Vicky Saye Henderson Offers Improv Event Based on The Stone Necklace

Vicky Saye Henderson Jasper: You're involved with One Book, One Community's 2016 selection, The Stone Necklace by Carla Damron, in a couple ways, right? I know you created the audio version of the book - what was that like?

VSH: Partnering with the USC Press team, Carla, and Ron Whitten at the SC State Library has been incredibly rewarding and a great joy. I feel so fortunate to have been invited to participate. This was a completely different way of exploring a narrative for me compared to simply reading a novel or preparing text for stage. It challenged me to prepare differently and stay in touch with the tempo, tone, and pulse of the story and its characters.

Jasper: Was this the first book you've recorded?

VSH: Yes, this was the first audio book I've done. In preparing for the audition taping, I asked the Richland Library staff to assist me in pulling some award-winning high quality audio books, I took them home and studied them. I noted and considered what seemed distinctive regarding the narrator's choices for voicing the text, and employed some of those things in both my audition and ultimately our recording of the book. Luckily, those things seemed to work!

Jasper: Tell us about the process. How long did it take?

VSH: A week before we started recording, I met with Carla to talk about the book, its characters, her writing process, and more. We then began recording in mid-October.Typically, we would record for 2-3 hours a session twice a week. Ron Whitten (recording director) and I found that we made for a great team. His years of experience and knowledge got me quickly acquainted to this new medium, and our intuitive combined ear for keeping the quality consistent kept us on target. We logged over 40 hours in the recording studio. Jonathan, Carla and other key staff came by during sessions to listen in and were consulted during our process. It was a highly collaborative experience.

Jasper: Have any of your friends or family listened to your recording and, if so, what did they have to say about it?

VSH: Yes, Jim Dukes listened to some early parts of the first few chapters. What he said was interesting to me---that he could very distinctly see in his mind's eye all the colors and textures of the story in ways that just reading a book had not afforded him in the past.

Jasper: Is it something you'd like to do again?

VSH: Absolutely! I loved doing it. I really like the team of people I've come to know, I grew as a performing artist, and I found and added a totally new means of being a storyteller.

Jasper: Now, can you tell us about the improv event you'll be conducting for The Stone Necklace on Tuesday, February 11th at 7 pm at Tapp's Arts Center?

VSH: I've heard it said that two ways we can create more empathy in our lives are to read more novels and take an improv class. This event combines both elements! We will be "walking through the halls" of this book and exploring its story lines, characters and settings (the book is set in Columbia, SC) via interactive improvisation techniques. It's not about performance, but rather about becoming co-explorers of story using Carla's existing elements as prompts. A whole new way to appreciate an author's work.

Jasper: How can the public be involved in this and what do they need to do to prepare?

VSH: There's nothing to bring or do to prepare for the event. Come with a curious spirit and willing heart to learn about the book, engage your creativity, see things from a new perspective, and apply your own point of view.

Jasper: How would we benefit from participating?

VSH: It will be a new and more intimate way to meet a story and its creator. People will get to know one another in the room, and hopefully learn a little about the highly versatile medium of improv as a tool for discovery and collaboration.

Jasper: Do we need to have read the book first?

VSH: No prior reading is necessary. An overview of the story will be given and excerpts from the novel will be read.

Jasper: Finally, what's your favorite thing about (or part of) the book The Stone Necklace?

VSH: The two things I appreciate most about this book is the keen, intuitive and seamless way Carla weaves the stories of these seemingly different people into a common tapestry, and her choice to set it in Columbia, SC. I became very emotionally invested in the characters very quickly (especially one character, Joe), grew to appreciate their individual and combined roads of healing, and saw my city through a new lens.



Vicky Saye Henderson is a performer and teaching artist, whose projects include live stage, film, TV, voice-overs and cabaret. On staff at Trustus Theatre, she serves as Director of Education and Professional Development.  She is also a member of Trustus' residential performing ensemble, appearing most recently in The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical. She is the recipient of the SC Arts Commission's 2015 Individual Artist Fellowship in Acting and was named the 2013 Jasper Artist of the Year in Theatre. She received her improv training in Orlando, FL (KVG Studios) and is co-director of Trustus' Improv and Sketch Comedy master track Apprentice Company program. Vicky recently provided vocal narration for USC Press' audiobook of Carla Damron's novel, The Stone Necklace. 



Come and be introduced to Carla Damron's new novel, The Stone Necklace, in a highly active way! Trustus Theatre Ensemble member and Director of Education, Vicky Saye Henderson will use the versatile medium of improvisation to explore the novel's narrative, its characters and setting, the author's process in fun, unexpected and non-traditional ways using readings, music, audience interaction and more.

