A Glimpse into My Life, Writing

Thoughts on Invisibility

During my recent television interview with Frank Murphy he said, “You write about the unseen people of Appalachia. Does that include you?”

The question brought home the realization that I am unseen. Having lived my life as the shortest person in school, and the absolute last to be selected for any sport activity, I can say with certainty I have been unseen most of my life.

I spent years building a platform as a non-fiction author and just as I transitioned to fiction, the pandemic hit. The timing wasn’t ideal, was it?  With more than 2 million new books released last year, the market is saturated. Readers are no longer locked down, they are now traveling, eating out, living their lives! Yay!

But what about my debut novel, Outbound Train? In order to get the Parker women’s story into the hands of readers, I must procure a seat at an already crowded table filled with heavy hitting authors such as Wiley Cash, David Joy and Ron Rash, just to name a few from my region.

Enter divine intervention and a single reader.  As long as I have breath, I will never stop praising readers.

BJ discovered Outbound Train in the “Local Author” section of the Asheville Barnes and Noble. Being featured in a store a hundred miles from my home just doesn’t happen. I suspect B&N opted to include my book after reading the Book Feature of Outbound Train in The Laurel of Asheville , or someone heard the delightful interview with Landis Wade, or the book review by the incomparable Dannye Romine Powell of the Charlotte Observer. Perhaps a book fairy whispered my name someone’s ear. Someone, somewhere, gave Outbound Train a chance, and because of that single moment, I can share my story.

BJ read Outbound Train and fell in love with the Parker women. Set in the 70s when textile manufacturing was king throughout the south, Outbound Train tells of the Hardscrabble life of three women. Women who encourage each other. Women who, in their own way, make a difference in their community. BJ would later tell me she, “felt like she was in Bryson City,” and that she “could see the buildings and the characters clearly.”

BJ, that delightful difference-making-reader, nominated me to receive a creative writing award. Now BJ could have closed Outbound Train and picked up another book in her stack; but she didn’t. She nominated me for an award. My, how the world has changed. Today’s youth, hungry to be seen, want to be “social media influencers,” with very little face-to-face interaction. However, the strongest relationships occur when women come together as we did recently when I attended the “She Elevates the World” convention. I didn’t know a soul, not even BJ, who nominated Outbound Train.

And that’s what makes this award for creative writing special. I didn’t pay to enter a contest. I didn’t know anyone on the selection committee. I’ve never traveled to Winston Salem, the sight of the conference ! The Parker women won this award outright and they are worthy. I merely penned their story and prayed for a publisher. The publisher came by way of Claire Fullerton who introduced me to Eva Marie Everson, acquisition agent.

Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? Women helping women.

These are active women who aren’t spending the day on social media. Women like Patricia who introduced herself by saying, “I’m boots on the ground.”

We need more women like Patricia, and BJ, and the ladies whose names I can’t remember from the convention because there were so many at the signing table I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t yet come down from the mountaintop experience and I struggle to explain how being with these women truly quenched my parched soul. I felt like I was coming home to a room full of sisters I’d been separated from for most of my life. I loved them all and could have spent days being around their light and positivity. It is these lovelies who will tell their local library to stock Outbound Train so those who haven’t the money to buy books can read about the Parker women. It’s these lovelies who tell book clubs about Barbara, Carole Anne, and the loveable Pearlene Parker, and then schedule zoom meetings with me so we can chat about books. Readers who follow me on Goodreads and leave reviews. These are the difference makers who help me get on podcasts, radio interviews, and public broadcasting segments. They give, generously, of their time, to me, an invisible author. The more readers talk about the Parker women, the less invisible they are.

These women give, not because I ask them to, but because they know someone like Barbara, who is scratching and clawing her way through life while dreaming of something better. Perhaps they once peered out the window like Carole Anne with a dream of having something more. Or maybe they mixed up a cake to sell for extra money like Pearlene Parker. Regardless of the reason, I am here solely because readers have answered the call on their heart and shouted from the mountaintop, Let me tell you about Outbound Train. As always, it is the readers who make sure I remain visible, and for them, I am eternally grateful.

And so, with humility, respect, and more than a few tears, I bow to the soul sisters, the difference makers, the women who refused to give up, the encouragers, the carriers, those who lift us up when we stumble. I see you my sister and I love you. I am not worthy of this honor you have given me and so I accept it in the name of all the women who paved the way for us. They are our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, and precious friends. We see you and we honor you today, and always.

The Difference Makers

Help Support Literacy, and Come See me in Waynesville, NC: My next stop on the “Unseen Author Tour” will raise money for a cause near to my heart, literacy.  Join me at 91 Lakeshore Dr. Lake Junaluska, May 19th for dinner and a discussion about books. Click the link below for more information. I would love to see you. An Evening with Author Renea Winchester | Facebook

A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all

RoseGlen Literary Festival

Decide to be extraordinary -Epictetus

I purpose to be an extraordinary presenter. That doesn’t mean perfection; but it does mean I give my best to every reader, bookseller and volunteer I meet.

The speaker’s circuit isn’t an easy one. It involves tailoring your speech for the audience, travel, selecting the right wardrobe, making sure your hair looks just so (more on that later); and – most important- taking care of your voice before a presentation, which means no bread or starch, and only water (lots of water) before taking your place behind the microphone.

I am grateful to the RoseGlen Literary Festival staff for retaining me as keynote speaker in 2022 when the pandemic canceled last year’s event. This wasn’t my first keynote event; and fortunately, my calendar is filling for the rest of the year. Like every other author on the speaking circuit, all events for the past two years cancelled. Authors have “struggled mightily” as my friend is wont to say.

Saturday morning dawns and I am excited. I can’t wait to meet readers. You’ve heard me say many times, Readers are everything. I say it because I believe it. With that in mind, please follow me to Rose Glen. If you’re a regular subscriber to my blog, you’ve heard me talk about this festival many times. I’ve volunteered for 8 years because I believe in literacy and the power of the written word. Illiteracy rates are climbing and now, more than ever, we need make time to read, give books as gifts, share stories with others.

