Jun 26, 2012
Curtis Rogers

Spartanburg Writer Named Winner of South Carolina First Novel Prize

The South Carolina Arts Commission and Hub City Press recently announced Susan Tekulve of Spartanburg as the winner of the 2012 South Carolina First Novel Competition. Tekulve’s novel, The Stranger Room, will be published by Hub City Press of Spartanburg and debut at the South Carolina Book Festival in May 2013.

“This novel is a beautifully written saga telling the story of successive generations of a West Virginia family living out their lives in one particular spot of earth,” said competition judge and novelist Josephine Humphreys. “There’s a remarkable sensitivity to the mystery of how place affects human souls, and descriptions of the land are masterful, always interesting and never overdone, integrated seamlessly into the narrative. This is a writer who definitely has what it takes to continue on to more books and make a real contribution to Southern literature.”

Tekulve, an associate professor of English at Converse College, describes her novel this way: “Set in the coal country valleys and mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, The Stranger Room is a multi-generational tale about the nature of power and pride, love and loss, and how one family endures estrangement from their land and each other in order to unearth the rich seams of forgiveness.”

Tekulve’s nonfiction, short stories and travel essays have appeared in numerous journals, including Denver Quarterly, Beloit Fiction Journal, The Literary Review and The Georgia Review. Her story collection, My Mother’s War Stories, received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize. Tekulve recently published a short story collection, Savage Pilgrims from Serving House Books.

Other finalists in the biennial competition were Kam Neely of Spartanburg, Mark Sibley-Jones of Greer and Alexis L. Stratton of Columbia. Fifty-five unpublished manuscripts were submitted.

“The First Novel competition gives our state the distinction of awarding one of the few novel prizes in the country and brings national attention to South Carolina as a place with wonderful literary opportunities,” said Sara June Goldstein, Literary Arts Director at the South Carolina Arts Commission. “It is a unique way to appreciate the depth and breadth of the work of our remarkable writers, and then to get the best of that fine writing into the hands of readers.”

The two previous First Novel winners are Brian Ray of Columbia, author of Through the Pale Door (2008), selected by Percival Everett; and Matt Matthews of Greenville, author of Mercy Creek (2010), selected by Bret Lott.

Partnering again with the S.C. Arts Commission and Hub City Press for this competition are The Humanities CouncilSC and the South Carolina State Library.

For more information about the First Novel Competition, visit or call www.SouthCarolinaArts.com/firstnovel (803) 734-8696; or www.hubcity.org (864) 577-9349.

Jun 6, 2012
Curtis Rogers

Letters About Literature 2012 Awards Ceremony Photos

 Visit the South Carolina State Library’s flickr site to see more photos from the awards ceremony!

May 29, 2012

Summer reads: Mercy Creek by Matt Matthews

Greenville  pastor and new author Matt Matthews has earned high praise for his first novel, Mercy Creek, which won the South Carolina First Novel Prize, published by Hub City Press in 2011.  Mercy Creek takes place in Rooksville, an imaginary small town on the Virginia Eastern Shore.  The story centers on Isaac Lawson, the sixteen-year-old son of the town’s beloved pastor.  Isaac is less than thrilled to spend the summer away from his girlfriend, out of town for her summer job, and separated from his friends on his old baseball team.  Isaac struggles to balance a new job, girl problems, and mixed feelings over his father’s new girlfriend, all the while still mourning his mother who died a year before.

Isaac’s summer soon takes an exciting turn when a series of mysterious vandalisms sets the town on edge.  At first, Isaac is interested more in the monetary reward for catching the vandals than in the vandalism itself.  However, as he spends more time learning about Rooksville’s past and the eccentric characters that live there, Isaac becomes personally invested in solving the crimes.  He begins to discover that there is more to these crimes than meets the eye and that people are not always what they seem.  As his father says, “The written history, as you are learning, is only part of the history.”

Mercy Creek is a heartwarming tale of loss, love, and the power of forgiveness.  I had the pleasure of meeting Matt last weekend at the SC Book Festival in Columbia.  I also had the chance to interview him about Mercy Creek and his other interests and future endeavors, which I am including below.  For more information about Mercy Creek and Matt Matthews, visit MattMatthewsCreative.com or HubCity.org/press.


Q:  How much of Mercy Creek is based off or inspired by your own life and experiences?

A:  All of it, in general, none of it, in particular. I grew up on the water, so my affinity for water, tides, and the coast should seem real. It is.