Q&A with Singer/Songwriter and South Carolina Native Marshall Chapman

DSC7581 One of the advantages of having Lee Smith as our One Book, One Columbia author is she has a lot of cool friends—like South Carolina native Marshall Chapman, one of the state’s most significant musical figures of the last 40 years. Chapman has been a songwriter and performer in Nashville since the 1970s, and her songs have found their way on albums by Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, and Joe Cocker, among others, and she also has 13 solo albums of her own. Of those, the most recent two, Big Lonesome (2010) and Blaze of Glory (2013), represent some of the finest work of her career. These albums come on the heels of Chapman’s turn to prose—her two critically-acclaimed and award-winning memoirs, Goodbye Little Rock and Roller (2003) and They Came to Nashville (2010), both books which demonstrated a life lived hard and well. In recent years Chapman has also written for such publications as Oxford American, Nashville Arts Magazine, Garden & Gun, and Southern Living.

This is all in addition to her collaboration with Smith, Jill McCorkle, and Matraca Berg, Good Ole Girls, a musical play which has toured throughout the South and had a brief run off-Broadway. Chapman will be performing songs from that play with Smith and McCorkle at 701 Whaley this Thursday, February 26th as part of the closing party for this year’s One Book festivities. Chapman will also be playing a show on Wednesday, May 13th, at Conundrum Music Hall.

Jasper caught up with Chapman recently to chat about her long history in the musical world and late-career renaissance.

Jasper: Blaze of Glory was one of the best-reviewed albums of your career. Do you think you could have imagined 30 or 40 years ago that you would still be making great music?

Marshall Chapman: No, not really. Mainly because I never thought I'd live this long. (laughs)

J: How has the songwriting process changed over the years?

MC: I don't chase it like I used to. These days, I just let the songs come to me.

J: Did you have any specific goals or ideas in mind when you were writing for this record?

MC: Not really. But I knew I was onto something. At first, I thought it was going to be this sexy record. I even had a working title—Sexagenarian. But then it deepened into the whole mortality thing. As soon as I finished "Blaze of Glory," [the song] I knew it would be the title of the album. And also the last song you hear.

J: These songs all feel really fresh, even though it's still very much the sound and style you were working in during the 1970s and 1980s. The straight-up Bo Diddley take on “Love in the Wind” and the soulful rendition of “Nearness of You,” for instance, sound like reinvigorated takes on classic territory.  Why do you think that is?

MC: Oh, I don't know. I was working with producers and co-producers back in the 70s and 80s. I didn't really know that much about making records. I was like Gidget goes to Nashville and gets a Record Deal. But with these last two [Blaze of Glory and Big Lonesome], I was much more focused. Probably because I'm older. It's like ... Last call to get it right! I've been doing this a long time. And it's taken every bit of that time to learn how to trust myself in the studio.

J: You didn’t tour as much behind this record as Big Lonesome, and you’ve become more of a writer, actor, and collaborator (like on Good Ol’ Girls) in recent years. How does that balance work? Has the lack of touring affected your ability to promote your music?

Well, there's a personal reason I didn't tour as much behind this album as with Big Lonesome. Let's just say all the wheels supporting my life came off all at once and leave it at that. As for "lack of touring" affecting my "ability to promote" my music, those two things are pretty much entwined. Nothing gets the word out like a live performance. But it's true. I'm cutting back on live performances.

As for the rest, I've always enjoyed writing prose, so writing the two books felt pretty natural. I've always been interested in the stories behind songs. Especially when the stories are better than the songs!

The idea for Good Ol' Girls was conceived by songwriter Matraca Berg. Matraca called me out of the blue one day, saying she wanted to do a musical with me and Lee Smith. She was a big fan of Lee's writing, but she didn't know her. So I called Lee, since I knew her from when she lived in Nashville in the 1970s. At first Lee didn't seem interested. But then she called me back saying she was in and that she was bringing in Jill McCorkle and a director! [Paul Fergusen, who ended up doing the

adaptation.] The show has toured the South and even had a run off-Broadway. It's playing in a couple of theaters this spring. But this week at 701 Whaley, Lee, Jill and I will be doing our own version of Good Ol' Girls. And probably throw in some new stuff. I never really know what's gonna happen when the three of us get together. But I can assure you this -- something will happen! It's outrageous whenever the three of us get together. Why we haven't been arrested is beyond me.

As for acting, I've done three movies in the past three years—all since turning sixty-two. Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something.

