Byte-Size Blair | July 7

We’re back with Byte-Size Blair, our weekly wrap-up of all things social media. If you’re not already following us on FacebookTwitterTumblr, or Pinterest, give us a look.

1. We hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. And if you’re still in the mood to celebrate the early days of the United States, check out these “revolutionary” titles from Blair (and one hilarious gif, courtesy of Funny or Die.)

2. Bearwallow author Jeremy B. Jones has been busy touring the South with his amazing memoir about the influences of place and ancestry on identity. Here’s one of our favorite photos from a recent signing, proving you’re never too young to start loving books!

3. The October release of beloved UNC-TV foodie Bob Garner’s new book, Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm, may still be a few months away, but we’re already excited. Why? Because even just proofing the book made our mouths water (and tickled our funny bones.) We think this pin pretty much sums it up.

4. One of Blair’s favorite volunteer activities these past few years has been World Book Night, butunfortunately, last week, WBN announced they would be suspending operations in the United States. We’ll miss them dearly and shared a few photos on our Tumblr from our time as givers.

5. Just a friendly reminder that our July newsletter will be out this Thursday.

Our social media maven will be out of the office next week, so for now, enjoy this double-dose of Office Manager Artie’s adorable old pal, Snuffy.



Byte-Size Blair | June 30

We’re back with Byte-Size Blair, our weekly wrap-up of all things social media. If you’re not already following us on FacebookTwitterTumblr, or Pinterest, give us a look.

Wow! We can’t believe it’s almost July. The end of June has brought with it big thunderstorms and a nice little cool snap (which is now, sadly, over), as well as some of our favorite posts of the summer so far!

1. Artie reading Chasing MoonlightBlair employee Artie suggested a great post last week, one to celebrate the 109th anniversary of Moonlight Graham’s brief career as a professional baseball player. There’s a whole lot more to the story and you can read about it here. In the photo above, see Artie celebrate Moonlight’s anniversary his own way, by reading Chasing Moonlight at SEA-TAC on his way home from an Alaskan vacation. Welcome back to the sticky Southern summer, Artie!

2. In other news from our beloved backlist, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break was just named one of SIBA’s Lady Banks’ favorite Proustian books of the summer. What does that mean? You’ll have to read to find out. And once you do, you can find a good porch chair, a cold glass of tea, and revisit Minotaur, which has recently received quite a bit of love as one of Telegraph’s 10 Best Food & Drink Books of All Time.

3. We pinned this great video from our friends over at Our State Magazine about two buddies in search of all of Stone Mountain Park’s historic stills. With over 150 discovered, no wonder Wilkes County is sometimes called the moonshine capital of the world. Although Virginia’s often the focus of many moonshine myths and legends, we know more than a few from our native state.

4. Our #FridayFollow this week was also an announcement for a great new program from NC LIVE. Now through the end of the year, NC LIVE’s Homegrown Initiative will provide state libraries with access to e-books published by North Carolina presses, John F. Blair among them. We thought it was a great time to celebrate our friends and neighbors on social media.

5. Last but not least, Steve Almond, who wrote Lookout Books’ distributed title God Bless America and contributed a story in their Astoria to Zion, recently had a great post up on AWP’s Writer’s Notebook. We thought we’d post our tweet about it instead of our tumble because Steve Almond also recently relented and got a Twitter account and the world needs to know!

We’ll see you next week for more Byte-Size Blair, and for now, enjoy this picture of our president’s husband and their adorable golden Carmen (with a stylish summer buzz cut), taking a break on the Mountain-to-Sea trail last month.


Byte-Size Blair | June 23

We’re back with Byte-Size Blair, our weekly wrap-up of all things social media. If you’re not already following us on FacebookTwitterTumblr, or Pinterest, give us a look.

1. Only a few weeks after the passing of Dr. Angelou, North Carolina lost another great writer and one of our most beloved authors here at Blair. Claiborne S. Young, author of Cruising Guide to Coastal North Carolina and Cruising Guide to Coastal South Carolina & Georgia, was a sailor’s (and a publisher’s) best friend. We said goodbye here.

2. Jeremy B. Jones celebrated Bearwallow at the official launch party. Books were signed, pictures were taken, a great time was had by all.

3. Ever wondered what our warehouse looks like? It’s every book lover’s dream: stacks on stacks!

4. Former Blair employee and current NCWN executive director Ed Southern was interviewed for Charlotte Talks, so we made him the focus of our Words with Friends last Tuesday.

5. One of Twitter’s best hashtags is #FridayReads, and we had a great suggestion, our newest release. See it here.

And your adorable Blair pet of the week is…Ernest Tubb. Tough as nails, soft as a pillow, hungry as a bear.


