Thankful for Asparagus

Since my son introduced me to the world of podcasts a few months ago, it’s become one of my favorite things to do while walking. I used to listen to my own thoughts, and then I discovered iTunes, and I couldn’t get enough of music, music, music. I tried Audible for a while too, but I’m too much of a tightwad to pay for the luxury of listening.

But those podcasts—wow! There’s something for everyone, and they’re free. My biggest challenge is in deciding what to listen to. Lately I’ve been going back and forth between Good Life Project, TEDTALKS, and Grammar Girl.

This morning I listened to an interview between Jonathan Fields and A. J. Jacobs on the Good Life Project podcast. I read Jacobs’ The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World a few years ago and was delighted to learn of his more recent books, The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy. Since I haven’t had the privilege of reading them yet, I’m sharing brief descriptions from Amazon.

(1) “A fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible. A.J. Jacobs chronicles his hilarious and thoughtful year spent obeying―as literally as possible―the tenets of the Bible in The Year of Living Biblically….Jacobs’s extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges.”

(2) Drop Dead Healthy is “…the truly hilarious story of one person’s quest to become the healthiest man in the world….The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written.”

On the podcast, Fields asked Jacobs to share one thing he’d taken away from each of his books, something he’d learned from the projects. This is where the podcast got interesting to me and when I decided to buy both books.

From writing The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs’ primary takeaway was the importance of practicing gratitude. Today he earnestly tries to concentrate on the dozens of things that are good and that go right each day instead of the few that don’t. For instance, he’s grateful when an elevator reaches its destination instead of plummeting to the basement. When Jacobs eats asparagus, he’s thankful for the farmer who grew it, the truck driver who brought it to the store, and person who sold it to him.

In his book on health, Jacobs researched all manner of healthy practices and gave them a try. At the end of the year, his #1 takeaway was the importance of movement. Movement of some type each day benefits both body and mind; it aids in thinking and boosts mood. In case anyone thinks of exercises as a self-indulgent activity, Jacobs adds that he does it not just for himself but also for those he loves. He wants to be around for his family.

I’m not sure whether I like the idea of reading these books because of the author’s diligence in researching them, his writing skills, or his sense of humor. It could even be because these topics are right up my alley. Having taught psychology for more years than I care to remember, I know the importance of gratitude and positive thinking on mood and behavior.

And don’t get me started on movement. In Human Growth and Development, the “E” word (exercise) is discussed in every unit except infancy. Its importance in handling stress, combating the blues, and lowering blood pressure crops up in discussions on health psychology, abnormal psychology, and therapy.

Disraeli’s was onto something when he said, “My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me.” I agree with Jacobs’ findings and am looking forward to reading these two books.

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Joe Mack, Cedar, and Maud

I do have some writing projects going on (really, I do), but I’m not prepared to share them today. Since, however, I want to keep my blog afloat, I’m adding some abbreviated book reviews on three recently read books.

The Last of the Breed, Louis L’Amour

lastofbreed

A book doesn’t have to be classified as literary fiction to be thoroughly enjoyable, and this adventure-filled novel kept me reading late into the night.

An American, Major Joe Makatozi, is captured and imprisoned in Russia on the order of Colonel Arkady Zamatev. Before any questioning and possible torture could begin in earnest, however, Makatozi (Joe Mack) escapes from prison by catapulting himself over the wall with a pole. For months, he survives hunger, extreme cold, and hard physical trials as he literally plays hide and seek with his would-be captors. Major Joe is part Sioux Indian, and during his lonely trek towards freedom, the knowledge of his heritage gives him strength.

The novel is quite educational. Among other things, I now know more about the rivers, mountains, and towns of Russia and Siberia. It was interesting to read of American culture told from the perspective of Joe Mack as he talked to the Baronas; in fact, these passages were great reminders of how fortunate we are to go and do and have. Like me, most Americans are soft, and we need reminders of the courage and toughness of the Joe Macks in the world.

Life Without Water, Nancy Peacock

lifewithout

I enjoyed everything about this delightful little book, including the grey green cover and its snapshot of a huge home nestled beneath trees and two moons. A van is parked in the front yard, symbolic of the era (late 60’s and early 70’s) and of the characters’ vagabond lives.