Q:  Having grown up in a “boring” small Southern town myself, I really identified with Isaac and his feelings towards Rooksville.  Did you base Rooksville off a particular town that you have visited or lived in?

A:  Rooksville is based on every town I’ve lived in, and on every town I’ve ever visited. It is purely fictitious, but I hope readers recognize aspects of “their” town in this one.


Q:  How did you come up with the details of the vandalism (the plumbing vandalism and painted flames)?

A:  I made it up. The vandalism is purely symbolic, and hopefully the reader “gets it” by the end. Before the end, of course, the vandalisms make no sense.


Q:  Most of the characters have both good sides and bad sides, but Hank Grady stands out as almost an entirely unlikable character.  Was this intentional and, if so, why did you choose to write him this way?

A:  Like a lot of people, Hank is a person who has little control over his life, so he over-exerts himself in the areas where he does have some control. He becomes the tyrant of the small civic group of which he is president. He also tries to boss his friends around, and more or less they tolerate it. He is blustery and brash on the outside, but small and afraid on the inside. The reader is not meant to have sympathy for him, but there’s more going on with Hank than meets the eye. Eddie understands this and points it out to Isaac when he tells Isaac that Hank sold his wife’s farm from under them. Weak people sell out. Hank sold out and, Eddie intimates, his own wife can’t stand him for it.


Q:  Why did you decide to make Isaac a teenager and Mercy Creek a coming-of-age story?

A:  I think teens are brave everyday. I wanted a teen to be at the center of this story.


Q:  Three themes stand out in Mercy Creek: the importance of family, history, and words.  Why did you choose to work with these themes? 

A:  These are universal themes. So is truth telling, community lies, and hypocrisy, which Mercy Creek also deals with. And redemption and hope. Isaac learns that “family” is stronger than just blood, “history” is something we all make and interpret, and “words” need to be backed up by action. I think that action, for Isaac, and later for Eddie, is friendship. I didn’t set out to deal with any themes when I began writing. From beginning to end, my main goal was simply to tell an entertaining story of characters I had begun to love.


Q:  What message or moral do you want readers to take away at the end of Mercy Creek

A:  Someone told me this after reading Mercy Creek: “I liked the story, the place, the people, the writing, and the message.” I never set out to write a message. I set out to write a story. That’s not to say that people can’t draw meaning from this or any story. They can, and do. But the message—if one is ever intended—emerges from the story, and different folk make drawn different conclusions.


Q:  You have written one novel, one children’s story, two musical plays, and have recorded four CDs.  Which is your favorite genre to work with? 

A:  I like them all. Writing stories is by far the most difficult. Writing a song takes less time for me, and I get to enjoy the final product sooner. Writing and singing songs brings me joy and feeds me. Writing stories does, too, but if my only source of “food” came from them, I’d starve because I’m a slow writer. The plays are a great way to practice dialogue writing, and are a lot of fun, too. I like all forms of writing (including my professional writing: sermons, prayers, liturgy, and, yes, email!) Each form of writing enhances the other.


Q:  Are you working on anything else now?

A:  My new book is a memoir about my father’s WWII experience in Europe. Last summer my family and I followed his footsteps from where he was captured in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge to Glasgow where he and 10,000 other sea sick American GIs entered the war on the RMS Acquitania. The first drafts are written. I’ll probably put the manuscript through another rewrite that will be ready next year.   I’m also working on a two-man act with a ministry friend that will include songs and told stories about the faith. We hope to perform that in six southern cities this October. This is a brand new endeavor and scares me to death!

May 17, 2012
Curtis Rogers

The Center welcomes summer intern Ryan Lowery

Born and raised in Columbia, SC, Ryan has a passion for reading, writing, and all things related to the Palmetto State.  Ryan is a student at Clemson and will be working on various SC literature projects.





May 15, 2012
Curtis Rogers

The Center welcomes summer intern Jackie Mohan

The Center welcomes Jackie Mohan as its summer intern! Jackie is a junior English major and Graphic Design minor at the University of South Carolina and a resident of Fort Mill, South Carolina. She will be working on various literary arts projects and will be a contributor to the ReadSC.org web site.







May 15, 2012
Curtis Rogers

Center Chooses Virals to Represent South Carolina at National Book Festival

The South Carolina State Library’s Center for the Book has selected Virals, by Kathy Reichs, to represent South Carolina at the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC.  The book is the state’s selection for the National Book Festival’s “Discover Great Places Through Reading Map”.  Each state selects one title of fiction or non-fiction, a book about the state or by an author from the state that is a good read for children or young adults.  The map is distributed at the Pavilion of the States at the Festival and lists “Great Reads About Great Places”.