Be the person who carries a book with you into the waiting room. Let people catch you reading. We need to plant the literacy seed in everyone we meet.

The morning began in preparation. I had packed multiple dresses and two pairs of shoes because experience taught me long ago one should be prepared. In the shower, while conditioning my hair I noticed a fragrance that was decidedly minty fresh. Imagine my shock to learn the maroon tube of conditioner was actually toothpaste!

Frantic, I re-lathered, rinsed, and towel dried my hair then quickly realized my hair would be a frizzy mess unless I could dig up something from the bathroom closet in my father-in-law’s home.

Dep and Colgate: Recipe for hair drama!

I found this, a bottle of Dep. Now, the ladies in my novel, Outbound Train, are familiar with the magical hair product Dippity-do, a gel one uses to style (and hold) your hair for eternity.

Readers, let me tell you, this DEP hair product was a lifesaver. I joked from the stage that my hair will not move again until the mid-term elections. I believe my words may ring true.

Entering the doors of the conference readers find authors offering a variety of simultaneous workshops. Poets, naturalists, mystery writers, romance writers, sci-fi and historians form panels that offer something for everyone.

Entering the room to deliver a speech never gets old. There is a magic waiting, and for this particular conference, the room looked like an image from a fairytale. What then should a keynote discuss?

A delicious lunch, handmade pottery, books to purchase that support the library.
What more does this conference need? In a word, it is perfect. Photo Credit: Renea Winchester

Mr. McMahan asked that I share stories from my writing journey.  Like other authors, the path from inspiration to publication is arduous, filled with pitfalls of despair and moments of elation. There are no overnight successes in this business.

For those who began writing their own version of the “Great American novel” during the pandemic, please know I have been writing for eighteen years. Beginning with short stories, non-fiction, how-to books, weekly newspaper columns, and finally, a transition to novels. All traditionally published. There are no shortcuts in this business.

Authors hold secret meetings about our publication woes. We talk about a saturated market where thousands (yes thousands) of titles release daily. We whisper about the literary pecking order, and how your work can be stellar, but ultimately, the publisher’s credibility carries the most weight. Authors bemoan how social media creates a false reality, one where readers believe everyone is buying books, but few are during a recession. In this faux-reality, readers think we don’t need their support. Authors are trapped in this social-media cycle struggling to reach our audience while knowing in our creative souls the readers hold our careers in their powerful hands.  

Authors also stand on the shoulders of others who refused to give up; those who took gut-punches of rejections and recognized there are no short cuts. Authors who inherently understand this gig isn’t easy, but is so rewarding. Authors who partner with booksellers, buying books long before putting a single word on the page. There is a community among wordsmiths; booksellers are the cornerstone.

Stories matter.

Literacy matters.

Supporting each other, matters.

Inside this community, members do not take without giving; they do not tell others you are a risk not worth taking; they do not compete, they share and celebrate. Inside the writing community, others recognize an empty cup and tap you off so you can continue.

Let’s be honest, haven’t we all needed a little “tapping off” just to make it through another day?

And this, my friends, is why my time behind the microphone is vital. How does one convey the importance readers play in the literary community, in society as a whole?

How can I tap off those whose cups are empty?

I could have stayed at the microphone for hours connecting with this audience of glorious readers, but statistically we tune out any speaker who crosses the 25-minute mark. And so I began.

A packed house of readers and fellow authors. Heaven on earth. Photo Credit: Renea Winchester

I began with an icebreaker about my Dippity-do hair. It is not lost on me that my morning drama provided a moment of laughter at my expense. I transitioned to quick stories about the people who raised me. I write about strong women, because failing wasn’t an option for the women in my family. I am confident the women in Outbound Train: Carole Anne, Barbara and Pearlene wanted to give up many times when life got rough, but quitting wasn’t an option.

In truth, quitting isn’t an option today either.

While I didn’t share the secret author conversations, I did speak honestly about personal heartache along the bumpy road to publication. Readers can spy a fake from a million miles away.

I shared my hopes and the unexpected magic of becoming an internationally published author. (Yay France! And fingers crossed for a Russian translation).  I spoke with gratitude and humility. The multiple awards I’ve won will become hollow trinkets of success without readers. It is for them, and because of them, that I write.

I spoke of the heartache and wanting to give up. I gave thanks to those supporting writers who believed in me.

I was honest. I was vulnerable. I extended the hand of friendship to everyone in the audience.

Genuinely.

Sincerely.

Humbly.

I am kin to Carole Anne, Barbara, Pearlene and the other heroes in Outbound Train. Do not shy away from our hardworking hands when we extend them to you, for to do so reveals something dark and judgmental within the human psyche.

We are here today because someone before us did the hard work. We are equal. We are stronger together, always.

After the presentation, I gathered with the amazing team from Moonpie General Store who sponsored the festival and served as bookseller. In between signings, we discussed my “Bologna Book” and the tradition of banana moon pies in the Winchester family. Once again, I am reminded how food brings us together, and how words heal the soul if we allow it.

The amazing crew of Moon Pie General Store. Sponsor of the festival and bookseller. Photo Credit: Renea Winchester

For those who didn’t attend the conference, or who didn’t have time to stop at the table and purchase a copy of Outbound Train, or Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, signed copies are available. Give the fine folks a jingle at 865 428 5708. They will take care of you.

All too soon it seemed the conference was over. Time to pack up, return home and ready myself for the next conference. As always, I am grateful to you. Please follow me on Goodreads and mark my books “to be read” if you haven’t already.

Meeting glorious readers. Photo Credit: Chad Branton

And despite a minty-fresh halo hovering above me, my hair looked fantastic.

Renea Winchester is a multiple-award winning author who is internationally published. She is working on her next novel.

Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures, Uncategorized

Billy Albertson, A Life Well Lived

Billy Albertson: 03/31/32 to 08/14/21

He was two and a half pounds of “tow-maders” weighed heavy, because he knew one day he’d, “stand before his maker,” and he wasn’t about to short a single customer.

He was baby goats, pregnant nannies, ball bands, and “lemme teach you how to milk.”

He was the last farmer in Roswell, Georgia.

He was pink-eyed-purple hulls and zipper peas.

He was Truckers fav-oh-right and corn smut.

He was okra, pods, cut and carried out of the red-clay field in five-gallon buckets.

He was string beans, and renegade cotton stalks.

He was the permission we ALL need to live a slower life.

He was straw hats, fried bologna sandwiches, a bowed-head-blessing, and tears splattered on the inside of his spectacles.

He was collected-rain water, hauled to a thirsty garden in five-gallon buckets and a little red wagon.

He was a Mason, of the highest respect. A deacon, a servant of the most-high God.

He was a thin cotton shirt, draped across my shoulders because, “Zippy, that old Georgia sun is hot enough to fry an egg.”

He was a warm house, heated with split-wood come wintertime.

He was dopes in a bottle and moon pies (just don’t tell the daughters).

He was, “Zippy, try this here fig. It’s so good and sweet, it’ll make you wanna slap your Granny.”

He was baby chicks and fretful hens sitting on a clutch of eggs.

He was sandwiches from “The Chicken House,” and fried shrimp at Captain D’s.

He was barefoot, and thrice-patched cotton pants dashing out to catch an escaped goat by the horns.

He was a magnolia tree with thick branches that hung so low, you could take a nap in the shade.

He was the founder of the Best Friends’ Club.

He was homemade wine and head-knocker pears.

He was an old white truck, and a Farmall tractor that required a prayer to God before it’d crank.

He was corn shelling and fodder tying.

He was a box fan circulating air and, “Here’s a towel to dry those tow-maders.”

He was a sharpened chainsaw and, “Let’s drop that limb.”

He was bent nails, hammered straight and re-used.

He was a teacher to everyone, age one to one-hundred, who visited his “little strip of country because Zippy, folks ’round here don’t know how to grow food.”

He was a seed saving, share cropper’s son, with roots so deep he could hold all your secrets and bear your burdens.

He was the inspiration for my first book (and my second). He was a way for me to deal with being so far from home, and later, he was my shoulder when my mother passed.

He was radio interviews, newspaper articles, and book signings. His was the most-important autograph in the book. Not mine, never mine.

He introduced me as his “third daughter.”

He was pure of heart and kind. There was meekness in his soul. He wanted you to know our Jesus.

He was my friend, and, if you had the opportunity to meet him, even for one fleeting moment, he was your friend as well.

God Speed, my friend. Hug everyone for me in heaven.

Go rest high on that mountain, my friend.

French Readers Respond To Outbound Train

De l’autre côté des rails de Renea Winchester

Today I share a blog post from a blogger in France who shares their thoughts about Outbound Train https://laminutelivres.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/de-lautre-cote-des-rails-de-renea-winchester/

My word, I am in tears at this delightful French review of Outbound Train, “Rails”
Renea Winchester’s novel is not about failure and the condition of its characters is far from inevitable.
Confronted with life’s difficulties soon enough, these three women will learn to react, to get up, and to fight so that those who will follow do not suffer the same evils.

La minute livres

«1976, Bryson City, petite ville ouvrière des Appalaches de Caroline du Nord. De l’autre côté des rails, à l’écart de la ville, trois générations de femmes luttent ensemble pour joindre les deux bouts. Mamie Pearlene perd un peu la tête. Barbara part tous les jours à l’usine pour coudre des vêtements qu’elle ne pourra jamais s’offrir. Carole Anne est encore au lycée, mais travaille en cachette pour s’enfuir un jour vers un avenir meilleur. Elle ignore que Barbara avait autrefois caressé le même rêve, et qu’il s’était brisé en une seule nuit. Grandir du mauvais côté des rails prédestine-t-il à courir après le rêve américain sans jamais l’atteindre ? La mère réussira-t-elle à faire taire le passé quand sa fille sera portée disparue ? Renea Winchester brosse ici trois beaux portraits de femmes fortes, dont les parcours de vie semés d’embûches nous tiennent en haleine.»

***

L’histoire se déroule dans…

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Recipes from the garden

Bartering with Baked Goods: Granny Pearlene’s Black Walnut Cake Recipe (French translation included)

There’s a chapter in the novel, Outbound Train, where Granny Pearlene uses cakes as currency. I grew up with this type of bartering system which is why I incorporated it into my novel. The women in my family were known for their ability to cook bountiful meals which always included a made-from-scratch cake for dessert. It was common to find Appalachian women in the kitchen on Saturday night, making a pound cake, which typically included a pound of butter, flour, sugar, eggs.

Black Walnut Pound cake: An Appalachian Tradition

Cakes were made on Saturday because the most delicious pound cake is one that sets overnight beneath glass cake pan. This allows the cake to re-absorb any moisture that would evaporate while the cake cools. I suppose women tired of plain pound cake, because in typical Appalachian fashion, the women in my family collected black walnuts (folk call it “wild-harvested” or “foraged”) and relished in adding them to cakes They also made a delicious black walnut ice cream, which we served on plain pound cakes, but I digress.

I grew up with two types of black walnut cakes: the “pound cake” variety, baked in a Bundt pan, and the “layered cake” with cream cheese frosting.

We used black walnuts because that is the only nut-tree common in our mountains. We couldn’t afford pecans, which grow abundantly in the Southern most part of the US.  Black walnuts shouldn’t be confused with what we call “English walnuts.” Ours are tangy and strong due in part to an abundance of oil in the meat of the nut. While English walnuts can be used in this recipe, the strength of the black walnut can’t be duplicated.

