Northanger Abbey Doesn’t Get Enough Attention

With time on my hands, I have begun to read, again, all of Jane Austen’s novels. I re-discovered the very interesting passage in the last paragraph of Chapter 5, of Northanger Abbey. This strikes me where I live, as a novelist, for I have heard, “I only read non-fiction, something that is true.” Hasn’t every story and character in fiction been real somewhere, sometime?

Miss Austen says:

“Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens—there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “’I am no novel-reader—I seldom look into novels—Do not imagine that I often read novels—It is really very well for a novel.’ Such is the common cant. ‘And what are you reading, Miss –?’ ‘Oh! It is only a novel!’ replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. ‘It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda’; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language. Now, had the same young lady been engaged with a volume of the Spectator, instead of such a work, how proudly would she have produced the book, and told its name; though the chances must be against her being occupied by any part of that voluminous publication, of which either the matter or manner would not disgust a young person of taste: the substance of its papers so often consisting in the statement of improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and topics of conversation which no longer concern anyone living; and their language, too, frequently so coarse as to give no very favourable idea of the age that could endure it.”  

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Emmalene of Landing Run

Announcing the third in my Landing Run Series. I’m so grateful to have this book out during our special time of finding who we really are in this interesting year, 2020.
A newly-married young woman, Emmalene Richman, faints in church. She has recently miscarried, and is again pregnant. Having moved in 1910 to the Catholic hamlet of Landing Run, she has converted to Catholicism in order to fit in with the Kentucky Holy Land. Following her doctor’s advice of complete bedrest, she dreads the thought of uselessness for most of nine months of every year, and struggles with the question of planning family spacing, forbidden by the Catholics. A caretaker who becomes a trusted friend, Rosalie Herrington from Louisville, educates her about the women in 1912 who fight for suffrage, and other social issues. Helpless at home, Emmalene seeks to know her own mind as she studies the path of strong advocates for the less fortunate and for basic women’s rights.

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Kentucky Book Festival, Saturday November 16, 2019

I am pleased to announce that I will be one of the authors selling books at this year’s Kentucky Book Festival in Lexington this November. I will have my latest novel, The Wife Takes a Farmer, as well as the first in the series, Back Home in Landing Run. Also I will have my short story collection, Love Is a Fireplace. Hope you will come out to see me and say “Hello.”

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Reading at Carmichael’s Books

Hope you’ll come out to hear me read from The Wife Takes a Farmer

on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at 7 p.m. Learn what has happened in Landing Run.

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Book Launch, The Wife Takes a Farmer

A book launch with two dates. The Wife Takes a Farmer is the sequel to my first novel and follows Emmalene and Les exactly where we left them in 1910, in Back Home in Landing Run. My first reading will be on Saturday, January 5, 2019 from 1:00 to 3:00 at the Nelson County Library in Bardstown. I graduated from Bethlehem High School at the time when it was all girls, and I hope some of my classmates can be there, perhaps to remember that I love to write, and love to read. I lived South of the Beech Fork in Culvertown until I was eighteen, and hope some cousins and friends from the New Haven, New Hope, Hodgenville area and all places in between can join me. My second reading will be on Sunday, January 6, 2019, at an open house from 2:00 to 4:00 in the party room of the Salem Square Condos at 521 Zorn Avenue in Louisville. Since 1960, when I moved to Louisville, I have met many people and hope friends from all the groups I’ve known at GE, Spalding, my writers’ group, The Cherokee Roundtable, and others will drop in for punch and cookies and say hello. The Wife Takes a Farmer is carried at Carmichael’s Books and is listed on amazon. At these two book launches, it will be discounted to $18.00. Come to see me, tell me what you’ve been doing, and hear what is up with Emmalene and family in Landing Run.

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My new novel, The Wife Takes a Farmer

So excited about my new novel, The Wife Takes a Farmer, published by Excalibur Press in Mobile. This sequel to Back Home in Landing Run begins in 1911 and follows Emmalene with her worries about the farm she has inherited from her late husband. Who will manage it, since her new husband Les Richman would rather be in charge of a sawmill? How will the Catholic community treat her now that she has been baptized as one of them? What will she do if Les decides he wants to start a business in Louisville? Follow Emmalene’s adventures while she visits Louisville; rides in an automobile for the first time; honeymoons at the Seelbach Hotel; attends the 1911 Derby at Churchill Downs; stays at the Conrad-Caldwell House; investigates the Portland area of Louisville; enjoys a commencement service at Nazareth Academy in Bardstown. Always the image of her farm enthralls her with thoughts she cannot talk about to the fancy women she meets. “I could not talk about the snow we had last winter being fine for our wheat, as a hard winter is generally followed by a good crop year. Or that the bad weather caused us to lose a couple of hogs. These were things the women were not acquainted with, and besides, I did not want them picturing me carrying a slop bucket sloshing with potato rinds, egg shells, and sour milk to the hogs, or digging up horse manure out of the barn to spread on the garden. Or avoiding the old broody hen growling at me, and the other hens who came near where she was setting to keep ten or eleven eggs warm.” The Wife Takes a Farmer is available at and I will have at book-signings in Kentuckiana.