J: You’ve lived in Nashville for a long time (since you matriculated at Vanderbilt?). What does being from South Carolina mean to you now? What’s it like coming back for tours?

MC: Where you come from ... it stays with you. Especially if you're from South Carolina! Seriously, it's always special coming back to South Carolina to perform. I was in Spartanburg a lot this past fall dealing with the death of my mom. I was driving around there thinking, Hmmmm, maybe I could come back and live here! I even looked at some property off St. John Street.

J: You’ve written two award-winning non-fiction books about your life, Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller and They Came to Nashville. Any plans for a third, either fiction or non-fiction?

MC: Well, I've been writing a monthly column called "Beyond Words" for a Nashville magazine for nearly five years. They told me I could write about anything I wanted, and I imagine I've taken them to task on that. (laughs) Anyway, I'm thinking about putting a collection of those [essays] in a book. As for a novel ... I've had a few stories published, so I've danced around fiction. But the idea of writing an entire novel like Lee and Jill do all the time terrifies me. Which means I'll probably do it one day.

J: The record closes with the title track, which is a kind of uplifting take on mortality, almost like a gospel song. You also recount the most pivotal moment of your life, seeing Elvis as a 7 year-old in the song. Can you tell me a little bit about the idea and inspiration behind that tune?

MC: I wrote the first verse to that song while sitting at my breakfast table. I had a feeling it might be a keeper, so I captured just that little bit on a little recorder. A few weeks later, I returned to it and immediately wrote a second verse. And then a bridge about Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and a few other musical heroes who died young, i.e., in a blaze of glory. But something wasn't right. It felt forced. So I went for a walk, and when I got back, I started from from scratch. I just went back to where it all began—seeing Elvis. As soon as I wrote "that colored balcony came crashing to the floor," I'm thinking, Now what! I mean, you don't want to raise the bar too high. So I got real quiet. And then that last verse about the sun just landed on the page. "Blaze of Glory" wrote itself. All I had to do was get out of the way.

For more information about Marshall Chapman and the latest updates about her various projects, check out

Jasper Calendar (Salon Series & Release Events) January thru March 2013

Last October, Jasper began a series of Salon events in which we invited local artists to give a brief and informal presentation on their work to a small group of fellow artists and arts lovers. Our Salon subjects have ranged from authors to artists to artistic directors with the size of our group ranging from a half dozen to more than 40. Every single one of the events has been a success. Attendees leave more engaged with the arts, better educated and informed, and with a greater sense of community. There have traditionally been no fees to attend, (though we usually have the Jasper Econobar open and, this year, we’re adding an unobtrusive donation box for folks who’d like to throw in a buck or two to help pay the rent.) We’re delighted to announce the Salon schedule for the first couple of months of 2013. Please check back soon though – the schedule is rapidly evolving as we all get a handle on the fact that the new year has started whether we were ready for it to or not! All of our events are also offered publicly on Facebook, too, so please try to RSVP there when you can.

Thanks for all your support and happy New Year from all of us at Jasper!


Thursday 1/10 at 7pm in the Jasper Studios at the Arcade, Author Janna McMahan  talks about her new book, Anonymity, published January 2013


Tuesday, 1/15 at 7pm at the Tapps Arts Center, Jasper Release Party for Jasper vol. 002, no. 002 – Our 1st Photocentric issue with photography from the Jasper staff photographers and their choices of some of the best local photographers in town.

Thursday 1/17 at 7pm at the Jasper Studios at the Arcade, Trustus  “The Trustus ‘Motherfu**ers : Looking Under the Hat” – Jasper invites members of the cast and crew of "The Motherfu**er with the Hat" to give you a behind the scenes look at the new Trustus play, opening on February 8th.


Thursday 1/24 at 7pm at the Jasper Studios at the Arcade presents “The Dark Side of Snow White with Columbia City Ballet featuring William Starrett” as Starrett shares his new vision of the ballet Snow White.


Tuesday, 1/31 at 7pm at the Jasper Studios at the Arcade -- Jasper’s book club, Jasper’s Nightstand, is up and running again and, by popular demand we’re reading Don McCallister’s new book, Fellow Traveler with discussion led by a surprise reader and Fellow Traveler author himself, Don McCallister.



Tuesday, 2/12 at 7pm at the Jasper Studios at the Arcade, USC Vagina Monologues director Alexis Stratton will talk about the history of the Vagina Monologues and this year’s edition. Plus, you’ll get to hear a reading of one or more monologues from the play.