As a child, my brother and I would wait at the bus stop beneath two gigantic black walnut trees at the edge of the road. We had a job while waiting, rolling the green-husked walnuts into the tire path with our feet so Poppa would drive over them each evening at precisely 4:40 pm when he returned from work.  We knew better than to position the walnuts with our fingertips. Black walnut husks have been used for decades as ink and dye. No one has ever mastered the art of collecting black walnuts without wearing stained fingertips for weeks after.

Freshly shelled #blackwalnuts from
W. Cloer B.C. N.C.

After Poppa’s truck rattled across the walnuts, mother steered a wheelbarrow to the end of the driveway and donned bright pink Palmolive dishwashing gloves. She tossed the green husks aside and collected the nuts. That was phase one of the harvesting process. From there, she positioned the nuts on a piece of tin and let them dry in the sun. Once dry, a much longer phase two began: each night she and Poppa would sit in the floor; they each had a rock, or sometimes a brick, and a hammer. There’s a certain way one holds a walnut to crack it, and before you go buying a “nutcracker,” no human has ever created one tough enough to crack an Appalachian walnut. You need a hammer, a rock, patience, and perhaps a Magnavox television playing the nightly news with Walter Chronkite.

That’s how it was done when I was a kid. After doing the “hard part,” of cracking the exterior shell, my parents passed the broken nuts to me or my brother. We used a tiny hook to remove any pieces of the nut-meat that remained. We did this as a family and it was an honorable thing to do.  As kids we didn’t complain when our parents asked us to do something; we had pride that they trusted we were capable.

Back to Saturday in the kitchen:

My mother didn’t exactly write out all her recipes so I was delighted to discover one in her recipe book. You see, the publisher in France wanted to know if the cakes in Outbound Train were real.  If so, was I willing to share with her readers?

The perfect cake begins with Momma’s dented pan and fresh eggs

Y’all ! French chefs are considered the best in the world and she asked me to share our simple walnut cake used with nuts we pick up at the end of the road. Note: The FRENCH Translation of this blog post appears at the end of this post.

The recipe:

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar  ( I use a mixture of white cane sugar, and light turbinado sugar). You can not use dark brown sugar in this recipe

1 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup black walnuts

3 eggs

1 cup milk: Mother would use whole milk. Not cream, and never 2%

Eggs were always kept at room temperature at my house. This is a tradition I continue, because I am fortunate enough to have a small flock of hens.

The process: Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Batter is ready for the walnuts

Cream butter and sugar together

Add eggs and mix slowly

Add 1 cup flour and the baking powder

Mix

Add another cup of flour

And then the milk

Mix

Add the final cup of flour

And the vanilla

Add the walnuts

The pan:  A Bundt pan is absolutely imperative in the success of this cake. I use my mother’s plain cake pan. She had “fancy” pans, with scalloped ridges, and designs. However, I grew up with simple cakes and I like to honor that memory. Granny Pearlene most certainly did not own a fancy pan.

My job as a child was to spread Crisco (or butter) on the bottom of the pan and then sprinkle a tablespoon of flour on the bottom, tapping the pan until flour covered the surface. Mother wanted to make sure the cake wouldn’t stick. Hers rarely did. Mine rarely come out intact.

Confession: I love the batter, almost as much as I love the cake.

Using a Bundt pan means bakers run the risk of having a lovely brown top and an unbaked center. Sometimes you may need to cover the top of the cake with aluminum foil and then use the “toothpick test.” (It used to be a broom straw test when I was growing up. We didn’t have toothpicks).  What this means is you stick a toothpick into the center of the cake and remove it. If the toothpick has batter on it, then it isn’t finished. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

My “Granny Winchester’s” Sunday table featured a pound cake every single Sunday until she stopped baking. Her favorite was a caramel apple cake. She also adored a pineapple pound cake. Just typing this makes me want to bake a caramel apple.

Don’t you miss the days of Sunday pound cakes. Tell me, what was your favorite?

Regardless of what Appalachian women added to the simple pound cake, we always had the pleasure of enjoying it with those we love.

Renea Winchester is the of Outbound Train, which released in April 2021 in France titled On the Other Side of the Tracks.

All photos Copyright, Renea Winchester

La pâtisserie comme monnaie d’échange : le gâteau aux noix de  Mamie Pearlene

Dans le roman De l’autre côté des rails, Mamie Pearlene utilise ses gâteaux comme monnaie d’échange.

Petite, j’ai connu ce système de troc, et je l’ai incorporé à mon roman. Les femmes de ma famille étaient connues pour leurs merveilleux repas. Ils comprenaient toujours un gâteau fait-maison pour le dessert. Les femmes des Appalaches passaient souvent leur samedi soir en cuisine pour préparer le pound cake, préparé avec une livre (pound) de beurre, 1 livre de farine, une livre de sucre, des œufs. Les gâteaux étaient préparés le samedi car les meilleurs pound cakes sont ceux qui ont reposé toute la nuit sous une cloche en verre. Cela permet au gâteau de réabsorber l’humidité qui se serait sinon évaporée pendant la phase de refroidissement.

Je suppose que les femmes se sont lassées de la recette de base du pound cake. Comme cela se pratiquait couramment dans les Appalaches, les femmes de ma famille ramassaient les noix noires (les gens d’ici parlent de «  récoltes sauvages » ou bien de « cueillettes ») et elles les ont délicieusement ajouté à leurs gâteaux. Elles préparaient également une succulente crème glacée aux noix noires, que l’on servait avec les pound cakes, mais je m’éloigne du sujet. Quand j’étais petite, il y avait deux sortes de gâteaux aux noix : le « pound cake » aux noix, cuit dans un moule à kouglof, et le « gâteau multicouche » et son glaçage au cream cheesse.

Miam.

Les femmes des Appalaches utilisaient des noix noires car c’est le seul arbre à noix qui soit courant dans nos montagnes. Nous ne pouvions pas nous permettre d’acheter des noix de pécan, qui poussent en abondance dans la plupart des États du sud. Les noix noires ne doivent pas être confondues avec ce que nous appelons les noix anglaises. Les nôtres ont un goût acidulé et prononcé, en partie dû à la forte concentration en huile au cœur de la noix.

