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The Whole Nation Looks at 3 North Carolina Connected Authors

Three recent books with North Carolina connections have gained national recognition. You should certainly know about them.

Tim Gautreaux is widely admired in our state’s literary community. For instance, popular Hillsborough author Lee Smith, writing about Gautreaux’s latest book, “The Missing,” said, “I have just finished, biting my nails and staying up almost all night to do so—-surely the best rip-roaring old fashioned truly American page-turner ever written! No way to say how much I admire that book. Got your attention?”

“The Missing,” like Smith’s “The Last Girls,” is set on a riverboat that travels along the Mississippi River.

But it is not the same kind of book.

Smith’s characters are contemporary middle-aged women on a luxury tourist ship remembering their college river rafting venture down the river.

Gautreaux’s tale, set in post World War I times, is dark and violent, featuring a kidnapped child and outlaw families living on swampy, nearly deserted lands near the river.

Gautreaux grew up in Louisiana’s Cajun country and has spent most of his life writing about his home state and teaching there.

So what is his North Carolina connection? His wife grew up in Raeford, and since Hurricane Katrina they have divided their time between Louisiana and a home in Ashe County. Gautreaux will be the guest on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch on Sunday at noon (February 3) and Thursday (February 7) at 5 p.m.

Three North Carolina-connected books made the New York Times “100 Notable Books-2012” list. The only non-fiction sports-related book on the list is “American Triumvirate Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf.” Its author, James Dodson, is the editor of “O. Henry” and PineStraw” magazines and is an award-winning writer-in-residence at The Pilot in Southern Pines.

Snead, Nelson, and Hogan dominated professional golf in the years surrounding World War II. Ironically, all were born in 1912, and their stories, as told by Dodson, are intertwined and poignant.

Dodson says these three are responsible for the popular professional golf game that we know today. (February 10, 14)

One of North Carolina’s most successful and admired business leaders grew up in unbelievably oppressive circumstances in China during the Cultural Revolution. Starved, beaten, denied basic education, she survived and has prevailed. She tells this story of her challenging pathway to success in this country in her new book, “Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds.”

The book’s title comes from advice from Ping Fu’s “Shanghai Papa,” who told her, “Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times. . . . Your ability to thrive depends, in the end, on your attitude to your life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly.”

Ping Fu is the founder and CEO of Morrisville-based Geomagic. It develops 3D software that makes possible the exact duplication of 3D objects using small machines called 3D printers. In 2005, Inc. Magazine named her Entrepreneur of the Year. A few weeks ago, Geomagic was acquired by one of its customers.

As “Bend, Not Break” moves on to the national bestseller lists, it will inspire readers and draw scrutiny from some skeptics who may find Ping Fu’s journey too amazing to be real. (February 17, 21)

Finally, are you wondering what other North Carolina connected books made the New York Times Notable Books list? They are Ben Fountain’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” set in Texas Stadium in Dallas, with a halftime performance by Beyonce, just in time for Super Bowl reading, and Wiley Cash’s “A Land More Kind than Home,” set in Madison County.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage.

A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch. 

Bookwatch Classics (programs from earlier years) airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). This week’s (February 6) guest is David Cecelski author of “The Waterman’s Song.”

http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/the-whole-nation-looks-at-3-north-carolina-connected-authors/

Innovation. What do you mean?

“Innovation is the key.”

We are hearing these words of wisdom all the time, aren’t we?

And we nod our heads in agreement, remembering our pocket computers and communication devices that we still call phones. Or how the 3D technology and programs of North Carolina-based Geomagic make possible the on-demand manufacture one-of-a kind products based on the special 3D design plans from Geomagic’s software.

But does the word have meaning to us ordinary humans who are not geniuses like Apple’s Steve Jobs or Geomagic’s Ping Fu?

At a recent discussion on innovation at the AdvantageWest Economic Summit in Asheville, I asked panelists to explain what innovation means and to illustrate with an example.

Their varied answers helped me understand that there is a place for innovation in almost every workplace.

Mike Adams, president of Moog Music Inc.— the high tech manufacturer of the Moog music synthesizers, noted the innovations that had swept by in his lifetime in rapid long distance communication: Telephone and telegraph replaced mail, which was replaced by telex, which was replaced by fax, which is being replaced by emails, which are being replaced by a variety of innovations. “I try to think like a 12-year-old. They are thinking, what’s next?”

For Anita Brown-Graham, director of North Carolina’s Institute for Emerging Issues in Raleigh, innovation is not so much about mere good ideas. An innovation to her is an idea that can be applied to meet an unmet need.

Brown-Graham described a teacher in Chapel Hill who found it hard to get her students’ attention after lunch. But if she let them first go to the playground, they came back refreshed and alert. The teacher wanted to give her students stimulating exercise. She also wanted to preserve serious class time. By innovating, she did both. She recorded her lectures for the post-lunch class, gave each kid a listening device, and took them for a 35-minute walk while they heard her recording. Her innovation met her need. It is also meeting the needs of other teachers through The Walking Classroom program that makes available a WalkKit listening product preloaded with a year’s worth of lectures.

Brown-Graham is optimistic about the innovation capabilities of the generation just entering college. They are risk takers and programmed to be innovators. However, they don’t have the support networks, experience in small business, or the financing to make their innovations a business success. 

Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden Leaf Foundation, agreed and emphasized the need for sources of funding for the effective use of innovations in a commercial context.

Gerlach described an unusual innovation in the location and construction of a wave-making machine in the Nantahala River in Swain County. That innovative idea, when brought to reality, drew thousands of people to the region for this year’s Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Championship.

Charlotte’s Mark Erwin, former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa, used that country as an example of innovation. In 1976, when the island gained its independence, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, almost totally dependent on a sugar plantation economy. When the new leader took an economic inventory of his country, he found there was almost nothing, only 1.3 million mostly uneducated people. Since the populace was the country’s only resource, the leader declared that education would be free for everyone.  

“That was innovation,” said Erwin. “Today it is the most prosperous country in Africa, with the highest literacy rate, a huge Information Technology center, much tourism, and a thriving textile industry.”

These different examples of innovation suggest that, since there are an untold number of unmet needs, there are an equal number of opportunities for innovation. Just waiting for some of us to develop.

For more information: Walking Classroom and AdvantageWest.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/innovation-what-do-you-mean/