Find the “Write” Tools to Heal!

Last week Johnpaul built a ramp for our beloved Buster, whose legs are too short to jump into the truck on his own. Guided by a treat at his nose—and the cheers of his brother Finn—Buster quickly mastered the “mountain” like a champ.

This little ramp is so much more than a slab of poplar. It symbolizes what it takes to recover from a traumatic experience that might be holding you back. With the buster“write” tools, and the support of loving friends, you too, can easily triumph over the obstacles of life.

Based on research by Dr. James Pennebaker, “Write to Heal” offers 21 different expressive writing tactics (or tools) in an upcoming 8-week class at the Pittsboro campus of Central Carolina Community College beginning Monday, March 5, 2018.  A pen and notebook is all you need for writing in timed sessions on assigned topics.  Most importantly, you do not share what you write, it’s for your eyes only.  Registration begins in December 2017.  Just search for CCCC Creative Writing Program and click on “View the Online Schedule.”

Accomplished writer and workshop leader Mary Barnard, certified in 2016, has led 3 sessions for cancer survivors at Waverly Hematology Oncology in Cary and one session at CCCC in Spring 2017.  You can make a positive difference in your health and well-being by giving “Write to Heal” a try!  One cancer survivor said she used to dread coming to the clinic, but now she smiles when she walks in the door.

As a reminder, on Saturday, March 3, 2018, I’ll be leading a separate, daylong workshop on Flash Fiction at the same location. We’ll also be providing the “write” tools to turn your experience and ideas into memorable short fiction pieces. Every participant will leave with finished writing and a “do-it-yourself” kit of inspiration for future works.

Hope to see you at one of these events, or both!

 

 

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Mark Your Calendar: A Workshop on Flash Fiction!

flash fiction

“A small fiction is a lone wolf of a lie, sometimes hounding the truth across a field but oftentimes simply sitting on a hilltop to raise its face to the moon and howl of love or loss….” Robert Olen Butler

On Friday, I was honored to learn that 3 stories of mine were accepted by Anchala Studios for an upcoming anthology called Flash Memory. It’s a collection of flash fiction intended for memory-impaired readers, but the book may appeal to anyone who has limited time and just needs a quick fix of fiction (might this be you?). Stay tuned for the details.

I’ve written about flash fiction and its growing popularity before, for both readers and especially writers. I’ll actually be leading a workshop for Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro on this very topic on Saturday, March 3, 2018 from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Flash fiction stories (usually 750 words or less) are irresistible, savory nuggets of human experience at your fingertips. Opportunities for writing and publishing are better than ever. Participants will read some of the best, experiment a little, and leave the class with a “kit” for future inspiration. Bonus: The editors of Flash Memory have also kindly agreed to share with me some of the insights they gained while reviewing and selecting these stories, and I plan to share their wisdom during the workshop.

Interested? Registration deadlines will be available soon at the CCCC website.

Seeking Last-Minute Gifts? Give Someone the Gift of Creative Writing!

Wondering what to give that “certain someone”? Perhaps they’ve seen it all or they’re notoriously persnickety and whatever you get them, you just know they’ll be returning it.

Consider giving the gift of creative writing and signing them up for a Spring 2015 class at Chatham Central Community College! And if you happen to be that “certain someone” yourself, sign yourself up.

Why?

1. The college’s unique Creative Writing program on the Chatham County Campus is the only Continuing Education program of its kind in the state. And we have something for everyone—from 10-week classes or one-day workshops in poetry, fiction and non-fiction led by celebrated authors Ruth Moose, Ralph Earle, and Judith Stanton, just to name a few. Considering what you’ll get in return, the price is nothing short of a bargain.

2. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. You’ll make new friends worth knowing! And the wisdom you pick up will be priceless. Warning: these classes are addictive.

3. You’ll have a new hobby worth bragging about. Instead of things like “I learned how to change the oil in my car” or “I learned how to julienne a carrot” (as important as those things are), you’ll get to say things such as “Just finished up a flash fiction piece about my day at work” or “Wrote a poem today about the cardinal in my yard.”

4. You’ll never look at life the same way again. If you already enjoy creative writing, you’ll know what I’m talking about. But if you’re a newbie, the opportunity to share your unique experiences with others will bring you boundless joy. You’ll feel more connected to the world and the people around you.

