Coffee brings community

Time to re-emerge from my blog post hiatus, and just in time for a good cup of coffee!

In the past six months since I last posted I’ve been working on two longer manuscript projects. And just this week I learned that my poem, “Colored,” and a prose piece, “Sheet Cake,” earned honorable mentions in the Carolina Prize for Writing contest. Both will be published in County Lines: A Literary Journal in December 2020. (  And yesterday I hit the submit button on a grant proposal for a project I am working on for 2021.

So I’m back and the coffee’s on at a new place in Selma, North Carolina! There’s something about the local coffee shop – real or fictional – that pulls us to want to be in community with each other.

Zena Hamilton-Rose at Coffee on Raiford, 123 N. Raiford St in Selma, NC.

Coffee on Raiford is the result of hard work and sweat equity for Zena Hamilton-Rose, a former house painter, and her brother, Jeffery Hamilton, during the pandemic. Together, they bought a vacant 1910 building in the heart of uptown Selma that needed substantial repairs. They added a new roof, completely removed and replaced the flooring, and updated the wiring to meet today’s codes.  Zena personally designed and furnished the interior, bought the essential equipment and supplies, and traveled to barista training sessions. By the time of their soft opening a few weeks ago, they had hardly any kinks to iron out. In fact, when you step inside it seems like they’ve been there for years.  There is an intimacy and warmth about the place. It feels blessed. My writers critique group has already discovered the cozy meeting room in the back.

Zena even has a bookshelf full of books for patrons to read, borrow or buy. As a shop warming gift, I found a sweet little novel about a woman named Sonja who renovates an old building and reopens it as the newer version of the coffee shop it once was, called Libby’s Cuppa Joe (2019). The author is Rebecca Waters, and this is her second novel, along with Breathing on Her Own (2014).

I heard about Rebecca, an Ohio-based writer, by listening to an interview she did on Connie B. Dowell’s Book Echoes podcast.

I was touched by Waters’ backstory as a widow. I bought a second copy of the book to read for myself, and liked it so much, I used the recipe at the back of the book to make up a batch of the character Sonja’s famous “Breakfast Cookies” that kept patrons coming back to her Cuppa Joe shop.  My husband loves them!

Since Coffee on Raiford opened, it’s joined a “coffee trail” here in Johnston County, North Carolina.

It feels good to be out and about, writing blog posts and exploring coffee shops again – albeit with my mask securely fashioned. 

Here are links to learn more about Rebecca Waters, through her blog, and Zena’s new coffee shop in Selma NC:

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