Sara’s brother Jimmie is killed in Vietnam, thus changing the course of her life. Depressed and needy, she meets Sol at a party, a man who’s looking for the right person to be the mother of his child. Cedar is the child, and the story is told from her perspective.

Before Cedar’s birth, Sol and Sara find a three-story abandoned house in North Carolina, and they live there for four years. It’s the center of Sol’s drug operation and was dubbed Two Moons. Eventually Sara tires of Sol’s behavior, and one day she and Sara escape in the van. In Arizona, she meets Daniel, a man who invites them to live with him in his girlfriend’s house while she’s away for three months. When Sara and Cedar leave, he leaves with them, and back they go to Two Moons where other people, including Baby Roo and Topaz, enter their lives in a major way.

Through her scene descriptions, superb dialogue, and character sketches, the author reminds us of several truths, including Robert Frost’s “It goes on” response to a query about what he’d learned about life. Peacock also reminds the reader that one event can change the direction of one’s life and that people and their memories affect us even after they’re gone.

If you want to read a book that engages all your senses and touches your heart, sometimes in uncomfortable ways, read this book.

The End of the Pier, Martha Grimes

endofpier

Rarely do I read a book in three days. This one, I did. A murder mystery with numerous psychological undertones, including a depressed mother suffering empty nest syndrome, the novel is a real page-turner.

Although I’m usually pretty good at figuring out whodunits, this one was a puzzler. The protagonist, Maud Chadwick, is a depressed, college-educated waitress at a small town diner who spends her nights sitting at the end of a pier watching the lively parties taking place across the lake. The local sheriff joins her each evening, and their dialogue reveals much of not only their personalities, but also those of the townspeople.

No spoilers except to say I never did figure out who the bad guy was. Read it and see if you do.

They say good readers make good writers, and I’m doing my fair share of reading this summer. What about you?

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First One Word, Then Another

At least twice a month, something magical happens in Camden. That’s when the Camden Writers meet to critique one another’s work, share writing advice, and offer support. To say that I’ve learned a lot from this group is an understatement. Without them, I’d still be flagrantly using adverbs and overdoing what Mindy calls “Those Be Words.”

While we all enjoyed the social aspect of meeting with like-minded people, our group began to want something that would compel us to write and submit our work. We noticed that many of our entries centered on family, tradition, and the power of memory. Soon an idea was hatched to develop a communal document, and we published our first anthology, Serving Up Memory, in October 2014.

At one of the first meetings of 2015, one of our members suggested that we publish our collective work every other year and have a workshop in the intervening one. I could have hugged Ari Dickinson for that stroke of genius. Not only did it give all of us some breathing room, but it also provided an opportunity to tackle another project, one that would offer help, encouragement, and information to writers in South Carolina.

After months of planning, we have a date, a venue, and a splendid line up for our first Camden Writers’ Workshop. First One Word, Then Another will be held from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM Saturday, September 26, 2015, on the downtown Camden campus of Central Carolina Technical College at 1125 Little Street. Late registration and a “mix and mingle” with light refreshments will take place at 8:30.

Two sets of concurrent one-hour sessions are scheduled. The first set includes Stories in a Box (Kathryn Etters Lovatt, Myra Yeatts, Douglas Wyant) and Family Histories and Memoirs (Brenda Bevan Remmes and S. Jane Gari). The second set includes Sparking Your Poem (Kim Blum-Hyclak) and From Stone to Gemstone: Revising, Editing, and Polishing Your Manuscript (Carla Damron).

We’re delighted that Bob Strother, who has published over eighty stories, will give the keynote address, Listening for the Story. Not only has he published eighty short stories in various magazines and literary journals, Bob is also the author of a collection of short stories, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, and two novels, Shug’s Place and Burning Time. He’s won so many awards that enumerating them here is well nigh impossible.

 Lunch will be provided by one of Camden’s popular sandwich shops. During the latter part of lunch, a panel will discuss publishing options in Writing, Submitting, and Publishing. Book signings, drawings, and several informative handouts are also planned.

Mark September 26th on your calendar, Fellow Writers. And tell a friend about this workshop, too. Let’s all do our part to encourage others to write First One Word, Then Another.

For additional information on sessions, presenters, and registration information, please go to myscww.org and look for our “slider page.” 

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Tip of the Iceberg

“Why don’t you write a book about teaching?” It was a fair question, just not one I was prepared to answer. I was in the middle of a question and answer period at the end of a book signing for Crossing the Bridge: Succeeding in a Community College and Beyond, and the query gave me pause for thought.