Where Sea Foam Meets My Toes

This week we wrap up our Summer Reading blog series with Debbie Hampton, Blair’s director of design and production, and her plan for the perfect beach reading.



I dream all year about doing this—340 more days to go . . .

beachThere is undoubtedly no better place to read than where sea foam meets my toes–the place I always dream of being. For someone with little time to ever sit down, not to mention sit down and read, reading comes in spurts during the year until I go to that favorite place and I grab from the “I sooooo want to read this” pile while packing my bags. Before heading that way a few weeks ago, I took with me the three I have been whittling away at–two similar subjects, one completely different, and two others for which I had a plan.GandDBonhoefferBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
Since reading Dietrich Bonheoffer’s Cost of Discipleship, I wanted to know more about this theologian and anti-Nazi activist, who thought it the duty of the Christian, and the privilege and honor, to suffer with those who suffered. He did exactly that, even when given an opportunity to escape, he died totally submissive to the will of God. Though only a third of the way into this 600 page masterpiece, I already feel so unworthy of any of God’s grace.

GERDAAll But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein
Klein documents her ordeal as a six-year old victim of Nazi cruelty who miraculously survived and was freed by American troops in 1945. How terrifying from the very beginning–I can’t imagine being forced out of my home at any age, or living in fear every single day that another member of my family would be forced out never to be seen or heard from again. What a terrible thing for any child, or person, to experience.

Avas_ManAva’s Man by Rick Bragg.
Bragg is one of my all-time favorite writers. I took this along with me to be the main read-by-the-sea. Sometimes when I want a good laugh, I just grab this book and read the first chapter, which is brilliant: Ava bolts upright in the cotton field upon suddenly being told that black silk stockings were hanging on her clothesline. The upright bolt sent her straight to the source to take care of things, if you know what I mean.

If that’s not bait to get you to read the whole thing, well then I don’t know what is. And that sets the tone for the journey of discovering with Bragg what made the grandfather he never knew tick.


Reading Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to my nieces Kenzie and Corinna on the beach – Photo by Kristin Turner

My Plan
Knowing there would be certain little family members on our upcoming beach trip, my daughter and I grabbed our all-time favorite children’s books to read to them seaside.

LillyLilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Lilly, a mouse, is given a special gift by her grandmother of a purple plastic purse that plays a jaunty tune and is “complete with shiny quarters that were very jingly.” In her excitement, she decides to take it to school for sharing time. The purse, in all its glory, is a complete distraction and it is all Lilly can do to contain her eagerness and wait to share. Her excitement bursts prematurely and she is punished but learns her lesson. The recurring phrase, “and that’s about all she could say, ‘WOW,’ ” was repeated long and drawn-out by my nieces (with giggles) and is something I will always remember.

MissFannieMiss Fannie’s Hat by Jan Karon
Miss Fannie is a tiny 89 year-old woman who has a huge collection of colorful hats, each with a specific story. She is asked to give one up to go in an auction for her church and struggles to pick the right one. Counting hats and picking colors and favorites became a fun game when relaxing after a long day of fun and sun in our own beach hats. And I must say, “our” own beach hat was something we were quite proud of!

My daughter Allison helping Corinna and Kenzie find Miss Fannie’s hats

My daughter Allison helping Corinna and Kenzie find Miss Fannie’s hats

My niece, Corinna in her own straw hat at Ocean Isle Beach

My niece, Corinna in her own straw hat at Ocean Isle Beach – Photo by Kristin Turner


That concludes our Summer Reading blog series. Check back next week as we delve into more fun topics for the fall. Happy Reading!

In Defense of Ice Cream

This week in our Summer Reading Blog Series we hear (again) from Shannon Pierce, Blair’s sales and marketing assistant, on why you should eat at least a little ice cream every day.


9780895875938-cov2.inddFull disclosure, I actually read Long Gone Daddies by David Wesley Williams in the spring, but I have been thinking about its prevalent themes recently, so let’s let that slide. In Long Gone Daddies Luther Gaunt is a traveling musician seeking to understand the two generations of male musicians who came before him. He knows pieces of their stories, but spends much of the book contemplating the motivations underlying the lives they led.

gpop and gmom young

With my grandmother before a party

My grandfather, Dr. Thomas F. Clauss, “Doc”, Tucker, Grandpop, passed away earlier this week and, while, like the Gaunts, he lived near Scranton, the similarities between him and the absentee Gaunt fathers end there. If pressed to make a literary parallel I would paint him more as the Atticus Finch of small-town doctors. He led an impressive life and maintained a strong reputation for being fair and kind. He let his patients pay him in produce, gave his kids stitches on the kitchen table, played football in the front yard, and was well known for his loud bow ties. Like the effect of the absentee Gaunts on Luther, however, my grandfather’s death leaves me thinking of all the ways that I did not know him. As Luther imagines the reasons why his ancestors skipped town or missed auditions, I find myself imagining the complexities behind my own grandfather’s, albeit more honorable, decisions and passions.


