Fly to Your Writing Colony

Now that we’re at the end of May, we’ve officially entered summer. Hallelujah! The days are longer than ever, which means our yards and gardens are getting a full dose of sunshine. Our honeybees dance for joy this time of year, and it’s so much fun to watch those little workers fly out every day and bring in nectar for the hive from all the flowers in bloom.

Our bee family has at least 10,000 members and every single one performs a crucial role for the colony—from foragers to guards to nurse maids to royal attendants. And then there’s the queen, whose sole job is to lay those precious eggs that keep the colony chugging along. Nonetheless, her work would be useless without the battalion of workers by her side.

As the markets columnist for the esteemed writing community, WOW! Women on Writing, in October, I wrote an article on the value of feedback from other writers. So I ask, do you have a writing group or “colony” that celebrates and encourages you? If not, this post is for you because I’m providing four tips on how to find one. But even if you do already belong to a colony of your own, peradventure my advice may help you meet even more writing partners. You can never have too many.

Take a class! There is where I’ve met nearly all of my writing buddies; in fact, a class led to one of my current groups, one that we call the “Mem-Warriors.” We met during a WOW class on memoir almost two years ago, and I can’t imagine my life without them.

Hang out online. Sign up for NaNoWriMo. There’s a link to “Community” on this supportive and inspirational online community and you can search for writing groups by region. You can also follow fellow writers on Twitter or Instagram. Authors of all genres are known to use these platforms as well to solicit members.

Ask around. Pick your local librarian’s brain for suggestions. My local writing group, Randolph Writers, actually meets at the library and this is how I learned about them. And if you happen to be a member of a national or state writing organization, reach out to them for suggestions.

Create your own! That’s right. Put the word out to friends and family members that you’re founding a writing group. You can also Tweet about it or post a notice at your library. All it takes is finding one other like-minded “worker bee” and presto! You now have a new colony of your own.

Whatever you do, keep reading. The authors you discover in your journey will also become your writing sisters and they will be with you always. In the meantime, I wish you all success with your writing this month.

For even more writing advice and a list of markets seeking submissions, check out the June issue of the WOW markets newsletter.

Hello July: Berries, Weeds…and a Lunar Eclipse!

blackberrySummer is here. No question. The dog days of August arrived early this year. Trust me. With two canines lying flat on their sides on the cool concrete of the porch, too enervated to even wag their tails at me, I know it’s true.

I can’t complain too much. After all, July is my birthday month (the 6th!) AND our anniversary month (the 7th!) and…. the month of berries and freestone peaches. Hurray! July also brings back that cherished, although awkward, memory of the lunar eclipse of 1982. Anybody else remember that? I boiled down that long-ago experience into an ultrashort flash essay that Mental Papercuts just kindly published in their Issue 1.5, Weird Summer Vibes. If you’re hankering for wildly creative, off-the-wall summer stories that may bring back memories of your own, please check it out.

Three poems of mine also appeared today, more writing inspired by the summer. “What the Weeds in My Yard Taught Me About Social Justice” and “September Raspberry” bloomed in the Summer 2019 issue of Gyroscope Review. And “Pulling Up the Wild Blackberry Bushes” just unfurled in the July issues of the gorgeous O.Henry and Pinestraw magazines, both of which are distributed in locations across the state.

As a reminder to all my writer friends, July also marks the halfway point for what we hope will be a productive year of writing. Now’s the time to start penning, gulp, other seasonal pieces (think: Halloween and Christmas) and most importantly, setting goals to improve.

Chinese fortune cookies are fun, not always prescient, but they can be surprisingly profound. Here’s one just for you. Of all our human resources, the most precious is our desire to improve.

So what are you doing to get better? For me, it means leading two workshops this summer at The Joyful Jewel because I learn as much, if not more, from my fellow workshop participants as they do from me! It also means taking a memoir class led by Dorit Sasson through Women on Writing, my favorite space for online writing classes.

I’m a little nervous because I’m new to the field of memoir (and a beginner in the world of creative nonfiction) but the good news is that I’ve got lots to learn. This means I’ll never be bored!

