Cherokee-irish-temper. That’s the mash up Kathi Harper Hill chose for her email address. So I knew before I dialed the phone to chat with this Ellijay-based author that I was in for a treat. Yes, she has Cherokee blood in her, real Cherokee blood, and not so many generations back. In fact her Facebook page proudly displays a 1927 photo of Kathi’s mother, her grandmother, and two great grandmothers—one with light skin and white hair (representing the Scotch-Irish side) and the other a darker-complected woman with jet-black hair (from the Cherokee side). Kathi’s a blonde (okay, once a natural blonde, but let’s no go there) which came from the Scotch-Irish.
Her heritage was not something Kathi had to research. It’s something she grew up knowing through family stories. “My daddy was a storyteller,” Kathi says, and she credits him with passing that gift to her.
But the gift alone isn’t the key. Kathi has coupled the gift with a large dose of Southern humor and a good ear. In an instant her soft-spoken southern accent can morph into a North Georgia mountain dialect full of “maters” and “taters,” replicating the language spoken unapologetically by the locals when they are among their own. It’s a language Kathi says that with the influence of mass media is rapidly disappearing. Thankfully she’s preserving some of the language and much of the flavor of Appalachia in her books.
Bensy and Me is her most recent work. Nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award, the book tells the story of Charles (who hates to be called “Charlie”) and Bensy, a devoted couple from Appalachia and the adventures they share from childhood through adulthood. The story is peopled with characters readers may find wacky, but which Kathi says any true southerner would recognize.
Kathi has written a total of seven books, four novels featuring people of the south, one Young Adult book, one children’s book, and one Christmas gift book.
Kathi can “learn you more about her” on her website at yawnspublishing.com or her blog “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” (kathi-harper-hill.blogspot.com). And, oh by the way, she “learned me” the expression has a long history in the English language and was used by Shakespeare in the Tempest. He wrote “The red-plague rid you for learning me your language.” But thank you Kathi for learning me a bit of yours.
Walls of Books
Walls of Books in Ellijay does in fact house walls of books, lots of walls and lots of books, shelves stuffed with new and previously-read, time-tested favorites and new releases, and of course books by local authors like Kathi Harper Hill.
Jan McTier is the owner of the Ellijay franchise (one of nine in the Walls of Books / Gottwals Books enterprise in the state of Georgia—the original located in Warner Robins). Her goal on jumping into the business was to make a great selection of books available at a reasonable price, helping to ensure readers for years to come in Ellijay and the surrounding communities.
That’s Jan at the scissors during the ribbon cutting for Walls of Books’ opening on October 17, 2015.
And like Mark Twain’s famous comment, “reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated,” a comment some might think applies today to traditional bookstores, Jan says the Warner Robins store has tripled in size since its founding and three other Books of Walls stores have opened in Middle Georgia.
She has great expectations for the Ellijay site too, and loves every day she’s at work, enjoying the feel and smell of books, being surrounded by a staff of book lovers, and promoting the joy of reading with every book sold to her loyal customers.
If that weren’t enough to convince you to visit, the store carries the Melissa and Doug and Fat Brain toys and they trade-ins for store credit and pay cash for recent college textbooks.
Drop by and see for yourself.
Gilmer County Arts Association
And, while I have your attention, allow me to mention the Gilmer County Arts Association. This vibrant group of arts-minded citizens is helping to “bring the arts to Gilmer County.” On weekends, crowds stroll the shops and restaurants in the heart of Ellijay and the informed (and lucky) among them find their way to the Arts Center just a block or two off Main Street. The day I visited, the Center hosted an exhibit of local artist, Camille Candy Day’s paintings. This is not to miss! But, if you do, there’s bound to be something soon to catch your eye.
You can find out more about the Center’s exhibits and classes for the literary, visual, and performing arts on their website (GilmerArts) and Facebook page (ArtsAssociation) or visit them at 207 Dalton Street in Ellijay.