I first became enchanted with stories on the front porch of a cabin in a forested Appalachian cove, clinging to tales spun by my grandmother and others of her generation. On long family trips, my parents entertained the kids with cassette tapes of Jackie Torrance’s Jack Tales and David Holt’s Hairy Man. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I started concocting my own tales. Rendered at first out of my love of exploring the natural world and later out of a fascination with history, my stories traversed the line between the fantastical and the ordinary. Spurred the encouragement of an English teacher and my mother, I decided to ditch my plans to become a fighter pilot and try out this writing thing.
My desire to write led me to study Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at UNC-Chapel Hill. At UNC I studied with Doris Betts and Bland Simpson and strained my neck nodding to Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and Eric Montross in the hallways.
It did not occur to me until much later that one does not simply hang one’s writer plaque to make a living. As a result, I’ve worked as a trail guide, a group home parent, freelance writer, farm worker, and in community development finance. For the past 20 years I’ve helped low income families build wealth and opportunity at the nation’s largest community development financial institution in Durham, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, I’ve continued to write poetry, fiction, and essays. My work often touches on the power of place in the context of displacement. My writing explores how we are shaped and haunted by the land and people we come from, and how, in order to find ourselves, we often have to leave those places behind. My stories have been published in Dime Show Review, Amarillo Bay, Yellow Mama, Scarlet Leaf, Floyd County Moonshine, and Across the Margin, and my poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including Earth and Soul: An Anthology of North Carolina Poetry, Kakalak 2016, and forthcoming in Kakalak 2020.
While my travels have taken me across four continents, I’ve always called North Carolina home. I currently live in the Cape Fear River Basin on land that once belonged to the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation next to 7000 acres of forest owned by Duke University. (Go Heels!)
Culley Holderfield’s Hemlock Hollow will be published under Regal House Publishing’s Sour Mash series.