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Ashland author readings carve wide swath

Ashland resident Molly Best Tinsley has not only launched a gripping mystery crime novel, “Things Too Big To Name,” she has also started an indie-press called FUZE, whose goal is “to launch fresh voices that otherwise would be overlooked by mainstream publishing and, believe me, there are lots of them.”

Tinsley’s mystery is not your standard crime fare, but delves into the dark recesses of the human soul based on bad things that happen in a remote woodsy cabin. It’s where a retired professor, Margaret, goes for solitude to write a memoir, but Jane, an old student of hers shows up at the door, unbidden, with a mute child.

They grow on Margaret. The ghost of Margaret’s husband (he died young) appears and enters into a dialog with her. She runs over and kills a deer. Soon, a man, Victor, appears at the cabin and “lays claim” to the visitors.

Some months later, Margaret is in an institution for the criminally insane, trying, with her shrink, to sort out and heal what happened. She, and the reader, must try to figure that out. It’s like life. Things happen. Sometimes they are too big to name. But by the end of the book, we come to grips with it all.

It’s an old saw that you should write what you know, and Tinsley is a retired professor — she taught creative writing at the Naval Academy — lives in the woods on Old 99 above Emigrant Lake, and in recent years entered the intersection of several mysterious traumas: cancer, totaling her car by hitting a large buck on the highway, and killing it, then the 2016 election.

Like her, the main character is “trying to control the narrative” of her life. She adds, “The book is pretty dark. The book wrote me, to be honest. They say there are two kinds of writers, those who fly by the seat of their pants and those who plan and outline the book. I’m a pantser. I try to find where the story is going to take me. This one kept popping surprises.”

Tinsley will do a reading and book signing at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, at Rebel Heart Books, 157 W. California St., Jacksonville. Her publishing company has published 24 authors since its inception in 2009.

Susanne Severied’s new book, “Be the Author of Your Life,” is a slim, easily readable guide to inspire and open doors for the new writer — or one who has writer’s block or other crises of confidence.

Severeid, of Ashland, who for years was a columnist with the Daily Tidings, collected her essays into a book, “Mocha Musings.” She will present a free workshop at 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Ashland library that will use her new book as a launching pad for aspiring authors.

“I hope I’ve created a useful tool, if you have a book inside you that you want to see in tangible form (not just digital), available to others,” says Severeid. “Sometimes people just get stuck, not knowing how to move forward or even how to begin.”

Her book covers both the creative process and the usually more difficult process of “getting it in concrete form so you can get it out to others,” says Severeid, who taught for eight years at University of Amsterdam.

“The most common obstacles for authors are self-created, overcoming fear of being able to simply do it. We need to be able to deal with our insecurities and allow our passion for the story we want to tell and that’s unique for us, to come out.

The blocks can be your educational background, home environment or teachers when you were growing up, she says, adding, “We will cover how to create the time and space to sit down and write and to make conscious choices, like ‘How important is this to me’ and ‘Am I willing to do what I need to do to get it done?’”

The goal, Severeid notes, is to hold the physical book in your hand, and “it’s so exciting because it’s done and real. I come from a generation where we love holding it physically, especially at home on a snowy winter night with the fire going, curled up on the couch. It’s tremendously exciting.”

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, Christopher McDougall will have a reading-signing event for his book “Running With Sherman,” the true story of his learning to be a distance runner with his donkey. You heard right — a donkey.

McDougall ran with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, legendary long-distance runners, and wrote the 2009 bestseller “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.” It sold over 3 million copies.

Sherman is a rescue donkey who was “taken from the hands of a hoarder. He hadn’t moved much in years, and we were told if he didn’t regain movement soon, he was going to die. I wondered if I could make him my jogging partner.”

The burro liked to run with humans and other donkeys, so McDougall and his wife got a couple more.

“We got to 15 miles with them and discovered a whole other weird running culture. They’re superb runners, great climbers and handle heat well,” he said in a phone interview.

By comparison, horses “fly and die, are fast but not notably steady, and not good for matching the human pace. Donkeys are steady and more rhythmic.”

McDougall asks you to remember the scene in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” where they come to a cliff with the law hot on their tail and persuade the horses to jump into a distant river. “Well, donkeys would never do that. They think for themselves and are all about self-preservation.”

McDougall, who lives in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania, was an Associated Press reporter who covered wars in Angola and Rwanda. The blurb for his book, published by Knopf, notes, “It’s part scientific exploration of the lost art of connecting with animals part rehabilitation story, part deep dive into the crazy sport that is burro racing (and the insane training required to run 15 miles with a donkey in tow), and part road trip that cuts through the best of Americana.”

McDougall will talk at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., Ashland.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Christopher McDougall and Sherman the running donkey. courtesy photo
Molly Tinsley