Novelist Moira Crone to read at Woody Creek Community Center | AspenTimes.com

Novelist Moira Crone to read at Woody Creek Community Center

If You Go …

What: Moira Crone reading and talk, presented by Aspen Words

Where: Woody Creek Community Center

When: Thursday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: Free copies of Crone’s “The Ice Garden” are available through Aspen Words’ Catch and Release program; http://www.aspenwords.org

Novelist Moira Crone has been at work in the quiet of Woody Creek this month, bringing a tempestuous period of American history to life on the page.

Crone, Aspen Words' writer in residence for the month of October, is writing a coming-of-age story about a girl in her mid-teens in eastern North Carolina during school desegregation of the late 1960s.

"The high school culture changed very rapidly and dramatically," Crone said Tuesday over coffee at the Woody Creek Community Center. "It reconfigured North Carolina. It was a massive social experiment."

The fight over integration gave rise to the Black Power movement in the state, overzealous FBI surveillance of young people and incidents like the Greensboro uprising, in which protesters at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University clashed with police and the National Guard.

A North Carolina native and winner of the Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, Crone lived through those turbulent times and — like her protagonist — later made her way to New Orleans. It's easy to forget now, she noted, that many of those on the front lines of the civil-rights movement were teenagers.

"It was a children's crusade if you really look back on it," she said.

Crone has been researching and writing pieces of the novel over the past two-and-a-half years. This month, secluded at Mojo Garden Farm in Woody Creek, she has broken some important ground on it.

"I wrote out everything that was going to happen in the novel," she said. "What I've really enjoyed doing here is being alone enough to figure out what the trajectory of each character is and not make the mistake of writing a lot of scenes that are irrelevant or pushing in the wrong direction."

Like most writers who have come through the Aspen Words residency, Crone said its solitude has made for a productive stay. She's been writing in bed in the mornings, fasting until late in the day ("It helps my brain think") and working on the book with a largely unbroken focus.

"Instead of having one part of the day, I can write two and three sessions in a day — I've been waking up in the middle of the night and writing, even," she said. "And I've made a lot of progress in a very short amount of time."

The narrator in Crone's most recent novel, last year's "The Ice Garden," was a pre-teen girl grappling with a mentally ill mother and a new baby sister. It's set in the rural South of the 1960s before the civil-rights movement took hold. Crone will read from "The Ice Garden" today at the Woody Creek Community Center. A retired writing professor at Louisiana State University, Crone also will visit an English class at Basalt High School on Friday.

Crone is considered a Southern writer and has been hailed as an heir to the likes of Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers and Truman Capote. She stepped out of the Southern gothic tradition with one novel of speculative fiction. "The Not Yet," published in 2012, imagines the Gulf Coast in the year 2121 after the coastal wetlands have disappeared and it's been submerged. The book won her a Philip K. Dick Award for science-fiction paperback originals and was used by architecture students at the Coastal Sustainability Studio at LSU to help imagine designs for a submerged New Orleans. But Crone doesn't shy away from the "Southern writer" label.

"These are very Southern stories," she said of her work. "They have a particular set of concerns having to do with features of Southern society that are in popular fiction — relationships between blacks and whites, family relationships that are often strained and very difficult. These are subjects that Southern writing has always concerned itself with, and I'm really thrilled by the genealogy of which I am a part."

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