Robert Morgan, one of America's most distinguished writers, returns to the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia, May 21 at 3 p.m. Part of the Sunday with Friends literary series, the event is free and open to the public.
Morgan is an internationally known historian, biographer, poet and fiction writer. His new historical novel, "Chasing the North Star," is the story of Jonah Williams, who in 1850 flees from the South Carolina plantation on which he was born a slave. He seems to be able to elude the bounty hunters but is closely followed by another escaping slave, Angel, both of them following the North Star as they journey toward freedom in the North.
Morgan is the author of "Boone: A Biography" and "The Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion."
Morgan's first story was written in the sixth grade, on a day when the rest of the class visited the Biltmore House near Asheville. He did not have the $3 for the trip, so his teacher, Dean Ward, suggested he write a story describing how a man lost in the Canadian Rockies, without gun or knife, makes his way to civilization.
His earliest publications were short stories, but he became excited about poetry in the late 1960s. Jessie Rehder at UNC-Chapel Hill and Fred Chappell at UNC-Greensboro encouraged him. He also received significant support from the editors of the magazine Lillabulero, William Matthews and Russell Banks, who brought out Morgan's first book, "Zirconia Poems," in 1969.
After going to Cornell in 1971, he wrote only poems for 10 years. In 1980, he began writing fiction again, and published his first book of short stories, "The Blue Valleys," in 1989.
He received NEA grants in 1974, 1981 and 1987. In 1988, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, and a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship. In 1991, he received the James G. Hanes Poetry Prize by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the North Carolina Literature Award.
His novel, "The Truest Pleasure," was listed by Publisher's Weekly as one of the notable books of 1995 and was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. "Gap Creek" was selected for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for 2000 and was chosen as Notable Book by the New York Times. "Gap Creek" was a selection of the Oprah Book Club and a New York Times bestseller. It was chosen by the Appalachian Writers Association as Book of the Year for 2000.
The annual meeting of the Friends of the Washington County Public Library is held at 2:15 p.m., just before Morgan's presentation. Book sales and signings follow the talk. Refreshments are served. For more information, call 286-676-6298 or visit www.wcpl.net.