Celebrating his 90th birthday party with his family in July 2013

gpop and mom wedding church

Giving my mother away

Of my grandfather’s 10 surviving children and 39 grandchildren, there are no doubt many who were much closer to the man than I was, and would have much less room for conjecture, but the understanding of earlier generations is always glossed over with an anachronistic haze and it is hard to construct a fully fledged rendering of our role models at younger ages. As Luther Gaunt searches for answers from those who knew his predecessors, a part of me is looking forward to listening to stories about my grandfather at his upcoming funeral. Until then, I find comfort in remembering the tangible connections that I have to him. Besides seeing the reflections of his generous character enacted daily through my mother, and forever wondering about the culprit responsible for the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder (Bing Crosby has got nothing on Thomas Clauss), the most personally engrained link that I have to my grandfather is ice cream.

gpop gmom baby

They were always suckers for babies.

During our childhood visits we would inevitably be treated to ice cream after dinner. “The calcium is good for them,” my grandfather would say to any of our skeptical parents as he added an extra scoop to our bowls, and I took that statement as pure, delicious, fact.

Grandpop babyIt’s not so much that I consciously plan to have ice cream every day, but no day feels complete unless I do, and I owe that to my grandfather. Each chilly bite reminds me a little of the amazing man behind the tradition, and it’s a legacy that I will be proud to pass on. Therefore, eat ice cream, it’s good for you. A doctor told me so.


Check back next week for the final installment of our Summer Reading Series. Happy Reading!

Guest Author and Blair Progeny on Her Summer Reading

This week in our Summer Reading Blog Series we pull in a pinch-hitter and hear from Corinne Serfass, the daughter of Blair’s Margaret Couch.


The idyllic summers of my childhood and adolescence are tied tightly in my mind to being barefoot in the tall grass of the Appalachian Mountains with blackberries crushed in my hand. I had the never ending afternoons of summer break to spend with all manner of books, starfish-ed on the sofa at home or sequestered in a copse of trees at camp.  As I grow into adulthood I find that I want my summer reads to retain that hazy pleasure where the real world is magnified in a way that transcends my day-to-day experience.trees Like the John Prine song Paradise, whose words I remember from those self-same summers, my summer reading pick for this year lies in “a backwards old town that’s often remembered so many times that my memories were worn,” and the town is Stay More, Arkansas, the fictional setting of Donald Harrington’s With.

Corinne cover imageWith is nestled in the wilderness of the Arkansas Ozarks with tangential appearances by Stay More, both locations emitting the Southern Gothic ennui of settlements slowly fading into obscurity. Inhabiting these towns are humans, just as bleak and beat-down as their surroundings, trying, as many of us do, to lose themselves in a dream of something better. Following such a dream is what finds Robin Kerr abducted and forced to live in a remote cabin in the Ozarks. The story follows Robin after her abductor dies and she is forced to fend for herself, paired with an unusual cast of supporting characters including a dog, a bobcat, and an in-habit (a spirit or haunting).

With reads like a grown-up retelling of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family with a hefty dose of Michael Chabon’s magical realism thrown in. Harrington’s narrative style adheres directly to the way Robin experiences her new world, helpful spirits and talking dogs alike, and requires very little suspension of disbelief for readers to find themselves in that cabin in the Ozarks. Corinne1

Harington’s language grounds the book firmly in the Southern Gothic tradition and the sense that this young girl sits, physically and metaphorically, on top of hundreds of years of tradition and custom. The juxtaposing of Robin’s modern, pre-adbuction, life with the way she struggles to survive off the land when fending for herself highlights the nostalgia which colors our view of days long past. The sweat-soaked, dirt-scuffed nature of the narrative is what makes this a perfect summer reading book, even if you don’t have first-hand access to the humidity and late-afternoon sun of the American South.


Check back next week for another post in our Summer Reading Series!

You’re Good With Me, Crows

This week in our Summer Reading Series Heath Simpson, Blair’s warehouse manager, talks about the bird life outside his window at work.


