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Literature takes over USC Union

Authors, Golfers & Nurses - The USC Union Blog


Local Authors, Appalachian Writers to Present at Upcountry Literary Festival

On Nov. 3 and 4, the USC Union Auditorium will resonate with the stories, songs, and poems of a coterie of outstanding authors from Tennessee, North Carolina, and  in Union, SC during the eleventh annual Upcountry Literary Festival. 

Fredrick Tucker, a nationally recognized author and historian from Duncan, SC, will present at 10:30 AM on Saturday, Nov 4. Tucker can claim his Union tie through his late mother, Ruth Ann Cogdell Tucker, who was born and grew up in the Monarch community, later moving to Duncan, where she served for many years as a teacher in Spartanburg County.  Mrs. Tucker died earlier this year at age ninety-two, and in tribute her son this summer conducted an exhibition of his mother’s memorabilia at the Union County Arts Council, including instances of her stylish and colorful wardrobe.  The exhibition was a resounding success, attracting many viewers.

Tucker has written extensively of Duncan and Union history and is also the author of biographies of Broadway and TV sitcom actress Alice Pearce (best known for her supporting role as Gladys Kravitz on the Bewitched series) and of Verna Felton, a voice artist who earned an Emmy nomination for her supporting role on the show December Bride.  Both books stemmed from Tucker’s life-long love of the supporting players on major American TV comedies. Fredrick Tucker is a retired social studies/history teacher and still resides in Duncan. He will present on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 10:30 AM.

Many of these writers make up the English faculty of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. Chief among them is poet and scholar Jesse Graves, a Sharps Chapel, Tennessee, native whose collections include Merciful Days, Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pines, and Basin Ghosts.  His latest publication is Said-Songs: Essays on Poetry and Place.  Of Graves work, famed novelist and poet Ron Rash has written, “These poems have the music, wisdom, and singular voice of a talent fully realized, and make abundantly clear that Jesse Graves is one of America’s finest young poets.”  Graves’ latest project is editing a series of poetry anthologies based in each of the fifty states, including South Carolina. Randy Ivey, director of the Upcountry Literary Festival, remarked that “Jesse Graves is that rare thing: an artist.”

Graves’ graduate student at ETSU, Rieppe Moore, a Columbia, SC, native who now lives and farms in eastern Tennessee, will make his second appearance at the festival this year and will receive The Tandy R. Willis Award for Most Promising Writer, an honor named after the late and long-time USCU professor of English. Rieppe, an upcoming poet, has seen his work recently published in such prestigious venues as Still: The Journal and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture

Joining their ETSU brethren onstage the same weekend will be Thomas Alan Holmes, poet and musician, whose first collection, In the Backhoe’s Shadow, was published last year, and Michael Cody, a novelist whose story collection Twilight Reeling earned much acclaim upon its publication in 2021.

Returning to USCU after an absence, former Barton College professor and Tennessee native Jim Clark.  Clark lives in Wilson, NC. In 2014, his play The Girl with the Faraway Eyes was produced by the USCU Players. 

Valerie “Val” Nieman hails from Greensboro, NC, and will make her second appearance at the Upcountry Literary Festival in March. Poet and novelist, she recently received The Walter Raleigh Prize, the highest honor given to a NC author; in winning the award she joins the company of such literary titans as Fred Chappell and Reynolds Price.  Her most recent work is In the Lonely Backwater, a young adult murder mystery.  Her other books include To the Bones and Leopard Lady.  Val will engage in a colloquy with fellow NC novelist Marjorie Hudson on the craft of fiction during Saturday’s session.  An Illinois native, Hudson moved to North Carolina and became a copy editor for Algonquin Books.  “I grew up in the North,” she writes on her website, “but I got here as fast as I could.”  Her novel Indigo Fields has won much praise for the vividness of its prose and its evocation of place.  New York Times best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd called it “mesmerizing.” 

The festival will also feature a presentation by Union native Hester Booker. She was born and brought up in the last vestiges of the segregated South but chose not to be crushed by such oppression.  Instead, she chose to thrive.  She recounts her struggles during this time and her ultimate triumph in her first book, an autobiography, Instrumentally Sound, from Dorrance Publishing. Booker will present her story and its lessons on Friday, Nov. 3 at 1:50PM

According to the publisher, “Instrumentally Sound is a journey through childhood to adulthood as experienced by author Hester Booker. In her memoir, she shares her uplifting experiences growing up in the segregated school system and the happiness that occurred in a poverty-stricken situation. There is light in even the most challenging of situations.” Booker, now retired, was a long-time employee of the Union County school system, helping to facilitate many school sporting events.   

USC Union is pleased to welcome internationally acclaimed novelist, story writer, teacher, and humorist George Singleton to its campus on Nov. 3 as the keynote speaker at the festival. Born in California, Singleton was raised in Greenwood, SC, and spent many years as writing instructor at the Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville.  He is recently retired from Wofford.  One of the South’s, indeed the nation’s, leading comic writers, he has authored numerous story collections, two novels, and an instructional guide to writing.  Among his titles are The Half-Mammals of Dixie, These People Are Us, When Dogs Chase Cars, Novel: A Novel, and, most recently, You Want More, the latter a selection of his best short fiction.  In the Southern Review of Books, Jonathan Haupt, head of the Pat Conroy Center in Beaufort and former director of the University of South Carolina Press, has called Singleton “one of the most brilliantly comedic writers of our time and a defining voice of our complicated and often contradictory contemporary southern experience.” 

A member of the prestigious Fellowship of Southern Writers, Singleton resides in Spartanburg and is an enthusiastic habitué of Midway BBQ in Union. Also on Friday, Joey Holland of Greenville will return to the festival for the second time.  The author of four books, the most recent one Choose Your Medicine, Holland uses his work to explore the experiences of those addicted to drugs. He will present at 1:10 PM

Local blues legend Freddie Vanderford will close out Friday’s session.