I must have looked a little dumbfounded because the person continued, “I was just curious because you’ve written a guide to help students be more successful, and you must have figured a few things out for teachers too.”

I have figured a few things out, but only a few. Despite decades of teaching two-year college students, I am still surprised, stumped, and sometimes stunned by student behavior and classroom situations. It’s not all about walking into the classroom and saying, “Hello, Everyone.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Still, if I had to offer advice, the first thing I’d probably say is that respect is a two-way street. Students are people too, and a haughty, arrogant attitude is not appropriate. Or no, on second thought, maybe my first advice would be in the form of a warning: Teaching is hard work. It demands physical energy, a flexible disposition, more than a modicum of enthusiasm, willingness to change, and (dare I say it?) love.

I’ve heard it said that those who can do, and those who cannot, teach. Whoever said that has never felt the magic of a classroom. What other profession can you enter that requires that you read, write, and share ideas? Plus, just when you get annoyed or frustrated with how things are going, suddenly the term is over, and after a few weeks, you get to start afresh. I can think of no other profession that allows so many new beginnings.

Somewhere along the line I came across some highfalutin material that included some great but boring teaching guidelines. It was strictly textbook stuff advising teachers to clarify abstract concepts and principles by providing students relevant, concrete examples; explicitly teach and encourage the development of cognitive skills that transcend memory, such as capacities for problem solving, analyzing, and synthesizing; and assess student learning continually and give timely feedback with correctives. See what I mean about the highfalutin part?

While this information was quite helpful it didn’t help me much with the pesky little problems of real students with real issues that prevented them from being in class on time, staying awake, and getting their work done in a timely manner. I could give timely feedback with correctives all the livelong day, but dealing with students as individuals with outside lives was challenging.

I’m in the dreaming/thinking/planning stage and am asking, What do I really want to accomplish and what’s the best way?

What I want to do is create a part memoir/part how-to book on teaching. There may be a little methodology, but the bulk of the book will be based on experience (mine and that of others who love the profession), backed up by research. I want to make it enjoyable to read without being frivolous, instructive without being pedantic.

Any advice you can offer about the teaching/learning equation would be welcome. As a teacher, what’s some advice you can share? As a student, past or current, what is something you wish your teachers would improve on?

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I Can Help You

In Kenneth Blanchard’s The One Minute Manager, the author’s guidelines include one minute goal setting followed by one minute praisings and one minute reprimands. The ideas were clearly stated and simple. Simple is good. The 1992 book was wildly popular, and its proponents still swear by its usefulness.

Right after I read The One Minute Manager, the college where I was employed purchased a video of Blanchard discussing his book. Everyone loved it, and instructors soon learned to reserve it weeks ahead of time if they planned to use it in management, business, or human relations classes. I showed it a few times myself, and I can still remember how entertaining, informative, and convincing Blanchard was.

Lately I can’t seem to get this video out of my mind. At the end, Dr. Blanchard says something like, “Don’t go away from this presentation thinking, “Well, that was interesting. I wonder what else is out there.”

Chuckling, he continued, “Don’t be like the person who falls off the side of a cliff, catches on to a limb, and holds on for dear life. Terrified, the person looks up and asks, “Is there anyone up there who can help me?”

“Yes, I can help you,” says a booming voice. “I will save you. All you have to do is let go.”

The man glanced down at the thousands of feet below him, and then he looked up towards the source of the voice. After a moment, he asks, “Is there anyone else up there?”

I knew exactly what Dr. Blanchard was talking about when he said there were always people looking for some “new and improved” theory that will save their lives or at least make things easier.

Is anyone out there familiar with Crossing the Bridge: Succeeding in a Community College and Beyond? Written by a two-year college instructor with 38 years of experience (yours truly), the book focuses on topics such as self-assessment, choosing the right college, classroom behavior, time management, study skills, and a myriad of other topics.

The challenge is to get people to read it and to follow the suggestions.

When a couple of students asked me what they could do to improve their grades, I remembered Blanchard’s image of the man hanging on for dear life, seeking an alternative answer. I suggested reading the material before coming to class, using the SQ3R study method, and taking the pre- and post-tests in the text. Simple ideas, right?

“But I don’t have time to do all of that. I have a job,” one student said. “Is there anything else I can do?”

