Lectures and Workshops

Taught by New York Times Best-selling Author Sharyn McCrumb

These workshops, which Sharyn McCrumb has taught throughout the U.S. and in Europe, can accommodate students of all ages with a wide range of interests and abilities. Each workshop comprises a session of 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Each workshop is a complete learning experience, but workshops may be combined in a series to make Day-long programs or Week-long Writers Conferences.

  • For more information or to schedule a program, email Sharyn:  Request Info

What Poets Know That Novelists Don't

Enriching Your Manuscript with Tone, Cadence and Vowels Choice

Keepers of the Legends

Using History and Folklore in the Novel

Fiction with a strong sense of place (e.g. the works of Flannery O'Connor, Stephen King, Mark Twain, Tony Hillerman. and Sharyn McCrumb) are enriched by the incorporation of regional history and folklore into the narrative. This workshop discusses how to find the stories of the region, the use of dialect and other techniques of regional writing.

Lecture given at:

  • The Written Word, Writers Workshop, Franklin, TN (September 2007)
  • Ohio River Festival of the Book, Huntington, WV
  • University of South Carolina, Oswald Distinguished Writers Series, Aiken, SC
  • Alachua County Library, Gainesville, FL
  • Boone County Public Library, Union, KY

The Celts and the Appalachians

A Cultural Guide to the Mountain South

The mountains of Appalachia and the mountains of Great Britain were once joined together. The Appalachian chain, which extends from Alabama to eastern Canada, was originally connected to the mountains of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The mountains' family connection to Britain reinforced what I had felt about the migration patterns of the early settlers. People forced to leave a land they loved come to America. Hating the crowded, flat eastern seaboard, they get in covered wagons, and keep going west until they reach the mountains. They follow the valleys south-southwest down through Pennsylvania, and finally find a place where the ridges rise, where it looks right, and it feels right. Like home. Like the place they left. And they were right back in the same mountains they had left behind in Britain. If you study the cultural connections between Celtic Britain and the Appalachian culture, as I have, you will find many connections between the two - quilt patterns, folk tales, fiddle tunes - as well as the explanation for many mountain folk traditions whose roots lie in mountains on the other side of the Atlantic.

Lecture given at:

  • Society of North Carolina Archivists, Raleigh, NC
  • Morris County Library, Morristown, NJ
  • Herbert Wescott Memorial Library, McArthur, OH
  • Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, TN
  • Keene School, Keene, NH

How Not to Get Published

Nobody can guarantee that a writer, no matter how talented, will become a nationally-published author. Besides talent, one needs dedication, determination, stamina, and a measure of luck. But there are some self-defeating behaviors that will almost guarantee that you will not be published. Learn what these behaviors are so you can avoid them!

This workshop, appropriate both to students and adult aspiring writers, encourages writers to decide whether their writing goal is to have a hobby or a career, and to act accordingly. It discusses the pitfalls of trying to second-guess the market, and suggests strategies for getting one's work noticed by people who can actually assist you in getting in published. (Do not stand in a famous author's line at a bookstore signing, clutching your manuscript and hoping he will read it. Yes! People do this.) Learn the right way to advance your career.

Workshop given at:

  • Hindman KY Writers Workshop (2004)
  • Paris: WICE Writers conference (2001)
  • King College Bristol TN (2001)
  • Blue Ridge Writers Conference, Blairsville, GA


The Backbone of Narrative

Have you ever read a book more than once? If so, it wasn't to find out what was going to happen. You already know that. Chances are you revisited a novel in order to "visit" with the characters who people its pages. To many readers, vivid characters become imaginary friends, always available to keep you company. This workshop is an exploration of the creation of memorable characters-- those who become so real that, like Sherlock Holmes-- they receive letters from readers.

Nora Bonesteel, Sharyn McCrumb's character with the Sight in the early Ballad novels, is one such readers' friend.

Find out what makes fictional characters come to life.

Tell It Slant

The Truth in Fiction

The difference between a novel and a non-fiction book is not whether one is true and the other "made up." The distinction is primarily a matter of how the information is presented. One purpose of historical fiction is to make the reader feel the events of the time. The novelist Erich Maria Remarque taught me more about World War I than "accredited historians;" and Remarque actually lived through the fighting on the Western Front, while most of the people who wrote the historical accounts did not. The fact that Remarques' book was a "novel" does not make it less accurate or less important.

I think one's job as an historical novelist is to make people care -- to feel the events, rather than just to know the facts in a clinical sense.

