After forty years of satisfying careers in teaching, marketing and public relations, I decided to follow my body parts and head south into retirement. I’d always imagined living in a log cabin in the mountains, so I unleashed my inner Heidi and drove to southern Appalachia where I’ve lived for ten years. It’s been an adventure, one that I had to document in my first book, Real Country: From the Fast Track to Appalachia. A fellow writer who is a native of the North Carolina mountains warned me not to put my picture or real name on the book because, “Them boys will burn you out.” I’ve since learned she’s prone to hyperbole, but I used a pen name.
I was born and raised in New Jersey and lived in the Washington, D.C. area for twenty years before this latest, and what I hope will be the last, move. My spouse and I live in a log cabin in a mountain holler surrounded by the best that nature has to offer. Most of our immediate neighbors are also transplants. The local residents down the dirt road are pleasant but rather reserved. We wave and occasionally chat about weather, but it’s clear we’re regarded as ‘foreigners.’ There’s a clear delineation between the ‘been heres’ and the ‘come heres’ in this part of Appalachia, but we share a love of the mountains.
Our urban backgrounds weren’t much help when we arrived. Despite three years of bluegrass banjo lessons that I’d hoped would help me adjust to this part of the South, I still faced challenges with the language, food and customs. But now, I’ve become so accustomed to this bucolic rural life that I dread going back to the metropolitan areas where I used to live. Being retired certainly accounts for some of my new relaxed state, but the slower pace of life in the region plays a major role. I’ve pretty much gotten over ignoring strangers and charging into stores intent on getting out without having to speak to anyone. Once in a while I still grow impatient when someone takes twenty minutes to get to the point of what they want to say, but I’ve learned to wait politely and smile. Depending on what they finally say, I might even reply with a heartfelt ‘Bless your heart.’
At age seven I penned a newsletter that antagonized half the neighbors in my New Jersey neighborhood, and writing has been part of my life ever since. I’ve been a columnist, speechwriter, ghostwriter and anything else that allowed me to earn a living. I still write because I need to, but now it’s for my own satisfaction and enjoyment. That’s so much more fun. Since moving to the Southern mountains I’ve found my muse. I’ve written three novels and several essays that appear in a variety of anthologies. I’m honored to have received awards for my books and am certain that I could not have written them in any other place. I use my real name now. www.lissabrownwrites.com