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March 15, 2016

(Editor’s Note: Mary Ann Henry is the 2016 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. This is her third contribution to this blog.)

One of the unexpected bonuses of coming to Fayetteville – and I truly I did not expect this – was that I was surrounded by amazing people in a progressive community. These people are not just background/wallpaper to the town. They are front and center committed to making it a healthy, thriving, fun community. And it is a community in the truest sense.

Little old southern flower that I am, in the first two weeks, I caught the flu, a horrible one and, because I had decided to take the train North from South Carolina, I was sick, alone, without transportation and, oh, by the way, how could I get medical care?

Cathedral Cafe owner Wendy Bayes

It so happened that my first week here, I went to Poetry, Prose and Plainsong at The Grove where I met poets, writers and fans of writing. A few of them were kind (and foolish) enough to give me their cards and say, ‘If you ever need anything…’.

In the throes of a high fever and, yes, delirium, I went through that stack of cards. And, in a flash I had a ride to a Doc in a Box (thank you Mary Ann Roberts) and the next day to get the Meds (thank you, Meredith Gregg). But, throughout my stay, the hospitality has flowed. In a beautiful way.

Haynes Mansfield and Elizabeth Morton

Wendy at Cathedral Cafe, is an amazing woman who both gives me the local discount on the delectable foods at the cafe (hint: the Berry Cobbler is divine) but understands a woman’s Real Needs and drove me to Calabrea, where Laura worked magic with my hair.

Elizabeth and Haynes at Vandal’s Kitchen not only hosted my Writer’s Reception, they have welcomed me like family every time I walked in the door. Elizabeth is now taking the business on, on her own, and I’m thrilled for her and for Haynes’ exciting, new, career directions.

Secret Sandwich owner Lewis Rhinehart

Lewis at Secret Sandwich Society is a wizard. He pulls the literary community together, runs a successful cafe, a fun bar,
and makes the world’s best Gourmet Grilled Cheese in the World (the Churchill).

Fayetteville artists Meredith Gregg and Ginger Danz

Meredith Gregg and Ginger Danz, gifted artists that they are, manage to make the world and the town a more beautiful place with their art and their energy.

Sally Kiner, CVB Director

Sally Kiner, who directs the Visitor’s Bureau graces the town with her gentle beauty, and, on a spur of the moment, gave me a personalized tour of the historic Fayetteville Jail Museum.  A must see!

As an aficionado of real Irish pubs, I was delighted to find Maggie’s Pub
and the lovely owner, Sharon Rynard who served as chauffeur

Sharon Rynard of Maggie’s Pub

when the snow was too deep and the temperature too frigid to brave a walk back up the hill.

There are many other people I’ve met and I look forward to meeting. But one thing is certain: this is not your typical small town.

Writing is by definition a lonely experience. And, yes, we writers crave solitude. But, we still need to feel connected to the rest of humanity. Having the time to write is an incredible gift, made sweeter by the kindness extended by my new found neighbors.

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