About Virals – Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends- they’re a pack. They are Virals.

Virals is published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, which is dedicated to young adult and middle grade books.

Dr. Reichs is one of only eighty-two forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology.  She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.  She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. at Northwestern.  She now divides her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Québec.

The National Book Festival will be held on the National Mall on September 22 & 23, 2012. It will feature award-winning authors, poets and illustrators in several pavilions dedicated to categories of literature. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from their favorite authors, get books signed, have photos taken with mascots and storybook characters and participate in a variety of learning activities. The Pavilion of the States will represent reading and library programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. trusts and territories.

May 3, 2012
Curtis Rogers

SC Center for the Book Presents Hanoch McCarty


Kick the 2012 SCBook Festival off with an interactive session sponsored by the SC Center for the Book: Coffee and Danish with Chicken Soup for the Soul series author and editor Hanoch McCarty on Saturday, May 19 from 10:00 – 11:15 a.m. in the Columbia Ballroom. McCarty will speak on: ““The Awesome Power of the 46th Try! Finding and Telling the Stories Your Life Has Taught You.” No reservations required, but claim your seat early!





Apr 27, 2012
Curtis Rogers

Michael Griffith Book Talk

Michael Griffith Book Talk from SC Center for the Book on Vimeo.

Join the Friends of the Richland County Public Library and the University of South Carolina Institute for Southern Studies for a the 2012 Southern Writers Series that features several of the South’s best authors. All events are held at the Main Library, 1431 Assembly St.

Michael Griffith, 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 17. Griffith is the author of three books of fiction, including Bibliophilia, Spikes and now Trophy, a new novel set in Lexington. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Southern Review, Oxford American, The Washington Post and many other periodicals. An associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, he also serves as editor of the Yellow Shoe Fiction Series for Louisiana State University Press.

Apr 27, 2012
Curtis Rogers

State Library’s South Carolina Center for the Book Announces 2011-2012 Letters About Literature Competition Award Winners

The Letters About Literature program, sponsored by the South Carolina Center for the Book and the Library of Congress, in partnership with Target Stores, is a national reading and writing promotion contest.  To enter, readers write personal letters to an author, living or dead, from any genre, explaining how that author’s work changed their way of thinking about the world or themselves.  Nine winners will be honored at an awards ceremony at the South Carolina State Library’s Center for the Book in Columbia. The ceremony will be held on June 1 from 11:00 am to noon in Room 309, 1430 Senate Street, Columbia.  Contest judges, the President of the South Carolina State Library Foundation, and the Director of the State Library will be on hand to present awards.  Winners will be reading their letters and each will receive a check from the South Carolina State Library Foundation ($100 for first place, $50 for second, and $25 for third).  In addition, first place winners receive a $50 gift card from Target stores.

Level One: Grades 4 – 6
First Place – Mikayla Zwerdling, Charles Townes Center at Sterling School, Greenville
Second Place – Shelby Higgenbottom, Hammond Hill Elementary School, North Augusta
Third Place – Kiara Johnson, McDonald Elementary School, Georgetown

Level Two: Grades 7 – 8
First Place – Gina Joerger, Charles Townes Center at Sterling School, Greenville
Second Place – Katherine Woo, Riverside Middle School, Greer
Third Place – Kathryn Simmons, Charles Townes Center at Sterling School, Greenville

Level Three: Grades 9 – 12
First Place – Kristyn Robinson, Individual Submission, Greer
Second Place – Kelly Ellis, Individual Submission, Easley
Third Place – Madeline Giess, Dreher High School, Columbia

For more information about the South Carolina Center for the Book, please visit www.readsc.org.

Apr 17, 2012
Curtis Rogers

Nikky Finney – Head Off & Split Book Talk Q&A, pt.2

Join the Friends of the Richland County Public Library and the University of South Carolina Institute for Southern Studies for a the 2012 Southern Writers Series that features several of the South’s best authors. All events are held at the Main Library, 1431 Assembly St.

Nikky Finney, 6 p.m., Thursday, March 22. Finney’s fourth poetry collection, Head Off & Split, was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry. She is also the author of the story collection Heartwood, editor of The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South and co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets. A native of South Carolina, Finney is currently a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Kentucky.