Turning the page

Several area authors release new works
Dec. 15, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

On Christmas, it's not uncommon for people to unwrap a book or two from friends and family. This year, The Herald caught up with a few authors with local ties and newly published books.

Sharon Johnson, who grew up in Lee County but lives in Wake County now, recently wrote a children's book called "Midnight's Destiny" about her real-life experience with a partially paralyzed kitten she found and eventually nursed back to health. She now travels the state with Midnight, the wheelchair-bound cat, speaking to young children and special-education classes.

"I wrote it for the grandchildren," said Johnson, who is the sister of former N.C. Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker and aunt of Sanford photographer/cafe owner Dana Atkins. "I have four grandchildren, and it's been neat seeing now how they react to things and relate (the book) back to them, and how they understand things. Even my granddaughter, who is 6, said, 'Grandma, I know what I want to be. I want to be someone who helps animals and people who need help."

Her book, which retails for about $8, can be found online at amazon.com or tatepublishing.com/bookstore.

Rita Prosser, a Sanford resident active in Yates-Thagard Baptist Church in Carthage, recently published a book of Christian-themed short stories called "Never Eat Chocolate in the Dark." She said it's something anyone can read and enjoy if they believe in God, although it's really aimed at women.

"It's very personal to read," Prosser said. "It's funny; it'll make you cry; there's a lot of emotion. ... And each story has scripture to go along with it, to kind of complete a lesson."

The book retails for about $13 and can be bought online at a variety of booksellers, including Amazon, or from Prosser herself by emailing nevereatchocolateinthedark@gmail.com.

Evelyn McNeill, a Sanford native and 1947 graduate of Jonesboro High School, recently wrote a memoir about her life, starting with growing up in rural Lee County during the Depression. After serving as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army, she became the first and only female faculty member at the new East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine. She has since retired and become a certified master gardener.

Her memoir, co-written with a newspaper editor from the The Daily Reflector in Greenville, where she lives, is called "From Zero to Eighty Over Unpaved Roads: A Memoir" and is interspersed with photos from early- and mid-20th century Lee County, as well as scenes from the military, various universities around the state and her retirement. It is available at lulu.com and evelynmcneill.com and retails for about $30.

Even though she lives in Greenville now, McNeill said she visits Lee County regularly to visit family, including her brothers, Charles McNeill and Ronald McNeill, her sister, Ruth McNeill Morris, and others.

Judy Hogan, who lives in Moncure and helped start the creative writing program at Central Carolina Community College, recently released two books: "Farm Fresh and Fatal" — the second in a series of mystery novels (the first was "Killer Frost") based loosely around her life as a college professor and farmers' market regular — and "Beaver Soul," the English translation of a collection of poems, originally published in Russian in 1992, which she wrote about the local Haw River and Russian waters she visited.

"That one, I guess, is about love and about rivers," said Hogan, who is also an environmental activist. "Love is a kind of river."

Her books – everything from poetry to novels or cookbooks — are available at several Chatham County stores, as well as online at Amazon or her website, judyhogan.home.mindspring.com.

Another Chatham County writer, Piedmont Biofuels founder Lyle Estill, recently published his fourth book, "Small Stories, Big Changes: Agents of Change on the Frontlines of Sustainability." It and the rest of his books can be bought on his website, lyleestill.com, or on Amazon.

Estill technically edited the book, contacting others to write essays on sustainability and development and then stringing them all together with his own musings. On his website, it's described as "a book written by ordinary people doing extraordinary things; whose lives have been transformed by their willingness to commit themselves unreservedly to the creation of a better world."

These are certainly not all the local writers in the area; for more information, contact local libraries or book stores — such as McIntyre's Books at Fearrington Village, Circle City Books and Music in Pittsboro or Books at a Steal in Sanford, which has a section devoted entirely to North Carolina authors.