In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem.
Charlie Lovett’s family moved to Winston-Salem in 1962, and two month’s later he was born. Lovett is currently a full-time novelist, who has written several fiction novels, non-fiction stories, and plays. His breakout novel, The Bookman’s Tale, was published in 2013 and is a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into several languages. USA Today said, “Lovett tells his story with ease, charm and a faith in his characters that eventually draws them into our sympathies.”
His father was an English literature professor at Wake Forest for over forty years. “I can’t go anywhere in the southeast without meeting a former student of his,” said Lovett. His mother passed away when Lovett was two, and his father remarried when Charlie was five. “My stepmother, Miriam, has been a mom, a dog breeder, and has served the community as president of the Junior League, Board Chair at Summit School, and in many other ways,” said Lovett. He has an older brother and sister, and two younger brothers.
Lovett went to elementary and middle school at Summit, before he headed to Woodberry Forest for high school. Lovett went to Davidson for undergraduate school, and then went into the antiquarian book business until the early nineties. He received his MFA in Writing from Vermont College in 1997.
Along with writing books, he is currently a book collector and has a unique collection of Lewis Carroll artifacts. He has lectured on Carroll throughout the US and Europe, and he has written five books about Carroll. His two novels, First Impressions and The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, have received widespread acclaim. You can find more information about all of his books at his website: www.charlielovett.com.
His new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, will be published in 2017. “The book is set in an English cathedral library and delves into the world of medieval manuscripts and a mystery that involves both an ancient Saxon saint and a possible link to the Holy Grail,” said Lovett. “It’s been great fun to work on and I hope my readers will enjoy it.”
Lovett is also the president of the board of directors of Bookmarks here in Winston. Bookmarks is a non-profit organization, which is dedicated to bringing the literary arts to Winston-Salem in every way possible. It has had a long range plan that includes the opening of an independent bookstore in downtown Winston-Salem. “Bookmarks is currently seeking funding and evaluating sites for this project, which would give the organization a space for their offices, a place to hold author events, and a much needed independent bookstore—something that has been missing from Winston-Salem for many years,” said Lovett. Bookmarks sponsors an annual free book festival, an authors in schools program, summer reading program, and other author events throughout the year. He said, “It is a great organization that I am proud to be associated with.”
Lovett and his wife, Janice, spend several weeks a year in the tiny village of Kingham (population about 700) in northwest Oxfordshire, England. Lovett is currently there and said, “I am enjoying a sunny May morning in the village, birds singing outside my window. There are so many things to visit nearby—cathedrals, Oxford, London, great houses, lovely country walks—but some days there is nothing better than the slow pace of life in the village.”
Janice and Lovett met doing summer theatre at Emory University, and they have been married 22 years. They have two children, Jimmy (aka Lucy) and Jordan. Lucy is 24 and writes plays and works at a theatre in New York City. Jordan lives in Atlanta, and runs a wedding planning business. Below, Lovett answers questions about his writing and favorite parts of Winston-Salem:
Winston-Salem and Author Questions:
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always enjoyed creativity in one form or another and I did some creative writing in high school and college and even a little after college when I was starting in the Antiquarian book business. But it was really in my early thirties that I made a conscious decision to pursue writing not just as a hobby but as a career.
Where did your love of Lewis Carroll originate?
I first encountered Alice in Wonderland in a set of records of the book read by Cyril Ritchard that I used to listen to on rainy days as a child. I think the fact that I met Alice as a story told out loud was one of the things that attracted me to it. My father was a book collector and when I decided to follow in his path I thought Alice would be a good book to collect as it has been translated, illustrated, and adapted in so many ways. Only later did I discover what an interesting person Lewis Carroll was. Now my collection is as much about him and his life and world as it is about Alice.
Which Winston-Salem streets have you lived on?
Robinhood Road, West Fourth Street, Stump Tree Lane.
What years did you go to Summit School and who were some of your favorite teachers there?
I went to Summit from 1966 to 1977, all eleven years from Junior Kindergarten to Ninth Grade. I had so many wonderful teachers, and I really attribute so much of my success later in life to Summit. Among those teachers whom I remember with particular fondness were my first grade teacher, Clara Allen; fifth grade teacher Suzanne Teague (who encouraged me in the creation and editing of a weekly classroom newspaper); music teacher Loma Hopkins, who was later a colleague and is still a friend; and Junior High English teacher Bill Carr, who could intimidate and inspire simultaneously and with whom I had the privilege to work when I returned to Summit as a volunteer in the theatre art program in the 1980s.
What are your favorite restaurants in Winston?
Now there are so many, which is wonderful. I will miss Skippy’s—the best hotdogs I’ve had anywhere. My favorites change from year to year, but these days Mooney’s, Fratelli’s, Bibb’s, Ichiban, Jeffrey Adams, Hutch and Harris, Carving Board, Chang Thai.
Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Definitely Thruway. I’m not a big fan of malls in general and Thruway, to me, is much more convenient. I’ve also been through a lot of years with Thruway—I can remember the Record Bar, Food Fair, Tiny Town, Thalheimer’s, and many other stores from my childhood days. The only store that is still there from when I was a kid (and still in more or less the same spot) is Dewey’s.
If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian Sugar Cake, Bojangles Biscuits, or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts?
Absolutely sugar cake. And I wouldn’t have to be stranded on an island or limited to one item for breakfast to make that decision. Can I just start having sugar cake for breakfast every day right now?
What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
We had some nice extended family beach vacations at Wrightsville when my siblings and I all had small children. I liked that the kids could walk to the ice cream stand, hot dog stand, etc. But I must admit to always being more of a mountain person. I’m not a fan of hot weather and I can get a sun burn just thinking about the beach.
Where is your favorite place to visit in the mountains of North Carolina?
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand I could live at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville—amazing building, filled with Arts and Crafts furniture (my favorite style), the best spa I’ve ever been to, good food—need I say more. However, I spent my summer’s growing up in a house on an isolated mountaintop in Ashe County, a few miles from Glendale Springs and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I got to know every square inch of that mountain (named Bear Knob) tromping around in the woods summer after summer, and it’s still my favorite spot in the NC mountains.
What do you typically miss most about Winston when you lived somewhere else?
What I miss most about Winston-Salem when I’m gone is the people. I love that everywhere I go in town I will see people I know—whether old friends of the family, folks from church, Summit families, book enthusiasts—and they are all so friendly. We joke that you can’t wear sweat pants to the grocery because you WILL run into someone you know. I also love having such a strong academic community in town and I often miss the proximity of a great university library (WFU) when I’m away.