Tuesday, 2/19 at 7pm at the Jasper Studios at the Arcade – Lecture and discussion “Patriarchy & Gender Roles in The Dry Grass of August: The Good Old Days? Sister, Please!” USC Women's and Gender Studies Adjunct Instructor and Jasper editor Cindi Boiter will lead discussion on the social constructs in this year's One Book, One Columbia selection, The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew.

Sunday, 2/24, time and location TBA, Book Launch – The Limelight: A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, Volume 1 published by Muddy Ford Press.

Thursday, 2/28 at Jasper Studios at the Arcade  Jasper’s Nightstand – The Dry Grass of August 8:30 or immediately following the author Anna Jean Mayhew's presentation at the Richland Library one block away.




Thursday, 3/7 at 7pm at the Jasper Studios at the Arcade -- Panel Discussion with Authors from The Limelight: A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists. More information to come.

Friday, 3/15 at 7pm location TBA -- Join us as we celebrate the release of Jasper vol. 002, no. 003 -- The Women's Issue!

One Book, Two Poems: One Poem contest winners and finalists announced!

Poet and novelist Ron Rash had a hard time picking the winner of the One Book, One Poem contest, and in the end, he decided it was a tie. Will Garland and Debra Daniels are the winners of the contest, for their poems “Swimming Out by the Dam” and “Inside the Silvered Breath.” Both poems will be published in Jasper later this year. Five additional poems were named finalists: “corduroy road” by Lauren Allen, “Muddied Bottoms” by Will Garland (author of one of the winning poems as well), “Waters Remember (Keowee No. 1)” and “Three Things One Moment Before Summer” by Rieppe Moore, and “Elegy” by Dianne Turgeon Richardson.

Of the two winning poems, Rash wrote, “These two poems remind us that the best poetry is written for the ear as much as the eye. I am gratified to have had the opportunity to experience them.”

Jasper sponsored the One Book, One Poem contest in conjunction with the second annual One Book, One Columbia program. The book chosen for 2012 was Ron Rash’s Saints at the River, and a number of events tied to the book were scheduled in January and February, including a packed presentation by Rash at the Bostick Auditorium in Richland County Public Library.

Rash also agreed to judge Jasper’s One Book, One Poem contest, which invited poets from the greater Columbia area to submit poems inspired by Rash’s novel. Not only will the two winning poems will be published in Jasper later this year, but the authors will also receive a literary arts prize package. The finalists will be published later this year right here on the Jasper blog.

Jasper congratulates Will Garland and Debra Daniels, this year’s winners, and the finalists, Lauren Allen, Rieppe Moore, and Dianne Turgeon Richardson. Jasper also thanks all the participants who entered, and who made the judging so difficult because of the range and beauty of the work submitted.

The One Book, One Columbia program hopes to create a sense of community through a shared reading experience, encouraging residents of the greater Columbia area to read the same book at the same time. For more information on the One Book, One Columbia program, see

An Article on Ron Rash, author of the 2012 One Book, One Columbia selection, Saints at the River

Ron Rash – The Great Joy of Reading Southern Writing

reprinted from Jasper #003

By Cynthia Boiter

Ron Rash speaks the way he writes, with a voice that is rich with history, low and close to the earth, reflecting the humble wisdom that comes from learning from the past and listening to the lessons of nature and the stories of one’s ancestors. A father, teacher, husband, poet, Rash is, above all, a gifted wordsmith who wraps his words around his readers with tender precision.

Born in Chester, South Carolina, Rash’s people, as Southerners say, are from the North Carolina mountains, and much of his childhood was spent visiting relatives who lived in the shadows of the Appalachians. The author of  a baker’s dozen of books – four novels, with one forthcoming in April, four short story collections, and five books of poetry - Rash hasn’t always written, though he seems to do so with such ease. “I didn’t write as a child,” he says, “though I loved to read and I loved nature. I was very comfortable out in the woods. I loved to daydream. Really, I was pretty introverted.”

Rash didn’t begin writing until he was an English major at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. “It wasn’t something I really enjoyed,” the 2011 inductee into the Fellowship of Southern Writers says. “But when I started working on my master’s degree at Clemson, I got into the work of Walker Percy, and that really influenced me. I found myself reading and writing all the time.” Percy, who died in 1990, was a physician-novelist and non-fiction writer; the author of The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins, and others, Percy was one of the founders in 1987 of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and known for his existentialist literary struggles, as well as for coming late, though very successfully, to writing himself.

It was the reading of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment that “made me want to be a writer,” Rash says. Early in the novel, an unscrupulous pawnbroker is killed by a poor ex-student who plans to use the pawnbroker’s money to do good deeds. “It was almost like this book entered me,” Rash reveals. “I’ve read and re-read it several times – I still almost revere Dostoyevsky as a writer.”