IMG_1180This summer I read Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt about how the author enjoys watching urban wildlife in Seattle. Even in urban Winston-Salem, wild creatures are making lives for themselves. The crows outside my workplace know my name (in crow) and my face. Yesterday as I walked out to my car they had a lot to say and it was not happy talk. I wish I could say to them, “You’re good with me, crows.”


The branches outside my window where the baby birds hang out.


But not when my other bird friends are raising their children nearby. Parent birds teach their babies to munch on berries right outside my window and two years ago I watched in horror as a crow almost snatched a young bird out of midair.


The tree tops where the crows perch and scout out their prey.

So when baby birds and adult crows are visiting I might step outside (with attitude). I might stand in the middle of the road and glare at a crow at the top of a tree. I might take a yard stick outside. Crows notice odd activity. Crows get uncomfortable when humans take an interest in their snack choices. They aren’t happy but they move along…

…Maybe for a leftover chicken biscuit down the street at Bojangles.


Check back next week for another entry in our Summer Reading Series and happy reading!

Being Best Friends with Brine Shrimp

This week in our Summer Reading Series, Trisina, Blair’s publicist, talks about her summers in Utah and the memorable scene in a book that finally brought her to tears.


I imagine most teenagers spend the summer at the beach, frolicking in bathing suits, playing volleyball in the sand, and watching the sunset. My image of a typical teenage summer is very cliche.

summer gif photo: summer (animated gif) summer.gif

But not my summers. I grew up in Utah very pale and very . . .

US_map_-_states (1)

So the beach was off limits to me.

And I know what you’re thinking: I don’t know what she’s complaining about. Why didn’t she just swim in the Great Salt Lake? Right?

Uh, WRONG. I don’t know about you, but I think being intimate friends with brine shrimp is overrated. I’ll take the mountains over shrimp, seagulls, and salt water any day.

brine vs mtns

That meant I spent a lot of summers camping, hiking, and generally raising a ridge-line ruckus. It was great. But more than that, it was also a great place to catch up on some light summer reading, like Crime and Punishment.

51y0rkji55l-_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa300_sh20_ou01_I know, I know, I KNOW. If I had just read the stupid thing when I was supposed to, at the beginning of the summer, I could have spent the rest of the summer reading fun and whimsical things like Bridget Jones’s Diary. But I’m a procrastinator. I’ve accepted it. You should, too.

So. Crime and Punishment. Random House calls it the story of “an impoverished student living in a garret in the gloomy slums of St. Petersburg, [who] carries out his grotesque scheme [of murder] and plunges into a hell of persecution, madness and terror.” Not usually what you would think of as summer reading, but truth be told, I wasn’t that upset about it, even if I did procrastinate. That’s the glory of being a book nerd; you don’t really mind catching up on reading. 

Now, hand in hand with being a book nerd is crying. Book nerds love to talk about all the books that have made them cry, like somehow you really love books only if they make you sob.

And if you know me, you know that I’m a crier. A straight-up, soggy-eyed mess. The number of things that make me cry are endless: Sarah McLachlaninfused animal cruelty commercials, A River Runs Through It (obviously), marriage proposals, other people crying in front of me, King Kong (yes, the one with Jack Black), and hunger (so help you God if you stand between me and food).

Things that Make Me Cry

But here’s the thing. I don’t cry at books. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m emotionally removed. I’m in it with the characters. I gasp and laugh in all the right places. But crying? Please. I’m an adult.

That said, here’s the caveat. I was 17 or 18, lounging about in a lawn chair, reading Crime and Punishment at our campsite when I got to Raskolnikov’s dream. In it, he’s a little boy walking through town with his father. When they pass the tavern, they see a skinny little mare hitched to a cart much too big for her. Raskolnikov and his father witness a crowd of drunks pile into the cart at the urging of the horse’s drunk owner. They all know that the horse won’t be able to pull the weight, but the owner is determined to make her carry them all at a gallop. He whips her despite all her trying, and several others join in. Raskolnikov is horrified and runs to the horse, trying to protect her. The whips catch him in the face, but he doesn’t feel it because he’s so upset. Eventually, the owner beats the horse to death with a crowbar, and Raskolnikov is powerless to stop it. “The poor boy, beside himself, made his way, screaming, through the crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms round her bleeding dead head and kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips.”

crying gif photo: crying zoey crying.gif

From “New Girl”

And that, my friends, is my most memorable summer reading experience. Bawling, while camping, about a horse that died in a dream I didn’t even have. Even now, I’m still a bit of a mess about it.

crying gif photo: crying how i met your mother crying.gif

From “How I Met Your Mother”


Check back next week for another post in our Summer Reading Series. Happy reading!

