Chords Like Color, Woven As Stories

OPWC2By Robert Laurence

Crow Johnson Evans had quite a musical career. She was part of the early folk scene in Houston. She sang in Europe when the Beatles and the Stones were singing in Europe. She played Austin before Austin was Austin. She was a presence on the ungentrified Dickson Street, and for many years was a dominant force in the Fayetteville music scene. During those times and at those places, she wrote all of the songs she played. But time exacts a toll, and came the day when her hands could no longer manage the strings of her guitar. So she became a spinner, a weaver, a knitter, a fabric artist. And a writer.

Crow Johnson Evans will read from her stories, essays, novellas and song lyrics as the Featured Writer at the October meeting of the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective, 7 p.m., Oct. 29, at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. There is no charge and the public is invited.

Johnson Evans’ new book, “Flights of Fancy” (Mockingbird Lane Press 2012) is an eclectic collection. In “Miss Henrietta’s Doors,” the narrator thinks back on the neighbor lady who could sense the location of doors to the other side. “Bomb in the Garden of Eden” is a nicely self-referential story of two young sisters in a diplomat’s family in Beirut, in which, at the end the narrator is telling about the writing of the very story we have just read. In “Finding Miss Verna,” the body of a village recluse is found, and the villagers learn more about her life after her death than they knew before.

Johnson Evans is a world traveler, with a particular fondness for eco-travel, with out-of-the-way destinations where the wildlife is rich: South India, Ecuador, Gibraltar, Sichuan Province. In “Glorious Cacophony,” she wakes up in India to the combined sounds of birdsong, the faithful being called to prayer, blasting Bollywood music, and sacred songs from an ashram. As a travel writer, she makes you want to go, but as a describer of the hereabouts — as in “Incident at Hurricane Creek” — she makes you want to stay.

Given that Johnson Evans is a musician and weaver as well as a writer, it is not surprising to see those crafts at work in her stories. She says that writing is like putting together “chords of color,” and in “Weaving with Miss Henrietta,” the narrator, an eleven-year-old girl, describes the title character beginning a rug: “… she ran twine back and forth between the straight sticks … every now and then she’d strum the strings like a giant guitar, but they didn’t make any sound. She said that was to get them all the same tension …”

The final hundred pages of “Flights of Fancy” comprise Johnson Evans’ novella, a mystery involving a female impersonator, a middle-aged exotic dancer, a police inspector with some drug issues, a … well, I could go on. You’ll have to read “Madam Butterfly” for yourself.

Or — stop by Nightbird Books at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, to hear Crow Johnson Evans read selections from the mystery herself. Before and after, there will be an open mic into which local writers are invited to share four minutes of prose or poetry with a generally friendly and encouraging audience. New readers and new listeners are warmly welcomed.

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