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Crackling Birchwood gave me the title for my book

Love is a Fireplace is a collection of twenty-four stories and vignettes that I’ve been writing for forty years. A c.d. of crackling Birchwood gave me the title for my book, and my sisters helped me set the scene for the cover. We built a roaring fire in Dinnie’s stone fireplace, above which hangs one of her recent paintings of our mother, Helen. She was sixteen, standing in front of her Daddy’s new Buick when they lived in the Fairfield house. Dinnie, Elizabeth and I arranged the set to include a kerosene lamp from when we were growing up, a broom which our daddy, Gerald, made, a torn love letter, falling petals from a vase of red flowers, a turned-over wine bottle and glass. Forty years of stories—a patchwork of incidents—imagined, seen, heard about, read, or experienced, and threaded until it’s total fiction describing how love is a fireplace.
I will read at the Nelson County Library’s main branch in Bardstown on Friday, May 4th, from 1 to 3. My book is available at Carmichael’s Books in Louisville, and on

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May 4 – Reading at Carmichael’s Bookstore, Frankfort Avenue

Announcement of a reading at Carmichael’s 2720 Frankfort Ave.
Thursday, May 4th, 7 pm
I am delighted to be reading from my forty year collection of short stories, Love is a Fireplace. The first story, Sorghum, began in my first Creative Writing class in 1977.
Finished in 2017. Here is an excerpt: It happened like this. I looked up when I heard the hiss of the Greyhound air brakes out front and saw him step off the bus. His hair looked dark brown—not mousy like mine—until he stepped out of the shadows. Then the late afternoon sun turned his hair into a dark red fireball, the color of sorghum molasses poured out of a jar onto hot buttered biscuits. I watched him turn to the bus driver and wave a sweeping semi-circle with his free hand. Under his other arm he carried a torn, cardboard box like he didn’t care if anything spilled out or not. He wore his jeans low, and strolled toward the store in scuffed-up boots, with confident, long steps.

A big thank you! to Marian McClure Taylor who wrote the following review for I love it!
Love is a Fireplace — A gold mine of love tales
Mary Popham’s new book of fiction offers vignettes and stories that delightfully explore the foibles, fidelities and fantasies of love. The author herself may well be the fireplace in the “Love is a Fireplace” title, because with characteristic humor her tales warmly embrace a wide range of human situations. We see men and women deal with teenage passions, families and priests who oppose their choices, betrayals, workplace romances, and very often, a patient determination to care for and rescue each other.
Popham ably uses vivid images to invoke the heart of a story. In “Three Secrets,” the protagonist who harbors abortion secrets is hand-washing a red blouse because otherwise it “bleeds onto everything.” In “The Barn Painting Job,” two painters can’t get their bearings from road signs just before entering a home situation that is just as confusing. And in “Last Day in Paris” a woman holding a book about Marcel Proust finds that a cinnamon aroma powerfully reminds her of the man who ended their engagement just before the wedding.
Many of the “Love is a Fireplace” tales feature one or another employee or veteran of Gold Plate Catering. That company’s name mainly serves to alert us, however, to the symbol of gold-platedness that appears throughout. Gold plates appear in a professor’s lecture about the British upper class and help stoke a student’s fantasy about him. A gold-plated rose is the wedding gift that a stable provider gives to the sleep-walking wife he is determined to protect. A trucker is worried about giving a woman a ride until she starts telling him about fishing with a “Silver Buddy lure with a reflective gold plated blade.” A poor woman who has given birth only to sons feels she’ll have no one to whom to bequeath the gold plate she inherited. A nouveau riche woman sees her gold-plated flatware in much the same utilitarian way she sees men. A gold plated Communion paten symbolizes the community that a young woman will be fatally denied when she marries a Protestant boy. The gold-plated mirror at a wedding frames the parents of the bride as the caterer watches and wonders which are the men who are tender-hearted and faithful.
All readers know that “not all that glitters is gold.” But underneath the glow of Mary Popham’s gold obsession one finds successive layers of wealth she has mined for us from life well understood. -Marian McClure, Shelbyville, Kentucky

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♪G-L-O-R-I-A♪ (Steinem, that is)

Thought-provoking and needed essay by Kelly Morris.

Literary Labors (and the Occasional Cheese Dip)

I’m fascinated by how people’s lives either echo or repudiate their parents’ lives… We can repeat our parent’s mistakes or we can bend over backwards not to repeat them and end up making mistakes of contrariness, but either way, we’re still under their influence. – Anne Tyler

I’ve been known to half-jokingly say that I received an informal crash course in child psychology, sexual politics, and gender studies from staying home with my children for ten years. It’s no surprise, then, that these were the themes that cropped up in my earlier short stories. My story “The Favor,” published in the current issue of Epiphany Magazine, centers around a woman who might have accidentally orchestrated the kidnapping of her child as a way to teach her ex-husband a lesson; “At the Zoo,” published in the November 2015 issue of Gravel, centers around a twenty-year-old women’s studies major trying…

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My Spalding MFA World Travels with Katy and Friends

Kathleen, this is sensational!

Spalding University School of Creative & Professional Writing

By Kathleen Driskell
Spalding MFA Associate Program Director

I’m delighted to be leading our Spalding MFA summer abroad residency in Edinburgh, July 12-24, with Katy Yocom, Associate Program Director, and Ellyn Lichvar, Administrative Assistant. With our distinguished summer 2017 MFA faculty Silas House, Shane McCrae, Dianne Aprile, Leslea Newman, Charlie Schulman, and Helena Kriel, we are planning a bonnie curriculum for our students and alumni, along with exciting cultural experiences for them and their family members and guests who come along for this great Scottish adventure.

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