Features

In Nashville’s Sky, A Ring of Fire
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 21 August 2017

My sister and nephew drove up from Birmingham on Sunday, the day before the eclipse, and out of pure curiosity we went downtown. The place was crawling with tourists. The Great American Eclipse website had estimated that as many as 7.4 million Americans would be traveling somewhere to witness the event, and this is the largest city in the path of totality. It seemed like a lot of them were already here.

At Pride and Glory Tattoo on 2nd Ave., I found two customers getting the finishing touches on eclipse-themed tattoos that the shop hadn’t exactly prepared for. Ethan Lynn, the guy behind the counter said: “An eclipse is not really a big deal in tattoo world. At all.” (more...)


Trump Takes Nashville, Sort Of
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 17 March 2017

NASHVILLE — “Fight the power,” the Facebook message said. “Get two tix for Donald and let the place stay empty!”

I clicked the link, and that’s how I learned that the president of the United States was coming to Nashville. As with so many of these scattershot acts of resistance, the call to reserve tickets and leave the seats unoccupied seemed pointless for a first-come-first-served event issuing unlimited tickets. I made my reservations anyway on the off chance I was wrong. Then I thought, “I should just go.”

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John Egerton Loved the South as Fiercely as He Fought Its Injustices
By Margaret Renkl
Chapter16.org, 26 November 2013

My friendship with John Egerton began the day his dog Hitch tried to kill my dog Scout in the street. We were passing the Egertons’ house, which is a few doors down from my own, and the normally mild-mannered Hitch objected to Scout’s incursion into his territory. Neither dog was leashed, and John and I agreed we were idiots for taking a chance like that, even in our quiet neighborhood. But it’s impossible not to love the glory of a dog in full squirrel-harassing run, and the fact that we both kept taking the same chance again and again made us regard each other as co-conspirators, I think, long before Humanities Tennessee launched Chapter 16 and installed me as its editor and John as a member of the editorial board.

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R.A Dickey: Still in the Middle of a Streak
By Margaret Renkl
Chapter16.org. 10 October 2012

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is having what sportswriters call a “streak,” scientists call “critical mass,” and Dickey himself calls a “kairotic moment.” To put it more prosaically, this is R.A. Dickey’s year. “Timing is so important in life, I believe,” Dickey recently wrote to Chapter 16 in an email. “I have really felt that this last year has been the culmination of so many things coming together.”

Defining Dickey’s kairotic juncture should probably start with baseball. Despite spending most of his career in the minors, the 37-year-old has won 20 games for the New York Mets with a pitch that baseball purists consider a gimmick.

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Tough Choices
By Margaret Renkl
Ladies’ Home Journal, October 2010

Everyone who knew Susan Gregg Gilmore’s mother-in-law, Martha, was inspired by her determination, generosity, and faith. As the first ordained female Southern Baptist minister in north Texas, she helped her community by registering voters and feeding the homeless. Even after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 60 and then, almost a year later, with ovarian cancer, she remained a tireless public servant. For nearly a decade she battled a disease that often claims its victims in a matter of months. When she died in June 2007 at age 71, more than 1,500 people went to her funeral.

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Fighting the Cancer a Mammo Can’t Catch
By Margaret Renkl
Health, June 2008

It was a long night, and Susan Niebur was feeling low. Normally, this working mom in Silver Spring, Md., can keep a shocking number of balls in the air and still smile. She’s a physicist who works part-time as a consultant to NASA; an at-home mom to Matt, 1, and Andrew, 3; an animal-rescue volunteer; and a daily blogger. But Niebur, 35, is also a full-time cancer patient, and one night last fall her characteristic attitude of resolve and optimism failed her. After nearly six months of chemotherapy, the treatment’s side effects—which are cumulative—were brutal.

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Are We Overmedicating Our Kids?
By Margaret Renkl
Parenting, November 2007

Colleen Webster* never imagined she’d need to medicate her own child. Webster, who has a master’s degree in special education, is an expert in behavior modification. Then Aaron* was born. “Early on, we knew something wasn’t right,” says the Charlotte, North Carolina, mom. Even as an infant, he was irritable and anxious—so anxious that Webster had to make sure he was the first baby to arrive at daycare every morning so the whole staff could help him adjust.

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The 5 Second Tragedy
By Margaret Renkl
Parenting, June 2006

It was the kind of phone call that makes a mother’s heart stop. Soon after arriving at work one April day two years ago, Andrea Mitchell called home to check on her kids: Jake, 9, Isaac, 2, and twins Alex and Aiden, 4 months. The Mansfield, Ohio, single mom had no reason to suspect anything was amiss. The babies, and their older brothers, were all smiles when she left the house. But she’d only recently gone back to work, and with a new sitter still settling in, she called home regularly.

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The Way God Made Them
By Margaret Renkl
Ladies’ Home Journal, October 2005

Carol Buckley could not believe her eyes. The veteran animal trainer watched in alarm as Tarra, her Asian elephant, attacked an employee at the Kansas City Zoo. The 13-year-old former circus elephant, who had spent the day giving rides, was heading back to her stable when a concession stand worker gave her a few pieces of bread. After eating her treat, the 6,000-pound Tarra suddenly took a step forward and lunged at the woman, butting her with her massive forehead and knocking her down.

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The Vaccine Debate
By Margaret Renkl
Parenting, May 2004

Once, it was simple. You took your baby to the pediatrician and he got his shots. But for some years now, a growing number of parents have been struggling with the decision to inoculate or not. They may waver because of the clamor of news reports about possible links between vaccines and terrifying side effects. Or they’re put off by the number of shots recommended—up to 20 before age 2.

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Remembering Her Rural Roots
By Margaret Renkl
Good Housekeeping, November 2001

Most children growing up the way Dolly Parton did—poor and isolated on hard-luck farms tucked in the foothills of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains—never found their way out. But even though a trip into Sevierville, the nearest town, was something Dolly’s family managed only a few times a year, as a little girl she never doubted the existence of a grander world, a world she planned to experience one day. The reason she could dream such big dreams, Dolly says now, was because she loved to read.

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