This workshop discusses the techniques of historical writing and research, with an emphasis on a knowledgeable analysis of information and accuracy of reporting.

Workshop given at:

  • The Harriette Austin Writers Conference, Univ. of Georgia, (July 2008)
  • Yancey County Historical Society, Burnsville, NC
  • Warren Wilson College, Harwood Lecture Series, Asheville, NC
  • University of Miami, Appalachian Studies Celebration Series, Hamilton, OH

Advanced Lessons in Narrative

The Art of Using the more Subtle Tools of Fine Writing: Tone, Pacing, Subjective Description

Good stories are a skillful blend of character, setting, description, and -- most elusive of all-- tone -- that magic combination of pacing and word choice that channels the emotions of the reader. Workshop discusses how to combine these elements to make memorable stories rich in character and description and redolent of place.

Workshop given at:

  • Blue Ridge Writers Conference, Blairsville, GA
  • Hindman Settlement School, Hindman, Kentucky
  • West Virginia Book Festival, Charleston, WV
  • Indian Land High School, Fort Mill, SC

Grassroots Saints and Honky Tonk Heroes

Sharyn McCrumb's award-winning novel St. Dale set "The Canterbury Tales" within the world of NASCAR, and produced a wise and wonderful book that became required reading in colleges and high schools throughout the country.

St. Dale is the story of a group of ordinary people who go on a pilgrimage in honor of racing legend Dale Earnhardt and find a miracle. McCrumb will discuss her adventures in researching and writing the novel, and distribute a teaching guide to the audience discussing the use of the novel in schools as a supplementary text in Chaucer courses. She has visited a number of the schools studying her novel, sometimes taking a race car driver with her in order to address both Chaucer and NASCAR questions. She also discusses the novel's theme of 'grassroots canonization' in contemporary heroes.

Lecture given at:

  • Faith and Fiction Series, Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville, NC
  • Pell City Public Library, Pell City, AL 2005
  • Ohio River Festival of Books 2008
  • Virginia High School, Bristol, VA
  • Books Alive! 2008, Panama City, FL
  • Caldwell Community College, Lenoir NC 2007
  • Virginia Festival of the Book 2006

Short Stories Are Not Mini-Novels

Short stories come in flashes of lightning. Unlike a novel, which can develop slowly, proceeding sometimes when even the author does not know how it will end, a short story is all-of-a-piece, and you have to know exactly where you are going before you start. This workshop covers the mechanics of short story writing, and discusses the special problems and pitfalls associated with the form.

Recently conducted at:

  • Appalachian Writing Project, Haysi, VA
  • WICE Writers Workshop Paris, France
  • Hindman Settlement School, Hindman, Kentucky
  • Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, WV

Words and Music Performances

Jack Hinshelwood and Sharyn McCrumbTake the writing of Sharyn McCrumb and the music of Jack Hinshelwood and combine them for an entertaining evening highlighting the Ballad Novels of Appalachian Novelist Sharyn McCrumb.

This internationally acclaimed program brings together the ballads that are woven throughout Sharyn's novels with Jack performing the ballads as Sharyn reads and discusses her work.

This program has been presented at various venues including library programs, book festivals, performing arts centers, and educational seminars.

The program highlights the following titles:

'That was the best book-reading I’ve ever been to, I just love that they have the music. …(It) was nice if you’ve read her books to see how the music is tied to her writing.' — Debbie Bloom, Richland Public Library, The State, Columbia, SC

Previous “Words and Music” Performances:

About the Performers

Sharyn McCrumb has been known to join in on a chorus of "Fox on the Run" during a Words and Music Program. Please go to her Biography page for more information about the author.

Jack Hinshelwood is an accomplished musician who began playing Appalachian and Bluegrass music on the guitar in 1972. He has won numerous music competitions including the guitar championship at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, TN.

In addition to playing and singing for the Words and Music Programs, Jack arranged and recorded "If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O: Appalachian Ballads from the novel by Sharyn McCrumb." He also recorded "The Battle on Shiloh's Hill" for the Ghost Riders CD, which features a reading by Sharyn McCrumb.

Bluegrass Unlimited described Jack as "a fine quick-picker with a weathered, welcoming voice" for his 1992 recording Dark Run. Since 1994, Jack has been playing guitar and fiddle with Celtibillies, a four member group that has released three recordings, Come Dance and Sing, praised by Bluegrass Unlimited as "a masterful work of art that transcends all musical genres," Greenwoodside, and, their newest release, The Shoemaker's Child. Celtibillies performed at the 37th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.