A! Magazine for the Arts

Lee Smith speaks May 17.

Lee Smith speaks May 17.

Annual Literary series begins in Abingdon this month

December 30, 2019

The Friends of the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Va., announce the line-up of their annual literary series – Sunday with Friends.

All talks take place at the library in Abingdon, Virginia at 3 p.m. Book sales/signings follow most talks. Refreshments are served. Events are free and open to the public.

The first speaker is Martin Clark Jan. 12. Clark is the author of “The Substitution Order,” his fifth legal thriller with a western Virginia setting. Kevin Moore is a high-flying attorney who hits rock-bottom after an inexplicably tumultuous summer leaves him disbarred and separated from his wife. He’s determined to set his life right again, but the troubles keep coming. When a bizarre, mysterious stranger threatens him with an “invitation” to join a multi-million-dollar scam, Kevin needs every bit of savvy, using all of the law’s tricks and hidden trapdoors just to stay out of prison.

Ellen Elmes speaks Jan. 26. One of western Virginia’s leading artists has published a book about her 50-year life in art, “An Appalachian Labyrinth: Painting to the Center.” Elmes gives an illustrated lecture on her career, beginning in the 1960s, focused on her paintings and on the 20 community murals, on both indoor and outdoor walls, that she has created, both by herself and with teams. Much of Elmes’s presentation is about the development of downtown Abingdon’s mural, “Celebrate! A Social History of Abingdon” with its hundreds of images reflecting Abingdon’s history.

Rita Quillen speaks Feb. 16. Quillen is the author of “Wayland,” a page-turning thriller about a couple who have married in mid-life and have a beautiful daughter. Their blissful life is interrupted by their naïvely taking in a hobo wanderer, Buddy Newman, who suddenly finds that this family has everything he needs, especially the most beautiful little girl he has ever seen. Can the couple see through his elaborate deceit in time to save their daughter? Quillen brings her poetic artistry to the book, recreating the look and feel of the Depression-era in rural Southwest Virginia.

Quinn Hawkesworth performs March 1. Abingdon actress and fiber artist Hawkesworth presents “Fred Chappell: The Man Who Came to Dinner,” selections from the North Carolina poet and novelist. Chappell taught creative writing at UNC-Greensboro for 40 years, and for many years was the North Carolina poet laureate. Hawkesworth says that she hopes to “offer a tempting, tantalizing selection from the best author you’ve never heard of . . . gimlet-eyed taste, yet merciless critic, scathingly funny raconteur, nonpareil creator of memorable characters.”

Julie Zickefoose returns March 29. Zickefoose, an acclaimed nature writer, wildlife rehabilitator and wildlife illustrator, discusses her new book, “Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay.” Jemima was a young, orphaned blue jay who was brought to Zickefoose. Starved and very sick, Jemima thrives under her care, eventually taking over the house and the rest of the author’s summer as she gains strength to be released into the wild. The book is filled with the wonder, humor and the relentless curiosity that Zickefoose is known for in many other books and in her commentary on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Jeff Mann and other poets celebrate poetry April 5. This annual poetry celebration features Mann, who co-edited “LGBTQ: Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia,” which gathers original and previously published fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer authors from Appalachia. This collection confronts the complex intersections of place, family, sexuality, gender and religion with which LGBTQ Appalachians often grapple. Mann teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech. He will be joined in this celebration by local poets from Appalachian Center Poets & Writers.

Francis Gary Powers, Jr. kicks off the celebration of National Library Week April 19. Powers with historian Keith Dunnavant has written a book “Spy Pilot” which tries to dispel the misinformation surrounding the U-2 incident during the Cold War when his father’s plane was downed in the Soviet Union and he was imprisoned. Based on many new documents, the book is a son’s journey to understand his father and one of the central incidents of the Cold War. Powers is the founder of the Cold War Museum and was a consultant on Steven Spielberg’s recent “Bridge of Spies,” the film about his father’s release.

Lee Smith speaks May 17. Smith, the most beloved writer in Southwest Virginia, has published a new novella “Blue Marlin.” The book follows Jenny, an adventurous 13-year-old, down to Key West for a patched-up family vacation following the discovery of her father’s illicit affair. Jenny confronts the frailty of family life while vying for the attention of actor Tony Curtis and even a role in his movie, “Operation Petticoat,” which is being filmed in Key West at the time. Smith loved her short story “Live Bottomless” from her 1997 collection “News of the Spirit” so much that she decided to expand it into a novella.

Lisa Alther speaks June 14. Alther, a Kingsport native, talks about her new novel, “Swan Song.” Set on a cruise ship, the work is about a woman doctor in charge of the ship’s clinic, who is recovering from the loss of a longtime lover who was a much-admired writer. She has to cope with the chaos of the cruise ship life as she reckons with her past and feels her way into the future. Doris Lessing says that the novel is “funny, wise, moving, true . . . Alther had me laughing at 4 in the morning.” Alther is the author of six novels including the bestseller “Kinflicks,” histories and a short story collection.

For more information, visit the library's website.