Biography of Sharyn McCrumb
 
"I find that the more I write, the more fascinated I become with the idea of the land as an intricate element in the lives of the mountain people, and of the past as prologue for any contemporary narrative. This connection to the land is personal as well as thematic."
—Sharyn McCrumb

Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, including the New York Times Best Sellers : The Ballad of Tom Dooley, She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. Her new novel, King's Mountain, the story of the 1780 Revolutionary War battle and the Overmountain Men, was published in September 2013 by St. Martins Press, NY.

Her books are frequently used in One Community/One Book programs, most recently The Ballad of Frankie Silver by the town of Gallatin TN and Volunteer State College, and The Devil Amongst the Lawyers in Winchester VA.

In April 2014, Sharyn McCrumb was awarded the Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Southern Literature by North Carolina's Chowan University. Named a "Virginia Woman of History" in 2008 for Achievement in Literature, she was a guest author at the National Festival of the Book in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the White House in 2006.

St. Dale, The Canterbury Tales in a NASCAR setting, in which ordinary people on a pilgrimage in honor of racing legend Dale Earnhardt find a miracle, won a 2006 Library of Virginia Award as well as the AWA Book of the Year Award.

Sharyn McCrumb's other best-selling novels include The Ballad of Frankie Silver, the story of the first woman hanged for murder in the state of North Carolina (new edition, March 2013,) Ghost Riders, an account of the Civil War in the mountains of western North Carolina, which won the Wilma Dykeman Award for Literature given by the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Audie Award for Best Recorded Book, was published in a new edition in March 2012 by J.F. Blair Press. A theatrical version of Ghost Riders was staged in June 2014 at the Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville NC.

McCrumb's other honors include: AWA Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature Award; the Chaffin Award for Southern Literature; the Plattner Award for Short Story; and AWA's Best Appalachian Novel. She was recently named "Best Mountain Writer 2013" by Blue Ridge Country Magazine. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, with an M.A. in English from Virginia Tech, McCrumb was the first writer-in-residence at King College in Tennessee. In 2005 she honored as the Writer of the Year at Emory & Henry College.

Her novels, studied in universities throughout the world, have been translated into eleven languages, including French, German, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, and Italian. She has lectured on her work at Oxford University, the University of Bonn-Germany, and at the Smithsonian Institution; taught a writers workshop in Paris, and served as writer-in-residence at King College in Tennessee and at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York.

Sharyn McCrumb is the subject of the book From A Race of Storytellers: The Ballad Novels of Sharyn McCrumb. Ed: Kimberley M. Holloway. Atlanta: Mercer University Press, 2005. A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, with an M.A. from Virginia Tech, she lives and writes in the Virginia Blue Ridge.

McCrumb's great-grandfathers were circuit preachers in North Carolina's Smoky Mountains a hundred years ago, riding horseback over the ridges to preach in a different community each week. It is from them, she says, that she gets her regard for books, her gift of storytelling and public speaking, and her love of the Appalachian Mountains.
 
"My books are like Appalachian quilts," says Sharyn McCrumb. "I take brightly colored scraps of legends, ballads, fragments of rural life, and local tragedy, and I piece them together into a complex whole that tells not only a story, but also a deeper truth about the culture of the mountain South."
 

Spencer Arwood, Sharyn McCrumb's grandfather, for whom the Ballad Novel character was named.

Spencer Arwood, Sharyn McCrumb's grandfather,
for whom the Ballad Novel character was named.
 
McCrumb provides her own point of view about living in and between these cultures in the following excerpts from an interview with Rebecca Laine:
 
"I always was interested in the songs and the legends. Those from my father's side of the family always seemed to have so much substance. Mother was from the flatlands of North Carolina around New Bern; that was, I suppose, the Plantation South. Her stories didn't resonate with me. I guess I wasn't meant to be a Southern writer in the Pat Conroy sense of the word."
 
"Hollywood doesn't seem to pick up on this, but it's pretty obvious to everyone else that the South has more than one culture. The Flatland South is very different from the Mountain South. The Flatland South was settled primarily by the English, by people who didn't mind neighbors, who liked living in community. I've always joked that the mountain people don't work and play very well with others."
 