The Three B’s of Summer: Beaches, Books, and Baseball

This week in our Summer Reading Series we hear from Artie Sparrow, Blair’s office manager, about the benefits of a beach house’s borrowed library.


One of the things I like most about renting houses at the beach is that they come with personal libraries. The owners leave behind books for guests to enjoy when they’ve had their fill of the sun. I always try to find something I wouldn’t ordinarily read. When I’m on vacation, I like to get away mentally as well as physically.

All roads lead to the shore.

In the summer of 2008, my wife and I rented a cottage in Duck, N.C. It had a paperback copy of The Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle’s diary of the 1978 New York Yankees’ season. I’m not much of a baseball fan. I’m biased against it because the sport requires hand-eye coordination I don’t have. It also conflicts with my short attention span. My fandom is limited to hating the Yankees, since my parents met when they were both living in Boston. But I did think the Yankees of that era were interesting, mostly because of the famously contentious relationship between owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin.  (For more on that see this classic Miller Lite commercial.)

Artie shows off his OBRX pride.

The Bronx Zoo is a perfect summer read. It’s thought provoking and well written, but it doesn’t strain the brain. Lyle’s 1978 season was tumultuous. In 1977, he won the Cy Young Award for being the best pitcher in the American League and the Yankees won the World Series. Steinbrenner went out and signed Goose Gossage, another relief pitcher, to compete with Lyle. It was the sort of thing Steinbrenner did that made him beloved by some Yankee fans and despised by everyone else. Instead of rewarding a player for a good season, he signed someone else to take his job. His players put up with it because he paid more than any other owner.

Mixed in with the musings about money and job security are entertaining tales of what it was like to be a major-league baseball player in the 1970s. The book didn’t turn me into a Yankees fan, but at least it humanized the team’s players. They weren’t all storm troopers. Some were decent guys just trying to get through life with as little physical and mental damage as possible.

Tigger lounges on the beach house deck.

Thirty-five years ago this week, the Yankees were about 12 games behind the Red Sox in the standings. Thanks to that beach cottage in Duck, I now know how they came back. I also no longer use Bucky Dent’s unofficial middle name, on the rare occasions when I think about him.

One more thing I like about beach cottage libraries: most of the ones in North Carolina have one or more of the Judge Whedbee ghost-story books.

I’m not a big fan of ghost stories, but his are highly entertaining. Really.


Check in next week for another post in our Summer Reading Series from Blair staffers.

The Truth About Camp Yonahlossee, From a Chief of the Tuscaroras

This week in our Summer Reading Series Blair’s president Carolyn Sakowski talks about the book that took her back to her summer camp days.


IMG_1090In January 2012, the buzz in the book industry was about a first novel auctioned for a rumored seven-figure deal. Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani had to be about my beloved Camp Yonahlossee in the mountains of North Carolina, where my sister and I, as well as our mother before us, had gone. From 1961 to 1964, I spent most of each summer there.

IMG_1086When Publishers Weekly announced Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls as one of the “most anticipated books of Spring 2013,” I knew it was going to be on my summer reading list. The book’s jacket copy says, “It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy . . . Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes.” I loved that “Southern debutantes” part.

DiSclafani keeps readers wondering exactly what Thea has done to deserve her exile. Since Thea has been raised on an orange-grove plantation without knowing any girls her age, her discovery of female friendship is one of the book’s strongest themes.

KioskHowever, I suspect other Yonahlosee alums will be as slightly disappointed as I was. I know DiSclafani has gone to great lengths in media interviews and personal appearances to say the camp in her book is nothing like the real Yonahlosee (which closed in the 1980s), but I still yearned for a book that would capture the magic of the close relationships we developed during those summers together.

Susan Kelly’s article “Camp Days” in the June issue of Our State magazine actually fulfilled more of my need for a dose of nostalgia. You can tell Susan really went to Camp Yonahlossee.

In the ringThere really was horseback riding at Yonahlossee, and I did partake, but it wasn’t the core of my camp experience. Whereas Susan Kelly gravitated to the crafts cabin, I was one of the girls who “swam endless laps in the pool’s frigid water in order to earn the privilege of Going to the Lake for four days and nights to ski and motorboat.”  I also got to be a pretty darn good shot with a rifle—and a bow and arrow, long before high-tech bows and Katniss Everdeen came on the scene.

on the water frontI must admit that, after that extra glass of wine, I can also throw back my head, “lift my arms to the heavens and intone in an eerie sing-song, Wa ah ta ho, maui ta la no.” Having been chief of the Tuscaroras, I, too, know the secrets of the echo and the bonfire—and I know all the words to “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Check back next week for another installment of Blair’s Summer Reading Series.