Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FREE Writer Resource o' the Week

Okay, if not maybe of the week then maybe of the month or whatever time it is....

This one is Media Bistro:

This site contains a great job marketplace not only for freelance writers, but for those looking for jobs in public relations, journalism, marketing, editing, publishing and web design.

Check it out....


Right now I'm taking a vacation from work and polishing up the Big Tom proposal and a collection of short stories to start shopping around....I'll keep you posted.

Hey, has anyone ever been to Iceland? I'm thinking of applying for a study abroad thing there...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NC Literary Festival at UNC-Chapel Hill

Kudos to all those who worked to present the NC Literary Festival. I went and had a blast (like it's possible to NOT have a blast at UNC). In addition to enjoying the typical kicking around the college campus, my niece got to fulfill one of her dreams in meeting RL Stine, who signed two of her books and posed with pictures.
I also hopped over and caught part of the session of author's talking about the challenges adapting books to film and plays, etc. etc. It had Allan Gurganus ("Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All") and Daniel Wallace ("Big Fish"). Both works are awesome,but I was particularly interested in Wallace, because "Big Fish" doesn't follow the "typical" story format and is told in a very interesting way, and it translated so well to screen, although initial impressions were that the book wouldn't translate to screen easily. Both are great, btw.

I especially loved what Wallace said about just going forward with your next work. He said that many folks ask him or interviews etc. present him with a lot of opportunities to relive his older work. He said he believes in just going forward. I found that kind of inspirational, and good advice, because I learned (at least personally) if I wait until the book /story / article is perfect, then it will simply never leave my house. Sometimes, like kids, you just have to kick them out after a while. I had kind of felt guilty about not revisiting stuff (especially since many asked about a sequel to "Saint Jude") and this was good confirmation for just forging ahead.

Of course, the highlight of the day was when my niece met RL Stine. (You can see pictures of myself and my niece in photos with him. What can I say? The man is a rock star.)My niece has been reading RL Stine books for several years (I think she started when she was 6). RL Stine really fueled a love of reading in many young people. A year ago, my niece said it was her dream to meet RL Stine and I promised her if he was within a 500 mile radius, I'd take her to see him. Viola.
And let me just say, for the record, that RL Stine was a super nice guy. You never know what you're going to get when you meet a famous writer, as writers can behave like, well, like WRITERS (and since I am a writer, I should know, because I place myself in that category too), and sometimes you just have to hold your breath.
I can honestly say, that RL Stine could not have been nicer, especially for the two of us who logged in a lot of hours on the road to see him. He really showed a genuine appreciation for his fans, and I think that is a wonderful quality that is sadly lacking in many celebrities today.

I have to admit that I felt he was being very genuine--that it wasn't just a nice act he was putting on, but that he generally was a cool guy.
Thank you RL Stine for helping me create a moment that my niece will remember for the rest of her life.
We also got a special treat as he read an excerpt from his new Goosebumps series "Horrorland." He gave a "world premiere" of a section he read from the book---meaning that we were the first group of kids (of all ages) in the world to hear it. That made us feel really special.
Though totally off subject, if you're at UNC-Chapel Hill (and any time is a good time to visit the old alma mater) may I suggest the restaurant Top of the Hill--esp. the crab dip and the shrimp and grits cake. Exceptionally good food.

And of course, I couldn't make the trip without stopping by the old stomping grounds of the J-School, which had consumed a large portion of my undergraduate life (and sanity). They have moved it to a bigger (and nicer) building than Howell Hall (aka Howell Hell as some of my friends called it) and it was very nice. Congrats to the J-school, which is now celebrating its 100th year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Between the Lines Chapbook Release Party

I had a wonderful, rewarding time at the Cape Fear Poetry Society's chapbook release party in Wilmington last weekend. Two of my poems were chosen for selection in their chapbook, "Between the Lines." There was a reception at Bottega gallery on Front Street (a wonderful art gallery / wine bar) and the poets in the chapbook did readings, talked about poetry, we had a few "word antics" and as they say, a good time was had by all...

Special thanks to all those who made this event possible. It was wonderful to enjoy historic downtown Wilmington.

I met some wonderful people and I was so incredibly impressed with how the Wilmington arts community embraced the literary arts...truly is a great case of artists supporting one another.

Here are my poems that were selected for the collection...

Jesus of Macon Avenue

Jesus of Macon Avenue sits in front of the Starbucks,
four blocks down from the Asheville country club
rocking contentedly in front of his black
guitar case, kicked back, keeping in tune
to a soundtrack of angels only he sees.
The autumn breeze furrows his long tresses
with ease into a halo, adn as soon as the traffic light
changes, I lose sight of him among the seas of
worthless, trite, gray-flannel.

