The writers who find their way to Pisgah Press reflect the very best of our creative spirit. They are bold and determined, talented and gracious, and eager for their work to find an audience as dedicated to fine writing as they are. They also reflect remarkably wide-ranging backgrounds:
Sarah-Ann Smith earned her PhD in international relations at American University in Washington, DC and served in the diplomatic corps of the U.S. State Department;
Nan Socolow worked in State, the US Information Agency, and Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter’s White House;
Mike Hopping, MD, has a PhD in Psychiatry, and is the former medical director for a community mental health center in North Carolina;
Dave Richards has lived and taught in Japan and Korea, and earned his Masters in Slavic and East European languages from Ohio State;
Barry Burgess graduated as part of the first co-ed class at Vassar College, and went on to a career in art and design before developing his remarkable story of Mombie, the zombie mom;
Robin Russell Gaiser has performed at the Kennedy Center and has seven albums in the Smithsonian’s collection;
the late Joe Haun’s Haun Scale is the industry standard for measuring the rate and dimensions of plant growth;
Jeff Messer has performed at the Edinburgh, Scotland Fringe Festival, and has seen his own plays performed during Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, SC. ;
Read on to learn more about these wonderful, creative spirits whom Pisgah Press is proud to publish.
After his graduation from Vassar, Barry Burgess studied dance with Elena Tchernichova in New York’s Harkness School of Ballet. Later in life he became a designer in NY’s garment industry and now, in semi-retirement, studies gemology. His imagination was sparked in part by the magical garden behind his house in Yonkers, NY, where the namesake of the character Patti, his late cousin Patrice, inspired him to create the magical Painted Valley of his novel.
Donna Lisle Burton grew up beside the Ohio River in an area of coal mines and steel mills. For most of her life she has lived in the South, in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Alabama, then for many years in Greenville, SC. In 2001 Burton moved to a house in Fairview, NC, a few miles south of Asheville. She has studied with such luminaries as Gilbert Allen of Furman University in Greenville, SC, and Cathy Smith Bowers, North Carolina’s 2010-12 Poet Laureate, and her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Illuminations, Potpourri, and other publications, and nine of her drawings, including the self-portrait on the cover, are included in Letting Go — her third collection of poetry and the first to be released by Pisgah Press. She is most recently the author of a new collection, Way Past Time for Reflecting, comprising some five dozen poems written while her life has undergone the addition of her daughter and grandson to her household and the slow progress of her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease.
Robin Russell Gaiser earned her B.A. in English at The College of William and Mary, taught writing and literature in Fairfax County, VA, gave private lessons in guitar and dulcimer and performed publicly under the auspices of the Fairfax County Council of the Arts, sang in classical choirs and recorded numerous albums, seven of them now housed in the Smithsonian collection. Her children grown, she earned an M.A. in psychology from Marymount University and worked as a guidance counselor for eight years and then, after relocating to upstate New York enrolled in a certification program for therapeutic musicians, trained to provide live, bedside, one-on-one acoustic music to critically and chronically ill, elderly, and dying patients. Buoyed by credentials and talent and passion in equal measure, she set herself to writing about her experiences as a Certified Music Pracitioner (CMP): Musical Morphine is the result.
The late Joe Haun enjoyed a 40-year career as a botanist, both in the field and in the classroom, but he spent a lifetime in search of wisdom. From his early enthusiasm over the scientific method as he learned to track the productivity of the family’s egg-laying hens, to his excitement at becoming a pilot and flight instructor during World War II, to his quest for a philosophical understanding of the “world of the spirit,” Joe applied his intellectual rigor to his endeavors. In rearing his five sons, he sought out a religious tradition that would fit skeptical inquiries; their world travels became learning experiences for the boys as well as the parents. Even Joe’s generosity as a philanthropist was invariably preceded by thorough research and hands-on involvement in the good works of the organizations he supports. Joe died in January 2013 at the age of 90; he lived a good life, wrote a good book, and leaves a great legacy.
Michael Hopping developed his skills as a member of the Wednesday Afternoon Writers Group, meeting weekly to share and review one another’s work, refining their story-telling skills as they learn from each other. He also studied with other acclaimed writers in the Great Smokies Writing Program, and he honed his talent with his novel, Meet Me In Paradise (2007). Before collecting the 14 tales of MacTiernan’s Bottle, Mike had stories published in Spoiled Ink, The Great Smokies Review, fresh, and the Mad Hatters’ Review blog. His second novel, rhythms on a flaming drum, carries on Mikes’ intellectual curiosity and unflinching vision of a dark future.
Heather Houskeeper is a hiker, certified herbalist, blogger, and creative forager and cook who divides her time between western North Carolina and Pennsylvania. By combining her talents, experiences, and love of the natural world, she has written two guidebooks that introduce backyard foragers as well as hikers to the multitude of plants found in the wild and how to use them–and which ones to avoid. Look for additional books in the series in years to come as she hikes trails around the United States and Canada.