An early and multiple winner of the South Carolina Fiction Project, previously sponsored by The State newspaper and then by the Charleston Post and Courier, Rash began his writing career as a poet and short story writer. His first publications were The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina, a book of short stories published in 1994, and Eureka Mill, a book of poetry published in 1998. In 1994, Rash won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry, and in 1996, the Sherwood Anderson Prize for emerging fiction writers.

“A short story is much closer to a poem than a novel,” Rash says, explaining that he much prefers short story writing and poetry to writing novels. “It is just so much more concise.”

In 2000, he published a trio of poetry and prose books, Among the Believers, Raising the Dead and Casualties, before finally, in 2002, publishing his first novel, One Foot in Eden, winner of Forward Magazine’s Gold Award for the Best Literary Fiction, the Novello Literary Award, and the Appalachian Book of the Year, all for 2002.

But Rash, who is now the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University didn’t plan to write the novel.

“I was in my early forties and I was writing what I thought would be a short story, but it just wouldn’t end. And I got this sinking feeling,” he laughs, explaining how the novel just grew before him almost of its own accord. “With a novel, you have to have a mill-like diligence to get it done. It is much more exhausting. And it takes me about three years to put a novel together.”

Rash followed One Foot in Eden, a murder mystery heavily shrouded in place and culture, with the novels Saints at the River in 2004, The World Made Straight in 2006, and Serena in 2008.

Set in 1929 in the virginal mountains of North Carolina, Serena is the gripping story of a newly married couple who commit themselves to building a fortune in the timber industry. The book won a multitude of awards and accolades including the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Book of the Year Award and being named Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008, as well as one of The New York Times’ Ten Favorite Books, the Washington Post’s World’s Best Fiction, number seven in Amazon’s Top 100 Best Books of 2008, and it was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award in 2009.  Of particular note is how the novel successfully portrays an ambitious and greedy entrepreneur who just happens to be a woman – rather than falling into the all too often tripped trap of portraying a ne’er do well who never does well precisely because she is a woman.

Rash is proud of his work on Serena though he admits the writing of it was an exhausting endeavor. “I feel like Serena is my best book, and the best I’ll ever write,” he says. “But Serena probably took more out of me than any other book. I had days and weeks when it was just flowing. But it wore me out.”

Rash’s third novel, The World Made Straight, published two years prior to Serena, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award in 2006, as well as the Atlantic Monthly’s 2006 Summer Reading pick, and the 2007 American Library Association Alex Award, and addressed similar themes of environment, history and family – all within the context of a classic Southern connection to the earth and nature.

Also exploring issues of frailty as exhibited by relationships, the environment, and ultimately, life itself, 2004’s Saints at the River was chosen as the 2012 selection for the One Book, One Columbia campaign – a community reading program in which the entire city of Columbia and its surroundings are encouraged to read and discuss the same book over the designated period of January 17 through the end of February, 2012. Saints at the River is set in South Carolina with a significant portion of the action taking place in Columbia, and the two main characters being Columbia residents. The novel begins with the death of a 12-year-old girl who drowns in the fictional Tamassee River in upstate South Carolina and whose body becomes trapped below the river. The conflict of the story centers around the best way of removing her body, and locals, environmentalists, and a land owner with an eye toward development all disagree.

“I wanted to write a novel about environmental issues that didn’t come off as propaganda,” Rash says. “A lot of time environmentalists make the mistake of not seeing the other point of view. I hope Saints at the River will allow people to say that it is a fair book. Progress is not a black or white situation and the problem in this story isn’t either. There are no bad guys, and sympathies shift throughout the book.”

The connection to the environment that Rash tends to feature in all of his novels comes naturally. “I spent so much of my childhood and adolescence on my grandmother’s farm near Boone, North Carolina, and I loved hunting and fishing but also being nomadic – just wandering through the woods,” he says. “There was no TV, no car or truck. I was there helping her on the farm – milking cows and such. She would fix me a good breakfast in the morning – and I would be gone for eight or nine hours, just wandering or fishing. We had relatives all around that area, and occasionally I’d see an aunt or uncle. … But, looking back on it now, it was all sort of amazing and wonderful. I got to hear that mountain dialect, and that’s what I hear in my head now when I write.”

