Hickory – Just like the polio epidemic it documented, the 2017 release of a comprehensive study of the 1944 Miracle of Hickory has created its own miracle, of sorts. A group of educators came together to study and present their findings on what was arguably Catawba County’s biggest, most nationally recognizable event: its response to the dreaded disease of polio. Both a book and a documentary came from the effort and have spawned an ongoing initiative to reflect the community it serves.
The success of Catawba Valley Community College’s Redhawk Publications began with its cross-disciplinary project but has grown substantially from there. Five years later, with over 100 titles in its catalog, highlights are numerous in a variety of genres.
Most recently, Redhawk Publications signed Civil Rights icon and lawyer for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Clarence B. Jones to publish his personal memoir that details events like his co-authoring the famed “I Have A Dream” speech and in-person negotiations with inmates during the Attica prison uprising. The hard cover release is scheduled for 2023.
Already available is the comedic work of Mary Jo Pehl of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fame. Her second book is called “Dumb, Dumb, Dumb,” a comedic take on a memoir focused on her mother’s book reviews. Saturday Night Live’s Laraine Newman said the book offers “many laugh out loud moments seen through Ms. Pehl’s endearing wit.”
A number of releases have received awards. Both “Hickory: Then & Now,” combined with a Complete History reader, and Steve Hill’s “In the Shadow of the Clock: The History of the Square, Statesville, 1790-1990” were recognized by the North Carolina Society of Historians for excellence in preserving the history of North Carolina communities.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Richard Eller, Executive Director of Redhawk Publications. “Not only have we been able to tap into the immense talent of the region, but once authors and artists from across the country heard about the program, they have sent us some notable works & wonderful literature.”
Editor-In-Chief Robert Canipe agrees. He brought his critical eye as editor of the very first work, “Polio, Pitchforks and Perseverance: How a North Carolina County Named Catawba Built a Miracle,” and has been with the initiative ever since. “The polio project made us curious as to how a community comes together and in 52 hours builds a hospital that eventually saves 800 kids’ lives. Why are we so divided today when there was a time everyone thought that children surviving polio was more important than themselves, money, etc. We decided that there may be more stories of this type in the community. So, with Dr. Garrett D. Hinshaw’s blessing, we went after those stories. And we’ve found them.”
In 2021, the North Carolina Poetry Association selected Redhawk Publications as its contracted publisher for the annual Lena Schull Poetry award. In addition to releases on Ridgeview, Newton, Hickory, and the Henry River Mill Village, Redhawk Publications has been privileged to present volumes on local history including a memoir from Leroy Lail, called Win-Win, and a look back at CVCC’s past, entitled Nimble and Tenacious: The History of Catawba Valley Community College.
A variety of poetic works have found an audience through Redhawk Publications. Hickory’s Scott Owens has three collections (and counting) available including “World Enough: Poems for and about Children” (and a few grown-ups), a work that also features the imaginative artwork of local resident Missy Cleveland. Scott’s latest work, Prepositional will be released by the end of the year. Mr. Yuan Changming, an internationally renowned Chinese poet based in British Columbia, will have his most recent collection published in early 2023 with Redhawk Publications.
Redhawk Publications strongly believes in helping the community to become a better place. Last year, Robert Canipe led a class at Exodus Ministries on writing. The project produced the excellent Exodus Diaries: Stories of Redemption and Freedom that will be used as a fundraiser. In 2021, Hickory resident Barbara Weathers composed a book on Christian acrostics. Her work proved to be very popular and beneficial to Safe Harbor, a community organization that receives all proceeds from the sale of Barbara’s A Legacy of Faith: Words for the Journey.
Coming to the stage in 2023 is a new work by Fiely Matias that helps children deal with bullying. While his play is still in development, his children’s book “Rebee Dedoo Dada” is out now, a wonderfully written and colorfully illustrated volume for kids, published by Redhawk Publications.
“Fiely Matias was a true find and a gift to our program,” exclaimed acquisition editor, Patty Thompson. “Not only did he co-author a children’s book with local resident Mrs. Tuddy Noble, but he is a gifted performance artist and director in his own right, having co-written and directed the off-Broadway musical, “Disenchanted!” Because of his familiarity with theatrical productions, Fiely and his writing partner, Dennis Giacino, are currently working on a one-act musical for young audiences based on “Rebee Dedoo Dada.” A staged reading at the Hickory Community Theater is planned in the Fall of 2023 as part of LRU’s Art of Compassion lineup. It is very exciting to be at the ground floor of a theatrical production that focuses on Anti-Bullying.
With so many new, informative and entertaining books in the works, mentioning the unique path each book has taken to come to the market would take its own book to describe. Instead, those interested can easily visit the Redhawk Publications website (https://redhawkpublications.com) to see all the titles available. Additionally, Thompson, Canipe and Eller host a regular podcast, highlighting authors by interviewing them on their work called RedPubPod, which is distributed with Catawba-based The Mesh Network available wherever podcasts are downloaded.
Along with a group of freelance editors, graphic designer students (from the CVCC graphic arts program), photographers like Clayton Joe Young, head of the college’s photography program, and friends of the program, the program has published almost 50 books in 2022 alone, giving readers the widest possible choice of talent to choose from. From academic texts to children’s books, Redhawk Publications has become a leading resource for the Catawba Valley as an outlet for the literary arts to shine and find an audience.
“We are blessed to have Redhawk Publications here in Catawba County,” said Austin Allran, Catawba County Commissioner and first-time published author of a soon to be released Christian mystery novel The Legend of the Isle of Cats. “I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with their staff over the last year, and I appreciate their professionalism and dedication. Redhawk Publications is an asset to our County, State, and Nation.”
In 2023, as the initiative begins its next five years, look for books on the history of the western North Carolina furniture industry, a gripping and gritty historical novel on enslavement, centered in the area, as well as a huge array of other works with importance regionally and beyond. https://redhawkpublications.com/
Mary Jo Pehl