Quand nous étions enfants, mon frère et moi attendions le bus sous deux énormes noyers qui poussaient au bord de la route. Tout en attendant le bus, nous avions pour mission de faire rouler l’enveloppe verte des noix sur les traces de roues pour que Papa roule dessus à 4h40 précises, tous les soirs, en revenant du travail. On savait bien qu’il ne fallait pas le faire avec les doigts. L’écorce de noix noire est utilisée depuis des décennies pour faire de l’encre et de la teinture. Personne n’a jamais réussi à ramasser ces noix sans garder les doigts tâchés pendant des semaines.

Une fois que la camionnette de Papa était passée sur les noix, ma mère poussait sa brouette jusqu’au bout de l’allée puis enfilait ses gants de vaisselle Palmolive rose. Elle jetait les enveloppes vertes sur le côté et ramassait les noix. C’était la phase une de la récolte. Elle plaçait ensuite les noix sur une plaque métallique et les laissait sécher au soleil. Après le séchage démarrait la phase deux, beaucoup plus longue : tous les soirs, Maman et Papa s’asseyaient par terre. Ils prenaient un caillou, parfois une brique, ainsi qu’un marteau.

Avant d’envisager l’achat d’un “casse-noix”, il faut savoir qu’il y a une façon de tenir la noix pour  la casser. Ne perdez pas votre temps à chercher un outil du commerce pour vous faciliter la tâche. Aucun humain n’en a créé un qui soit assez solide pour casser une noix des Appalaches. Il vous faut un marteau, un gros caillou, de la patience, et peut-être une télévision Magnavox et les nouvelles du soirs par Walter Cronkite.

C’est comme ça qu’on faisait quand j’étais petite. Nous cassions les noix en regardant la télévision. Après avoir fait « le plus difficile », craquer la coquille, mes parents nous donnaient les noix, à moi et à mon frère. Nous utilisions un crochet minuscule pour retirer les derniers petits morceaux de cerneaux. Nous faisions cela en famille et c’était une chose honorable. Enfants, nous ne nous plaignions pas quand nos parents nous demandaient de faire quelque chose ; nous étions fiers d’être dignes de leur confiance.

Mais retournons maintenant dans la cuisine, les samedis soirs :

 Ma mère n’écrivait pas vraiment toutes ses recettes et j’ai été ravie d’en découvrir une dans son carnet de recettes. L’éditrice française voulait savoir si les gâteaux du roman existaient. Et si j’étais d’accord pour les partager avec les lecteurs.

Les chefs français sont considérés comme les meilleurs du monde et elle m’a demandé de partager notre petit gâteau, confectionné avec les noix que nous ramassions au bout de la route.

Voici la recette :

  • 3 mesures de farine
  • 2 mesures de sucre (j’utilise un mélange de sucre de canne blanc et de sucre turbiné). On peut aussi utiliser du sucre brun
  • 1 mesure de beurre ramolli
  • 2 cuillérées à café de levure
  • 1 mesure de noix
  • 3 œufs
  • 1 mesure de lait : ma mère utilisait du lait entier. Pas de crème et jamais de lait écrémé.
  • 1 cuillérée à café de vanille liquide
  •  

Notes :

Les oeufs étaient toujours conservés à température ambiante. C’est une tradition que je perpétue, car j’ai la chance d’avoir quelques poules. Et nous avons plutôt la main lourde sur la vanille.

Marche à suivre :

  • Préchauffer le four à 180°C
  • Mélanger le beurre et le sucre
  • Ajouter les œufs et mélanger doucement
  • Ajouter une mesure de farine et la levure
  • Mélanger
  • Ajouter une autre mesure de farine  puis le lait
  • Mélanger
  • Ajouter la dernière mesure de farine
  • La vanille
  • Les noix
  • Verser dans le moule et cuire à 180 °C pendant 45 min à 1h. Jusqu’à ce que le cure-dent ressorte propre.

Le moule :

il est impératif de disposer d’un moule à kouglof pour réussir ce gâteau. J’ai utilisé le moule à pound cake tout simple de ma mère. Elle possédait aussi des moules «fantaisie », ornés et festonnés. Mais j’ai toujours connu des gâteaux simples et je voulais faire honneur à ce souvenir.

Enfant, ma tâche était d’étaler la margarine Crisco (ou le beurre) au fond du moule puis de saupoudrer la farine dans le fond à l’aide d’une grosse cuillère, en tapotant le moule pour qu’elle recouvre la surface. Ma mère voulait être sûre que le gâteau n’adhérerait pas. Les siens collaient rarement. Les miens sortent rarement intacts.

L’utilisation d’un moule à kouglof fait courir le risque au pâtissier d’avoir le dessus doré comme si le gâteau était cuit, sans que le cœur soit assez cuit. Il faut parfois recouvrir le dessus d’une feuille d’aluminium puis faire le « test du cure-dent ». (Quand j’étais petite c’était le test de la paille de balais). Ça veut dire qu’il faut piquer à l’intérieur du gâteau puis retirer le cure-dent. S’il ressort recouvert de pâte, c’est que la cuisson n’est pas terminée. S’il ressort propre, le gâteau est cuit.

Quoiqu’il en soit, ne laissez JAMAIS  refroidir le gâteau dans le moule. Une fois le gâteau cuit, il faut le sortir du four, le laisser reposer 5 min, puis passer un couteau fin entre le moule et le gâteau. Renverser sur un plat et recouvrir immédiatement. Servir le lendemain.

Sur la table de « Mamie Winchester », il y avait un pound cake tous les dimanches.  Son préféré était le pound cake au caramel et aux pommes. Elle adorait également le pound cake à l’ananas.

Quel est votre pound cake préféré ?

Peu importe ce que nous ajoutions à la recette de base du pound cake, nous avions toujours le plaisir de le déguster avec ceux que nous aimions.

