes purposefully cull out the verbs of being (as in this article) and other times, use them willy nilly. Depends on how energetic I feel!

In addition to improving your writing, you just might experience further benefits. E-Prime’s originator, D. David Bourland, Jr. says, “I have come to suspect that writing — at least — in E-Prime can significantly increase the number and qualities of one’s neural pathways. … in addition to having a beneficial effect on one’s creativity, this effort would also enhance the measured IQ.”

What better argument for trying it right now, huh? (Wait a minute, please read the rest of this newsletter first)!

By the way, E-Prime appeared around 1949, long before someone established the current meaning of “e” (as in e-mail). Bourland says, “The name comes from the equation E' = E-e, where E represents the words of the English language, and e represents the inflected forms of ‘to be’.” If you want to learn more, Bourland wrote at least three books about and in E-Prime, most recently E-Prime III: A Third Anthology.

Happy E-Priming!

Essay written by Karen Holmes.  Check out her web site.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dark Side, a poem by Nancy Simpson

Rain, Rain, go away I used to say when I was a child.  No one living in Southern Appalachia can say those words now after two summers of drought.  Deep in my heart, I am thankful for the rain falling on my plants, standing on my deck.  I now believe my perennials will return to a season of growing in the spring.  

But, I am normal.  January is hard enough on the soul.  Dark skies. Rain, Rain, Rain.  It gets you to thinking dark thoughts sometimes. Moods do not last.  Moods are ever changing.  We can be thankful for that.  If I had a poem to express my emotions today, I would choose "Dark Side."

I did not write "Dark Side" today nor even last night.  I wrote it so many years ago I can't say exactly.  I remember coming out of the Young Harris College Planetarium after a poetry program and planetarium show that presented poems about the night sky.  I was challenged to write one.  I was not depressed in the slightest and it was not raining.  It was a clear night. By the way, I was not an old woman.  That is why I would have to say, all these years later, you can never know what is going on in the head of a practicing poet.  I would guarantee you what is going on in the mind of the  poet  is almost never what you would think.  


Rain falls on my house
drumming up the old woman in me,
cave woman, afraid in the dark.
Rain makes a wall between earth and sky.
Not one star.  There is no moon
I say, blind in my belief,
but surely there are stars
and the moon is somewhere in the heavens,
stumbling, shoved along,
pushed over the edge maybe.

--Nancy Simpson, from  NIGHT STUDENT
published at State Street Press, 1985

Sunday, January 4, 2009


A Wish For Your Poetry in the New Year
from Above the Frost Line.

Let your poems be as ivy, evergreen,
ever reaching for the transcendental.

Yes, Ms. Wolf, Christmas is Over.

Christmas is a parade
moved on down the mountain.
We remain
while spirits of the past
scatter back
to their own hearths.

Friday, January 2, 2009

N C Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer - Her Poems Reach Across Mountains and Oceans.

N.C. Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer grew up in south Georgia. She graduated from Wesleyan College and UNC Greensboro, where she studied poetry with Allen Tate, Fred Chappell and Robert Watson. She married James Byer and settled in the small western Carolina mountain of Cullowhee.

Kathryn Stripling Byer continued to practice poetry and has become a major poet with five full length collections in print: Coming To Rest, Catching Light, Black Shawl, Wildwood Flower, and The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest. Her first book, The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest was awarded an American Writing Program Series Award.

Her poems reach far back to her Georgia home, and others are near as a breath of mountain air. Some of her poems reach across oceans. Recently her Alma poems were set to music. She traveled to Budapest, Hungary for the European Premier of Harold Schiffman’s Contata titled Alma.

Even more recently, on Thanksgiving Day, An Applachian Songbook was featured on WDAV Radio in which Kathryn Stripling Byer read her Appalachian poems. The recording was made in September at St. Peter’s Church as a part of the Charlotte Chamber Music Series.

Byer is the winner of the Southeast Booksellers Association Award for Poetry, The Lamont Poetry Prize, Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Prize and the Brockman-Campbell Award. She received the N.C. Artist Fellowship for Poetry the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her books are available at book stores, at L.S. U. Press and on Amazon.com.

Kathryn Stripling Byer continues to live and write poetry here in our western Carolina mountains.