Found in the Archives: Community Gossip

After —well, I don’t like to think how long — I’ve finally had enough time to pick up enough steam on the Pine Curtain Project to start writing about East Texas history again. I haven’t had to start from scratch because I’ve been collecting bits along the way, but it still kind of feels like it.

My story of focus these days is my grandfather’s story, or rather my great-grandfather, Charlie’s. Among other things, he managed a speakeasy during prohibition, and made and sold moonshine. This is a tough one, because the speakeasy, a place called The Green Lantern, is long gone and left no trace! My grandfather remembers enough about it to roughly sketch the story, and there’s a brief mention of it in an Oral History document at the History Center. But that’s it! A head-scratcher for sure.

Anyway, because of the sparse info, I’m having get really, really detailed into my research. Which is fun, even if it is slower than I’d like.

Lately I’ve been digging into the Diboll Free Press archives. Nothing notable about the Lantern so far, but what it does have is a treasure trove of community gossip columns. These will take me a while to get through because I want to read every word! (And not just because the Free Press publisher was a Durham and covered the family like royalty, haha!)


Calling out a man who used up all the community blood!

Feasting on catfish!

What happened in Burke?! I must know.

Anyway, hopefully I will be able to update on the Pine Curtain Project more often. It hasn’t gone away, and there certainly are still plenty of stories out there to tell.

Scenes from a Year in Travel

As I have mentioned, I have a business that publishes travel books and produces custom travel programs and content. This means I travel a LOT. What constitutes a lot? 91 towns in 2022! Our books focus on small towns, so while we see plenty of cities, we are especially fond of what you can find if you leave the interstate. Here are my favorite photos from a year on the road!

Kilgore, Texas
January 2022

Shreveport, Louisiana
January 2022

Cranfills Gap, Texas

Downtown Baird, Texas
April 2022

Albany, Texas
April 2022

Overton, Texas
May 2022

Hamilton, Louisiana
June 2022

Colorado City, Texas
August 2022

Tucumcari, New Mexico
August 2022

OctOBER 2022

December 2022

If you like what you see, you might like our books! If you’re a business and would like to learn more about our corporate services, get in touch. Otherwise, just enjoy and be inspired.

You’ll notice these photos are much better than the ones you usually see on here. That’s because my husband took them! No particular order to these beyond the date. Just quirky destinations that that stood out to me.

We plan a few big trips a year in pursuit of our books. In 2023, we will be doing a trip up the Texas coast, from Port Isabel to Port Arthur as well as spending time photographing around the Texas Frontier regions – North Central Texas and the Panhandle. I’m sure there will be other trips along the way — the best ones are often instances where we just get in the car and go!

2022 Year in Books

This year, according to insights on my Kindle app, I read 27 books, compared to 29 in 2021 and just 13 in 2020. This includes purchased books and digital loans from the Dallas Public Library, and doesn’t include physical books or the small selection loaned to me for review through NetGalley. I mostly read library books because well, I love to read but my budget and bookshelves can only accommodate so many physical books.

There are a few weeks left in 2022, and quite a bit of downtime for me as business slows and I don’t travel for Christmas. So, I expect to add one or two more titles.

I gravitated heavily toward nonfiction this year. It was a very busy year, so I would have thought the opposite to be true — that I would want to escape into fiction. But my favorites mostly were in the true crime and history genre.

Something new that I have done for years, but only now started tracking, is recommending titles to my 88 year old Grandfather in East Texas. He reads anything and everything, regardless of genre, politics or author. He really likes books that give new insight to history and current events. I send him books to entertain him and try to keep him inside and out of trouble. But like me, he is a quick reader, so there is usually time between book deliveries for him to get into his garden to lift heavy things or mow with one of his ancient, pieced together “Frankentractors” or give unsolicited advice to construction crews across the street, much to the consternation of his grown children and other grandchildren. I have indicated the books I’ve sent to him and when applicable, his unfiltered feedback. (Well, slightly filtered — he shares his reads of the day with my mom at dinner, and she passes it on to me. But she includes strong opinions, cuss words and his…colorful turns of phrase.) If you, too have an elderly person to calm and entertain, maybe these recommendations will help.

These are just a few memorable books from 2022 out of many that I read, and in no particular order. I didn’t review as I went along, and won’t overburden the list with reviews here, just some hot takes. I’m becoming more active on Goodreads if you’d like to follow me there.