Stay cool, eat your berries, and set your own improvement goals!

Ashley

 

 

Join us on Saturday for Flash Fiction II!

desk.jpgFlash fiction is an exciting field, and for writers, there’s always something new to discover and learn. Fresh from a wonderful journey through the literary heart of our nation — the haunt of Melville and Twain, to name a couple of famous authors — I’m bursting with inspiration and ready to share.

During our first flash fiction workshop this fall at Central Carolina Community College, we settled down with pens and like Herman Melville (whose writing den is recreated here) we wrote to our hearts’ content. And now, we’re ready to polish and prepare our work to share with the world.
If your schedule permits, I hope to see you this Saturday, October 13, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Pittsboro at Central Carolina Community College for Flash Fiction II: Revision and Submission for Publication. And I’ve got some great news! In preparing for the class, I discovered a long list of contests and publications seeking flash fiction — with deadlines by the end of the year!

I’m also sharing examples of cover letters from my own files that worked for me. In addition, I’ll  share my own blunders and “dont-do’s” that might save you from the kind of mistakes I made. I’d love to share these and more with you on Saturday, and as always, I welcome your own contributions.

Register today by calling at 919.545.8044 or through the CCCC website.

Advice to a Poet…and All the Writers Out There

A friend of mine recently asked that I share some advice with a friend of his, who happens to be an emerging poet seeking publication. It’s always a pleasure to connect with other writers, so I decided to post my response here, in case that my journey might help someone else.

Dear Poet:

As much as I love poetry, I am a novelist so I’m afraid I don’t have the kind of specific advice that an experienced poet might offer, but I can tell you what I might do if I were you. So please take this with more than a grain of salt.

Because of the explosion of the internet (a market of 2-billion+ users) and the need for quality content, short stories and poetry are very much in demand, so yes, you should continue to pursue publication in online publications. And if you haven’t already, I would definitely enter my work into contests. This is a way for your work to attract attention and to develop a following. It also helps you develop early credentials for your work. Naked and Hungry did not win the 2009 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, but it was one of 7 finalists in a field of 653. So I included this note in all query letters and eventually added it to the bio section of my published book. More valuable than a cash prize? You bet!

Next, if you haven’t already, I would purchase a copy of The Writer’s Market. Pronto! There’s a specific edition available just for poets and other genres such as children’s books, for example. This is the best way to get a bead on all the available markets for poetry and contests.  It also provides guidance on the development of a query letter, which is essential for approaching agents and publishers. This book is how I found my publisher, Ingalls Publishing Group, which specializes in regional and N.C. writers.

Also, you should strongly consider joining a writer’s group, in person or online. It’s a great way to get honest feedback on your work and trade ideas on publication opportunities. And again, you will have an instant “fan base” when you are published. Writers have a long tradition of supporting each other, and I am so fortunate that at least a handful will show up at my readings. They will also write reviews for you, an action that is absolutely immeasurable.

And finally, as you probably know, the publishing industry is undergoing radical changes, with the advent of e-books and the tragic closure of so many bookstores. Printing is an expensive business, which is why the big name publishers rarely take on new writers. However, the upside is that there is more opportunity for the little guys, at least those who are willing to work at it and pursue new markets for their work. Self-publishing should be strongly considered, especially for those writers with an entrepreneurial instinct. If you believe in your work, I would probably explore the idea of self publishing a small book of it and offering it for sale on Amazon. It would be an interesting experience and well worth the exploration, especially if you are doing all you can to develop a following.

In conclusion, due in large part to all the changes in the publishing world, there is no clear-cut path to success. Every writer has their own journey and unique story to tell. It’s tempting to stress about how hard it is when you’re not a big name like John Grisham. But look at the flip side. Think about the freedom that comes with NOT being a big name like Grisham. Can you imagine what it would be like if your publisher had the authority to dictate to you what you should write? Or told you where you had to go and what you had to do to promote your work?

When times are tough, I always find comfort in the words of another writer, yes, a poet, the legendary Maya Angelou. She once wrote:

“The world owes you nothing. Accept that and you are truly free.”

Believe in yourself, blaze your own trail, and have fun!