April 2019 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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The Origin Project: Children Telling Appalachian Stories

Every people has to have its own stories…
If we don’t have our own stories then we don’t have our own soul:
we don’t have our own deepest possession, which is ourselves and our own unfolding…
Unless we cherish and savour our own [stories],
then we’re not going to know who we are and…we’ll become strangers to ourselves…
We’ve got to hold up a mirror to ourselves and create our own stories.
                                                                        ~ Leonard N Cohen

Writing is a valuable, sometimes vital, tool in human endeavour. 

Story writing is a particular talent: the memorialisation of personal experiences, tales, and narratives bequeathed by family or friends, teachers or mentors. 

The Origin Project is an in-school writing program co-founded by best-selling author and film director Adriana Trigiani and myself, an education advocate and long-time friend. It sprouted six years ago from the idea that Appalachia’s stories are national treasures, and its children should celebrate their roots. Our program inspires young people to discover and liberate their inner voices through the craft of writing about their unique origins; it celebrates diversity and inclusion. The Origin Project provides young people with the literary tools and confidence to harvest their unique heritages; it galvanizes their curiosity about, and respect for, each other.

Left: Adriana Trigiani standing on stage at the Barter Theater with an audience full of school children. Center: Three 4th-grade students holding Cynthia Rylant's book and copies of the school project lap books. Right: Adriana Trigiani posing with a young student in the Barter Theater.
Left and right: Adri and The Origin Project students at the Barter Theatre Kickoff Celebration in 2018. Center: Flatwoods Elementary School 4th-grade reading students with lap books made in response to When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant. Photographs courtesy of Linda Woodward

Starting from 40 students in Big Stone Gap, Adri’s hometown, The Origin Project has grown organically to serve more than 1,500 students in 17 schools. We regularly import renowned authors – so far, David Baldacci, Meg Wolitzer, Margot Lee Shetterly, Mary Hogan, and Laurie Eustis – to meet with the students and share their personal writing experiences. 

Each fall, our students are given a personal journal and thereafter work on multiple projects or stories that speak of and to their heritage. Their work is professionally published at the end of the year in an anthology, presented to each student and made available in school and public libraries. The Origin Project is integrated with the Virginia Standards of Learning curriculum and collaborates with each student at her/his skill level to conceive, develop, and hone ideas into short stories, poems, plays, interviews, or other art.

The cover of The Origin Project Book Four (2018), which looks like a stained glass view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Origin Project Book Four, published May 2018. Photograph courtesy of Linda Woodward

It is a joyful surprise to read our students’ work, witness their growth, and observe the budding of their self-esteem. Through their creative writing with The Origin Project, our students “hold up a mirror” to themselves and thereby reclaim their “own deepest possession”: themselves and their “own unfolding.”

When Adri asked me to join her in founding The Origin Project, I had never been to Appalachia; upon my arrival, I even mispronounced its name. Over the past six years, I have fallen in love with the rolling blue mountains framing this extraordinary place that is home to magical people with unique stories to tell. Listening to students share tales of their heritage – of celebrations of Mamaws and Papaws and of personal successes and heartaches – has enriched my own life. I believe other readers of our annual anthologies experience similar reactions. Virginia has become my home-away-from-home.

Nancy sitting in a rocking chair in a school classroom, surrounded by 2nd-grade students as she reads to them.
Reading Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away by Ketch Secor to Flatwoods Elementary School 2nd graders. Photograph courtesy of Linda Woodward

Last year The Origin Project embarked on a collaboration with the Birthplace of Country Music. We brought a group of our students to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum to tour For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, a temporary special exhibit made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mid-America Arts Alliance. The experience provided a unique opportunity for our young writers to discover, through imagery portraying eye-opening events, some of the history of the Civil Rights movement in Appalachia and beyond. As Head Curator René Rodgers guided and informed our students, we learned that much of what was portrayed in this exquisite exhibit was rarely read or discussed in their curriculum. The culmination of the visit to the museum was a poetry workshop led by Langley Shazor, poet and president of The Casual Word. Langley provided the students with typewriters to drop them into the timeframe of the exhibit, and after a lesson on how to operate them, the students created emotional, profound poems that will be published in this year’s anthology.

