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Scribblers: Stalking the Authors of Appalachia

Stephen Kirk

John F. Blair, Publisher
$21.95 hardcover
5 x 7 1/4     
248 pages
Published in 2004

In the small mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina, Thomas Wolfe lies at eternal rest just a few steps from William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry. Those graves are a short hop from the great inn where F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to dictate his writing from a body cast, and a half-hour’s drive from the estate where the aged Carl Sandburg wrote deep into the night.

The city’s ties to the world of letters are equally strong today. Gail Godwin and Charles Frazier were schooled in Asheville, for example, and Robert Morgan and Fred Chappell in the immediate area.

Stephen Kirk, author of Scribblers, is an editor and would-be literary gadfly. Taking Asheville as his canvas, he learns stories of the area’s legendary authors and interviews some of its contemporary greats. Meanwhile, he also seeks out writers living in the shadows of the famous. He meets genre authors who make their living penning romances, Westerns, and mysteries. He immerses himself in the culture of writers’ groups and conferences, exploring the hopes and frustrations of the unpublished and self-published. For every well-known author, there are a thousand folks laboring in obscurity. What drives them so hard, given such a remote chance of success?

Scribblers is ultimately a humorous, sympathetic examination of the writer’s urge, set against the background of a noted literary town. Its Woody Allen-style narrator, who wants to be in the club as badly as the rest, casts a critical eye on his own efforts as he flubs a few interviews, commits a faux pas here and there, and gradually finds his way.



“Quirky and laugh-out-loud funny, Scribblers is one of the most entertaining, insightful and honest books about writing that I ever read. Anybody interested in writing—and not just the writing of Appalachia—should read it.” —Jerry Bledsoe, New York Times best-selling author
Scribblers is a fascinating and insightful account of those who have dedicated themselves to creating novels—both the famous and the obscure. Although this book deals with novelists in Appalachia, Scribblers is ultimately about the universal human impulse to create. Stephen Kirk shows the vicissitudes of the literary life with humor, poignancy, and, most of all, empathy.Scribblers is one of the most enjoyable books I have read on what Dylan Thomas called the ‘art and sullen craft’ that is writing.” —Ron Rash, author of Serena
“Smart, wry, painstakingly honest, droll, eloquent, and informative, Scribblers is an unputdownable book about the inexhaustible ambitions of writers. A charming mix of regional literary history, personal insight and anecdote, spirited criticism, frankness about the perils of the writing life, and quirky hopefulness, it is ultimately a book about artistic perseverance.” —Marianne Gingher, former director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Creative Writing Program and author of A Girl’s Life: Horses, Boys, Weddings & Luck