“No, nothing else. But if you listen to what I’m telling you and follow through, I can guarantee that you’ll make it.” I replied.

“But I just don’t have that kind of time. Do I really need to read the textbook, or can I just go by the power point?” he continued, his classmate listening in hopes of a magic formula for success.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” I said, saddened and frustrated. “The truth is that are no formulas or shortcuts for succeeding in college.”

Not hearing what they wanted to hear, the students left the classroom. If only they and their classmates would read and follow the simple guidelines in Crossing the Bridge: Succeeding a Community College and Beyond, they’d know the secret (?) to improving their grades in all classes, not just psychology.

Like the booming voice in Blanchard’s scenario, “I can help you.”

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Five Star Books

In an effort to be more attentive to this blog, I’m sharing a couple of recent reviews that I posted on Amazon. Though quite different from each other in theme and style, both of these books merit five stars.

Home Across the Road, Nancy Peacock

“This is the kind of novel that leaves the reader wondering, “How did the writer do this? How did she create such a believable, evocative, and soulful story about families who lived together and yet separately?” The Redd families, one black and one white, live across the road from each other, and both families’ lives are intimately and intricately tied to Roseberry, the plantation home of the white Redds.

“The story of several generations is told through the eyes and memory of China Redd, the oldest living of the black Redds. Weary of life, she lives in her small home across the road from what used to be a stately mansion and recalls days gone by and the people who lived them. Sadness, heartache, tragedy, and pain visit both sets of Redds throughout five generations, and China believes much of it to be associated with a pair of abalone earrings.

“Not only is Nancy Peacock a master storyteller, she is also a gifted scene creator. Among dozens of others, I enjoyed reading the description of the small, abandoned Tastee-Freez with its faded signs and the “cracked and tufted with weeds” parking lot. It was there that Jenny and Coyle met and where he described Roseberry and its grounds for her, using a stick to draw the back door “that China entered and exited every day.

“Smoothly written and powerful, this is a book whose characters and their stories stay with the reader.”

 Losing the Dollhouse, S. Jane Gari

“One of the many reasons I admire this book is because the author explores some of the most important attributes a human needs for surmounting life’s challenges: resilience, courage, and honesty.

 “Despite painful family issues, S. Jane Gari’s inner strength and hardiness helped her spring back from all of them, including divorce, cruelty, and molestation. As an adult reviewing her childhood and early adulthood, Gari takes a look at the events that shaped her and courageously writes about them in an honest, unflinching way. Almost right away I found myself thinking of a quote credited to Anne Lamott: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

“Well-written and riveting, the book encourages the reader to examine his or her own life and the forces that have shaped it.”

Because of my desire to become a better writer, I’ve begun rereading some books about the craft, one of them being Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I had forgotten how good this book is, how delightfully written and engaging. Not really a how-to book, nonetheless Bird by Bird is filled with advice, experiences, and truth.

Here’s one of the truths I was thinking about over the weekend when I used research for a future book as an excuse to visit the South Carolina’s Low Country. It’s from the introduction:

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”

You’ve got to love that! Life as it lurches by and tramps around–indeed.

What have you been reading lately? Please share.

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No More Excuses

This has been a unique week. Quite unusual, in fact. For the first time in thirty-five years, I have no classes to teach. Not one. Since my retirement three years ago, I’m now an adjunct whose employment depends on registration numbers. The full-timers get first dibs on classes, something I’ve known since the late 1970’s. It’s just that, well, it’s never happened to me.

I’m now looking at the next two months as a stress-free gift of time. Over the past several mornings, I’ve grown accustomed to NOT having to check emails or discussion posts. What this means is that I no longer have the excuse of school demands to keep me from pursuing other things, mainly writing.

This morning I came up with a list of tentative goals and am solemnly pledging commitment to them.

Three or four years ago I began working on a beach book. I had seen a small book in which the author took pictures of the sky with her cell phone and put them all in a book. Very little writing was involved, but there were dozens of pretty pictures of clouds and sky. I remember thinking, I could do that, and I started right away. Armed with a Blackberry, I took photos of beaches in North and South Carolina and matched them quotes, observations, and stories.

I was working, working, working and let the project slide. Yesterday I took a look at the manuscript and realized with a heavy heart I had missed the opportunity to publish that particular book. Pictures and comments were clearly linked to November 2011 to November 2012. Plus, the gimmick (all photos being taken with a cell phone within one year) wouldn’t work.

