PERSONAL ESSAYS (These essays are  collected in Second Shift, but they appeared first in journals and anthologies)

“Silent Song,”  lyric essay,  Appalachian Heritage

…In Camerota, where the locals dance salsa every night for all of summer in a club called The Cyclops, I step into the butter yellow church in the piazza and find the most sorrowful Madonna I’ve ever seen. She stands on the right side of the altar, her eyes red-rimmed, her young face pale, haggard, shining with sweat. Wearing a brown gown adorned with a few rustic stars, she gazes wearily toward the heavens, a hotel hand towel draped over her right arm as if she’s laundered linens all day beneath Mediterranean sun. Her bare feet are bound by single black straps of leather sandals, and the sacred heart pressing down on her chest looks as heavy as the steering wheel of an ancient boat. Her crown appears as if it’s been tossed to the ground beside a patch of lilies. Plucked of their white blooms, the stems rise like ditch weeds from the rocky earth around her…

“The Peach Season,” memoir essay, Still: The Journal

…Beyond the turn off for the battlefield, we crossed the interstate and under a trestle just as a freight train bearing peaches rolled above us. We slowed as we reached a field of trees whose limbs opened like rows of green vases in pastures that sloped for miles on both sides of the road. The trees were heavy with blushing peaches. We rolled down the windows, letting the heady scent fill the car. When we reached a roadside produce market and peach packing warehouse, we parked beside a white picket fence below a sign that announced “The Sweetest Peaches Anywhere, U- Pick, We Pick, $10 a bushel.”…

“Following the Slow Black River,” travel essay, The Louisville Review

…The morning we arrived in Dublin, my husband, son and I stepped into the central atrium of the Guinness Storehouse, a room shaped like the largest pint glass in the world.  We stood in the middle of a holographic stout surging down the seven-story glass walls.  The smell of hops wafted in, familiar and welcoming, like the smell of boiled peanuts sold at farmers markets back home in South Carolina.  It was like standing inside a soundless, brown waterfall that churned and settled into the color of dark rubies mined from the center of the earth…

“Hell Broth and Poisoned Entrails; An Affair With Scottish Cookery,” food essay, The Book of Worst Meals, Serving House Books

…Sipping whisky from a coffee cup, I ate the unpasteurized cheese, a Scotch egg, a slice of sheep pie, the haggis, and cullen skink, (fish, potato and onion soup). Savoring a finger of shortbread with one last cup of whisky, I had several revelations: Collops in a pan were really just a variation of the Italian peasant dish, osso bucco. A clootie dumpling was quie similar to an Italian panna cotta.  Finally, I determined that Scottish cooking, inspired by French cooking, must have been born of Italian chefs 200 years ago…

“Appalachian Wedding Cake,” food essay, Connie Thompson Kuhn’s book and Southern cooking blog.

*Here is the recipe for the actual cake!

I use 3  9-inch cake pans instead of 3 cast iron skillets—mainly because I don’t own 3 cast iron skillets that are the same size.  If I don’t have the time to make my own, I use apple butter that you can find at produce stands or at church bake sales.  I pretty up the cake a little, dusting the assembled layers with powdered sugar, drizzling the top and sides with caramel sauce, garnishing it with a few slices of dried apples.
Appalachian Wedding Cake
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup molasses
3 eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground clove
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups apple butter, preferably homemade
powdered sugar, for dusting
Dried apples and caramel sauce for decorating
Method:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 3 9-inch cake pans.  Combine all dry ingredients and sift.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add molasses and eggs and mix until combined.  Alternating dry and wet, add in sifted flour mixture and buttermilk.  Stir in vanilla extract and divide half the batter among the three greased cake pans.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center of a cake.  Let cool for a few minutes, then invert cakes onto paper plates.  Bake the other half of the batter.
When all cakes have cooled, spread several tablespoons of the apple butter on each layer—stacking as you go.  Wrap cake tightly and let “mature” for a day.  Or, if you can’t wait that long, dust finished cake with powdered sugar and serve.
OTHER WORKS OF NONFICTION- Reviews and Author Interviews
Book Review of The Soul of Place: A Creative Writing Workbook by Linda Lappin
“Our Kind: An Interview With Julia Franks,” author interview,  Appalachian Heritage