Left: Langley Shazor, wearing a cloth cap, and Rene Rodgers, in a plaid flannel shirt, standing in front of the opening panel to For All the World to See (a picture of Gordon Parks with his camera). Right: Langley stands behind several students working on typewriter's in the museum's Learning Center.
Left: Langley Shazor and René Rodgers talk to The Origin Project students about For All the World to See and using the exhibit’s visual imagery for inspiration. Right: Students use old-fashioned typewriters to tap into their creativity after visiting the exhibit. Photographs courtesy of Linda Woodward

In the weeks ahead, we look forward to exposing as many of our students as possible to Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature, another temporary special exhibit on loan from the East Tennessee Historical Society and currently on display at the museum – one that will provide a priceless opportunity for them to “walk into the pages of a story of childhood in Appalachia!”

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Origin Project Book Five, we are busy planning five unveilings to celebrate the creations of our published authors. We are thrilled and excited to hold one of these events at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in May. We are deeply grateful to these new partners and friends, and look forward to many collaborations in the future!

Lights! Camera! Wynonna!

Cool Bristol Rhythm ’19 Playlist included!

Every year we try to come up with new and exciting ways to announce the lineup for Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. We always throw a big press conference, and look forward to sharing the news with the world. This year we produced a fun video listing the top headliners, and got several of our staff members and volunteers involved.

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2019 Lineup Announcement Video. Share!

We worked with the amazing team at Loch & Key Productions to produce the video. They are a top-notch crew based in Knoxville, and they work with a number of other great festivals like Bonnaroo and Forecastle. We have had the pleasure of working with them for several years at Bristol Rhythm, and they always come up with creative and fun ideas. Shooting in local hair salons was their concept, and we totally went for it!

(L) Shooting the first scene. “Wynonna” enters salon. With a guitar. Maybe she’s thinking of an impromptu sing along? (R) Marty (Paige Cook) and Wynonna ready to duet.

Call time for our first scene came early – 6:45 a.m. We met up at Salon Remington in Historic Downtown Bristol where owner Lelia Matney and her glam squad graciously moved appointments so we shoot in her shop. This was where our make-believe Wynonna would be getting her hair done. Several scenes were shot in this location and much of our staff got into the act!

There is but a fabulous few so inherently iconic that they are instantly recognized by a single name. In country music, that list is short and sweet: Dolly, Reba, and Wynonna. Body positive before it was cool, Wynonna has always impressed me as a strong and triumphant spirit. I was stoked to get to trot around Bristol in a long, red wig (the color of my own red hair isn’t as brilliant) and pretend!

(Top L) This day we learned our Executive Director Leah Ross has had some experience as a shampoo girl! She used to work in her sister’s salon! (Top R) Our Graphic Designer Hannah Holmes ended up needing a shampoo after this scene. So. Much. Hair Spray! (Bottom L) Erika Barker, our Sales & Business Development Manager, and Terry Napier, 2019 Bristol Rhythm Festival Chair. He refused to let her trim the beard. (Bottom R) Toni Doman is our grant writer and also does a shift on Radio Bristol; Tracey Childress is our “Director of First Impressions.” They are totally method acting here.

After leaving Salon Remington, a few scenes were shot at various locations downtown. It was meant to look like Wynonna and our pretend Marty Stuart were strolling around on their way to get haircuts. We didn’t necessarily stop traffic, but we did get a few odd looks from curious folks. Even in costume we weren’t allowed to reveal our fictional identities for fear that it would ruin the announcement!

(Top) Our “extras” included our Music Committee Chairman Brent Treash. (Bottom) Scotty Almany was our St. Paul stand-in.

After lunch we moved production to Rockin’ Ruby Salon, where owners Misti Maples and Tonya Galloway rolled out the red carpet for the crew. The interior of this salon is so cool and retro, just the type of place where we envision Marty getting his hair did.

I cast my friend Paige Duncan in the role as Marty because she naturally has some beautiful silver streaks in her hair. However, we ended up using a wig in the off-chance we’d need to shoot extra scenes when she wasn’t going to be available. At the end of the day, we had a great time and made a fun video of which we are all proud.