The Upcountry Literary Festival was founded in 2011 in an effort to make clear the continuing relevance of the printed word in the digital age and to interest people, particularly the young, in reading. Past presenters include such internationally-renowned authors as Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, and Dori Sanders. After a four-year hiatus forced by Covid-19, the Upcountry Literary Festival at USC Union will return live to the stage in the USCU Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. On Friday, Nov 3, the event will run from 1:00PM to 5:00PM, on Saturday, Nov 4 from 9:00AM to 1:00PM. For more information on the Upcountry Literary Festival, please contact Randy Ivey at 864-441-7279 or at

Meet the USC Union Golf Team

USC Union welcomes a new sports team this year with the formation of the Bantam Golf team under Coach Gil Moss. With exciting new facilities and technology these skilled players are practicing hard to compete at the club level in Fall 2024. They played their first scrimmage match against USC Sumter on Oct. 3 at Lakeside Country Club. Meet a few of our USC Union Golf players.

Sophomore Will Childers is excited to be playing golf again after competing on the Union County High School team. “I wanted to learn the sport just to play for future reference,” he said. “When I heard about the preparations for a team here, I told Coach Moss I would be his first player.” He says that the technology that the team uses to practice, like their indoor golf simulator, provides a great opportunity to practice in a way that he has never experienced before. “I’m looking forward to trying new courses and playing against new folks,” he said. “I enjoy the competition.

“This game is 90% mental and 10% physical,” said freshman Jaeden Weathers. “So much can go wrong and so little can go right.” A graduate of Laurens High School, where he was the #1 golf player, he says that the furthest his ball has ever traveled is 374 yards, but that having more speed and power makes it harder to be accurate. Between the simulator and his teammates, though, Weathers says he learns a lot. “We’re all friends, but there is definitely a lot of friendly competition,” he said. “We help each other grow.”

Freshman Logan Crawford says he feels confident going into the team’s first matches. “We’ve got some good guys on the team,” he said. “My swing has improved a lot.” Since he began playing on the team at Ware Shoals High School, where he became the #1 player, Crawford says he has “gotten a lot better than he thought he was going to be.”

These players can be found practicing on their new driving course or in their indoor golf simulator at the Laurens location. They are currently using a Garmin, which is placed behind the players when they hit the ball in their indoor simulator. The device connects to an app on the player’s phones, where they can then see their total distance, speed, backspin, deviation and much more. In the coming weeks, the team will begin working with a new simulator box, with which they can virtually play over 200 courses and download playback videos to study later.

“We are in the infant stages,” said Coach Gil Moss. He currently has seven players on his team, two sophomores who played at Union County High School and 5 freshmen, and he says that they played well at their first scrimmage match. “These are good guys. We are having a great time.”

USC Union Nursing Graduates Give Back to Their Communities

Our first USC Union Nursing Cohort is already doing great things. All six nursing graduates from the class of 2023 passed the NCLEX (Nursing Council Licensure Examination) and have found nursing jobs, some going to work in their hometowns. Meet a few of our nursing school graduates and learn how USC Union helped them on their path to success.

Makenzie Grady Edwards from Union is now a registered nurse at Union Medical Center, specializing in medical telemetry. She says that she was inspired to become a nurse because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. “[I want to] be the nurse that they remember positively impacted their most vulnerable time,” she said. During her time at USC Union, she was involved in SGA and Research Club, and was also part of the Dean search committee. Though she says that navigating the new nursing program was challenging at times, she enjoyed making memories with her classmates. “Staying organized is key to being successful in nursing school,” she said, when asked what advice she would give to current students. “Try not to procrastinate.”

Brianna Gooch [Fish] is now working in the medical intensive care unit at a hospital in her hometown of York. She says that her mother, who was also a nurse, inspired her to enter the program at USC Union. While she was a student, she was captain of the Rifle Team, and won several medals in air rifle shooting competitions. She says that the nursing program offered her many valuable learning opportunities and advises current students to stay caught up in their studies by reading the textbook.

Grace Lee from Pauline is a registered nurse in the NICU at Spartanburg Medical Center. Her mother is also a nurse, and she says that she was inspired to follow in her footsteps because she wanted the opportunity to help others. “I want to be a safe place and advocate for all of my patients,” she said. She says that the fast-paced environment and technology in the nursing program were challenging at first, but that it taught her to face difficulties head on and adapt quickly. “My classmates were what made my time in the nursing program the best,” she said. “Their humor and support made time fly. Seeing everyone grow as a nurse…was amazing.” Lee played on the softball team during her time at USC Union. Her advice to current nursing students is that they should use their time wisely. “Allocate your time to succeed in your courses and profession, but don’t forget about the people around you,” she said. “You can spend time on things other than school.”

Lee says that her nursing instructors, Lynn Edwards and Courtney Pinell, along with the rest of her professors at USC Union helped her grow as a student and as a professional. “I never had a professor who didn’t go out of their way to make my college experience wonderful,” she said. “They taught me to be kind, courteous, and gave me the confidence to be and amazing person and nurse.”

Through our partnership with USC Aiken, students can now receive a USC Aiken Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree while completing courses here at the Union campus. “USC Union faculty is aware of the needs of rural populations. Now, because students have the advantage of a nursing school on campus, we can encourage the students to give back to their home communities,” said Lynn Edwards, Nurse Administrator at USC Union. She reports that 66% of USC Union nursing graduates have gone on to work in their hometowns, with many serving as “key healthcare team members” at Union Medical Center. “I feel a sense of pride knowing that I am a small part of the USC Union nursing program and that this program helps students understand rural culture and will help meet the needs of rural families,” she said.