Renea winchester est l’auteure d’Outbound Train : Firefly Southern Fiction April 2020 ;

 sorti en France en avril 2021 sous le titre De l’autre côté des rails.

Uncategorized

Outbound Train launches in France.

Guest post: Author, Angie Kinsey

When Renea Winchester’s novel, Outbound Train, debuted, she never imagined an international release. Then an email arrived: “I’m Marie. I’ll be working with you on the translation for Outbound Train.”

“I was so humbled I couldn’t stop crying,” Winchester said. “2020 was tough. Outbound Train had a great first week in the US because it launched ahead of the shutdown. With everyone worrying about a life-threatening pandemic, writers struggled. Having Outbound Train release in France this year is more than I could have ever dreamed. I only wish I could be there when it happens.”

The path to an international release came by way of a meeting in the low country of South Carolina when the publisher attended a conference intent on securing southern authors. There she learned about debut novelist Renea Winchester. After asking Firefly Southern Fiction to review the manuscript, Outbound Train was selected for publication.

“We are committed to bringing strong Southern Voices to French Readers,” Publisher Marie Bx writes.

“For me, this good news couldn’t have come at a better time. Honestly, I have been so depressed. Sales of Outbound Train have been abysmal. The pandemic hit me hard. I am hopeful the US sales of Outbound Train will pick-up. As you know, it’s hard to find an agent with low book sales.”

Winchester now had good news and something to focus her attention on . . . the translation process.

“Appalachians have their own language. I worried some of Granny Pearlene’s sayings and the Parker women’s strength would be lost in translation. I needn’t worried. Marie had no questions during the translation process. She adored Granny Pearlene and even asked for a copy of my mother’s recipe for apple stack cake to share with French readers.”

Like most publishers, having an appealing cover is essential. “I focused on the car Carole Anne needed to leave Bryson City,” Marie writes. “I wanted the artist to get that right.”

Editions Le Nouveaux Pont hired a local artist who painstakingly created a book cover that included the trailer where the Parker women lived, the car Carole Anne needed, and the train tracks that would lead the Parker women to a better future.  

“I am in love with the cover. It captures the reader’s attention. There is no greater honor than knowing a young artist created the cover with her own hands. This process deeply humbles me. Seeing the cover thrilled my heart,” Winchester said. I love it

Winchester recorded a short video expressing her appreciation, which is features on the publishers Facebook Page.

The title, “Outbound Train”, was the only translation snag. Editions Le Nouveaux Pont proposed a new title: De l’atre cote des railsOn the Other Side of the Tracks, releases April, 15, 2021.”I adore the title: It perfectly describes the Parker women’s life which was on the “other” side of the tracks.”

Outbound Train is available wherever books are sold.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Terry Kay

Almost two months have passed and the tears still come.

Uncontrollable.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tk1.jpg

Sorrowful drops splatting on my keyboard while I type.

I’m not ready to share images of us together at conferences and festivals. They are sacred.

Protected.

Locked in the vault. As were all our conversations, whispered with our heads pressed together like kindergartners avoiding naptime. It’s an honor being considered a vault, a place where your mentor can relax, speak truths.

Terry Kay was more than a mentor, he was my friend. I loved him.

There, I said it. I loved him. I was not alone. If you knew him, you loved him.

I sought his approval. I listened and heeded his advice: “Renea, keep writing.”

My debut novel would still be under the bed were it not for Terry Kay. I didn’t want to let him down. If Terry took the time to invest in you then you tried to live up to his expectations.

He called after reading my debut novel, Outbound Train. He’d read my non-fiction works, but it was his encouragement to transition to fiction that fueled me. I listened as his voice rich and healthy, full of glorious encouragement said, “This is Terry.”

That was all it took. I began to cry.

“Now don’t you go telling anyone about our talk. Not a soul, or I’ll have every writer in Georgia mad at me . . .” he paused for effect, for he’s spent a bit of time on the stage. “Girl, you can write.”

I couldn’t breathe. The Emmy-Award-Winning, author, liked my novel. He not only liked it, he called to tell me so. He gifted me his time. (The rest of our conversation is pressed into the pages of my journal. Bury me with those words, for they sustain me still).

“It’s unfortunate Covid will kill this novel.  No one will see it, you know that don’t you?” His voice had softened and took on the caress of a father kissing away tears of his daughter. I nodded. He was right.

“I am deeply sorry. You did everything right.”

I curled around the phone and sobbed. As I am now, pouring out my soul to you, the readers who sustain me.

“But, you can’t look behind you. You can’t look at what could have been. You’ve written one novel. It’s under your belt. You must get to work writing another.” His voice had changed to a velvety drill-sergeant. “Stay off Facebook. Start writing. Keep writing. Get an agent.”

I nodded.

+ + +

Liver cancer.

Aggressive.

My friend’s life became measured in moments that no longer included me. Still, I vowed to write. To write Terry daily, until I became worried his family would deem me a stalker; I decreased the letters to three a week.

I wanted to call, more than anything in the world I wanted to hear his voice. But I understand how cancer robs the most valuable currency: time with loved ones.

I continued writing, praying someone would read my letters to him. I know he received them because he messaged me, “receiving letters, too weak to respond.”

I wrote about the first time we met at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference. How he’d picked me out of the crowd and said, his voice strong and confident, “You are a writer.”

Terry Kay made me believe I was a writer. No other writer supported fledgling writers like Terry. My experience wasn’t isolated, although when you were with him he always made you feel like you were the only writer in the world.  We owe him everything. We craved his encouragement and discipline.

We needed Terry Kay to live forever.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tk2.jpg

And so the letters continued, hopeful-ever hopeful- for a healing, a miracle, or perhaps a letter postmarked from Athens, Georgia.

But no letter came.

It was selfish of me to hope for one last letter, a final email. He’d already sacrificed so much of his time for me, a nothing, a wannabe who sat at the feet of a master and licked crumbs that tumbled from the table. He’d given his time to readers, to writers and we’d devoured it like candy, then held out sticky hands begging for more.