Ever the optimist, I think with some tweaking, I can still put together a nice book of beach photographs. In fact, with a few exceptions, every picture I’ve taken since that period is better than most in the original manuscript. And I’d like to think that my writing has improved, largely because of input from my writing group. By mid-July, I’m hoping you can see that book on Amazon.

I’ve also been dabbling with a combination memoir/how-to book on teaching. Light on methodology and heavy on experiences and recommendations, I hope to create something useful, informational, and fun for all aspiring teachers. I’m also hoping some colleagues, past and present, will toss in some ideas and experiences.

And then there’s the family history book I’ve been pondering for several months. I’m not sure why, but many senior citizens (I can say that now without cringing) feel that same urge. In any case, with a nudge from my sweet sis, I’m typing away. This project will probably take a bit longer since I’m including research from other family members, cemeteries, and archives.

That’s it for book ideas. Our local writing group, the Camden Chapter of SCWW (South Carolina Writers’ Workshop), is hosting a half-day writing workshop on Saturday, September 26. Don’t worry, football fans, that date won’t interfere with any Clemson/Carolina games. Although our planning has only recently gotten serious, we already know that it’s going to be a productive, fun, and rewarding day for both hosts and attendees. Mark your calendars for 9/26, Writers and Wannabe Writers.

Time to work on that beach book. What are you writing today?

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Spell Out Arizona

I enjoy being part of a critique group. The members are varied in writing experience, style, genre, and ability. One member can write musicals, another poetry, and still another short stories. We have novelists in our group too.

Despite our diversity, the one thing we have in common is the desire to improve our writing, and we know that constructive criticism from people we trust is helpful. No matter how uncomfortable it is to hear, there’s usually some truth in the “less-than-positive” remarks. As a quick example, a member once gently suggested that I find another term for minx when describing my granddaughter. Although I balked at first, her recommendation saved me from later embarrassment.

As G.M. Barlean reminds the reader in her book Build a Writing Team, critique groups are about suggestions, not compliments. That’s not to say that members don’t receive compliments. They do. But they probably aren’t the same gushing ones you might hear from your mother. From the Kindle edition of Barlean’s book, “You must go into a writing critique group with humility, ready to learn how to make your writing the best it can be. If you don’t have that mindset, don’t go—you’re not ready for critique. “ (Location 1674)

For those who are not quite ready for a critique group, Barlean shares information on generative writing groups whose purpose is to generate writing. Period. Some people are members of both groups at the same time, one to mingle with aspiring writers without threat or anxiety and the other, the critique group, to learn how to improve one’s own writing.

In a generative group, someone shares a prompt, and members write for fifteen to twenty minutes. Afterwards each person can (if desired) read her work and receive positive feedback. For example, members might comment on what’s powerful, funny, true about the piece. After everyone has a chance to write and share, they go home with a piece of writing that can be used in something they’re working on at that time or perhaps worked into a future short story, essay, or poem.

Sometimes it’s tough being in a critique group, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. For starters, developing a thick skin prepares the writer for the sometimes hateful, snarky, and snide remarks of some of the world’s readers. Some people are not going to like your work as much as you do and will be quick to say so. Also, group members can help you spot mistakes, let you know when the story drags, punch up your dialogue, and help you find more active verbs.

Off the top of my head (an overused cliché that people in my critique group would chastise me about), here are just a few things my group has commented on recently:

  • Spell out Arizona instead of using AZ
  • Find another word for minx.
  • Help us see the white ibis.
  • Use more active verbs instead of so many to be ones.
  • Consider deleting sentence about mosquitoes and flies.
  • Engage more of the senses. The reader needs to hear these birds, not just see them.

Are you part of a writing group? If so, which kind, and what do you like about it? If not, what are you waiting on? Without input from my group, I might never have learned that a minx is an impudent or flirtatious girl. 

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Dr. Farmer, Myra, and DeWitt

One of the presenters at the recent Rock Hill Intensive Writing Workshop said she blogged every day. When I asked her how she did that AND continued to write her mysteries, she replied that sometimes she might just put a photograph or a quote because she believed that something should be there.

I agree in theory, but in practice, well, I’m not as focused.