Sans Utero
a cinquain
The scar:
puckered pink flesh--
surgical precision's
river---guarding my bikini.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writer Resource o' the Week

Need a rhyming dictionary? (chances are that you do, even if you don’t realize it yet.)

Then check out the Rhyme Zone.

Rhyme Zone

This is incredibly useful and extremely easy to use, and can also be handy with the thesaurus application. I found it an incredibly valuable resource when I was writing a villanelle poem about Abraham Lincoln (don’t ask. The only thing I got from that experience is that I’m obviously not very good at writing villanelles.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cape Fear Poetry Festival

I'll be reading at the Cape Fear Poetry Festival in Wilmington on Saturday, August 29.
One of my poems has been selected to be published in their chapbook, and I'll be on hand for the Q and A session, reading and open mic night. I'm also planning to sell some copies of my books-"Saint Jude" (about a teenager dealing with bipolar disorder) and "Leaving the Comfort Cafe" (about a redneck chick who gave up an Ivy League Scholarship).
Where: Bottega Gallery
When: August 29
Tentative Schedule:

Schedule of events.

6:00pm Informal poetry workshop with local writers: bring your poems!

7:00pm Poets on Poetry: a Q&A with poets/meet & greet with other chapbook poets

8:00pm Chapbook poets live readings

10:00pm Open Mic Poetry. All ages. All genres.

If you're in the Wilmington area, swing by. Mention that you saw it Noveltrails and I'll treat you to a coffee-type beverage of your choice. Honest.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Novel Trails Hits the Radio and click on “Stream” to the left of my show "Novel trails"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Novel Trails on Talk Radio

I will be hosting a radio show on Global Talk Radio ( on Friday at 6 p.m. ET.

Novel Trails: start your novel now! Will give practical advice on starting and completing your novel, with emphasis on characterization. I'll also be listing a lot of great resources for writers, and (as always) using the opportunity to do some shameless self promotion of my book.

Anyone who wants to call in with a question can call the listener line 310-328-9300 and talk to me on the air....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Guest blog exchange?

If anyone would like to write a guest blog for Noveltrails, just let me know. Right now I'm looking for entries that provide good resources for writers, the craft of writing, and any tips or techniques that you feel may benefit new writers. Just get in touch with me via this blog or my website at

Writer Resource o' the Week

The free writer resource o' the week is:

I confess, this one I found through the grapevine, and though I haven't used it, I'm going to sign up for it soon. Looks good. And free. Mmm! Mmmm!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And the winner is...Marianne Evans

Congratulations to Marianne Evans for winning a copy of my book! The names were randomly drawn from those who left comments by completely objective third parties.

Marianne, I will be e-mailing you for your snail mail address. However, if you'd rather download an electronic copy, let me know and we'll take care of it....

...everyone else, thanks for playing, you will get a consolation prize of a year's supply of Ramen Noodles and the Jeopardy home edition game...just kidding, you don't get anything but my love and gratitude, which many consider only slightly better than the Ramen noodles...

Seriously though, I really do appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog. I welcome any
Wild Rose Press authors who would like to do guest columns, and for all the readers, keep tuning in for the free writer resource o' the week and other goodies.

Take care, and thanks for stopping to smell the roses!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES -- Wild Rose Press Author Blog Event

Relax. Take off your coat. Stay a while. Have a cup of coffee. Well, okay, there's no coffee, but there are some wonderful literary musings awaiting you as a part of the Stop and Smell the Roses event.

Here's how the event works. Several authors from The Wild Rose Press will post excerpts on their blogs on June 29 as a part of an all day blog event. Some authors may offer a chance to win prizes for the participants who leave comments.

What am I offering? If you leave a comment at any of my blog entries related to Leaving the Comfort Cafe, I will enter your name in a drawing for a chance to win a printed copy of my book.
One important note: On June 29, the day this event is scheduled, I will be on a volunteer project, and may have sporadic access to e-mail (which is why I'm posting this earlier). But I WILL post the winner on this blog the next day, and I WILL get in contact and respond to comments that day---though perhaps not in as timely a fashion as I normally would.

