02/01/07 — Reading program ready for kickoff

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Reading program ready for kickoff

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 1, 2007 1:46 PM

Wayne County residents are encouraged to take a walk across Egypt in the coming weeks without leaving the comforts of home.

North Carolina writer Clyde Edgerton's book, "Walking Across Egypt," has been chosen for this year's Wayne County Reads selection.

Calling it a "good read," Wayne County Public Library director Jane Rustin said the book has a universal appeal because of its themes that are so relatable to southerners.

The book was chosen by popular community vote and covers an array of issues -- from aging and religion to food, fellowship and family, with a smattering of favorite church hymns thrown in.

Wayne County Reads has been a success since it was introduced in 2003. Each year, residents are invited to read the same book over a specified time period and attend events centered around the book's themes,

Previous selections have included "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Big Fish" and "Night."

"Walking Across Egypt" is the second novel written by Edgerton, who hails from Bethesda, a small community outside Durham. He started his writing career in 1978 and has written seven novels, two of which have been converted into movies.

Edgerton has won numerous fellowships and awards, including five notable book awards from the New York Times. He is currently a tenured professor at UNC-Wilmington.

This year's book choice is the story of 78-year-old widow Mattie Rigsbee, who is struggling with old age, regrets and loneliness when a stray dog shows up at her home and is instrumental in her making a connection with Wesley, a rebellious teenage orphan.

The book has a lighthearted and nostalgic approach, while covering some poignant and touching issues many will relate to, said Tara Humphries, a member of the program's organizing committee.

"This book is warm, with references to food and hymns that bring up memories of those visits to favorite aunts' houses we used to make on Sundays after church," she said.

In addition to the library system, other sponsors of this year's event include Wayne Community College, Mount Olive College, Wayne County Public Schools, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the Arts Council of Wayne County, Wayne County Carolina Club as well as two other new partners this year, Goldsboro Writers Group and the Wayne County Services on Aging.

Copies of the book are available through the library, as well as at Wayne Community and Mount Olive college bookstores and Books A Million.

This year's accompanying events officially kick off Monday, Feb. 12, with a talk about southern foods and literature. Other plans include book discussions, a showing of the movie, presentations on humor and an essay contest. The effort wraps up on Monday, March 5, with a program highlighting the book's recurring themes.

The public is invited to participate in an essay contest and "Recipes and Memories" project.

Winning entries in the essay contest will be judged and selected by the Goldsboro Writers Club and read at the March 5 finale event.

Entitled "I Believe," essay entries are due by Friday, Feb. 16, at the library. Adults over 18 years old are asked to write a statement of their personal beliefs, while youths 18 and under will write an essay explaining Mattie's main belief using her first person voice or, alternately, Wesley's beliefs and what they will become as he grows and changes under Mattie's influence.

"You have seen through reading 'Walking Across Egypt' how Mattie's life expresses her beliefs. Tell us what you believe, not what you don't believe," said Margaret Boothe Baddour, essay contest director. "Make your essay about you."

All entries should be positive, citing personal examples, she added. Length is limited to 350 words and all entries should include a cover sheet with name, address, phone number and title. Names should not be written on the actual essay to preserve anonymity during judging.

"Recipes and Memories" will be collected for a commemorative cookbook that will be published after this year's project has ended, organizers said.

Favorite recipes and memories that dish conjures up can be submitted to Wayne County Reads Recipes c/o WCC Library, P.O. Box 8002, Goldsboro, N.C. 27533-8002 or e-mailed to wcc-library@waynecc.edu. Submissions must be typed or printed and include name, address and phone number.

There is also a Web site set up by the library with further information about the upcoming events. The link can be found at www.wcpl.org.

The calendar of events thus far includes the following:

*Monday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in Goldsboro High School auditorium, Dr. Mary Ellis Gibson, a professor of English at UNC-Greensboro, will speak about the book and others like it that have focused on southern foods and the tradition of eating together.

*Friday, Feb. 16: Deadline for essay contest entries

*Sunday, Feb. 18, 1:30 p.m. in Gertrude Weil Auditorium at Wayne County Public Library, "Walking Across Egypt" movie will be shown with commentary by Bill Brettmann of Wayne Community College.

*Monday, Feb. 18 in the Hennessee Room of the Lois Murphy Center at Mount Olive College, Dorothy Whitley, associate professor of English and dean of the College of Professional Studies, will lead a discussion of the book.

*Friday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. in Gertrude Weil Auditorium of the library, storyteller and humorist Kelly Swanson will present "Mamma and the Prom, Daddy's Talking Fish ... and Other Reasons I Need Therapy," a program of southern humor for adults.

*Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m. at library, Ms. Swanson will present "You Can't Put Lipstick on a Chicken," a program of humor geared for children.

*Monday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. in Courtroom 1 of the Wayne County Courthouse, Harry Watson, professor of U.S. and Southern history at UNC-Chapel Hill and director of the Center for the Study of the American South, will speak on "Aging in the South: Reverence and Grace."

*Monday, March 5, 7 p.m. at the Arts Council, "Good for the Soul," vocal and dance performances and a sing- along of hymns from the book, Southern dishes featured in the book, a photo exhibit of down home scenes and reading of the winning essays.