The world could not get enough of Terry Kay.

As much as we loved him, his family loved him first, loved him more than we could imagine. To the Kay family, I am forever grateful for your gift, for the generosity in which you shared Terry with us.

Enough has been written about Terry Kay the writer. If you attended readings you’ve heard him recite While Reading. I link it here because the words are powerful. You should read it. Print it out.

You should read. Any book, any genre, worthy of your time, read it. Lesser known authors; read them first. Support those struggling to find a place at the literary table.

My favorite section: While reading, I have climbed mountains lost in clouds.

While reading, I’ve become people I cannot be, doing things I cannot do. And I do not know of any other experience that could have given me such a life—Terry Kay.

If you read any book this year, please pick up a copy of The Book of Marie. Today, I’m choosing to support Adventure Bound Books, a tiny bookstore in rural North Carolina who could really use your help. Call them at 828-475-6955 or text 828- 782-3358. Honor Terry today by placing an order with them, or Mercer University Press.

Happy Birthday Terry in heaven. You are missed, and shall never, ever be forgotten.

Photos taken from Terry’s Website and other public domains.

Order Renea’s debut novel at any of the following links, or through Adventure Bound Books

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Outbound-Train-Renea…/dp/1645262413

Barnes&Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/outbound…/1136262875

WALMART: https://www.walmart.com/search/…

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50690274-outbound-train

ButterflyCove

2020, in perspective

When 2020 began, I knew it would be a hard year. In order for my debut novel, Outbound Train, to be successful, I had to remain eyes-forward, focused intently on doing everything within my power to promote my book. I lined up speaking engagements, booked events at Indie bookstores, and penciled in dates with my beloved book clubs. As April approached I was ready, every list complete, every box checked.

Then the corona virus struck and like many authors, I watched every single event canceled. I also watched a change in what we call “normal.” Outbound Train debuted at # 22 in Southern Fiction, an honor I owe to reader support. But, I also watched being “southern” become a bad thing, a terrible stereotype of racism and hate. This hurts not only me as a southern-born-woman, it hurts the career of every southern author. Yet, as I type this, folk are selling their homes as quickly as possible fleeing their city-life, hoping that living in the rural south will help them escape Covid-19.

Perhaps that is why the Western North Carolina Mountain towns are hotspots with cases five times that of the State Capital, but I digress.

I’ve watched 2020 become the year of complaining. We have become like the Israelites who complained about a 7-year journey. They didn’t like the food, didn’t like the journey, didn’t like their leader. They complained SO MUCH they became STUCK in the pit of complaining and it took the group 40 years to reach their destination. And yet here we are in 2020, on a journey where it seems no one has a kind word. Isn’t there anything good to talk about? Of course. We must purpose to speak life instead of negativity.

We ripped each other to shreds over politics and walked away from relationships because someone didn’t agree with us. Author Lisa Wingate said it best. My grandmother reminded me that she has never received a visit to her home from a single politician she’s ever voted for; which is why relationships with her friends and family matter more than WHO they vote for.

I get it, we’re tired, we are grieving, we are scared. Like many, I lost someone I love to this terrible virus, but it seems we have become so negative we hate every thing and every one around us! Friends, amidst the pain and the loss, in the longing to be together we have the BEST-ever opportunity to grow and change the life of another.

We’ve heard the phrase, “new normal” and we hate it. We want 2020 to be over and for life to return as it once was. In doing so we are wishing our lives away, we aren’t finding the good, and we aren’t being the good people need. Those living on the edge of despair need us. In this area 900 a month is the average rent for a run-down place. Fast food workers need us to slide a twenty across the counter. I see students every day whose lives who can’t make it to school, or work. Their lives would be changed with a gas card. The twenty dollars we waste on Bath & Body Candles (ok, I am preaching to myself here), is literally the difference between sleeping in a cold house and eating a nutritious meal for many people. Last week in the grocery store, I wanted to grab the microphone and give a shout out to every single worker in the store. They deserve a MEDAL for showing up to work every day as do bone-weary healthcare workers and law enforcement.

2020 wasn’t all bad. It simply wasn’t.

Elderberry-Tonic ready for you.

We became certified seed growers, growing heritage seeds so future generations can continue to grow their own food. We could have sold the land piecemeal like everyone else is, commanding an exorbitant price from someone from New Jersey or Atlanta, but we didn’t. Simply put, that dishonors our people and the land. Instead, we will work this land, using what she offers to heal ourselves and others. We have a long-term goal of teaching others about the way of the land with a plan to open an outdoor classroom in 2021. We believe the land isn’t best used as a lush green lawn, but as a teacher to those who are willing to listen. We will offer our little strip of country to limited number of herbalists who need a place to hold classes. The land has so much to teach us about ourselves and each other, but Mother Nature whispers only to those who listen.

And so as December arrives, we take each day as it comes, thankful for it, for each other, and for you. Find a blessing, and try to be a blessing, every single day.

With Poppa on the Farm
Book Reviews

Welcome Fall: Here’s What I’m Reading

Hello Beautiful Readers,
Fall is almost here- ready or not- tis the season for pumpkin-spice everything. But in the Western North Carolina Mountains, we prefer apple cider and Barber’s Orchard in Waynesville, NC is my go-to place. Try a delicious cinnamon-sugar apple doughnut while you’re there. You’ll thank me later.
Now that we’re all hungry, I’d like to share what I’m reading this month:

The Forever Wish of Middy Sweet:

No one delivers a story quite like Terry Kay. The Forever Wish of Middy Sweet is a story of two people who have known each other since high school. After graduation, Middy Sweet and Luke Mercer go their separate ways, only to have fate bring them back together 50 years later.
Kay masterfully lures readers into this story in a way only a true romantic can. Recently widowed Middy is determined to reunite with Luke, who is also alone at this point in his life. Author, Terry Kay, has answered that nagging question many people have about their first loves . . . if given the opportunity would I reunite with my first love after so many years have passed?