5. Need inspiration? Okay, here’s Warning #2. Here comes a shameless plug. Sign up for a workshop lead by yours truly!  It’s called “Jumpstart Your Poetic Imagination: Stop, Look, and Listen.”  You can find inspiration for poetry everywhere – from reading newspapers and periodicals to mining your daily life and memory. In my workshop, we’ll improvise on sample poems written by other poets and participate in fun and collaborative exercises meant to spark your own imagination.

For more information, check out the Spring 2015 Creative Writing Course List for Chatham Central Community College. Register today by calling 919-545-8044, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. M – F.

Hope to see you there!

New Poetry Prompt – Fun with Random Phrases!

Seeking a new creative writing prompt? Here is a prompt I discovered for poetry but can be easily used for fiction as well. Within the course of a single day, simply make note of 5 random phrases — either overheard directly by you or contributed by friends, preferably not from movies or TV.  A poem or story devised around little snippets of the real world around you results in fresh and unusual word combinations. It’s also unbelievably fun.

Hint: It helps to start with at least a rough idea of some sort of action, if not a story, and as in the case of my poem, it can be lifted from reality or imagination. I think you’ll find that the “random” phrases you use will spark your imagination in many directions!

Let’s look at an example. Here is one I wrote last week with 5 phrases that came my way. At the very end you will see a “key” for the source of the phrases.

I Write the Book You Play the Fiddle

Do you ever close your eyes and draw
your finger down a state map—
any state but yours—and land
on a town with a name that sounds
a lot like a town in your state
say
 Jonesville or something like that
and wonder
 if the people in that Jonesville
are anything like 
the people in your Jonesville
and then 
imagine yourself strolling
down their
 Main Street and going into
a coffee shop only to
 hear those people say
things like not
 my circus, not my monkeys
or I write the book you play the fiddle,
and that’s a separate conversation
 and
looking up at you like they know you
and having the waitress slide you a latte
just the way you like it with the cream
so high you have to swirl it before
you take a sip and
 then seeing the old man
who looks just like your grandpa pat
the seat beside him and tell you
the people in this place are as thick
as the hair on a dog’s back and you
not knowing whether that’s a good thing
or a bad thing but because everyone laughs
you decide it’s a good thing and the next
thing
 you know it’s getting late so you say
See you tomorrow to your new friends
but add maybe because you’re not sure
how
 you got here in the first place?

####

I write the book you play the fiddle — conversation overheard by Ashley between two students at Lenoir Dining Hall at UNC
not my circus, not my monkeys – Melissa K., a co-worker
that’s a separate conversation – Melissa K.
people in here as as thick as the hair on a dog’s back – Brian W., another co-worker
See you tomorrow maybe – overheard by my son on a NYC subway

Book Club + Crepes = Good Times!

Last Thursday I had the honor of speaking to about two dozen members of a book club (a day time group and a nighttime group) in the lovely neighborhood of Chapel Ridge in Pittsboro. I was invited by a dear lady named Beti Ann, with whom I share another good friend and hairstylist, Tonya. In fact, it was through Tonya that the invitation came about, for she has been plugging my book for almost a year to all of her patrons!

Not only did the group serve delicious appetizer crepes (cream cheese with sweet-hot jelly), it was a joy to learn that many of them had already read Naked and Hungry. This led to an insightful discussion about not just the book, but the writing process, which is a favorite topic among book clubs. My heartfelt thanks to Beti Ann, Mary, Sherry, Katherine, Cary, Julie and all the new friends I made.

This is the second book club I have spoken to, third if you count a long-distance relationship with a club in Florida that is dear to my heart. In fact it was the Happy Bookers of Lakeland, Fla., that inspired the creation of a special Naked and Hungry Q & A just for book clubs. And my first book club appearance was arranged through another childhood friend from my hometown of Asheboro.

Lesson learned? For all of my writer friends, as you seek connections with local book clubs, don’t rule out your childhood friends and especially your hairstylist! As for the latter, not only does she or he know all your secrets, they also know everyone else’s!

Naked and Hungry Hits the Road in 2012!

Thanks to the support of fans like you, Naked and Hungry had a great year in 2011, with invitations to speak at two bookstores, three Rotary clubs, Spa at Bell House, Coffee and Crepes, The State of Things, and the crowning event, being the guest of the Happy Bookers Club at the Asheboro Library last month.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve got an exciting line-up for Spring 2012, as Naked and Hungry hits the road again, with stops in Pittsboro, Colfax, Asheboro, and Cary.

