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Literature and Author Receptions


Wednesday June 14  4:00-6:00

Cocktail Reception and Book Talk with John Cribb
Author Of The Rail Splitter: A Novel

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Join us at one of the plateau's  many beautiful homes for a cocktail reception and discussion with John Cribb about his novel The Rail Splitter which tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable journey from a log cabin to the threshold of the White House.  That journey turns him into one of America’s most beloved heroes.  Like Old Abe, Cribb’s acclaimed novel about Lincoln’s years as president, The Rail Splitter brings Lincoln to life in a way no other book does. Walk beside him on every page, through Indiana woods and Illinois prairies, and come to know his hopes and struggles on his winding path to greatness. The story of the rawboned youth who makes his way from a frontier farm to the White House is, in many ways, the great American story. The Rail Splitter reminds us that the country Lincoln loved is a place of wide-open dreams where extraordinary journeys unfold. Light fare and cocktails are provided.

Location:  Private Residence

Presenter: John Cribb is a bestselling author who has written about subjects ranging from history to education. Old Abe, his first novel, tells the story of the last five years of Abraham Lincoln’s life. His other works include coauthoring The American Patriot’s Almanac and The Educated Child, both New York Times bestsellers.

Wednesday June 21 5:30-8:30

The Book of the Year: The Extraordinary Life of and Ordinary Man by Paul Newman: **THIS PROGRAM IS FULL, PLEASE CALL 828-526-8811 TO PUT PLACED ON THE WAIT LIST**


For more than 15 years, Dr. Brian Railsback has been offering CLE members thought provoking literature classes. He returns this year to stimulate the conversation as he examines a book of the last year (2022) that achieved literary and popular acclaim. Since the Book of the Year is too new to be enshrined as a classic, we will have plenty of room to debate its merits and misfires. We will examine a celebrated memoir, Paul Newman’s The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man. The memoir and Newman’s unusual project to create it are the subject of Ethan Hawke’s six-part docuseries on HBO Max, The Last Movie Stars. The book itself was compiled and heavily edited, creating some controversy. Despite the tortured path to Newman’s memoir, the result is an intensely honest and personal discussion of a great artist’s life and an unsparing look at what it takes to be a famous Hollywood actor. The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is an unusual memoir produced in a novel way. As such, the book is a great jumping off place to examine what makes a successful memoir and might be of interest to those interested in writing their own. The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man (Knopf 2022) is widely available; we will read the hard cover edition. Please plan on completing the book before the program.

Location:  Private Residence. A catered meal will be provided.

Presenter: Dr. Brian Railsback is a Professor of English at Western Carolina University, where he served as founding Dean of The Honors College and Chair of the Faculty. He teaches creative writing and US literature. He has published a novel, short stories, a scholarly book, and numerous essays. He has lectured or taught courses in Cuba, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, and Portugal. In 2022, he was selected as a Fiction Participant at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the oldest and most prestigious conference of its type in the US.


Thursday July 27 4:00-6:00

Cocktail Reception and Book Talk With Carolyn Newton Curry
Author of Sudden Death - A Novel

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Join us at one of Highlands’ many beautiful homes for a cocktail reception and discussion with Carolyn Newton Curry, author of the novel Sudden Death, a murder/mystery set in the world of football written by a woman who has spent her entire life married to a player and coach – Bill Curry. But it is more than a whodunit, the novel spans roughly thirty years from 1966 to 1997 in the life of one couple, who grew up half the world apart.  Kendall Harris, a brilliant law student from Georgia, and Duke Astin, a star quarterback from Hawaii, meet at UCLA, fall in love, and marry soon after college. She starts practicing law and he goes on to play ten years in the NFL and then enter college coaching. Things take a troubling turn when Duke is hired by a football powerhouse in the South and is confronted with influential boosters who were unhappy that he was chosen in the first place and who undermine everything he does. Kendall, who has always fought spouse abuse, is caught in the middle of a dispute that endangers her life. The coach and his wife both receive death threats as they work to keep focus on their missions. But when the murder occurs, it becomes a story about the search for joy and goodness in life. Ultimately, it is about the capacity of the human spirit to triumph over great odds.

Location:  Private Residence. Address and further details will be provided to registered attendees closer to the date of the program.

Presenter: Carolyn Curry is an award-winning author, historian, and Founder of the nonprofit Women Alone Together®. In 2014, she published Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas 1834-1907. In 2015, it was named One of the Books All Georgians Should Read by the Georgia Center for the Book. In that same year, Curry received Georgia Author of the Year Award from the Georgia Writers Association. 