Family, too, both dysfunctional and not, almost always plays a role in Rash’s stories, and Saints at the River is no exception. “It’s universal,” he says. “There’s always tension between love and loyalties and conflict.” One example, he notes, is the relationship between the protagonist of the novel, photographer Maggie Glenn, and her father, a prototypical Southern man. Rash describes Maggie as “a little self-righteous” but recognizes the difficulties she has communicating with her father and the role that heritage plays in that relationship. “There’s that Scots-Irish mentality cropping up in Maggie’s inability to communicate with her father,” he says. “It is very hard to get that generation of men to express their feelings.”

Not a fan of generalizations, Rash says he hopes his writing helps to “explode some of the stereotypes” that plague Southern literature. That said, most of the writers who have inspired Rash are Southern. Despite the stereotypes that arose from the film treatment of Deliverance, for example, he still lists South Carolina’s James Dickey high on his list of personally influential writers. “He taught me a lot,” Rash says of Dickey. “He showed me the possibility of writing about the South and also being universal.” Rash also highly regards the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and can see their influence in his own work. “Reading Flannery and Faulkner has always been important to me because they showed the rural Southern world that I’m interested in,” he says.

No stranger to honors and awards – Saints at the River was given the Weatherford Award for Best Novel of 2004, and was named Fiction Book of the Year by the Southern Critics Book Circle as well as the Southeastern Booksellers Association – Rash wears a kind of uncomfortable humility when asked about all the accolades he has accrued in a still relatively young writing career. “I’m probably most proud of the Frank O’Connor Award,” he admits, which he received in 2010 for his collection, Burning Bright, also published in 2010. The Frank O’Connor Short Story Award is the largest short story prize in the world.

Despite his fairly universal success in all three genres of short and longer fiction as well as poetry, Rash appears to be most comfortable with short fiction which, he admits, also employs some degree of poetry. Commenting on his new novel, The Cove, due for released in April 2012, Rash lets out a long breath and admits that he doesn’t think he’ll ever write another novel again. “The last one, I believe, is good,” he says, “but there was little joy in the writing.”

Luckily, there is great joy in the reading of Rash’s works, whether short fiction, novels, or poetry. And happily, Columbia-area book lovers will be able to make that great joy their own by joining one another in 2012’s One Book, One Columbia program as we read Ron Rash’s Saints at the River.




Jasper Magazine announces the

Jasper Magazine One Book, One Poem Competition

Ron Rash, author of this year's One Book, One Columbia selection, Saints at the River, has agreed to serve as adjudicator for the Jasper Magazine One Book, One Poem Competition.

Poets from the Greater Columbia Arts Community are invited to submit poetry inspired by the reading of Saints at the River.  Author Ron Rash's selection of the winning poem will be published in a future issue of Jasper Magazine - the Word on Columbia Arts, and its author will receive a literary arts prize package.

Finalists, adjudicated by Jasper Magazine literary arts editor, Dr. Ed Madden, will be published in the Jasper Magazine blog - What Jasper Said. (  The deadline is March 31, 2012.

Fine Print:  Please submit (in triplicate) poems inspired by the reading of Saints at the River by Ron Rash to -

                Jasper Magazine One Book, One Poem Competition Muddy Ford Press 1009 Muddy Ford Road Chapin, SC 29036.

Please include a cover sheet including your name, address, phone number, email address, and the title or first line of each poem. Your name should appear nowhere else on your submissions. Entry fee = $5 per each three poems submitted (make checks payable to Muddy Ford Press). Deadline = March 31, 2012.

For more information contact -

Jasper's Nightstand -- Don't call it a book club, call it a book trust

By now, it should be news to no one that Columbia, SC is a readers' city. I need more fingers than the ones I have on my hands to count the number of book clubs I know about that I don't even belong to.

Some may attribute our propensity for reading to the number of institutions of higher education we have in and around town. Universities and colleges tend to attract not only students and faculty but also literate individuals who are drawn to progressive thought and intellectual engagement, whether they go to school or not. Others may posit that the lack of hard hitting cerebral stimulation from our public education system forces us, at an early age, to seek out our own intellectual adventures in books and, ultimately, establish a life-long love of losing ourselves in literature (and, for some of us clearly, loving the lilt of alliteration).

For whatever reason, last June, Columbia was named by Amazon as one of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities in the country.

In fact, we're #16.

You may have heard What Jasper Said yesterday about the new One Book, One Columbia selection of Ron Rash's Saints at the River as our book selection for 2012. Given that, we at Jasper are delighted to announce our new bi-monthly reading group, Jasper's Nightstand and, in keeping with our close association with the One Book, One Columbia Project (Mike and Cindi are both on the selection committee), we are even more thrilled to announce that Saints at the River will be the first book we'll be discussing.