Thank you to our friends at Salon Remington and Rockin’ Ruby for letting us shoot in their awesome businesses! We hope the next time you’re in need of a new “do” you’ll check them out!

Can’t wait for the festival? Check out our fun Bristol Rhythm 2019 Spotify playlist in the mean time! And feel free to share with friends!

An Out-of-this-World Farm and Fun Time!

April’s Farm and Fun Time kicked off the fourth season of our popular monthly show! Thanks to our sponsor Eastman Credit Union, Radio Bristol was able to bring Farm and Fun Time not only to those in the audience or tuned in to WBCM-LP, but to viewers far and wide via Facebook Live. Be sure to like WBCM – Radio Bristol on Facebook to tune in every month!

Host band Bill and the Belles kicked off the show blending sounds old and new in their much-loved way, while this month’s “Heirloom Recipe” segment was presented by Grant Hall. Grant’s father purchased the world-famous Dip Dog stand in 1963, and Grant has owned the storied restaurant since 1979. While the actual Dip Dog Recipe is top secret, Grant told our audience that perhaps Dip Dog is not so much about the Dip Dog itself, but about the memories folks make while enjoying them. To commemorate the Dip Dog – which IS NOT a corn dog, by the way – Bill and the Belles wrote and performed a catchy jingle.

Left: Bill and the Belles -- bass, fiddle, guitar, and banjo players -- gather round the mic on stage; Grant Hall, dressed in a checked top, talks into the mic during his "Heirloom Recipe" story.
Bill and the Belles brought their foot-tapping tunes to Farm and Fun Time, while Grant Hall shared stories and memories of everyone’s favorite Dip Dog. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Our first musical guest of the evening was Kansas City, Missouri’s The Matchsellers, a band that blends hard-driving bluegrass with all the grit intact – with science fiction storytelling. The Matchsellers are space travelers from the year 2437, and they took our audience through a lesson on the history of the future, including the Apocalypse of 2137. Beginning with their sensational “Bluegrastronauts,” a song that tells the story of Bluegrass Pioneers on a cosmic journey, The Matchsellers had our initially reluctant audience rolling with laughter. To cap off their unique set, band members donned bird masks while performing a piece about the similarities between pigeons and doves. This hilarious, high-energy performance was only the start to the outstanding evening of music to follow.

Left: A close up of the banjo (man with a beard and glasses) and guitar (woman with glasses in a red top) players of The Matchsellers. Top right: A close up of the fiddler (woman in a grey top and sunglasses) and the guitar player at the mic. Bottom right: Full band, with the fiddler and the bass (woman in a grey top) players wearing pigeon/dove masks.
The Matchsellers charmed the Farm and Fun Time audience with their quirky songs! © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Turning to green thumbs, this month’s “ASD Farm Report” showcased TNT Farm N Greenhouse in Meadowview, Virginia. Here’s a video from our visit:

Our next musical guests of the evening were the Chatham Rabbits, a husband-and-wife duo brought together through music. Austin McCombie and Sarah Osborne McCombie have performed across the country, travelling in a van with their hound dog Ruby. Playing original compositions that pay homage to the old-time tradition, Chatham Rabbits put on a moving performance that included “Blue Ridge Mountain Home” and “Heat of the Day,” songs evoking the timeless struggles and triumphs of the common people of the American South and beyond. In performance music, it is easy to lose the element of human connection, but Chatham Rabbits maintained a strong connection with the Farm and Fun Time audience. The openness Sarah and Austin displayed about transitioning from regular 9-to-5 work to full-time music-making and the difficulties that go with that made their final song, “The Good Things (Outweigh the Bad),” seem like the only appropriate conclusion to their set.