Friday August 4   2:00-4:00

Life, Animated: A Tale of Autism, Hidden Potential, and Love
Sponsored by Lee and Chesley Garrett


Ron Suskind's sixth bestselling book, Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, took readers on a twenty-year journey with his family and their son's autism. Part memoir, part investigation, part adventure story of the human heart, the book was excerpted in the New York Times, introducing Owen Suskind, who lost all speech at 3, memorized 50 Disney movies, and created an emotional language drawn from lyrics and dialogue -- a language in which the family became fluent. Over years of communicating through Disney, Owen regained speech,  and developed into a truly unique young man, along the way, the Suskind's developed a therapeutic model, called Affinity Therapy, which turns the deep, narrow interests -- characteristic of autism -- into pathways for growth and social connection. All of this went global, when their 2016 feature documentary, Life, Animated, was nominated for an Academy Award, swept the Emmys, and spread across the world. Ron tells the story of his family's extraordinary journey -- still unfolding -- with movie clips and personal recollections that change an audience's views of sidekicks, heroes, the "differently abled" and what defines "a meaningful life."

Location:  CLE Lecture Hall

Presenter: Ron Suskind is a journalist, author, and filmmaker.  Writing for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000, he won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for articles that became the starting point for his first book, A Hope in the Unseen, that chronicles the journey of a student who aspired to escape his “blighted D.C. upbringing” and attend an Ivy League university.   He has written four other books about national politics and issues related to the United States’ use of power: the Price of Loyalty, on the two-year tenure of George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill; the New York Times Best Seller, The One Percent Doctrine, about the Bush administration’s foreign policy after 9/11, driven by Vice President Cheney’s focus on terrorists and rogue states access to nuclear weapons; The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, about the struggles of individuals in the U.S. government and elsewhere around the world to combat nuclear terrorism; and, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President, that describes the 2008 financial crisis and President Obama’s White House efforts to address it.  His memoir Life Animated: A story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism became an Emmy Award winning, Academy Award-nominated feature documentary.

Monday August 7   4:00-6:00

Cocktail Reception and Book Talk with Jeffrey Blount
Author of The Emancipation of Evan Walls
Sponsored by Ray and Diane McPhail

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Join us at a beautiful home overlooking the mountains that produce the famous Bear Shadow for a discussion with Jeffrey Blount about his award-winning novel The Emancipation of Evan Walls. The novel is a thought-provoking, painful and often shocking story that gives the reader “a poignant and profound witness to the complexities and dynamics of racism, identity, and courage.” Evan is a black child growing up in the racially charged 1960s in a small rural Virginia town. Inspired to overcome the racism and class status imposed on blacks, he dreams of a life bigger than that lived by most everyone he knows and is resented by friends and family for his aspirations. Among the smartest in his class, Evan becomes a target of white kids
threatened by the forced integration of their schools. Caught in this racial crossfire, Evan is often alone and
bewildered. Only the love of his great grandmother and another important mentor keeps him on track. Together, they help Evan find perspective and peace.

Location:  Private Residence. Address and further details will be provided to registered attendees closer to the date of the program.

Presenter: Jeffrey Blount is the award-winning author of three novels — Almost Snow White, Hating Heidi Foster, and The Emancipation of Evan Walls, which won the 2020 National Indie Excellence Award for African American fiction, the 2019 Readers Favorite Book Award, the 2019 American Bookfest Best Book Award and a Shelf Unbound 2019 Notable Book. He is also an Emmy award- winning television director and a 2016 inductee to the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. During a 34-year career at NBC News, Jeffrey directed a decade of Meet the Press, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and major special events. He has contributed writings to HuffPost, The Washington Post, The and other publications, commenting on issues of race, social justice, and writing. He is also an award-winning documentary scriptwriter for films and interactives that are on display in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, America I AM: The African American Imprint at the National Constitution Center, The Museum at Bethel Woods at the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, and others. In 2017 and 2018, Jeffrey served as Journalist in Residence and Shapiro Fellow at the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University.

Wednesday August 30   4:00-6:00

Cocktail Reception and Book Talk with Tracey Enerson Wood
Author of The President's Wife

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Join us at one of Highlands’ many beautiful homes for a cocktail reception and discussion with Tracey Enerson Wood about her newest novel The President’s Wife, a fascinating exploration of Edith Wilson’s indispensable role as First Lady to her husband Woodrow Wilson.  The President’s Wife presents a portrait of one of the most consequential First Ladies in U. S. History who regularly advised her husband on policy matters, encrypted top-secret messages during World War I, attended the Paris Peace Conference and all but assumed the Presidency herself when her husband suffered a debilitating stroke.

The reception will also feature food prepared from recipes from Ms. Wood’s co-authored book, Homefront Cooking-Recipes, Wit, and Wisdom from American Veterans and Their Loved Ones.  This collection of over 70 treasured family recipes, stories, and photographs captures memories of service members and their loved ones, past and present. Stories range from anecdotes passed down from great-great-grandfathers who served in the American Civil War, to ones from those serving today.

Both books will be available for sale and signing by the author.  And all the proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will be donated to veteran organizations.

Location:  Private Residence. Address and further details will be provided to registered attendees closer to the date of the program.

Presenter: Tracey Enerson Wood comes from a multi-generational military family and is a retired Registered Nurse. She is the USA Today and international best-selling author of The Engineer’s WifeThe War Nurse, and several screen plays.

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