About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.
Author Archive | Jim Stovall
fountain pen

The fountain pen – the first portable writing instrument

For the first time in many months, I decided last week to make a fountain pen — not a ballpoint, which is what I usually do — on my lathe. During much of my working life, I used a fountain pen because I liked the feel of it and because I felt the writing was […]

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Walt Whitman’s calculated plan to achieve the fame he wanted

Walt Whitman (whose 200th birthday we celebrated briefly last week) was 35 years old in 1854 with no job and no prospects. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a poet — a famous poet. He was well on the way to being a poet. He had already written much of his seminal work, Leaves […]

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Walt Whitman chases fame, Verse and Vision, libraries, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, June 7, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 7, 2019.     Celebrations of great moments and memories in the history of the United States continue during these weeks with Memorial Day, followed by D-Day (June 6), Flag Day (June 14), and then July the Fourth. Each of these times calls for clear-eyed reflection and assessment […]

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Sir Walter Scott writes himself out of debt, more on libraries, competing definitions of journalism: newsletter, May 31, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, May 31, 2019. For the past six or seven weeks, we have left our beehives alone. This is the main honey-making season, and we did not want to do anything to disturb them. That changed this week when I opened them to make […]

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What good are libraries? How should they be run? Provocative questions from a reader

After my rant last week about the funding proposals from the county government for our local library, one of my very good newsletter readers and faithful correspondents (Frank C.) sent me these provocative questions. They were challenging enough that I thought I should share them with you to see if you had any reactions. Does […]

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“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed.” Or maybe not.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”  This quotation is currently making the rounds on the web, especially on Facebook, and it is being attributed to the writer George Orwell. The quotation has various iterations — such as “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else […]

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Overcoming debt and grief, Sir Walter Scott wrote – and wrote some more

Despite fame and great fortune, Walter Scott found himself in 1826 at a low point in his life. The year before, a banking crisis had plunged the nation into a depression, and Scott went from being a man rich with assets to a man with 130,000 pounds of debt (the equivalent of 10 million pounds […]

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What good are libraries, The Winds of War, and getting away with murder in the U.S.:newsletter, May 24, 2019

  For the last 105 weeks or so, this newsletter has been winging its electronic way to subscribers each Friday, rain or shine, hot or cold. We just passed our second birthday, and when I realized that the anniversary had come and gone, it was something of a shock — in a good way. I started […]

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Television could barely contain “The Winds of War” and its author Herman Wouk

When The Winds of War mini-series premiered on the ABC television network in 1983, the small box in the living room could barely contain the gigantic tale of worldwide proportions that its author Herman Wouk had conceived. It was the story of the coming of World War II in Europe and elsewhere, and its central character […]

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Getting away with murder in the U.S.? It may be easier than you think

If you are planning to commit a murder (don’t do it!) in America and you’re a bit clever and a bit lucky, you have a pretty good shot at getting away with it. That’s the conclusion you are led to when you read the Murder Accountability Project’s “Why We Exist” page, which begins this way: […]

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Howard Pyle and the modern Robin Hood; Rick Atkinson’s new trilogy; and Ole Bert: newsletter, May 17, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,815) on Friday, May 17, 2019. The big news on the home front is that our local library is in danger. Because of the way things are structured around here, the Blount County Public Library (see the accompanying watercolor) is supported by three different governments: Maryville, Alcoa, […]

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Han van Meegeren: His Vermeers fooled everyone (part 2)

In May 1945 Dutch artist Han Van Meegeren found himself on top of the work. The war was over, the Nazis were gone, and he was a rich and famous man. He was about to take a steep tumble. It started with a visit to his studio by members of the Allied Art Commission who […]

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Rick Atkinson turns his attention to the American Revolution

One of the great popular historians of our day — certainly in a league with David McCullough and Nathaniel Philbrick — is Rick Atkinson, whose An Army at Dawn won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2002. That book was the first of three about fighting in Africa and Europe during World War II. They all are some of the best reading about […]

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Robert Louis Stevenson and the birth of Treasure Island

  Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s great novel for young readers, sprang from a single sheet drawing he made while spending an afternoon with his stepson Lloyd in the summer of 1881. They were living in Scotland at the time, and a summer rain had confined Lloyd to the house. He spent that time in […]

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Five of the biggest writing mistakes, from  Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula

Mark Dawson is one of the most successful and prominent authors in the independent publishing world, and his Self Publishing Formula, which provides a vast amount of information and training on how to get into the business and stay there, has become a must-have resource. One part of the resource is a blog about independent […]

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Bert Garner, a simple life of complexity

Bert Garner (1885-1970) was a man well-known in East Tennessee and beyond. Some referred to him as the Sage of the Smokies, and others thought of him as the Appalachian Thoreau. For the last third of his life, he lived in a two-room cabin near the Great Smoky Mountains without plumbing, running water, or electricity. Garner was no […]

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Andrew Marvell: Had we but world enough and time

  Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), in this his most famous poem, To His Coy Mistress, speaks with the passion of a lusty young man who tires of being put off by the woman he is wooing. The lines of the poem range from high-flown descriptions of his desire to mundane concepts and comparisons — all in typical metaphysical […]

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Andrew Marvell, Sherwood Anderson, a quarterback’s fall, and another poetry video: newsletter, May 10, 2019

{% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} The garden is growing, except for the corn. We planted six rows of sweet corn, and two-and-a-third of those rows came up. What happened to the other rows? We don’t know. Same soil, same weather, same everything. But […]

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Sherwood Anderson and the revolution in 20th century American literature

Sometimes librarians get it wrong — at least, initially. Sherwood Anderson, the author of the classic Winesburg, Ohio, was from the small town of Clyde, Ohio, and used that small town as the source of the novel. When it was first published, 100 years ago this week, it was praised by a few and panned […]

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Poems and Paintings — the videos

I have posted two more videos of poetry and painting this week, and I have a request of you faithful newsletter readers: I plan to continue doing these for a while — they’re lots of fun — but I need a name for the series. Poetry and Painting just doesn’t do it for me, and I’m looking […]

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