Robert Gipe

Robert Gipe, a Kingsport native known for the whimsical illustrations for his novels, will speak Jan. 30 as part of ‘Sunday with Friends’ in Abingdon.

ABINGDON, Va. — The Friends of the Washington County Public Library in Abingdon will present a number of regional writers during its annual “Sunday with Friends” series. The free events are held on Sundays, of course, at 3 p.m. from January until June in the conference room at the Abingdon library.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap in this year’s series:

Jan. 16

Meet Molly Walling, a Bristol, Virginia, native, who has written two personal narratives which explore her family history. Her first book, “Death in the Delta,” investigates a long-held family secret that her father — as a young man in the 1940s in Mississippi — was implicated in the death of a black man, Simon Toombs. In her new book, “For Simon,” Walling discovers that Toombs had a daughter, and she goes to Los Angeles to further seek the truth. This multigenerational story speaks to the struggle for “truth and reconciliation” which Walling feels is necessary for racial understanding and healing.

Jan. 30

Meet Robert Gipe, a Kingsport native, who is known for the whimsical illustrations for his novels, which complement his serious depictions of poverty, violence, drug addiction and hopelessness in the forgotten coal towns of eastern Kentucky.

His newest novel, “Pop,” finishes a trilogy of works about the Jewell family. Dawn Jewell was the teen narrator in “Trampoline,” then a young mother in “Weedeater.” Now in “Pop,” her daughter Nicolette is a teenager representing an Appalachia where young people are starting businesses rooted in local food culture and working to build communities out of the tragedies of the past.

Feb. 13

Meet Mark Powell, one of the most accomplished and prolific of young Appalachian writers. Most of his seven novels are political thrillers, reminiscent of Robert Stone. “Firebird” (2020), set during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, takes you into the world of arms’ dealers, political operatives, Ivy League criminals and a hedge-fund billionaire who aspires to the presidency. His new novel, “Lioness” (2022), deals with an act of eco-terrorism and is set in Southwest Virginia. Powell was educated at The Citadel, University of South Carolina and Yale Divinity School. He directs the creative writing program at Appalachian State University.

Feb. 27

Meet Francis Gary Powers, Jr., who teamed up with historian Keith Dunnavant to write “Spy Pilot,” a book that tries to dispel the misinformation surrounding the U-2 incident during the Cold War when his father’s plane was shot down in the Soviet Union, and his father was imprisoned. Based on many new documents, the book is a son’s journey to understand his father and one of the central incidents of the Cold War.

Powers is the founder of the Cold War Museum and was a consultant on Steven Spielberg’s recent “Bridge of Spies,” the film about his father’s release.

March 13

Meet Julie Zickefoose, an acclaimed nature writer, wildlife rehabilitator and wildlife illustrator, who’ll discuss her latest book, “Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay.” Jemima was a young, orphaned blue jay who was brought to Zickefoose. Starved and very sick, Jemima thrives under her care, eventually taking over the house and the rest of the author’s summer as she gains strength to be released into the wild. The book is filled with the wonder, humor and relentless curiosity Zickefoose is known for from other books and her commentary on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

April 10

The Friends’ annual poetry celebration features Jeff Mann, who co-edited “LGBTQ: Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia,” which gathers original and previously published fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer authors from Appalachia. The collection confronts the complex intersections of place, family, sexuality, gender and religion with which LGBTQ Appalachians often grapple. Mann teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech. He will be joined in this celebration by local poets from the Appalachian Center for Poets and Writers.

April 24

Meet Lisa Alther and her brother, John Shelton Reed, both Kingsport natives, to learn about their new works.

Alther’s book, “Swan Song,” is set on a cruise ship. It’s about a female doctor in charge of the ship’s clinic. She is recovering from the loss of a longtime companion, who was a much-admired writer.

Reed, a retired sociologist from the University of North Carolina, has written many books and articles about Southern culture. In his new book, “On Barbecue,” he writes with conviction on the looks, smells and tastes of the varieties of Southern barbecues.

May 15

Meet Lee Smith, the beloved writer from Southwest Virginia, who will celebrate her two recent works set in Florida.

The novella “Blue Marlin” follows adventurous 13-year-old Jenny down to Key West for a patched-up family vacation following the discovery of her father’s illicit affair. Jenny confronts the frailty of family life while vying for the attention of actor Tony Curtis, who is working on a film nearby.

“Silver Alert” describes the adventures of irascible Herbert Atlas, whose family is trying to force him into an assisted living facility. He escapes with a manicurist who is as desperate for a new life as he is.

June 5

Meet Tanya Carroll Richardson, who will share her thoughts on self-love, the subject of her new book, “Love Notes to My Self: Meditations and Inspirations for Self-Compassion and Self-Care.”

Richardson is a professional intuitive and a regular contributor to She is the author of eight books, including “Angel Intuition,” “Forever in My Heart: A Grief Journal,” “Zen Teen” and “Self-Care for Empaths.” Her “A Year of Self-Love” page-a-day calendar is an annual bestseller. Richardson is the wife of Michael Wartella, an artist and filmmaker, who grew up in Abingdon. They currently reside in Austin, Texas.

The Friends of the Washington County Public Library is a volunteer, nonprofit organization whose purpose is to help strengthen the resources of the library and to make it a dynamic force in the community.

To learn more about the series, contact Ben Jennings at

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