The Happiest City in America


Asheville, NC is a city that opens her arms wide to embrace all who enter.  Perhaps that is why Eric Weiner crowned it the happiest city in American in his book The Geography of Bliss. Well, that, and the thriving art scene, live music of every sort, and a plethora of good restaurants promoting the farm-to-table movement for its organic-minded residents. It’s also a vibrant college town, and live street performers can be found on almost every corner.

Just recently I got to stay in this cute downtown  loft, compliments of a friend of a friend for a few days with a few other friends.  Everything we needed or wanted in the form of food or entertainment was within walking distance (almost).  We shunned popular touristy attractions such as The Biltmore House and Grove Park Inn, choosing instead to immerse ourselves in the local culture.

Craft Beer Town

Who knew that Asheville was image.aspxsuch a beer city, offering 50 something local brews from nine different brewing companies.  It all started 1n 1994 in the basement of Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria.  The brewery soon outgrew its original home and relocated to a warehouse, spawning other breweries in its wake.  Natives told me that in the early 90s, pre-brewery, Asheville was pretty much a boarded up town.  Nothing happening at all. Amazing turn-around for this gem of a city.

Barley’s taproom, on Biltmore Avenue, still serves up delicious sourdough pizza and live music to a laid back crowd of all ages and all walks of life.  Loved the Mediterranean Pizza.






Good Food and Music Galore

Tupelo Honey’s, recommended by a local working at the Mast General Store, is another sensory delight.  From the black raspberry jam on melt-in-your-mouth biscuits offered gratis as an appetizer to the Sweet Potato Pancakes, this place exceeded expectations.



Asheville’s Literacy Leanings

But wait, there’s more.  Besides food and fun and street performers and art galleries, Asheville also has literary leanings.

This is the grave of Thomas Wolfe, native son, who penned Look Homeward, Angel in the 30s. The familiar expression, “you can’t go home again,” comes from this famous novel.  Based on the colorful characters of Wolfe’s boyhood in Asheville, Look Homeward caused such an uproar that the city banned its author from his hometown for a while. He seems to rest peacefully here now, though.

Seems you can go home again, after all.

The Grove Park Inn served as a writing retreat for F. Scott Fitzgerald on two separate occasions.  His wife, Zelda, perished in a fire while a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Asheville. O Henry is buried in the same cemetery as Wolfe, although he spent only the latter part of his life there, while Carl Sandburg’s old home place is just a few miles away in Flat Rock.


Top Outdoors City to Visit

Disclaimer:  I didn’t take this picture and regret that I’m unable to credit it. But isn’t it breathtaking?  Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is known for its spectacular scenery, and a five-minute car ride is all it takes to find the great outdoors and hiking trails galore.  That’s probably why it’s been named a top outdoors place to visit.

Asheville also has several other designations.  Among them:  Top 25 Art Destination for Small Towns; Most Vibrant Food City; Top Ten Dog-Friendly Resort Regions; Beer City, USA.

And let’s not forget, it’s The Happiest City in America.


Chicken Soup for My Soul


Dear Candy,
    Your story, “My Bully, My Friend” has made it to the final selection round for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls. The stories are great and this book promises     to be a classic. We are so appreciative of your participation and very exited about this book.

Huh? This email from an editor at Chicken Soup for the Soul arrived on July 9, 2013.  It references a story I submitted over a year ago — in March 2012.  As I hadn’t heard a word from Chicken Soup, I’d written that one off as a no-go.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul series launched 20 years ago to great success. The company now publishes several new themed titles each year — and openly solicits work from freelancers. Submissions couldn’t be easier, as I’d learned from a writer friend. Potential upcoming book titles are listed on their website, along with a form for submitting stories online. The writers’ guidelines will tell you that stories must be in first person, true, and 1200 words or less. Accepted stores or poems are all paid at $200, regardless of length.

I’m thrilled by the turn of events and want to share two lessons learned:

#1. Don’t expect replies from editors in a timely manner. It’s a sad fact but that’s the nature of the publishing business these days. To simplify my life somewhat, I ‘d decided to delete the email account I used for this submission.  It’s one I set up for the business of article submissions and queries, largely for record keeping and income tax purposes. But it was one more online task to remember (or forget) to do, so I’d reverted back to using my primary email for everything. Thank goodness I’m a procrastinator and  hadn’t yet gotten around to deleting the obsolete email account or I would never would have heard that somebody (who will pay me)  liked my writing. So maybe “never give up on a story”  might be another lesson learned here.

#2.  Write frequently whether it’s for intended publication or not. Keep a journal or start a blog.  “My Bully, My Friend” grew out of a piece of stream-of-consciousness writing I did soon after I left my full-time work to focus on writing. Bolstered by confidence after having it accepted, I checked out planned Chicken Soup titles. Amazed at the span of story topics being solicited, I found three book titles that seemed about right for three blog posts I already had in the cache. I’ve since submitted them, two of which were for books with a submission deadline date at the end of this month. If I hadn’t already had them in the works, no way would I have been able to finish them by the deadline. Chicken Soup will “not use stories that have been previously published except in tiny low-circulation venues,” which my blog definitely is!

Needless to say, the unexpected — and belated — acceptance was Chicken Soup for My Soul!