Sharyn McCrumb's father.
  Sharyn McCrumb's father.
"The first indication my parents had that they were from two cultures, although they were born only two hundred miles apart, came when my mother first took my father home for Sunday dinner. He was a young second lieutenant in World War II. Miss Helen was dating the entire officer corps from Camp Davis. When it came his turn to go to dinner, her mother put out all the silver and crystal and linen and served fried chicken and homebaked biscuits and green peas and rice. Lt. Arwood took it all, then reached for the cream and sugar... and put it on his rice! In the mountain culture, the Scots-Irish people saw rice as a grain and used it as a breakfast cereal like oatmeal or porridge; in the flatland South, people put gravy on their rice... that's what the gravy boat was there for. So right there, the cultural chasm was defined."
 
Sharyn McCrumb's mother, Helen.
Sharyn McCrumb's mother, Helen.  
"My mother grew up very social, very Southern. the unwritten rules were more important than the written rules. My father was a mountain man from the mountains of western North Carolina; when he was small, his parents moved to east Tennessee, a distance of only about twenty miles. His ancestors on his mother's side came to western North Carolina in 1791. My great, great, great grandfather, Malcolm McCourry, deserves his own mini-series; he was kidnapped from the island of Isla in the Hebrides in 1760 and taken to sea as a cabin boy on a sailing ship. He later became an attorney in Morristown, New Jersey, served as a quartermaster during the American Revolution, and finally settled in western North Carolina within a few miles of the Tennessee line. I suppose he had a soldier's land grant."
 
"On the other side the Arrowoods [pronounced "Arwood"] and the Honeycutts came about the same time, around 1790, to what is now Mitchell County. Today we think of the West as Matt and Miss Kitty and Dodge City, Kansas, but that was the 1880s. In the 1780s the West was the Pennsylvania border around Fort Duquesne and western Carolina and east Tennessee and southwest Virginia. I grew up with all these wonderful stories of relatives finding lost silver mines and running away from armies during the Civil War."
 
AWARDS, HONORS:
2011- Perry F. Kendig Award for Literary Arts from Blue ridge Arts Council of southwest Virginia.
 
2008 - Virginia Woman of History - On February 28, 2008 the Library of Virginia announced that Sharyn McCrumb has been named one of Virginia's eight Women of History for 2008. This honor, designed to recognize and honor the achievements of women who have made important contributions to Virginia and America, both past and present.
 
Library of Virginia People's Choice Award - St. Dale - 2006; Book of the Year Award - Appalachian Writers Association - St. Dale - 2006; Audie Award for Best Recorded Book - Ghost Riders- 2004; Wilma Dykeman Award for Regional Historical Literature - East Tennessee Historical Society - 2003; Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature Award - Appalachian Writers Association, 1997; The Chaffin Award for Achievement in Southern Literature - Morehead (KY) State University, 1998; Plattner Award for Best Appalachian Short Story - Berea College, KY, 1998; Appalachian Writer of the Year Award 1999 - Shepherd College, WV; Virginia Library of Virginia Book of the Year Nomination - The Ballad of Frankie Silver, 1999; SEBA Best Novel nomination - The Ballad of Frankie Silver, 1999; The Flora MacDonald Award for Achievement in the Arts by a Woman of Scots Heritage, 1999 ; Kentucky Colonel of the State of Kentucky - 1999; Los Angeles Times Notable Book Citation - She Walks These Hills (1994); The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1992); New York Times Notable Book - If Ever I Return Pretty Peggy-O (1990); The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1992); The Ballad of Frankie Silver (1998); The Songcatcher (2001); Sherwood Anderson Short Story Award - 1984 "Precious Jewel"; AWA Best Appalachian Novel Award, Lovely in Her Bones, 1984; AWA Best Appalachian Novel Award - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter - 1992.
 
WRITINGS:
The Ballad Novels: The Ballad novels are a series of books set in the mountains, weaving together the legends, natural wonders and contemporary issues of Appalachia.
 
If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, Scribner (New York, NY) 1990
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Scribner (New York, NY) 1992
She Walks These Hills, Scribner (New York, NY) 1994
The Rosewood Casket, Dutton (New York, NY) 1996
The Ballad of Frankie Silver, Dutton (New York, NY) 1998
The Songcatcher, Dutton (New York, NY) 2001
Ghost Riders, Dutton (New York, NY) 2003
 
The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY) 2010
 
The Ballad of Tom Dooley, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY) 2011
 
The NASCAR Novels:
St. Dale, Kensington (New York, NY) 2005
Once Around the Track, Kensington (New York, NY) 2007
Faster Pastor, (with Adam Edwards) - High Country Press (Boone NC) 2010)
 