Two close ups of Sarah and Austin McCombie singing together at the mic. He plays the guitar and wears a striped top and black cowboy-style hat, and she plays the banjo and wears a red/orange top and glasses.
The musical chemistry of the Chatham Rabbits made their time on stage a real pleasure for the Farm and Fun Time crowd. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Our last musical guest of the evening was the Becky Buller Band. This all-star band led by Grammy-winning songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Becky Buller was a fitting end to this wonderful night of music. In addition to a number of her own original songs, Becky performed classics such as Don Reno and Red Smiley’s “Country Boy Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the classic fiddle tune “Carroll County Blues.” Playing guitar with Becky was ETSU’s Professor Dan Boner, the director of the university’s renowned Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program. The band performed Dan’s recent highly acclaimed song “West of West Virginia,” and they followed up this heavy piece about the outward migration of Appalachians to the industrialized north with the light-hearted “Mr. Nedski,” a commercial encouraging our Farm and Fun Time audience to visit the merchandise table after the show – though the audience surely didn’t need much more encouragement than the stellar set that preceded it!

Left: The full Becky Buller band, including mandolin, bass, guitar, and banjo players and Becky Buller on the fiddle. Center: A close up of Becky Buller singing into the mic. Right: The Becky Buller band taking a selfie on stage.
The Becky Bueller Band brought a wonderful end to a very special night of music – and they enjoyed it just as much as the people on their feet in the audience! © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Thanks to everyone who came out and helped make April’s Farm and Fun Time another successful evening of fun and music! Tickets are on sale for May’s Farm and Fun Time featuring Davina and the Vagabonds and Hoot and Holler, and host band Bill and the Belles. We hope to see you there!

Pick 5: Welcome Spring and Easter Treats!

For our “Pick 5” blog series, we ask members of the Radio Bristol team to pick five songs within a given theme – from heartsongs to murder ballads and everything in between! Once they pick their “5,” they get the chance to tell us more about why they chose those songs. With a diverse staff of knowledgeable DJs, we’re sure to get some interesting song choices, which might introduce you to some new music, all easily accessible by tuning into Radio Bristol! This month’s “Pick 5” is by Josh Littleton, Radio Bristol Engineer & Technical Administrator and host of Early Morning Americana each weekday from 7am to 9am.

As the year rolls along and the winter season comes to a close, we all long for the warmer, longer days of spring. The arrival of spring means birds chirping, flowers blooming, and hopping bunnies, which make us think of everyone’s favorite rabbit-related holiday, EASTER! However, Easter means so much more than just the Easter Bunny! That’s right: I’m talking about Easter egg hunts, Easter ham, Easter lilies, and Easter chocolate and jellybeans galore. And so, in the spirit of the season, my Pick 5 theme will be devoted to all things Easter!

“Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog,” Johnny Cash

Written by J. Clement, Johnny Cash released this version of “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog” in 1966 on the album Everybody Loves a Nut. Curiously, the album was released on May 1, only days after the Easter holiday had passed. A slow, melodic number with instrumentation to match the lyrics contained within, this song gives quite the opposite impression of what we think spring should sound like.

“Rabbit in the Log,” Jimmy Martin & Ralph Stanley

Written by P. Kirby, Jimmy Martin and Ralph Stanley came together for the first time to release an album unsurprisingly titled First Time Together. The album included classics like “In the Pines” and “Roll On Buddy Roll On,” but it also included “Rabbit in the Log,” which sadly doesn’t end well for the rabbit (spoiler alert: it’s cooked over the fire!).

“Chocolate Jesus,” Tom Waits

Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan wrote the song “Chocolate Jesus” as a nod to the commoditization of religion. It was released in 1999 as part of the album Mule Variations. As you would expect from Tom Waits, this song serves up a heavy dose of sarcasm and contradiction.

“I Found My Yellow Basket,” Ella Fitzgerald

Written by Ella Fitzgerald and Van Alexander, “I Found My Yellow Basket” has an incredibly classic and uplifting feel. Ella sings: “Was it red, Was it blue, No No No, just a little yellow basket,” but don’t worry because your Easter basket can be whatever color you like!

“Needle in a Haystack,” The Velvelettes

Written by Norman Whitfield and William Stevenson, the great Motown number “Needle in a Haystack” was released in 1964. You might be wondering what this song has to do with Easter. It’s because Easter eggs are like a good man, they’re “…like finding a needle in a haystack”!