What's on Jasper's Nightstand?

Saints at the River by Ron Rash

Thursday, February 23rd at 7 PM

Wine Down on Main at 1520 Main Street

RSVP here

Jasper's Nightstand is a book club for artists, people who love arts and artists, and people who appreciate the unique insights that artists and arts lovers bring to the complexities of life.


Saints at the River by Ron Rash = Columbia's 2012 One Book, One Columbia selection

It's official. Saints at the River, a novel by South Carolina author Ron Rash, is the One Book, One Columbia selection for 2012.

Jasper couldn't be more pleased!

We've loved all of Rash's novels -- Serena, One Foot in Eden, The World Made Straight (our all-time favorite!) -- not to mention his poetry, which flows with hot honeyed truth, or his short stories that stay on the brain for years after the reading. Saints at the River is the story of two characters who live in Columbia -- one of whom hails from the upstate and is drawn back into the area where she was raised by an environmental conflict. It touches on family, nature, loss, and learning.

The reading period will kick off on January 17th -- but you don't have to wait until then to get started. We'll be scheduling events from the 17th throughout the month of February -- including a two day visit from Rash on February 1st and 2nd -- stay tuned for more about this.

For more information, keep your eyes posted on the One Book, One Columbia official website as well as our One Book Facebook page.

And be sure to pick up a copy of Jasper Magazine at our #3 release event on January 12th at the Arcade Mall on Main Street to read an article about our interview with Ron Rash himself.

Exciting announcement & One Book, One Columbia clues!

Here, at Jasper, we're so giddy about an announcement being made at 5 pm on Tuesday, December 13th -- that's today! -- that you might think that Santa was making the announcement himself.

No, it's not Santa who has something to say, but it is City Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, and she'll be sharing with Columbia the book we'll all be reading together during January and February 2012 as book #2 in our One Book, One Columbia project!

Here's the twist -- two of our staff members serve on the One Book, One Columbia selection committee, so (ahem) we already know what the book is, but just like anxiously awaiting the opening of Christmas presents you've meticulously selected for your family and friends -- we can't wait to see how you like your selection!

Need some clues?

  • Well, the book was written by a SC author.
  • It is set in contemporary SC.
  • It involves subject matter of vital interest to many Southerners.
  • It is fiction.
  • And, the protagonist of the story is the opposite sex from the author of the book.

Got any ideas?

See if you're inclinations are correct by attending the One Book, One Columbia 2012 Kick-Off Reception this afternoon at Richland County Public Library on Assembly Street for a special wine-and-cheese gathering. We'll announce the new book as well as other exciting events lined up for your reading pleasure. All 2011 "Reading Advocates" are invited, friends of Reading Advocates, and anyone who would like to be a Reading Advocate for the 2012 program.

Then, watch this space tomorrow for a special announcement about how Jasper will be celebrating and participating in the One Book, One Columbia program.

We can't wait to see what you think!




Thanks to Dan Cook & the Free Times for giving One Book, One Columbia a nice welcome for 2012

With much appreciation to Free Times editor, Dan Cook, Jasper is re-posting his Arts Beat blog from Friday November 11th, which is an excellent example of how to whip up enthusiasm about something of which Columbians have a right to be proud -- reading and the second year of our One Book, One Columbia program.  Read below for more info via Dan.
by Dan Cook, November 11th 02:57pm

Spearheaded by City Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, the One Book One Columbia program was launched in April with the goal of promoting not only literacy, but also community dialogue. The idea was simple: Get as many people in the city as possible to read the same book at the same time, and then get them talking about it.

The book that launched the program, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, served as a starting point for conversations about history, family, race, religion, education and much more. (See the Free Times story "Can a Book Get Columbians Talking?" for more background on the program.)

Now it's time for the launch of the 2012 One Book program. On Dec. 13 at 5 p.m., the Richland County Public Library will host an orientation for reading advocates; advocates are volunteers who agree to read the book and promote the program within their own ciricles of friends, acquaintances and co-workers.

Interested in being a reading advocate for the One Book program? Contact Gergel at by Dec. 5.

As for what book has been chosen for the 2012 One Book program, you'll just have to wait ... the title will be announced at the Dec. 13 event.


Jasper has a thing for the work of Ron Rash

Jasper is not afraid to admit that he has a bit of an addictive personality. He gets a little taste of something and has trouble letting go. Sometimes it's a yummy bourbon -- Woodford Reserve has his attention these days -- and other times it's a great choreographer or director. (Case in point -- our recent post on David Mamet.) Lately we've been almost overcome by our hunger for the writing of Mr. Ron Rash. One of our own, Rash was born in Chester, SC and raised in Boiling Springs, NC. He Went to Gardner-Webb University and then to Clemson, and now he serves as the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.