Exciting News about Outbound Train
Many readers know my passion for literacy runs deep. I am a strong supporter of libraries and literary events. After volunteering with the phenomenal Rose Glen Literary Festival for years, the Board extended an invitation for me to be Keynote Speaker this February. I’m still pinching myself.
Years ago, members of the literary community backed this event which has grown annually. It is easily my favorite reader’s festival. As you can tell in the photo, this event is a READER’S dream. (For fun, see if you can find me in the photo by clicking this link)
I can’t wait to tell everyone about Outbound Train and the strong women who come to life on the pages. Save the date. Come see me at Rose Glen. I will speak during the luncheon. Tickets are required for the luncheon. And, there are some amazing door prizes. This year, the Friends of the Library will decorate tables with books available for purchase. Of course, Outbound Train, will be available as will dozens of other authors.

Listen to Charlotte Reader’s Podcast: 

On October 16, Charlotte Reader’s Podcast will feature Outbound Train. 
Click here to be notified when the podcast goes live.

  
Thank You Readers:

A heartfelt thank you to every reader who left a review for Outbound Train on Goodreads and Amazon. A review breathes life into this novel. Many people base purchasing decisions on reviews, which is one of many reasons every reader opinion counts. Reviews also show publishers I have an established audience. If you left a review, thank you for your time. If you haven’t, I NEED YOU.

Outbound Train is available wherever books are sold. If you haven’t purchased a copy, here are some helpful links:
Your local Independent Bookseller can order Outbound Train at your request.
Ordering from this link donates a portion of all sales to an Indie Bookseller
Indie Booksellerhttps://bookshop.org/shop/rwinchester
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1645262413/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0
Direct from Publishehttps://shoplpc.com/renea-winchester/
From Walmarthttps://www.walmart.com/search/?query=reneaa%20winchester%20Outbound%20Train
From Barnes and Noble  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/outbound-train-renea-winchester/1136262875

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Illusion of Success

Recently, someone told me, “I didn’t by a copy of Outbound Train because (on Facebook) it looks like you’re doing so well.”

I paused for a moment, not understanding the rationale behind the statement. Why would someone ever think I am doing so well that I don’t need help? At that moment I knew I needed to immediately clear up this misunderstanding, while not breaking the unwritten rule: Authors don’t talk about sales.

Today, I’m going to talk about sales during the time of COVID-19.

Outbound Train debuted at number 22 in Southern Fiction. Because I thought I knew how many books it took to receive that ranking, I was elated. The reality punched me square in the gut.

Five years ago, this ranking meant a novel sold approximately five to six hundred copies in a week.

Two years ago, this ranking meant a novel sold approximately two-three hundred copies in a week

This year, debuting at number 22 meant Outbound Train sold less than 25 copies in order to achieve this “high ranking.“

Fewer than twenty-five copies.

Here’s what authors are telling me behind the scenes:

Every day I try to find something good, a little bit of news I can post about my novel just to keep it in the public eye.

Everyone is on Facebook; it is saturated with videos about books. 

I wish readers would write reviews.

I wish readers would tell their friends.

I wish readers would ask the library to order a copy of my book.

I wish someone would buy my book

What is going to happen to us?

But what I’m hearing most is the following: I’m going to take a year off, maybe two years and think about whether I’ll write again.

Authors have already seen changes to the way publishers do business. The shift began in March as publishing companies furloughed editors, halted the distribution of paper galleys to reviewers, and pushed back book release dates. Moving forward, many publishers will select future novels based on public interest (meaning more celebrity books, more conspiracy and pandemic books) [Source, Publisher’s Weekly]. Many Independent Authors, who struggle to find a place on this ever shifting platform, simply haven’t the energy – or the money–to invest in a book when a financial reward isn’t possible.

As the saying goes, “Don’t quit your day job.”

Pay attention to how many of your favorite authors have taken teaching positions, or who offer summer conferences. There’s the truth about publishing. Authors simply can not make a living in this business. Traditional publishing has always been difficult, but now debut novelists and those represented by small presses will not receive future contracts without good sales now.

So what’s an author to do? The only thing I know is to be honest with readers, which, as you know, has always been the case.

Outbound Train has received phenomenal support from readers. Some recommended Outbound Train to book clubs. (Thank You). Some readers have given copies away (Thank You). With so many unemployed, I realize people don’t have money to buy books right now. Did you know, you can recommend Outbound Train to your librarian?

However, that doesn’t solve the problem of those who think the book is so successful I don’t need their help. Friends, I need your help more than ever. Helping is so easy. Even if you haven’t read Outbound Train, even if you have no intention of reading it, even if you don’t read – at all – you can support me and other Indie authors by posing on your Social Media Platform. You can tell a friend. You can talk to your librarian.

Social media experts need only grab an image of the cover,OutboundTrainand copy the following into your social media platform with the following words:

“Happy to see Renea Winchester’s debut novel, Outbound Train, available wherever books are sold.”

 

Or,

“Congratulations to Renea Winchester whose debut novel, Outbound Train was selected as a #SummerRead by famed reviewer, Dannye Powell. ACharlotteSummerRead

Support Independent Bookstores by including this link to purchase https://bookshop.org/shop/rwinchester 

or this one https://www.amazon.com/Outbound-Train-Renea-Winchester/dp/1645262413

or the publisher https://shoplpc.com/outbound-train/

Pick one, or all three and share.

Your friends who are readers, and are looking to discover a new writer, will see your post and boom, that’s how Outbound Train stays alive. That’s how all authors stay alive to write another book. Because at the end of the day, authors are also small businesses and we need your support.

As always, my success comes from readers telling other readers. And my gratitude is immeasurable and heartfelt. And as always, I welcome your thoughts about lifting the veil on the illusion of an author’s success.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning non-fiction author. After years of writing nonfiction, Outbound is her first novel and is available wherever books are sold.