Ken Burns’ Country Music Comes to Bristol

Ken Burns, one of the most acclaimed documentary makers in America, knows how to tell a story. He and his team have dug deep into the histories and stories of several important subjects – from national parks, baseball, and jazz to the Civil War, the Central Park Five, and the Vietnam War, and more. And now he has turned his clear vision to the story of country music!

On Sunday, March 24, Burns along with his Emmy Award-winning creative team including producers Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey, arrived in Bristol on a large tour bus to kick off the promotion for this latest documentary: Country Music. As the bus arrived at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, they were also joined by Old Crow Medicine Show’s frontman Ketch Secor, whose love of the history of country music made him a frequent collaborator with the team.

The Ken Burns' Country Music bus, wrapped in an image of four musicians to promote the documentary, pulls up to the front door of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Ken Burns kicked off the national road show for his documentary on country music at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum;
photographer: Earl Neikirk Music a Film

The kick-off event at the museum was the start of a 30-city road show tour promoting the 8-episode, 16-hour series that begins airing on September 15. The film explores the questions “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from?” while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating trailblazers who created and shaped it — from The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, and Bob Wills to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, and many more — as well as the times in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of the hardships and joys shared by everyday people.

Left: Leah Ross and Ken Burns pose in front of the Ken Burns' Country Music bus; Right: Ketch Secor, Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan, and Julie Dunfey pose in front of the bus as they point at the PBS logo.
Left: BCM Executive Director Leah Ross welcomes Burns to Bristol. The excitement of the day is written on their faces! Right: Ketch Secor, Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan, and Julie Dunfey. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum; photographer: Earl Neikirk

The 1927 Bristol Sessions are featured in the first two episodes of the series, as the documentary starts with the early recordings of what was then called “hillbilly music,” including those in Bristol by producer Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Peer saw the commercial viability of artists like Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, who first recorded in Bristol in 1927, along with the continuing impact of Ernest “Pop” Stoneman, who he had worked with before. A portion of Episode 3 also includes the Stanley Brothers from Clintwood, Virginia, and the Farm and Fun Time radio show, which was broadcast from Bristol in the 1940s and 1950s. The Stanley Brothers were frequent performers on that show.

During his time at the museum, Burns and his team took a private tour of the exhibits, led by Head Curator Rene Rodgers, which was followed by a reception in the museum’s Special Exhibits Gallery. They also provided a real treat for the event attendees: a short screening with a clip from the film and an in-depth Q&A session, led by Radio Bristol producer Kris Truelsen, and filled with lively conversation and inside insights from Burns, Duncan, Dunfey, and Secor.

Left: Rene Rodgers talks to Ken Burns in front of one of the museum exhibits; Right: Dayton Duncan points out something on one of the museum exhibit panels to Ketch Secor.
Head Curator Rene Rodgers gave a tour of the museum to Ken Burns and his entire team. Producer Dayton Duncan got the chance to talk with Ketch Secor about the 1927 Bristol Sessions in the museum exhibits. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum; photographer: Earl Neikirk

Within the filmmaking process, Duncan noted: “We discovered that country music isn’t – and never was – one type of music; it actually is many styles. It sprang from diverse roots, and it sprouted many branches. What unites them all is the way the music connects personal stories and elemental experiences with universal themes that every person can relate to. And as it evolved, from the bottom up, it created a special bond between the artists and fans that is unique among all other musical genres.”

A view of the Q&A panel from the back of the room showing the crowded theater with the listening audience.
The Q&A session at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum held the audience’s rapt attention as they learned more about the making of the film and the topics covered. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum; photographer: Earl Neikirk

A Ken Burns’ documentary is a work of many years, and that time, research, and attention to detail is always apparent in the finished film. Burns’ team conducted over 100 interviews with artists like Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Jack White, Elvis Costello and many more. Twenty of the film’s interview subjects have since died, including Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley, and Little Jimmy Dickens. The team also looked through over 100,000 photographs and 700 hours of archival footage. There are also around 600 music cues in the film, and Legacy Records will release a comprehensive music set to accompany the film’s airing. We were fortunate and honored to play a small part in the team’s early research, including helping to facilitate some filming with a local collector.

