Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week

What is it like to release a new book in the middle of a pandemic? Last week Susan Beckham Zurenda wrote a little about what she was doing at home instead of touring for her book, Bells of Eli. One of the most common questions from audiences at the Reader Meet Writer Author series is "has the coronavirus crisis affected your writing?" "Yes," they all say, "yes, yes, of course. How could it not?" faces reflecting the blue-tinged light of a computer screen as they try to channel across a video chat at least some of the energy and enthusiam that happens by magic when they are in a room full of avid readers.

Renea Winchester, a dear friend of her ladyship, the editor and (she likes to think) a gardening soul sister, has taken a slightly different route.

Her ladyship, the editor, and Ms. Winchester bonded over seeds. One spring day many years ago her ladyship found in her mailbox an envelope with a handful of rosy pink kernels of corn. "This is dent corn from my Granddaddy Lum," said the short note tucked into the envelope, "it's been grown in the family for generations." The seeds were from Ms. Winchester, who had sent them after reading a post from her ladyship about her inability to grow corn.

That generous impulse is typical of Renea Winchester. She is all about doing things for others, whether it is donating books to libraries, saving daffodils in danger from a bulldozer, campaigning for the protection of the Tuckasegee River, or delivering elderberry syrup to local health care workers. She bribes road works crews with cookies to get them to spare wildflower patches. She is one of those people who manages to fit two hours worth of work into one.

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter So when her new novel, Outbound Train, was published just as most of the country was told to stay at home, Renea didn't let that stop her. She has donned her mask and visited local indie bookshops to sign stock. She donated copies to assisted living centers, because one of her friends said her 88 year old aunt had read and loved the story. She has also -- and this is no surprise -- been tireless in supporting the work of other writers in the same situation: Jim Hamilton, Claire Fullerton, Beth Kephart.

Outbound Train, set in her hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina, is the story of the iron-willed women of a local textile plant. There is a beautiful interview with the author about the book at the Advance Reading Copy blog that will make you want to buy a book for every woman in your family you've ever looked up to.