The 2022 Notable Book List:

Notes on an Execution, Danya Kukafka (
Zabar’s: A Family Story, with Recipes, Lori Zabar (
Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me, Ada Calhoun (
Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls, Kathleen Hale
*Hell’s Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, a Serial Killer Family on the American Frontier, Susan Jonusas (
I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home, Jami Attenberg (
*Big, Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas, Stephen Harrigan (
*Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Timothy Snyder (
*The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City, Jim Schutze (
*Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family, Jess Walter (
A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews (
A Woman’s Story, Annie Ernaux translated by Tanya Leslie (
Gichigami Hearts: Stories and Histories from Misaabekong, Linda LeGarde Grover (
Anna: The Biography, Amy Odell (
I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy, Erin Carlson (
*The Good War: An Oral History of World War II, Studs Terkel (

*An asterisk marks the books that I had sent to my grandfather.

The Hot Takes:

Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls, Kathleen Hale
This is an intimate look at mental illness in youth, online culture, the ferociousness of young girls and the worst case scenario when the worst of those elements combine. Throw in a detailed look at the juvenile incarceration system and barriers to appropriate mental health care access for incarcerated youth, and you’ll look at “weird kids” with more compassion.

*Hell’s Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, a Serial Killer Family on the American Frontier, Susan Jonusas
I really liked this one, and my grandfather loved it. He read it slowly so that the experience would last through the last hot weeks of summer. It had all the elements he liked, true crime, history and mystery partially set in Texas.

*Big, Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas, Stephen Harrigan
I borrowed this one from the library and sent my grandfather a hard copy. If I wasn’t so sure I’d inherit it back in the next, oh, 50 years or so (if not longer, we can hope), I’d buy my own copy. He especially liked the archival photographs that went with the major points of the book.

*Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Timothy Snyder
This was a grim read, but a good one. I’d think “uh-oh” when coming to an especially graphic bit, because I knew what my parents’ dinner table conversation would be once my grandfather got there himself. “I can’t believe people would do that,” he would say, before going into detail on just what they did and the results of their actions. But even grim stories are important and my grandfather agrees.

*Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family, Jess Walter
I really liked this one, an unvarnished account of failures on the part of the government and the fringe beliefs and eccentricities of the Weaver family. “Damn crazy bunch, but the FBI was wrong to do what they did,” my grandfather said. (I’d like to note here that his favorite grandchild —not me!— is, in fact an FBI agent, but he calls things as he sees them.)

A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews
This is set in a Mennonite community, but I found so much familiarity with my (secular) home community. I appreciated that Toews made the characters so multi-faceted. It is more common and I suppose, easier to write these insular communities as oppressed, simple or folksy but that does a great disservice to the very real lives they contain.

A Woman’s Story, Annie Ernaux translated by Tanya Leslie
French writer Annie Ernaux and winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature was not a writer I was familiar with until her win was announced. While I regret that I have only just now begun to read her work, I’m also grateful that by now there is a lot of that work to read! Her stories are short and concise, and her literary voice is evocative and inspires emotion without being overly emotional. I have many more of her books on my library loan list, and can’t wait to read them.

Gichigami Hearts: Stories and Histories from Misaabekong, Linda LeGarde Grover
I read this and then interviewed Dr. Grover for the New Books Network, my last interview before our neighborhood went haywire with spur of the moment yard work noises and podcasting became impossible. This was a great book that incorporated Dr. Grover’s own story with her family history and folklore, and I am so glad I got to speak with her to learn more. (You can listen to the podcast here. I hope to podcast more in 2023, but that depends on the leaf blower brigade which is sadly, not up to me.)

*The Good War: An Oral History of World War II, Studs Terkel
I love everything that Studs Terkel has ever produced, and this is no exception. Like my grandfather with his history books, I am pacing myself because sadly, there are no more Studs Terkel books forthcoming and I have read almost all of them. I purchased this for my grandfather’s Christmas present. He had a beloved uncle who died in WWII during Operation Husky, in Italy. In my family research I always look for new details to fill in the part of his story that happened so far away from home. This book does a great job of filling in color and the impact on individual lives from a variety of people who lived and served during the war.

Onward to 2023!

Exhibition: Dallas Public Library

Installed art at the J. Erik Johnsson Central Library, Lillian Bradshaw Gallery.

Last Friday, I made a trip to Downtown Dallas to install my first solo show at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. This show was supposed to happen last spring, but schedules could not quite align. Happily, now is a better time, and I have the space for the next month or so.

Although I have been creating some new work since the show was proposed and accepted, monotype prints still comprise the majority of my work, so that’s what’s on view.

I’m still in the “bring your own hammer and hangers” phase of my art career, but unlike my last big show, James was able to help me out, which made it a bit easier.

