" Kimberly Brock has an amazing voice and a huge heart; The River Witch welcomes the reader to a haunted landscape, authentically Southern, where the tragedies of the past and the most fragile, gorgeous kind of love-soaked hope are equally alive. This is one debut that you absolutely should not
~~ Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Backseat Saints
Georgia Author of the Year 2013 The River Witch is available wherever books are sold
It’s not a habit of mine to post on my own behalf. I’d almost always rather be sharing news about friends or introducing new authors to new readers. But something wonderful has happened to me and I really wanted to say thank you to all the readers and friends who have supported me and my debut novel in the last months. I hope you’ll celebrate a wonderful event with me, something unexpected and so encouraging for me and my writing life. This year the Georgia Writer’s Association awarded me the Georgia Author of the Year Award 2013 for first fiction, The River Witch!
I rarely do this. You know it. I know it. (Lately, I rarely post anything on the blog, I’m so busy with the writing of the next book and raising a family.) But sometimes I come across someone who truly, TRULY impresses me as a person and a writer. Jolina Petersheim has done both these things and I know that you will love her and her work as I do. This sassy little sprite of a girl stole my heart last year at Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books. She is swift and sure and her debut novel will knock your socks off. I’m letting you in on this a little early, ahead of her release date. (Tyndale House Publishers, June 21, 2013 Click on this link to see her page there) You can thank me later.
Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel Stoltzfus is a strong-willed single woman, content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of the religious sect as she is shunned by those she loves most. She is eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop.
But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.
A bonnet book, you say? Seriously? Oh, yes, I answer, cocking my eyebrow knowingly. Just wait and see…
AND…if that’s not enough for you, here’s a teasing guest post from Jolina the Fine, herself. (Did I mention you NEED to read her blog? Because it’s fabulous.) And I BET before you finish reading this piece, you are already ordering The Outcast.
The Seed for Story
“A writer is a reader driven to emulation.” ~Paul Bellow
One of the girls who lived with us for a summer said that my family should host our own reality TV show. But I think we should write a book.
My father has floppy black hair needled with silver and hazel eyes that glow green when he tells a story, which he must accentuate with explosive hand motions, facial expressions, and colorful descriptions that keep his listeners enthralled.
My mother’s stories aren’t full of much action, but she is very introspective and curious: a combination that constantly spots stories and characters hidden among her interactions with customers who visit her quaint Miller’s Amish Country Store.
Launched from a genetic pool such as this, it is really no wonder that I fell in love with storytelling before I could even read. We didn’t have a TV for a majority of my childhood, so I passed time until my older brother returned from school by sitting on the front steps outside our cedar-sided home, sucking on my pastel candy necklace, and concocting elaborate stories about my day that I did not yet know were actually fibs.
Once I learned to write, I scribbled these “fibs” on notebook paper and stuffed them in an evening purse that I had ruined when I cut out the silk lining to hide a fuschia smear of dress-up lipstick. Then I dug a hole in the backyard with a child’s garden spade, tossed in the purse containing my stories, and buried it like a seed that I hoped would sprout into a creative beanstalk (Jack and the Beanstalk was one of my favorite tales at the time).
My family moved. The forgotten fibs moldered in their satin coffin, but the stories did not stop. My fat scrawl filled pages of diaries that I believed could not be tampered with because of a tiny gold lock that, looking back, I’m sure my brother picked.
And I read even more than I wrote: Little House on the Prairie, The Boxcar Children, American Girl, Baby-Sitter’s Club, Nancy Drew and Mandie mysteries. . . .
At night, my mother would tuck the covers tight around me and read, like a bedtime story, a chapter from one of her inspirational novels penned by her favorite author, Janette Oke. When I couldn’t stand the cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 10 (were the romantic love interests actually related?), I tiptoed across the carpet in my parents’ bedroom and snatched the paperback from the nightstand.
Back in my room, aided with a flashlight that blazed beneath the tented quilt, I read the climatic ending with my heart skittering. Then I calmly started at the page number where my mother had left off—satisfied that I knew the hero and heroine weren’t related and therefore their unending love could actually work out.
Eighteen years later, I can see that my love for story was like that “seed” of fibs I tucked in a purse and planted in the ground. Listening to my father tell tall-tales around the supper table planted in me the cadence of language and how the pace quickens as the tension mounts.
Because of my mother’s eye, I can spot characters amid the garden of mundane interactions and draw out their story with a subtle question that is really a writer’s cattle prod.
And now, before bedtime, I set my young daughter on my lap—breathing in her scent of warm cotton and strawberries—and read a story to her. And sometimes she flips through the board pages with her dimpled hands like she is overeager to understand the end.
Cuddling her close, I imagine that perhaps, through sharing my seed for story, another crop of young storytellers might be sown.
SEE! See! What did I tell you? You can find THE OUTCAST anywhere books are sold. Or click on the links here to find it on Amazon.
Jolina Petersheim holds degrees in English and Communication Arts from the University of the Cumberlands. Though The Outcast is her first novel, her writing has been featured in venues as varied as radio programs, nonfiction books, and numerous online and print publications. Her blog is syndicated with The Tennessean’s “On Nashville” blog roll, as well as featured on other creative writing sites. Jolina and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Follow Jolina and her blog at http://www.jolinapetersheim.com/.
