Frances Henson VanLandingham was born in the Poga community of Carter County, Tennessee, within shouting distance
of the North Carolina state line. She attended the Flat Springs Baptist Church in the Flat Springs community of North Carolina
and the two-room Poga Elementary School through the eigth grade, graduating from Hampton High School in Hampton, Tennessee.
Frances holds a B.S. degree in Education with a minor in scoiology and an MA in psychology from West Georgia College, Carrolton,
Frances worked for the FBI in Washington, DC, the Heat Start Program in Rome, Georgia,
and taught in the Georgia public school system.
Frances has four children and four grandchildren. Now retired, she divides her time between
her home in Valle Crucis, North Carolina and the Poga Community of Butler, Tennessee. After all these years, she still can't
decide which state to call home.
She has been a member of HCW since April 1999.
Visit Fran's Website
Fran VanLandingham interviewed by Maggie Bishop October 2008
Give us your "elevator speech" about your latest project. Right now I am marketing my newest book, "Mountain Women: Steel and Velvet." A collection of stories about the lives of women who lived in this area during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. I have book signings scheduled until Christmas. Selling is my least favorite part of the book business. I would
hire someone to market them if I could afford it. Like someone said, "If we don't sell them, no one will know what we wrote."
How did you get to the High Country originally and the second time? I was born in the High Country. Like most people from my generation, I had to leave in order to find
work and support myself. After spending nearly half a century in other places, I was able to retire and come back to the place
that has always been home.
If you could change one thing about your writing habits, what would it be? The one thing I would like to change about my writing habits is to take my time and not feel pressured
by others to hurry up and get it done. I will probably continue to change in my writing and my life. I believe that to be
alive is to change.
How did you get started with collecting stories about things people did long ago? The way I got started collecting stories from the past and writing about the culture and history of
these mountains was simply because I couldn't find anyone else crazy enough to do it. When I came back to the mountains after
spending my adulthood in other places, it was not the place I remembered from my childhood during the 1930s and 40's. It seemed
to me that Appalachia had become just part of "Mainstream America." Better roads and communication had opened up the area
to outside influences and it was no longer a closed society. I thought the old ways should be written down and remembered.
I looked around and asked, "Where are all the old people?" I thought they should write about the way life was during the Great
Depression when life was a struggle in these mountains. It finally dawned on me that I am the old people and if it gets written
it will be up to me, so I started collecting and writing my stories.
What is the most difficult part of putting your books together? The most difficult part of putting my books together is trying to please myself and all the others who trust me
with their stories.
Tell us about the most memorable story you collected Every time I get a new book published that one is my most memorable.
What types of books do you enjoy reading? I
enjoy reading, mostly nonfiction. History, psychology and sociology.
What is on your reading table now? There is
a copy of "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls on my coffee table right now, along with several copies of books by local
people. Who was your favorite author when you were growing up?
I read everything I could get my hands on as a child. Printed matter was in short
supply. We looked forward to the monthly news paper called the Grit.
Tell us a bit about your family and pets. I
have four children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. They have brought great joy to my life. Each of them is
a treasure. My little dog Buddy is my constant companion.
If you could spend a month somewhere and money were not a problem, where would it be and why? If I could spend a month somewhere and money were not
a problem, it would be right here in these beautiful mountains by my little bubbling, sparkling river. Because I spent too
many years away from this place. My daughters are pleading with me to take a trip to another country with them next summer,
but I just can't do it.
What's on your "wish list"? The only thing
on my wish list is for the economy to improve so that young families will be able to stay in this area and make a living.
As for myself. I live in paradise, what more could I ask for?
Back on Nowhere Road, a memoir published in 2003 by Parkway Publishers, is a story from the
heart of Appalachia. The saga begins with a young mountain girl's dream to receive a high school education and to become "somebody"
in spite of her father's dogmatic words, "An eighth grade education is enough to know how to hoe corn and raise youngens."
Frances Henson, however, had other ideas; and she put action into her desire for an education, sometimes walking five miles
to catch a ride that would take her to high school, fifteen miles further down the road.