Although we had read many of Mr. Rash's short stories in the past -- actually, one of our short stories was included alongside one of Mr. Rash's in a 2001 anthology  (Inheritance, edited by Janette Turner Hospital and published by Hub City Press) -- we hadn't picked up any of his novels until this summer. Serena changed all that.

Set in the North Carolina mountains of 1929, Serena is the story of a badass female protagonist, as malicious as Simon Legree and more capable than most men then or now. Although decidedly sexual, Serena does not use her sexuality to bestow her brand of evil on the people and land she exploits -- Rash has too much respect for her as a villain to make her formulaic. And though he affords us glimpses into her history, he doesn't invite the reader to justify her immorality by casting her as a victim. She's just bad -- and from an odd angle of feminism, that makes us happy.

Our next foray into Rash's novels was Saints at the River, a book Jasper is campaigning for as the next One Book, One Columbia selection. The story is set in the upstate but the main characters are a writer and a photographer from Columbia, who often return to our neck of the woods when not actively investigating an environmental conflict in the upcountry. We won't give much more away here lest we step on our other committee members' toes or let the cat out of the bag or some other cliché. Suffice it to say that we are confident enough to recommend Saints at the River to several thousand of our closest friends.

Third on our list of Rash books was The World Made Straight, which may be our favorite thus far. It's a story of a boy and a field of weed and an unlikely mentor, but most of all it's a story of guilt and how we can inherit it just by being born. One of us at Muddy Ford wasn't even able to finish this book before her fellow traveler started reading it himself.

Luckily, One Foot in Eden, another of Rash's novels is already waiting on the nightstand upstairs. After we're through with it, we may have some problems though -- we'll let you know. In the meantime, here's a Ron Rash essay we nabbed from Amazon. Enjoy.


The Gift of Silence: An Essay by Ron Rash

When readers ask how I came to be a writer, I usually mention several influences: my parents’ teaching by example the importance of reading; a grandfather who, though illiterate, was a wonderful storyteller; and, as I grew older, an awareness that my region had produced an inordinate number of excellent writers and that I might find a place in that tradition. Nevertheless, I believe what most made me a writer was my early difficulty with language.

My mother tells me that certain words were impossible for me to pronounce, especially those with j’s and g’s. Those hard consonants were like tripwires in my mouth, causing me to stumble over words such as “jungle” and “generous.” My parents hoped I would grow out of this problem, but by the time I was five, I’d made no improvement. There was no speech therapist in the county, but one did drive in from the closest city once a week.

That once a week was a Saturday morning at the local high school. For an hour the therapist worked with me. I don’t remember much of what we did in those sessions, except that several times she held my hands to her face as she pronounced a word. I do remember how large and empty the classroom seemed with just the two of us in it, and how small I felt sitting in a desk made for teenagers.

I improved, enough so that by summer’s end the therapist said I needed no further sessions. I still had trouble with certain words (one that bedevils me even today is “gesture”), but not enough that when I entered first grade my classmates and teacher appeared to notice. Nevertheless, certain habits of silence had taken hold. It was not just self-consciousness. Even before my sessions with the speech therapist, I had convinced myself that if I listened attentively enough to others my own tongue would be able to mimic their words. So I listened more than I spoke. I became comfortable with silence, and, not surprisingly, spent a lot of time alone wandering nearby woods and creeks. I entertained myself with stories I made up, transporting myself into different places, different selves. I was in training to be a writer, though of course at that time I had yet to write more than my name.

Yet my most vivid memory of that summer is not the Saturday morning sessions at the high school but one night at my grandmother’s farmhouse. After dinner, my parents, grandmother and several other older relatives gathered on the front porch. I sat on the steps as the night slowly enveloped us, listening intently as their tongues set free words I could not master. Then it appeared. A bright-green moth big as an adult’s hand fluttered over my head and onto the porch, drawn by the light filtering through the screen door. The grown-ups quit talking as it brushed against the screen, circled overhead, and disappeared back into the night. It was a luna moth, I learned later, but in my mind that night it became indelibly connected to the way I viewed language--something magical that I grasped at but that was just out of reach.

In first grade, I began learning that loops and lines made from lead and ink could be as communicative as sound. Now, almost five decades later, language, spoken or written, is no longer out of reach, but it remains just as magical as that bright-green moth. What writer would wish it otherwise.


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