Jeff Douglas Messer, a native of Waynesville, NC, has made a name for himself as an actor, playwright, and radio talk-show host. His plays have been produced in theaters all around the Southeast including at the Footlight Theater during the prestigious Charleston, SC, Spoleto Festival. His first play was the first script ever allowed by the Irving Berlin estate, and his “Anglo-White-Heterosexual American Men was selected as second runner-up regionally in the Kennedy Center College Short Play Competition. Jeff appeared as an actor at the Edinburgh, Scotland Fringe Festival, opened his own theater in Asheville in 2002, and continues to write such blockbusters as Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood and Esley, about the talented, but often unsung, musician Lesley Riddle, a black guitarist whose style was adopted by the Carter Family.
D. Patrick O’Sullivan came to Pisgah Press via our sister business, MyOwnEditor.com, when he asked owner A. D. Reed to do a final edit on his finished manuscript. Months later, unhappy with his publisher, Patrick came back and asked, “Would Pisgah Press still be interested in publishing A Green One for Woody?” No question! Patrick is one of those rare individuals who is a natural at telling a tale — and he tells his demanding story with the clarity of language and the purity of a heart that has been tested in the crucible of a difficult childhood and not found wanting. He distills his experiences in growing up — experiences that few of us would eagerly lay claim to — into their essence: love, respect, and pride without ego. Patrick’s character is even more distinctive than his personality — and it’s no wonder that he has a vast number of followers and friends and admirers. When you read A Green One for Woody, you’re certain to join them.
Editor-in-chief A.D. Reed was privileged to be offered top-quality education from his earliest years, attending Asheville (NC) Country Day School (now Carolina Day) before moving to New York as a Columbia College undergraduate, Class of ’74. Over the next 22 years in New York he worked for oncert pianist Rosalyn Tureck, producer Drea Besch at ABC Radio, as a marketing director at NBC TV Networks, and briefly for Simon & Schuster as a proofreader on Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition. Wherever he went, he put his writing and editing skills to work, in broadcast and print, marketing and publicity, and even speechwriting for NBC talent and executives. After returning home to Asheville, he launched his career as a freelance editor and writer, leading to the establishment of Pisgah Press in 2011 and the publication of his reference guide, Reed’s Homophones.
Dave Richards began working on Swords in Their Hands in the late 2000s, and like Patrick O’Sullivan he first encountered A. D. Reed as an editor giving a critique of his manuscript. One year later, Pisgah Press was eager to sign a contract to publish Dave’s book. As an avid student of history and popular speaker and writer on the subject, Dave is a natural to have tackled this buried piece of American history; while there are numerous articles in print and online that mention the conspiracy, and while scores of other historians have touched upon it in their own work, none has delved as deeply as Dave to present the whole story. And while Dave brings a scholar’s talent for research to his work, he writes not as an academic or for academics, but for everyone who likes reading about American history. Swords in Their Hands was nominated for, and became one of four finalists, for the 2014 USA Book Award in History.
Sarah-Ann Smith labored for years to perfect her manuscript of Trang Sen: A Novel of Vietnam. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she did tours of duty in Taiwan, at the American Consulate in Hong Kong, and at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. She followed the age-old guide for writers: write what you know. Drawing on her successful career in the diplomatic corps, she brought to her story her knowledge of Asian cultures, and to her literary style her profound knowledge of English literature. She asked for advice and criticism from the Harcourt Road writers group in Washington, D. C. and from professional colleagues and friends in international relations; she researched in depth the history of Vietnam and the Vietnam War, and finally distilled her knowledge and insight into the brilliant, moving story of a young woman caught up in the turmoil of events and the people whose lives touch hers as she finds her way in the world.
Nan Socolow has been writing poetry her entire life, beginning at Connecticut College where she studied with the future Poet Laureate of the United States, William Meredith, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her former husband, the late Sandy Socolow, was Executive Producer of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and the couple reared three children, Elisabeth, Michael, and Jonathan, all now enjoying successful careers across the globe. Immersed in the nexus of politics, news, the television business, and the cross-pollinating culture of New York and Washington, DC — she worked in the White House, for the USIA and State Department, for Ford’s Theatre and at Princeton University — Nan was constantly writing, and her poems appeared in such publications as The Washingtonian, The New Republic, and Rolling Stone. Invasive Procedures: Earthquakes, Calamities, & poems from the midst of life, is her first collection, and it brilliantly reflects both the élan with which she has pursued her journey and her wry, ironic, and joyful reflections on life’s most cherished moments … along with its unexpected earthquakes and calamities.
RF Wilson retired from a career in counseling and substance-abuse treatment, he turned his talents to writing. As he honed his skills he joined the WNC Mysterians, a group of avid writers of mysteries, for mutual support, critique, and development, and soon he completed the first of his two manuscripts featuring detective Rick Ryder — a one-armed, alcoholic, environmental lawyer who finds himself drawn into intrigue and corruption wherever he turns. His book Killer Weed was released by Pisgah Press in April 2014; Deadly Dancing, though written first, was the second published, in May of 2016.