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Wiley Cash to speak to library Friends group Thursday

By Laurie Lyda

Rowan Public Library

SALISBURY — New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash finds inspiration for his art in North Carolina and its people.

“This state is something inside me that fuels me and keeps my passion and curiosity alive,” Cash says. “Getting a place that you love onto the page is an act of love, and I love this state and its people.”

On Thursday, Cash will be in Salisbury sharing more about his work and his love of North Carolina. He will be the featured author at the Friends of Rowan Public Library’s annual meeting at Trinity Oaks Retirement, 728 Klumac Road. A book-signing and reception will follow. Salisbury’s South Main Book Co. will be there selling copies of Cash’s books; cash or charge cards will be accepted.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is open to Friends of Rowan Public Library members. Memberships may be renewed or purchased in advance or at the meeting and begin at $10 per year. For more information about memberships and admission, call 704-216-8240. When the space reaches capacity, the doors will be closed.

Cash is the author of three novels — “The Last Ballad,” “A Land More Kind Than Home” and “This Dark Road to Mercy.” All are set in N.C.

His most recent, “The Last Ballad,” was a national bestseller and was named a Notable Book of 2017 by the American Library Association and a Best Book of the Year by the Chicago Public Library. The novel received the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature and the Mary Frances Prize for Distinguished Arts and Letters, and it was a finalist for the Robert J. Langum Prize for Historical Fiction.

Cash is working on a fourth novel that is set on the coast of N.C.

“I believe that stories come from tension, and there is plenty of tension in N.C., including tensions over race, geography, history, class and culinary issues. This is a great place to write about. I will never run out of material,” Cash said.

He calls his writing process “pretty scattered,” recounting that he writes “on airplanes, at home, in hotel rooms, in bookstores after events, in libraries after readings. I travel a lot, so I’ve conditioned myself to work when time presents itself. I feel like I had more time to write before writing became my career.”

Being a writer allows Cash to make his own schedule and pursue his art — both things that he loves. It “can be tough when life gets busy. I travel a lot, and (my wife and I) have two small children. When you are your own boss, it’s easy to give yourself time off. That’s what I find the most challenging: the power to bend my writing schedule to the demands of life. Sometimes it can be tricky when you’re up against deadlines.”

In addition to his writing, traveling and family time, Cash works with writing communities, actively supports other writers, and creates spaces for writers and readers. He is writer in residence at the University of North Carolina atAsheville and teaches at Mountainview Low-Residency MFA. According to Cash, he most enjoys “talking about craft” when teaching and mentoring developing writers.

“I don’t believe that creativity can be taught. I can’t teach you where stories come from, but I can teach how to use craft elements to write a story if you’ve already got one.”

He also hosts the Open Canon Book Club, where he engages across his social media platforms with readers to discuss the month’s selection. “I enjoy introducing readers to writers and books that they may not otherwise discover,” Cash said. The club is designed to celebrate literary diversity, which, per the website, “plays a vital role in making us understood to one another, and this hope of understanding is the hinge upon which our democracy swings.” May’s selection is “Whiskey & Ribbons” by Leesa Cross-Smith.

Cash believes strongly in the power of writing and stories. He’s interested in exploring “themes of family, community responsibility, historical injustice and the powerless standing up to the powerful,” and these favorite themes are evident throughout his work.

His passion is also evident in his advocacy for libraries. When asked how he defines the role of libraries in our communities, Cash says, “In a time when facts and truth are under assault as never before, libraries are our last bastions of democracy.”

He credits libraries for supporting him throughout his life. “They have fueled my creative and professional pursuits. Libraries gave me a place to read and learn as a child, and, as an adult, they’ve given me a place to write and share my books. Groups like the Friends have made much of this possible.”

Supporting the community and ensuring that others receive the same type of support that Cash has enjoyed in his life is a primary goal for the Friends of Rowan Public Library. The volunteer nonprofit organization supports many library programs, including summer reading, activities for all ages, the annual Stories by the Millstream festival that introduces Rowan County second-graders to the power of storytelling, the annual Millstream Family Storytime, and a free concert series.

To provide this vital support, Friends members volunteer their time and energy to raise money throughout the year. Some fundraisers are ongoing, such as the literary basket sales and DVD and book rentals that are available at all library branches. The fall book sale offers the largest volunteer opportunity as it requires year-round preparation, from sorting and organizing donations to staffing the sale.

The benefits of a Friends membership include admission to the annual meeting, volunteer opportunities, community engagement, admission to the book sale’s preview night, a monthly newsletter, and a book or DVD rental coupon valued at $2. While volunteering is encouraged, membership in the Friends doesn’t require it; members choose their level of involvement and activity.

For more information about the annual meeting, call 704-216-8240 or visit www.rowanpubliclibrary.org. To learn more about Cash and his work, visit www.wileycash.com.

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