Holly Kays


Waynesville author Holly Kays will present her newest book, “Trailblazers & Traditionalists: Modern-day Smoky Mountain People,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva. At 3 p.m. there will be a book reading and exploration of some of the stories contained in the book.

“Trailblazers & Traditionalists” is a compilation of 33 feature stories previously published in The Smoky Mountain News, where Kays works as a journalist. Each piece highlights the life of a different mountain resident, offering an intimate look into the lives of some of the diverse and fascinating people who call this region home. 

From the first entry, the story of Ella Bird, one of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ two living Beloved Women, to the last, that of Mike Creason, who for four decades has been teaching the children of Western North Carolina to swim, this book celebrates people from all walks of life.

“I wrote these stories over a period of about five years of full-time work as a newspaper reporter, in that span easily interviewing thousands of people and writing hundreds of stories,” Kays said. “The stories that made it into this book are the stories that stuck with me. They’re the stories that resonated with me personally as well as professionally, and I hope they’ll do the same for my readers.”

In reading a pre-publication version of “Trailblazers & Traditionalists,” George Ellison, a prolific and award-winning author, said he was impressed by the contents.

This collection will become a popular item in its designated niche, by which I mean the loosely-defined but widely-read category of books with journalistic origins in newspapers and magazines,” Ellison said. “The content and style of Kays’ stories are anything but folksy; indeed, they are remindful of the sort of lengthy and in-depth stories associated with The New Yorker magazine.”

Kays, who lives in Waynesville, published her debut title, a novel called “Shadows of Flowers,” in 2017.

“Trailblazers & Traditionalists” is available at City Lights Bookstore.