By Sherrie Norris
A local writer has a winner on her hands — or should we say she has a winner because of her hands, a vivid imagination, an ability to tell stories and write a great little book?
Whatever the case may be, Todd resident, Deborah Worley Holman, has done a great job penning “My Blue Ridge Mountain Stories,” an easy-to-read compilation of everything from her personal experiences to narratives that have been passed down through the years, and a few accounts of which her readers might never know if they should be filed under fact or fiction. And that’s part of the intrigue therein.
“These stories bring to life some colorful mountain characters and their experiences,” Holman said. “We’ve always had our share of mountain legends and ghost tales, stories from the past that will always be with us, handed down from generation to generation. Then, there are new stories being told about our way of life in these mountain ridges, valleys and hollers that I proudly call home.”
Holman added, “I’m just an old mountain woman who loves to write. I always say that I was born with a desire to write, though not necessarily a talent.”
And that humble, personal assessment could easily be challenged by those who pick up her book, open its pages and snuggle up with a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day. It’s easy to see that Holman does not give herself enough credit.
“I can’t remember when I actually started writing stories, although I remember writing a play for my fifth grade class to act out. I would have been 10 years old then.”
In later years, a few of her stories, she said, were published in a “Hometown Memories” publication several years ago.
About two years ago, Holman accepted an invitation to join a remote (online) writers group Las Vegas, which has helped to keep her interest and skills alive.
“The leader of the group sends the members prompts each week to use in that week’s story. So, that is how many of my stories got their beginning,” she said. “Some of my stories are based on some actual happenings. A few stories, including “The Killer Fork,” “Glimpsing into the Future,” and “The Lone Light Upon the Hill,” were handed down to me. “The One Thing I Hate” story is a chapter of my autobiography — and is far from fiction.”
And there are many other stories, including “Aunt Lemontine and Dill Pickles,” “Rabbits, Red Clover and the Deputy,” and “The Haints of Tracy Holler,” that offer their own unique brand of entertainment.
With her first collection now in print, Holman continues to write a short story each week for the group.
“For instance, the prompt for this week’s story is a soda, a puppy and an old photo,” she said. “I really have fun coming up with stories using the prompts, and I just may try to have another collection of my short stories published, someday.”
And, without her association with the writer’s group, and especially Tom Kaiser, to whom the book is dedicated, “these stories would only be scribblings in a composition book in a drawer,” she said.
Holman unashamedly admits that “readers can tell that I am, indeed, an old mountain woman,”
She also hopes that readers can identify her as a conservative Christian woman. “ I am what I am and don’t try to pretend to be something I’m not. I’m definitely a mountain woman, and I write just like I talk — call it hillbilly, if you want to. I’ve lived all my 74 years in Ashe County; born in Jefferson and married at 18 and have lived in Todd ever since. My husband, Jimmie, and I have two sons: Robbie owns Robert A. Holman Heating & Plumbing, and Elijah owns Elijah Holman Woodworking, who sells some of his work at Watauga Farmers Market and surrounding counties and states. I have three grandsons which are homeschooled, as I homeschooled their dad, Elijah.”
Holman has always been an avid reader. “I grew up with my grandparents in a home without a TV,” she recalled. “I seemed to have been born with a desire to write, making up stories and also writing about actual happenings. Not to say I was born with a talent, but a desire to write. I also do genealogy research, which gives me more opportunities to write. I enjoy painting barn quilts and have painted hundreds of rocks to take to town for others to find. One of my greatest pleasures, along with reading and writing, is hiking in the mountains, or just strolling through the woods that begin in my backyard. I can’t decide which I love doing best – reading, writing or strolling through the mountains with my pets close behind me.” Actually, she said, she does all three each day.
“Some of my stories are true, some only half-true and some are most definitely far from true.”
With advice from another local and well-loved author, Peggy Poe Stern, Holman chose to “self-publish” her book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publisher.
The compelling cover photo that captures the beauty of these Blue Ridge Mountains and helps set the stage for the book, is from the works of talented photographer Barry Houck (Barry Houck Photoworks of Zionville), who Holman learned through her family tree is her cousin.
“I was honored that Deborah wanted to use one of my photos for her book,” Houck said. “It really means a lot. And through her request, I discovered another relative, which was pretty awesome. I didn’t know that we were related, but she apparently did.”
“My Blue Ridge Mountain Stories” is available on Amazon, and locally at Antiques on Main and Watson Foods in West Jefferson.