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Author Rubio, One of Oprah's Favs, Visits BC

Great minds from Berea College's campus and the surrounding community gathered together in the cozy Fireside Room in Draper to talk and write with Appalachian author Gwyn Hyman Rubio.

Photo courtesy of Rubio's website.

Invited by the Appalachian College Association, the Learning Center, and the English department, Rubio led a brief workshop that focused on detail and kept assuring her attendees that "we are all writers." Participants shared their written musings aloud, both amazed and amused at the commonality among them.

After the workshop, Rubio gave a short narrative of her road to success as a writer, which was a bumpy one. She grew up in Georgia, and her father was a writer. Though he wanted to be a serious writer, his only well known work was "No Time For Sergeants," which was later turned into a movie starring Andy Griffith. After struggling with writing, her father passed away at a very young age. This tragedy steered Rubio away from writing for many years.

After graduating from Florida State University, she became a Peace Corps volunteer and married her husband. Several years later, her husband got her an application for Warren Wilson College and told her that if she were to get accepted, that it was a sign and she should pursue writing. She was accepted. "It was interesting to be around short order cooks who were really poets," Rubio mused, when asked about the diverse people that who participated in her MFA program.

Years later, Rubio had three books shelved and another "killed" during its final stages before publication. "I became so depressed that I swore I'd never write again," said Rubio. She later began "Icy Sparks."

"Icy Sparks" is a book about a young, orphaned girl growing up in the rural mountains of Kentucky. She lives with her grandparents, but soon becomes isolated from her community because of her Tourette's Syndrome. The book chronicles her journey through that loneliness and acceptance of herself. Rubio stated, "All of your experiences in life contribute to your writing." Icy Sparks was no different. Rubio, who has epilepsy, did not start out writing her book as a way to deal with her own disorder, but it eventually did help her cope. "Icy Sparks" was released in August of 1998.

Fast forward three years... Rubio's book was "remaindered," which meant that her hardback copy was being sold for a mere $1.50. She received a phone call telling her the New York Times wanted to do an interview with her, and she was instructed to promptly answer her phone at six. Much to Rubio's surprise, the voice on the other end of the line was not a reporter, but instead Oprah Winfrey. "Icy Sparks" was being chosen for Winfrey’s well known book club. After nearly ten minutes of disbelief and listening to Oprah talk, Rubio responded, "Well, you kinda sound like Oprah Winfrey." Winfrey answered, "Well, honey, that's because I am."

Rubio was given the opportunity to write a second book. Her next novel was “The Woodsman's Daughter.” The southern, Gothic style novel also endured hardships. Her editor left two months before its release, and mishaps of stocking and touring ensued. The book was still successful, and she was invited to read a selection of it at the famous Margaret Mitchell house.

Rubio is currently working on a third novel, a comedy. "I didn't think I could stand four more years of a Southern Gothic," she laughed. "In writing, you're always worried about each one," Rubio went on to say about her anticipation of the next novel. It is set in Kentucky, and concerns art and activism.

Before the end of the night, Rubio gave out pearls of wisdom about writing to her audience. "My advice," she said, "is to write and read a lot. And to write, and to write, and to risk sending it out. .… You've got to risk letting go, risk rejection." She encouraged her fellow writers to not be afraid to get their stories out to publishers and editors, and to not be afraid of the "glowing rejection letters." "You've got to be hungry for it," she smiled.

Rubio's books are available at a number of online retailers and bookstores. You can visit her personal website by clicking on the link below.

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