Several members of the BCM staff pose with Ken Burns and his creative team in front of a branded backdrop with the logos for BCM, the museum, Bristol Rhythm &  Roots Reunion, and Radio Bristol.
Members of the BCM Team take a picture with Ken Burns,
Julie Dunfey, Dayton Duncan, and Ketch Secor. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum; photographer: Earl Neikirk

If you are as excited as we are to see the full film, then start planning your nights in with the TV now! The first four episodes will begin airing on Sunday, September 15 and run through Wednesday, September 18, and then episodes 5–8 will air the following week on Sunday, September 22 through Wednesday, September 25 at 8:00–10:00 p.m. ET. Country Music will also be on Blu-ray and DVD in September 2019 from PBS Distribution at www.shopPBS.org, and available as a digital download. The DVD and Blu-ray extras include a preview program, a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, and material gleaned from the hours of interviews.

To view the official trailer of the film, visit https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music.

A close-up showing Ken Burns signing the Green Board with a dry-erase marker, and then a detail of what he wrote: "So moving! Ken Burns".
Ken Burns signing the Green Board at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. © Birthplace of Country Music Museum; photographer: Earl Neikirk

Radio Bristol Book Club: Bridge to Terabithia

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Inspired by the museum’s current special exhibit – Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature – readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library are coming together each month to celebrate and explore one book featured in the exhibit. We invite you to read along and then listen in on the 4th Thursday of each month at 11—11:30am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Four images of the Reading Appalachia exhibit:
Far left: The opening panels bearing the exhibit's name and images of children in Appalachia.
Middle left: A little girl looking with delight on one of the life-size character cutouts: a bear!
Middle right: A long view of the gallery showing many of the exhibit panels and character cut-outs.
Right: A pile of books in the Story Corner of the exhibit.
The Reading Appalachia special exhibit is a wonderland of characters and stories for kids and adults alike, and it gives us a whole host of books to choose from for book club! © Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Our first on-air discussion on March 28, featuring Sounder by William H. Armstrong, was a great start to Radio Bristol Book Club. After the discussion group – including Amy Kimani and Ambrea Baumgardner from the Bristol Public Library and René Rodgers and Mary Geiger from the museum – got through our initial jitters about talking live on the radio, the conversation flowed as we explored our reactions to the book and talked through the author’s use of language and storytelling devices. And as die-hard readers, we had no trouble filling the whole half hour!

Our next Radio Bristol Book Club book is Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, which we will be discussing on-air on Thursday, April 25. Many of us will remember reading Bridge to Terabithia in middle school, and in turn, we will remember both the wonderful storytelling and the gut-wrenching impact this book had on us. It is a book about friendship and imagination, tracing an arc between the two from the first day that fifth-grader Jess Aarons meets Leslie Burke to their creation of a fantastical land together. But Bridge to Terabithia is so much more than that – for those who haven’t read it yet, I’ll avoid spoilers, but needless to say, it is also a story about love and loss, and the strength, hope, and resilience needed to cope with those two things.

Three covers of Bridge to Terabithia:
Left: The two children in the woods with Jess leaning against a huge tree and Leslie at his feet reading a book on the tree's roots.
Middle: The two children swinging across the gorge to the imaginary Terabithia.
Right: The two children walking in the deep woods with a dog.

The many covers of Bridge to Terabithia over the years capture the power of imagination, a central theme of the book.

Katherine Paterson lived in China as a child but settled in the hills and valleys of North Carolina, West Virginia, and finally Virginia when her family moved back to America during World War II; her time as a student at King College also gave her direct ties to Bristol. She has written numerous books, including 16 for children and young people. Two of her books – Bridge to Terabithia (1978) and Jacob Have I Loved (1981) – have won the Newbery Medal, an award honoring the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” She was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000.

We hope you will read – or reread – Bridge to Terabithia for yourself, and then join us for our on-air conversation about the book later this month. You can pick up a copy at your favorite local bookstore or stop by the Bristol Public Library and check out a copy today! The librarians at the library will be happy to help you find a copy of the book in any format that suits you best, from book to audiobook, and even e-books.

Make plans to listen live at 11:00am on Thursday, April 25 for Radio Bristol Book Club! And most importantly, happy reading!