If any of these events are near you, I hope that you’ll find the time to attend. As always, I’ll be reading from the book, discussing the joys of fiction….and giving away a crepe pan from Williams-Sonoma!

The highlights are listed below, but there is much more to come (including area bookstores), so please stay tuned to the Events Calendar throughout 2012. All events are free and open to the public.

Thursday, January 26 at 7 p.m. – Chapel Ridge Book Club, Chapel Ridge Community Center, Pittsboro, NC

Tuesday, February 21  at 7 p.m – River Landing Retirement Community, Colfax, N.C.

Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m.- Friends of the Library Adult Program, Asheboro Public Library at 7.p.m.

Wednesday, March 28  at 7 p.m – Glenaire Retirement Community, Cary, N.C.

Hope to see you soon!


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!

 

Naked and Hungry Goes to Greensboro!

Just returned from the 10th Annual Celebration of Farmers at the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market, a surprisingly extensive local market founded in 1874, which makes it one of the state’s oldest. The market offers a variety of seasonal produce, home-baked goods and even crafts, such as jewelry and crocheted hand-towels.

My good friend Donna Myers from high school organized this event, which offered a delicious country breakfast on red-checkered table cloths and live music. I recommend the biscuits and homemade strawberry jam! All total, there were more than 100 attendees, some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. These included tobacco and corn farmers, members of a Peruvian friendship mission, even Presbyterian minister-song writers. A highlight was my friend Cosmo pictured to the left showing off his new trick. Paws up to Naked and Hungry!

A special thanks to Donna for inviting me, and to Claudia and Charlie Griffin for their hospitality and cheerful help setting up the Naked and Hungry tent. Couldn’t have done it without you! Also, thank you Yolanda and Emma for making the trek from Durham to hear the reading. Wish I’d gotten your picture!
For more pictures, check out our Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market album.

Dig Deeper

I recently read a profile of writer Pat Conroy and his wife, Cassandra King, also a novelist. I can’t remember his exact words, but in the article, Pat stresses the importance of “digging deeper” when he reaches an impasse in his writing. The answer is there, but he must dig deeper within himself to find it.

As an itinerant gardener, I found this advice to be very useful. My efforts are mostly confined to container gardening—quick payoff for minimal effort—but I’ve always admired the true gardeners, those who know what they’re doing. They’re willing to invest the time to make sure the soil is properly prepared. They, too, “dig deeply” to tender the loving care necessary to yield maximum blooms.

It’s the same way with writing. When I’m struggling, I can drift off the page for “research” but the truth is that most solutions are within my reach if I think carefully enough. Curiously, some of the best solutions happen when I’m not writing. They happen when I’m gardening, cooking, or walking the dog. Or, they can also arise during time spent with other writers.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a workshop hosted by the Burlington Writer’s Club in Graham. Young adult writer Maureen Wartski, novelist and teacher, led a group of us on revision. From description to flashback, we spent time on the little tricks that writers use to propel their stories. At the end, she encouraged us all to created detailed outlines—much in the way that a gardener might create a landscape blueprint—to help guide our stories. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much writers and gardeners have in common. Gotta go…it’s time to prune my bushes!

Leaving A Trail

Last year I had the privilege of hearing Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves, speak at the National Book Festival in D.C. about her personal writing process. She said that unlike some writers, she never plots too far ahead. Instead, she lets the story tell itself and trusts that all ends will fall into place eventually. While crouching on the grass in the heat, and trying not to worry about the camel cricket just inches away from me, I remember admiring her faith.

Just as this picture demonstrates, the trick for me is balancing my knowledge of the present moment with the trail I’ve got to leave behind me. It’s not easy to remember to plant nuance and clues for the reader. For the fiction writer can leave very little to chance.   If you drag a toe in the sand, there needs to be a reverse action that makes sense for the reader.

Now at work on my second novel, and thoroughly enjoying the new characters and complications introduced into the familiar town of Yatesville, I still work from a rough outline. It’s at the top of my file and serves as a guidepost of where I hope to end up. Not sure that’s the best way but it works for me. It’s like my little yellow bucket of shells. It’s a catch-all for the tidbits I can’t bear to leave behind.

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