All-in-all, I have 16 pieces up, framed in various sizes. Since it had been a little while since I worked on these prints, it was fun to go back through them to pick and choose which art to display. The majority are from family photos, but one wall’s art highlights the greater Lufkin and East Texas community.

Here are a few that I chose, which link to their accompanying blog posts!

To see the rest, make a trip to the library! (While you’re there, get a library card! If you already have a card, pick out a new book! And if you already have your card and plenty to read, check out the library’s awesome new historical exhibition of archival materials around Big D Reads and “The Accommodation” book! I have to say, it’s an honor to be part of the good work of the Dallas Public Library.

If you see a piece that you are interested in here, at the show, or elsewhere please get in touch. After a break to focus on other things for the summer (did you know I published a travel book?!) I am open again for sales and a limited number of commissions. I am always interested in opportunities to showcase or share about my art, process and research project. Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Happy Summer!

“Night Swimming,” Acrylic on Canvas by Stephanie Khattak.

Hello, why yes — it HAS been a while since I last updated my blog and my web site. What can I say, the first half of 2022 has gone by really quickly. And while in some ways it’s been really nice, it hasn’t left a lot of time for more creative pursuits, much less documenting those pursuits.

I secured a new freelance/contract client in January that takes up most of my weekday hours, and I published a travel book! The operative word there (after “published” I suppose) is travel. I haven’t been home many weekends in the past year or so. I am planning more travel books which entails more travel. So, it’s been a bit of a balance to learn, but I am getting better at it.

But I still paint as often as I can, and I still have the Pine Curtain Project going in the background. The above painting doesn’t look quite like the other pieces in the Pine Curtain Project. That’s another reason this blog has been quiet for a bit. I have felt compelled to bring the project into a more modern era, and am always tiptoeing around that a little bit. Some stories are not my stories to tell, but intersect with mine. So, what to do? My solution is to just focus on the scenes and feelings that I want the paintings to evoke while making everything else unidentifiable. This specific swimming pool didn’t exist, and neither did the specific girls in it. But what did exist, for me and I imagine many others, is night swimming with friends on a summer night. One of my besties had a pool, and my church rented one each summer from the time I was in middle school on out. There was a special kind of relaxed that we felt after swimming, and many pool nights melted easily into slumber parties. It was hot, and the June Bugs were loud, and we somehow felt sunburned even though we were swimming at dusk. And it was wonderful.

An East Texas Stories Podcast!

The first two episodes of Pine Curtain Confidential Season One, Ghost Story, Ghost Town are available now!

These two short east Texas history podcast episodes introduce us to Homer, Texas and one of its haunting mysteries, using folklore and community stories to tie a Texas ghost story to real events. New episodes drop the week of Oct. 11.

Listen on Buzzsprout, Spotify, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Amazon Music or Stitchr. New platforms, including Apple Podcasts coming soon!

Research notes for this season are available here!

East Texas Christmas Gifts

Christmas Cat says that it feels early, but it’s actually the right time to be thinking about holiday gifts from Khattak Studios and the Pine Curtain Project. Getting commission requests to me by October 15 best ensures that your gift will be completed and delivered in time to frame (if necessary), wrap, and give to your loved one. Commissioning cards by Oct. 15 helps me produce and get them to you in time to send holiday greetings.

I have five commissioned original slots open, and you can also commission prints and postcards from completed work, starting at size 5×7 and going up to size 18X24. Items ship unframed and envelopes aren’t included, but a retailer like Paper Source has many envelope color options for size 5X7.

If you’re looking for holiday themed prints, these are very popular:

Lufkin Rudolph”

“Merry Christmas (Vintage Truck)

East Texas Church, 1930s” This is an image that I could add Christmas lights or other holiday elements to, to make it more personalized for the occasion.

Commissioned originals and commissioned, hand-embellished studio prints are made to order. Please allow up to six weeks for production, shipping and handling, and delivery of holiday orders. Please contact me for pricing and other details. More recent work can be found here.

Future Cat Lady

Cat Lady in Training,” by Stephanie Khattak

If you have been connected with me for any amount of time, you know I am a cat lady. Here is the kitty that started it all, Baby Kitty in my arms, in this print based off of a 1979 photo. Baby Kitty was a gray striped tabby who lived in the barn between my house and my great-grandmother’s house. I don’t remember her being an inside cat, but she was always around and a really good sport while I learned to love animals. Baby Kitty was a beloved member of our family, to be cherished and pampered as such. As has been the case with every cat, dog (and in my cousins’ cases – horse, snake, parakeet and Galapagos turtle) since then.