Book Group Resources
Thank you for choosing to read and discuss my book, All That Is Hidden. I am honored.
Participation in book groups has been fodder for my own personal growth and imagination for decades as fellow readers wrestle through the challenges and emotions of each book.
I would be thrilled to visit your group as a guest author, either in person or via Zoom. Just contact me through this site or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspiration for All That is Hidden
When I was a Calvin College sophomore, Dr. Besselsen took a group of education majors to Mars Hill College in western North Carolina for an interim class. Mars Hill is a town not unlike Andy Griffith’s Mayberry (Mt. Airy, NC). It’s a place of Smoky Mountain traditions and bluegrass music.
What we expected was three weeks of teacher aiding in the mountain schools. What we didn’t expect was being mesmerized by the college’s resident storyteller.
In the evenings, we sat around listening to his lively renditions of “Jack and the Northwest Wind” and “Sody Sallyraytus.” This bearded, white-haired man, Richard Chase, spun his yarns with bewitching blue eyes, dramatic tones, and perfect timing.
Years earlier, in the 1940s, author and folklorist Richard Chase gathered the southern Appalachian Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales into two books, finally putting the oral tradition into written form for all to enjoy.
In January, 1978, he brought these tales to life in the college lounge for us unsuspecting students held captive by his storytelling magic.
He didn’t merely make the stories come alive. He thrust us into a time when oral tradition was valued, when it was the only way stories were passed down through the generations.
Back in those days, stories weren’t just fanciful ones, such as when Jack uses magic words to produce a hearty meal. Folks also told family anecdotes about frugal Great-grandma, eccentric Uncle Billy, or flighty third cousin Ruby Mae. Both adults and youth were happy to sit for hours at the feet of elderly storytellers, soaking in their wit and wisdom. This suggests a time of family ties, conversation, joy in one’s work, and valuing one’s simple heritage. And contentment. A far cry from nowadays.
Visiting North Carolina was life-changing for me. Not only because of Richard Chase’s stories, but because of local people we interacted with, folks who epitomized these attitudes. We met Mr. Woody, a woodworker who so enjoyed making chairs that he couldn’t tell you how much time it took to make one chair. Or five. Or ten. Not interested in competing with assembly line furniture factories, he still made chairs the way his family had done it for generations.
We met the blacksmith, who took time to demonstrate his craft while sharing the ways that Christ is like iron, emphasizing the Bible’s claim that Christ will rule with a rod of iron.
We learned mountain clogging, loitered at the general store playing checkers, and hiked the Appalachian trail. Everywhere we turned, we met content and joyful people, a far cry from those who chase after the rags-to-riches American Dream, stumbling up the ladder of success.
I learned more than the school children did. As we met people and explored the area, I was struck by the number of folks who created meaningful lives by a route much different from those seeking prosperity. As granddaughter of a self-made businessman, this was foreign to me. It changed the way I thought about work, play, goals, and success.
My time there evolved into a tale of my own that needed to be shared. As I reflected on our visit, I wondered, “What if there was a clash between big-city northern values and southern Appalachian culture?” This led me to write a short story inspired by people we met on our trip. I submitted it the Good Groceries contest. (I think it was called “Good Groceries” because at the time, the $25 prize would buy a bag of groceries.) It won 1st place, published in Calvin’s student magazine.
Even after I tucked the story away, memories of the people and their Appalachian hills stayed with me through the years, beckoning me to revisit their towns and hollows, daring me to dig deeper into their lives.
Five years later, I read it again. Dissatisfied with it as a short story, I determined it could be a good novel.
After fifteen years of researching and writing (in my spare time between work and parenting), All That Is Hidden was born—with the help of my writers group. I consider it my fifth child.
Strategically placed in each section is a family story told by one of my characters, stories that embody and accentuate each part of the plot. That’s my nod to Richard Chase. That’s my effort to recapture the stirring moments when he placed a group of college students under his spell.
After finishing the first draft, the journey had just begun. Writing a novel is one thing; revising and editing is quite another. Then there’s the publishing process. It all involves a lot of time, sweat, and risk.
My book is dedicated to both Mrs. Haan and Dr. Besselsen.
Mrs. Haan, my second grade teacher, gave me my love of writing.
Dr. Besselsen gave me my love of southern Appalachia.
Visit my “Journey to Imagination” blogpost from which this piece is adapted.
Check out my post on the Truth in Fiction blog: Re-imagining the American Dream.