When I was writing THE RIVER WITCH, I came across this wonderful video that confirmed all the things I know (and suspect) to be true about the power of music in our lives. A friend reminded me of this particular piece today and I thought it was worth sharing. The character of Otis Green came to me as a whole person and later, when I was doing some research I saw this piece of film and felt I’d maybe met him in the flesh. For so many people who are living out their last years in nursing homes it can be a lonely and isolating time. This film gives such a sense of hope and it inspired me. I hope it will inspire you to find creative ways to reach out to those in our communities who seem lost or isolated beyond our understanding. When I watch it, I see what I’ve always believed – music is the language of the soul. I hope to always speak it.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited, along with some of my favorite authors, to speak with the editors of Southern Writers Magazine about if and why writers still need literary agents these days. I had some things to say. And they do include the poultry industry and Elvis, as you’d expect.
Yesterday, this post ran on my publisher’s blog and I was very apprehensive. I really had a difficult time writing a piece this week and I still feel it is entirely inadequate. But after having several requests that I run it on my own blog, I’m posting it here. I encourage you to leave a comment and I hope it brings a little comfort by its honesty, although I wish I were a wiser woman. Love to you all.
I don’t feel like writing this blog. I want to cuddle up with my kids. I want to hibernate for winter. I want to make cookies and memories and watch sweet movies and tell stories under the covers. I want to stay home. I want to listen to my husband snore beside me in the wee hours. I want to be safe. I want to know they are safe. I don’t want to take any chances. That’s what this week did to me. Probably to almost everyone. It’s a shame because I’d already started tinkering with the beginnings of a post with a kind of reflective tone about the season. It was pretty smart, actually, a few days ago. Now, it’s a bunch of bologna. It’s shallow and naïve. And I just can’t seem to get back to that line of thinking. I can’t cough up any nostalgia or humor or even a Bah Humbug. I’m almost forty-one years old and I just lost a little more of my innocence. I mean, we are lucky to live where we live in America, aren’t we? That we have any innocence left to lose is an absolute miracle, right? But terrifying, too.
But none of that changes the fact that I have to post something because I agreed to the job weeks ago. I said I would do it and I sit here pondering my inability to wax poetic or even work up something of a little Christmas sermon. Usually, I’m good for at least a paragraph or two on such things. Not this time. But I’ll tell you, my brain has fixated on this one question since Friday afternoon when I was sitting at my laptop, trying to write this blog and was interrupted by the reminder of madness and sorrow in the world. And I don’t have a good answer. I just keep wondering about it and maybe I feel like I’d rather not wonder about it all alone, so I’m going to stick this question in your brain, too.
I wonder, if I’d seen that star, would I have had the courage to follow it? That Christmas star. Say there were angels, or maybe say we just had a flask we’d been passing around, me and you other stinky shepherds, and we THOUGHT we heard somebody or something. Maybe we just wanted an excuse to get off the hill. Whatever. The point is, would I have done it? Or would I have only told all you other dare-devil shepherds to settle down and gone back to counting sheep?
Would I have stayed put, hanging out on hilltops, farting and telling bad jokes, out of fear? Would I have convinced you all to ignore the whole heavenly host thing because really, what would a bunch of shepherds know about what’s over the river and through the woods? There is evil out there and I don’t just mean wolves. And everybody knows that visions and messages and signs and journeys are a very dangerous business. In a world like this, who would ever risk it? Because seriously, this weekend, that’s how I’m feeling. Like hiding out.
The thing is, I know there are miracles. One of them is that I haven’t lost all my metaphorical sheep by now. I have taken some chances, gone down roads unknown and seen there’s more to the world than sheep. Good things. Wonderful things. I’ve seen what can happen when I come down off the hill, for good or bad, and I know that after some journeys, the truth is that for good or bad, you’ll never be the same. After this week, I’ll never be the same. No one will. But does that mean I never leave the hill again?
Maybe the only way those shepherds ever had the courage to face that star – everything it meant or could mean and everything that it demanded of them – was simply because they did it all together. They trembled together and stood there knowing life is a marvelous, fragile thing, but perhaps there’s more to know than we can comprehend. I need that to be true this Christmas. Because what we find when we follow a star is light. And in light, we are made wise. The brightest gifts of the human race are illuminated: love, faith, forgiveness. Hope.
So what I want to know is this: Do we lose the star if we dare stop looking for it? Or can we still see it, even now, a constant? A miracle? I’m looking for it. And I’m searching for the courage to follow it. I hope you are, too. There’s room on the hillside. You can stand by me.
" The River Witch welcomes the reader to a haunted landscape, authentically Southern, where the tragedies of the past and the most fragile, gorgeous kind of love-soaked hope are equally alive. This is one debut that you absolutely should not
~~ Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Backseat Saints
"Kimberly Brock’s The River Witch achieves what splendid writing ought to achieve – story and character that linger in the reader’s consciousness. Tender and intriguing, often dazzling in its prose, this is a mature work of fiction worthy of the celebration of praise."
~~ Terry Kay, Honored Georgia author of To Dance With the White Dog
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"There is magic and wonder in The River Witch, but the real enchantment here is the strength of the characters Roslyn and Damascus. Their voices are the current that carries the reader along in this compelling tale of healing and discovery."
~~ Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times bestselling author of The Ballad of Tom Dooley.
"With lyrical prose, Kimberly Brock explores the hidden places of the heart. The River Witch is a magical and bewitching story that, like a river, winds its way through the soul. In the voices of her wounded characters, Brock takes us through both the breaking and the healing of a life."
~~ Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Driftwood Summer