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6 must-see literary sites to see in North Carolina

You’ll find travel in the toolbox of many a writer and poet; it is used to create a sense of time and place. A good description can help you visualize a location. A great one can make you want to go there. Georgann Eubanks has chronicled locations in “Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains,” “Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont” and “Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina,” which came out in April ($22; University of North Carolina Press). Each book has 18 tours. We asked her about her favorite sites across the state. John Bordsen, travel editor

The Carl Sandburg Home (“Connemara”), Flat Rock. “It’s the first National Historic Site dedicated to a poet ( www.nps.gov/carl). The house is kept as if the Sandburg family went out for a hike, so you see the memorabilia and junk of his life – manuscripts in cardboard boxes for Van Camp’s pork and beans ... just stacks of stuff. Descendants of his wife’s goats are still born there every year. Sandburg is the poet who wrote ‘Fog,’ and there’s quite often fog on this mountain homestead.”

Thomas Wolfe Home and the Homewood residence, Asheville. “Wolfe is arguably North Carolina’s most famous writer, and in his mother’s boardinghouse ( www.wolfememorial.com) there are still toothbrushes in the bathroom! It’s the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to get a room... but Wolfe’s mother turned him out because the smell of liquor was on his breath. The Homewood house, near Riverside Cemetery, is the home built by the doctor who established Highland Hospital, where Zelda Fitzgerald – Scott’s wife – was institutionalized. She was a patient at Highland when it burned down; she died in the fire. The only thing left is the doctor’s house ( http://1.usa.gov/YFusiF). Lee Smith, one of North Carolina’s best novelists, has a new book about Zelda in Asheville.”

Pauli Murray sites in Durham. “Murray was raised in Durham by her grandparents; she had a law degree, was one of the first female Episcopalian priests, and wrote poetry and important memoirs about growing up African-American in the ‘Jim Crow’ South. In the last few years, Durham has put up murals honoring her. Her grandparents are buried in Maplewood Cemetery. Their graves are practically in a ditch below the mausoleum belonging to the Duke family – a very visual testament to the challenge of being a black woman in her era.”

Cool Spring Tavern, Fayetteville. “This is the oldest house in Fayetteville ( http://bit.ly/YZUjQ5) and is where novelist Carson McCullers finished ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ and wrote ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye.’ Another interesting destination in town is the Charles Chesnutt Library at Fayetteville State ( http://library.uncfsu.edu). Chesnutt was one of the most important early African-American writers after the Civil War. He lived for a time in Charlotte, but his childhood was in Fayetteville. Chestnutt is one of the main areas of study for Duke University’s current president, Richard Brodhead.”

Hillsborough. “Elizabeth Keckley was Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker, and is portrayed fairly prominently in the ‘Lincoln’ movie. But she spent her youth at Burwell School as a slave, escaped and went North, and wrote a memoir, ‘Behind the Scenes or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.’ ” ( www.burwellschool.org)

Bath. “It’s one of oldest settlements in North Carolina and where novelist Edna Ferber came to immerse herself in local theater – a floating barge with a theater on board. It went from town to town on the Pamlico River, docking so locals could see plays ( http://bit.ly/YAd0rN). She spent a few days on the boat, and then went to France to use this as the inspiration for ‘Show Boat’ – which later became a musical that became a movie. Bath is also one of the childhood homes of Suzanne Newton, a popular young-adult writer.”

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