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Local Book Review: Wanda Fries latest - Ash Grove

Somerset Community college Professor publishes Appalachian-based novel "Ash Grove," with a cover by Adair County native and SCC professor Cindy Burton. Click on headline for full review/story and photo(s)
The official launch of Ash Grove will be held at Art at the Vineyard in Somerset, Kentucky 11am-6pmET/10am/5pmCT, Saturday, September 8, 2012 at Cedar Creek Vineyards, 294 Cedar Creek Lane, Somerset, KY

By Allison Horseman

SOMERSET, KY (September 5, 2012) - When Somerset Community College (SCC) professor of English Wanda Fries first put pen to paper many years ago, she was creating what would eventually become Ash Grove, her first published novel.

The novel began around 1989, said Fries, but sat in her drawer until recently. Last year, Fries received a grant from the Cooper Foundation to publish her book of poetry entitled Cassandra Among the Greeks. The success of that venture pushed Fries to take Ash Grove out of hiding and it was published by a small publishing company and has been receiving rave reviews.

Lee Smith, noted Appalachian author of 12 novels and four short stories, wrote, "Fries goes straight for the heart in Ash Grove, a beautifully written account of lost love and terrible secrets in an Appalachian mining town. Both gritty and poetic, real and transcendent, Ash Grove is a literary page-turner, heralding a major new talent. Wanda Fries writes from deep within the contemporary culture of Appalachia, and she gets it all just exactly right."

According to Fries, the novel is loosely based on the experiences she had after marrying her husband Denny, who was working as a geologist with a coal company, and moving to Middlesboro, Kentucky. In the town, a rumor spread about how a local man murdered his wife. Although nothing was proven, Fries was fascinated with the story. In addition, her grandparents were both miners and she was born in a coal camp near Harlan. Some of those childhood fascinations are woven within the book, she said.

"I've always been interested in the tension that exists between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots,'" said Fries, who spent the majority of her life in Somerset and graduated from Pulaski County High School and Somerset Community College. "That struggle comes to life in this book, which is a love affair between the son of the coal operator and the daughter of a simple coal miner."

With two books published in the past two years, Fries said she's ready to keep going but has a different outlook on being a published author than she did at a younger age.

"I don't expect to be rich and famous," she said. "I take more pride in knowing that people read my work and enjoy it. It's not the final product that I find joy in; it's the work. But having a book is important. After all these years of publishing in journals, I finally feel comfortable telling others that yes, I am a writer."

The third book and second novel by Fries is scheduled for release in the spring and is entitled In the Absence of Angels. Her fourth book is in the works, she said, and will be about William Blake's wife. Fries is currently conducting research for that novel.

Wanda Fries website:

This story was posted on 2012-09-06 08:03:12
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Ash Grove Cover designed by Adair Co. native Cindy Burton

2012-09-06 - Somerset, KY - Photo by Allison Horseman. SCC photo.

The cover for the book was designed by Cindy Burton, assistant professor of visual communications at Somerset Community College and a native of Adair County, KY. The launch of Ash Grove, the new Appalachian-based novel by SCC Professor Wanda Fries, is 11am-6pmET/10am/5pmCT, Saturday, September 8, 2012 at Cedar Creek Vineyards, 294 Cedar Creek Lane, Somerset, KY. -Allison Horseman, Somerset Community College, Somerset, KY

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