New Heritage Center Publication Showcases County Stories, Poems, Essays

The Johnston County Heritage Center has released its first Johnston County Literary and Historical Journal, a collection of poems, short stories and essays by a diverse selection of local writers.

This attractive hardcover book is dedicated to the late Margaret Maron, acclaimed author and Heritage Center patron, who was honored with the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2008, named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America for lifetime achievement in 2013 and inducted in the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2016. Maron passed away in 2021.

As the back cover states, this collection of short literary pieces also “celebrates a fast-growing rural county in central North Carolina whose history dates back to colonial times.” These writings represent the perspective of those with deep family roots – like Johnston County native and North Carolina Poet Laureate (2015-2018) Shelby Stephenson. They also represent newcomers like Evelyn Wool, author, artist, farmer – who moved with her husband Robert from Connecticut to Pine Level in 2014, to embrace the slow-paced “JoCo” way of life, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes reluctantly.

The book’s 164 pages feature poems by Oakley Dean Baldwin, Teresa McLamb Blackmon, Cindy Brookshire, Cornell Cox, Carolyn Grantham Ennis, Nell M. Evans, Dorothy La Motta, Shelby Stephenson and Lasa Sanders-Williams. Contributors of short stories and essays are Joe Austin, Cindy Brookshire, Dale Coats, Cornell Cox, Mary Nell Lee Ferguson, Kelley Stone  Garris, K. Todd Johnson, Dorothy La Motta, the late Margaret Maron, Gordon McLamb, Gary Ridout, Vicki Poole Sherwood, Jake Stephenson, Sherwood Williford and Evelyn Wool.

The book was produced with financial assistance from the Cynthia DeFord Adams Fund, and is edited by Dorothy La Motta and K. Todd Johnson.

The Johnston County Literary and Historical Journal, Volume 1 is a fundraiser for The Heritage Center, priced at $30, and is available at the center’s gift shop, located at 241 East Market Street in downtown Smithfield. The gift shop is open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The book can be ordered online at

If you’d like your book signed, an informal reception is being held on Saturday, February 12 at 1:00 pm at The Heritage Center for the contributors to the volume.

For more information, contact K. Todd Johnson, director, at 919-934-2836 or