Nevertheless, today I’m adding modified versions of two reviews I recently put on Amazon, one of a nonfiction book about a doctor who has devoted his adult life to improving the lives of people in Haiti and another of a novel that captured and held my attention until the last page.

I read Mountains Beyond Mountains a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed learning about Paul Farmer and others who have been working for decades to improve the health, well-being, and living conditions for people in Haiti, Peru, and Russia. A co-founder of Partners In Health, Dr. Farmer and his cohorts continue to give of their time, money, talents, and just about all of their resources to help ease the suffering of the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned, and dying.

Until reading Tracy Kidder’s book, I didn’t know men like Farmer and his ilk existed. Someone asked me if he was a Christian, and I replied that he doesn’t talk much about his religious beliefs except for a frequent reference to the 40th verse in Matthew 25: “Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Farmer definitely walks the talk.

Mountains Beyond Mountains is the second of Kidder’s books that I have read, the first being Strength in What Remains….In both books, Kidder’s descriptions of Haiti, Cuba, NYC, Burundi, and several other locales are so realistic that the reader can see, hear, and smell the environments. He’s also a master at adding an encyclopedic array of facts while holding the reader’s interest. Although I knew economics and medicine were related, I now have a deeper understanding of the interplay between politics, poverty, wealth, and healthcare.

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg appealed to me on so many levels. On the surface, it’s a love story about Myra and Chip. But it’s also about love and connections between Dewitt, Diane, Marvelous, Mrs. Peters, Fitz, and a host of other interesting characters. All have been broken, and all are healing. Hemingway’s quote at the beginning of the book is perfect for what’s ahead: “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.”

The story line is basically boy meets girl. I say “basically” because there’s so much more than that. Woven into the plot are life issues like commitment, death, illness, disappointment, loss, fear, and love. Myra, the protagonist is a visiting nurse whose daily round takes her into the homes of a variety of people, including a drug dealer who’s healing from a gunshot wound and a fifteen-year-old unwed mother who’s fallen in love with her baby. And then there’s Chip Reardon.

The writing is magnificent. The scene descriptions are so amazing that I went back and read several of them twice—some thrice. And the character sketches are so good! And the dialogue—believable and funny with no wasted words. Berg is a master at using dialogue to move the action along and to allow the reader to actually feel “in the scene.”

I finished this book three days ago, and since then I’ve been thinking about the Chips and Myras and DeWitts and Graces in the world, all of them survivors in some way—just like the rest of us.

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Poetry or Flash Fiction?

After a fun and informative day at Saturday’s Rock Hill Intensive Writing Workshop, those of us who attended from the midlands are psyched up and ready to plan our own workshop for this fall. Although we’re working on another anthology, we decided to publish a book every other year and to host a local workshop in 2015.

Our minds are abuzz with things to consider. Where and when will we host it, and how much should we charge for attendees? Although we’ve considered a couple of venues, this is something we’ll have to consider more carefully. Affordability, size, number of rooms, and ambience are all important considerations. We’ll provide boxed lunches and tons of good information, and the registration fee will be affordable for the leanest of purses.

The Rock Hill workshop had more sessions that we’re equipped to handle right now. Instead of an all-day intensive, we’re looking at a 9-1 time frame. There were twenty-four classes on topics ranging from story telling to flash fiction on Saturday. Novices, we’re looking at four, maybe six, classes. But what should our topics be? That pretty much depends on feedback we get from our possible “audience,” writers in Camden and surrounding areas.

I’m thinking of writers who are just getting started but need a little nudge and a few pointers. There are also people right around Camden, Bishopville, Wisacky, Sumter, Florence, Lugoff, Elgin, and Blythewood who are ready to publish and are looking for guidance on crafting the perfect query. Others want information on journaling, writing dialogue, or starting a family memoir.

With the understanding that we can’t provide answers to everyone’s questions, we’re beginning the process by asking Midlands writers what they’d like to know more about. If you want to know more about poetry, let us know. If you think you’d like to try your hand at flash fiction, we need to know that too. And what about self-publishing? That might be something to consider with those who are ready to get their work out into the world sooner than later.

Bottom line: We want to encourage people to take pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “God made man because He loves stories.” Ready to share yours?

If you live in the Midlands of SC and would like to learn more about SCWW (South Carolina Writers’ Workshop) and/or some topics on writing, please let me know either here on this blog or at jpbowers3@gmail.com. 

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