Inspiration and “Copperhead Road”


When I teach writing classes, I often play the song “Copperhead Road,” by Steve Earle for the students. If you don’t know it, here’s the video.   When it’s over, I point out what makes the song so extraordinary. It tells the story of three generations of men named Conlee* Pedimore; grandfather was a moonshiner, father was a bootlegger, and … Read More

How everyone, deep down, is “Like Me”

Chely Wright with flag

So one time I met Chely Wright. It was around 1998. I worked in a Nashville mall at the Bombay Company, a repulsive chain store that sold overpriced foreign-made furniture and faux artsy knickknacks. I was the assistant manager, and took it as seriously as I did most of my other jobs, which meant that I worked no harder than … Read More

Guest Post: Touching from a 35-year Distance


April 30 marked the 35-year anniversary of Joy Division’s video for “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” in many ways their most defining, and certainly best-known, song. I discovered their music shortly after the death of singer and lyricist Ian Curtis in 1980, and they’ve been one of my touchstone bands ever since. But I wondered if they were simply a … Read More

Guest blog: Sonya Clark on Getting the Music Right


I meet a lot of writers through social media, and one day I was chatting with Sonya Clark, author of the Magic Born trilogy and two novels in the Bradbury Institute series. It turns out she’s working on a novel about music, and her thoughts on that intrigued me so much that I asked her to share them with my blog readers. … Read More

Coming this fall: the ultimate Tufa event

Tufa albums

So here’s the big news: On September 18 and 19, 2015, the Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Faire  in Greenville, SC will present the ultimate Tufa event. For the first time ever you’ll have the music that inspired the Tufa, and the music inspired by the Tufa, at the same place as the guy (me) who writes about the Tufa. “Huh?” you say. … Read More

Your Musical Community Is Where You Find It

Cadillac's, the bar where I grew up.

Music as a communal event is difficult for someone like me, who doesn’t play any instrument and doesn’t (or shouldn’t) sing. I’ve attended concerts where the sense of community was created by the shared music we all knew, or by the intense efforts of the performer to make sure that connection happened. But for the most part, I’ve always been … Read More

Some thoughts on the Ghost Brothers

ghost brothers cover

Recently I caught up with the cast recording of the Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. As a longtime fan of Mellencamp’s, and an admirer of King’s (there’s a difference, and I’ll explain it shortly), I was curious to see what they’d come up with working together, and in a form neither had tried before. The results, … Read More

A Tale of Two Curls


Sometimes a song inspires a book. Sometimes a book inspires a song. And sometimes–okay, this is the only time I’m aware of this happening–a song inspires a book which inspires a song. There are two wonderful songs out there that share a title with my upcoming novel. Don’t ask me to pick a favorite, because I can’t. But I can … Read More

High Hopes: is talent finite?

This weekend, I finally listened to High Hopes, the most recent Bruce Springsteen album. Yes, it came out on January 14, and I bought it then, but I hadn’t listened to it. There  were many times when I listened to a new Springsteen album multiple times on its release day, and almost exclusively for days after that. But something’s happened to … Read More

Help fund Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae


One of the best perks about being a writer is that you get to meet other artists. Most of them are fellow writers, but I’m lucky enough to also count visual artists, filmmakers, and musicians among my friends. I’ve connected with many of them through art, either theirs or mine, as well as through social gatherings like conventions and workshops. … Read More