Early Works
Elizabeth MacPherson Novels:
Sick of Shadows, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1984
Lovely in Her Bones, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1985
Highland Laddie Gone, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1986
Paying the Piper, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1988
The Windsor Knot, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1989
Missing Susan, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1990
MacPherson's Lament, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1992
If I'd Killed Him When I Met Him, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1994
The PMS Outlaws, Ballantine (New York, NY) 2000
 
The Jay Omega Novels:
Bimbos of the Death Sun, TSR Books 1986
Zombies of the Gene Pool, Simon & Schuster 1992
 
Short Story Collection:
Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Ballantine (New York, NY) 1997
 
Contributions of Short Story to Anthologies or Literary Magazines:
  • "Fairy Tale Princesses of the Civil War", Ed. Elizabeth Baird Hardy. Gateways Magazine, Mayland Community Colelge, Spruce Pine, NC 2012.
    "Rattler and the Mothman" The Monster's Corner, - Ed. Christopher Golden- St. Martin's, 2011.
  • "Settling Up" - Smoky Mountain Living, (Waynesville NC), Vol. 9, No. 4 - Summer, 2009
  • "A Wing and A Prayer"- Blood Lite II, -Ed. Kevin J. Anderson - Pocket Books, 2010
  • "Hands Across the Ridge" Appalachian Heritage. Ed. George Brosi. Berea KY: Spring, 2008
  • "The Mountain House" Poe, Ed. Ellen Datlow - Solaris Press, 2008
  • "Dead Hand" - Blood Lite, -Ed. Kevin J. Anderson - Pocket Books, 2008
  • "Parting Shot," Iron Mountain Review, Emory & Henry College, Spring 2006
  • "Abide With Me." Appalachian Heritage. Ed. George Brosi. Berea KY: Fall, 2004
  • "The Resurrection Man," (novella). Transgressions. Ed. Evan Hunter. New York,
  • Forge: 2005
  • "The Wish Hounds." Hellboy: Odder Jobs. Ed. Christopher Golden. Dark Horse, 2005
  • "Thomas the Rhymer." The Book of Ballads. Ed. Charles Vess. New York: Tor, 2004
  • "Music When Soft Voices Die," The Rose & The Briar, American Ballads. Ed. Greil Marcus and Sean Willenz. Norton: 2004
  • "The Gallows Necklace," The Dark, ed. Ellen Datlow. New York: Tor, 2002
Non Fiction Publications:
  • Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia - A Collection of Essays about the Mountain South. Waverly TN: Oconee Spirit Press, 2011.
  • "Living Historians"- Ed. Cara Modisett. Blue Ridge Country. Roanoke VA: December 2009
  • "Comfort Me With Apples," Mountain Homes Magazine, (Roanoke VA), Winter, 2007.
  • Excerpt from The Songcatcher. Ed. Sandra L. Ballard and Patricia L. Hudson. Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia. Lexington KY: U.K. Press, 2003
  • "Foreword. Virginia Tech: Cut in Stone: A University of Timeless Beauty. Allen TX: DSA Publishing, 2007
  • "My Driver". Ed. Norma R. Wilson. Now & Then. Johnson City TN: East Tennessee State Univ. Volume 21, Number 2, Fall 2005
  • "The Cosmic Possum." Ed. Cara Modisett. Blue Ridge Country. Roanoke VA: April 2005
  • "Born to Die: Tom Dooley. Ed. Cara Modisett. Blue Ridge Country. Roanoke VA: January 2007
  • "The First Appalachian Journey: The Serpentine Chain." Ed. Matthew Wasson. Appalachian Voice. Winter 2005. Boone NC.
  • "The Liminal State of Franklin: Magic Realism in Appalachia. Voices of the Mountains. Ed. Rob Neufeld. Asheville, NC: March/April 2001
  • "A Cave on Mull -From Here to There: Stories From a Mobile Virginia. Ed. Dan Smith. Roanoke VA: VA Museum of Transportation,1998
  • "The Celts and the Appalachians. Ed. Barbara Peters. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen
 
