Amy Greene will give her first reading from her third novel, “The Nature of Fire,” on Feb. 4 at 10:15 a.m. at Walters State Community College’s Morristown Campus. The reading is part of the college’s two-day Mildred Haun Conference, which celebrates Appalachian culture, literature and scholarship. The conference honors the the author of “The Hawk’s Done Gone,” considered by many to be a classic among Appalachian literature.
Greene is the bestselling author of “Bloodroot” and “Long Man.” Both are set in East Tennessee and have received critical acclaim. Greene said her new book has some similarities to earlier works, but is also much different.
“I wanted to write something about contemporary Appalachia. The story is told from the point of view of a 15-year-old girl whose parents have been killed by a chemical spill. The story has some elements of a coming-of-age story, but also deals with the impact of the spill on the community,” Greene said.
“I started this book as a woman looking back on my life. I realized that I wanted to do something set this present moment in Appalachia. Some people live in big cities and live in a bubble. I want to say this is what is happening right now.”
The idea first came to Greene while she was working on “Long Man,” which centers on a child who goes missing in the days before TVA flooded parts of the region to expand electric service.
“TVA is both a blessing and a curse. It brought power and factories, but it also made us a dumping ground.”
The book doesn’t have a release date, but Greene is working on final edits and hopes it will be published next year. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to giving a hometown crowd a sneak peek.
“I consider Walters State my home and I am very loyal. When I read this out loud, I want to be in a safe place. I want to be among friends,” Greene said. She gave her first reading from “Bloodroot” at the college several months before publication. That original manuscript with all of her editor’s notes are now stored in the R. Jack Fishman Library on the Morristown campus.
Greene also has a lot of respect for the conference’s namesake. Mildred Haun is considered among the best in Appalachian literature. Her one complete writing, “The Hawk’s Done Gone,” is often cited as critics as a classic in the genre.
Haun grew up in the Dover community, near the Hamblen and Cocke border. While critics loved her book, the community in general had a very different reaction.
“When she published the book, many people in this area were very offended. The book was very honest and many did not appreciate her depictions of East Tennessee life,” said Dr. Viki Rouse, professor of English at Walters State and one of the foremost scholars on Mildred Haun.
“The Hawk’s Done Gone” is Haun’s only work. Her family has said she wrote a second book entitled “Diamond Hill.” That book was destroyed in a fire and Haun never attempted to rewrite it.
The Mildred Haun Conference is free. For more information, visit www.ws.edu/special-events/.
Over 5,900 credit and 4,000 non-credit students attend Walters State. The college has campuses in Morristown, Greeneville, Sevierville and Tazewell. It offers over 100 associate degrees and technical certificates. Visit Walters State’s website at ws.edu.