AUDIO BOOKS:
  • "The Devil Amongst the Lawyers - Unabridged. Recorded Books, Recorded Books, 270 Skipjack Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678.
  • Faster Pastor - Unabridged. Read by Nicole Poole. Recorded Books, Recorded Books, 270 Skipjack Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678.
  • Once Around the Track - Recorded Books, 2008.
  • St. Dale - Unabridged Read by Anna Fields; BBC Audiobooks America, PO Box 450, Hampton NH 03843
  • Ghost Riders - Unabridged. Brilliance Audio Books, P.O. Box 887, Grand Haven, Michigan 49417. 2003. Winner: 2004 Audie Award
  • Ghost Riders - Abridged. Brilliance Audio Books. 2003.
  • Ghost Riders/Rank Strangers - Companion CD to Ghost Riders, Sharyn McCrumb and Jack Hinshelwood, P.O. Box 495, Shawsville, VA 24162. 2002.
  • The Songcatcher - Unabridged. Read by James Daniels and Aasne Vigesaa. Brilliance Audio Books, 2001.
  • The Songcatcher - Abridged. Read by James Daniels and Aasne Vigesaa. Brilliance Audio Books, 2001.
  • The Rowan Stave - Companion CD to The Songcatcher, Sharyn McCrumb and Sweetwater, Sweetwater Productions, 643 E. Euclid Ave., Springfield, OH 45505, 2001.
  • The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Unabridged. Read by C.M.Herbert. Blackstone Audio Books, P.O. Box 969, Ashland, Oregon 97520. 1998
  • The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Unabridged. Read by Jeff Woodman & Barbara Rosenblatt. Recorded Books, 270 Skipjack Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678. 1998.
  • The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Abridged. Read by Sharyn McCrumb. Dove Audio, 8955 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90048.
  • The Rosewood Casket - Unabridged. Read by Sally Darling- Recorded Books 1996
  • The Rosewood Casket - Unabridged. Read by C.M. Herbert- Blackstone Audio Books, 1996.
  • The Rosewood Casket - Abridged. Read by Sharyn McCrumb- Penguin Audio Books, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY. 1996.
  • She Walks These Hills - Unabridged. Read by Sally Darling- Recorded Books 1994
  • She Walks These Hills - Unabridged. Read by Buck Schirner. Brilliance Corporation. 1994
  • She Walks These Hills - Abridged. Read by Buck Schirner. Brilliance Corporation. 1994
  • She Walks These Hills - Unabridged. Read by C.M. Herbert. Blackstone Audio Books. 1996
  • The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter - Unabridged. Read by Sally Darling-
  • Recorded Books. 1993
  • If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy - O. Unabridged. Read by Sally Darling-
  • Recorded Books, 1993
  • Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Abridged. Read by Sharon Gless. Durkin Hayes Audio, 3375 North Service Rd. Burlington, ONT L7N 3G2 Canada. 1997
 
Also Recorded Unabridged by Recorded Books:
  • If I'd Killed Him When I Met Him
  • The Windsor Knot
  • Paying the Piper
  • Highland Laddie Gone
  • Lovely in Her Bones
  • Sick of Shadows
  • MacPherson's Lament
  • Missing Susan
  • PMS Outlaws
  • Bimbos of the Death Sun
  • Zombies of the Gene Pool
 
SIDELIGHTS:
Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, which weave together the legends, natural wonders and contemporary issues of Appalachia. Her novels include New York Times Best Sellers She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket, which deal with the issue of the vanishing wilderness, and The Ballad of Frankie Silver, the story of the first woman hanged for murder in the state of North Carolina; The Songcatcher, a genealogy in music; and Ghost Riders, an account of the Civil War in the Appalachians. The Devil Amongst the Lawyers examines the media stereotyping of rural areas. The Ballad of Tom Dooley brings to light new evidence in true story behind the most famous of all mountain ballads.
 
Aside from her Ballad novels, Sharyn McCrumb has written two parables set in NASCAR: St. Dale and Once Around the Track. St. Dale, the story of a group of ordinary people who go on a pilgrimage in honor of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, and find a miracle. This Canterbury Tales in a NASCAR setting, won a 2006 Library of Virginia Award and the AWA Book of the Year Award. It is taught in Chaucer classes in colleges and secondary schools in eight states, and in March 2011 it was the featured novel in a Chaucer celebration at the University of South Carolina - Beaufort. Once Around the Track was a nominee for the 2007 Weatherford Award for an Outstanding work of Appalachian Fiction.
 
McCrumb's great-grandfathers were circuit preachers in North Carolina's Smoky Mountains a hundred years ago, riding horseback over the ridges to preach in a different community each week. It is from them, she says, that she gets her regard for books, her gift of storytelling and public speaking, and her love of the Appalachian Mountains.
 
 
 

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