I called my blog Novel Trails because my blog is FUNCTIONAL --- this is much more than about what's going on with me (though you'll no doubt find some information on that) but my blog has information and resources that will be of interest to readers and provide some useful resources for writers or anyone who wants to improve his or her writing. If you're not into writing, that's fine, you'll find information on great reads, reader loops---and of course, all the insight into the quirky world of a Southern writer. So take time to wander throughout my blog. Heck, go ahead and follow it. I promise I don't write down every minute thing I do. I won't post blogs on going to Wal-Mart or getting my tires rotated...unless of course, a story happens to spring forth from those events (and in the South, that frequently, frequently, happens).

I have two pieces with the Wild Rose Press -- my novella, Leaving the Comfort Cafe (which is the main thrust of this blog) and a short story called "Cousin of the Bride." I'm also working on a Christian romance short story to submit to the Wild Rose Press that has the working title "Make it So" (I know, I'm not crazy over that title, either). You may also find links to some of my other short stories that have been published online on the left.

There is also a link to The Wild Rose Press if you want to order my book (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

If you are interested in writing a guest column for this blog, just contact me through this blog, or visit my website at

Below you will find:
1) An excerpt from Leaving the Comfort Cafe
2) A video of a live reading featuring a different excerpt from Leaving the Comfort Cafe (and please note, I don't charge extra for the Eastern North Carolina accent. I'm glad to throw that in for free)
3) Links to the other great, great, blogs and writers with The Wild Rose Press. Enjoy!

So relax. Please keep all hands and feet inside the ride at all times. I hope you enjoy reading about Blythe as much as I have enjoyed writing about her.

Excerpt from "Leaving the Comfort Cafe"

Leaving the Comfort Cafe centers around the adventures of Blythe Shelley, a redneck who has had one curly perm too many, who earned 1600 on her SAT, a full scholarship to Cornell, but never went. Instead, she decided to wait tables at the Comfort Cafe, a small "mom and pop" restaurant in Eastern North Carolina. Austin, the fresh-out-school, newly hired town manager, is determined to learn why Blythe turned down her scholarship and gave up on her dreams.

--Following is a scene where Austin first meets Blythe while she's waiting tables at the Comfort Cafe...

“Mercy, children!” A frizzled, bright red perm slathered into sight, connected to a young woman with bright blue eye shadow and even brighter blue fingernails. With a smooth, almost disturbing movement of her wrist, she slammed a huge tray of food directly in front of him. She shook her head, shut her eyes and let out a low groan.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, hon. It’s just my stomach. I’m on my period.”

“Oh.” Austin tried not to stare. Dear God, please don’t let this be my waitress.

“Here you go, sir,” she said. “One plate eggs over easy with the decorative parsley carefully stacked to the side and not touching the food. Grits and hash browns, bacon and a side of sausage. Don’t you love places that serve breakfast all day? They were out of fresh blueberries for the pancakes, but we do have some of the canned stuff, though grandma over there won’t tell you it’s canned, so I wanted to hold off because I know the canned stuff makes you irregular. Here’s your

check. Comes to five seventy-five and I took the liberty of already adding in my tip—since you obviously never do—and an extra fifty cents for a pretty smile.”

Her bright pink lips parted to reveal well-kept, surprisingly straight, teeth.

“Now, if there’s nothing else you’ll be needing, I’ll take that whenever you’re—”

“Uh, miss...I’m sorry, but this is not my order.”

Whadaya mean it’s not…” Her pale fingers darted into her apron pocket, pulled out a small, black notebook, and scurried through the pages, searching for the culprit. “Then if this isn’t yours, you must have ordered the tenderloin steak?”


“The ham hocks?”


“Barbecue? Caesar salad?”

“No and no. I ordered—”

“You ordered the fifth of vodka.”

“I wha—”

“Just foolin’. I remember now. Grandma over there told me. One slice of pecan pie. Coffee.”

“Decaf.” Austin gently reminded her.

“Decaf coffee. That’s like saying I want to spend the night with you, I just don’t want to have sex.’”

“Excuse me?” He raised his eyebrows.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to say ‘sex’ before two o’ clock.”

Austin wondered why the time made any difference.

“And I guess this delectable feast was for…ooo….” Her eyes curved into narrow slits, looking through the window and pulverizing the mayor with what Austin could assume would be a felony assault. “I always thought that man would skip out on his bill one day. I don’t care who he is. I don’t care if his grandfather fought in the such-and-such war. I don’t care if his ancestry dates back to Stonewall Jackson. I don’t care if he helped tie up the Mayflower when they put it in dry dock. I even don’t care if he’s related to Jesus. That man is not skipping out on his bill.”

“I think he’s just outside talking to some folks. He’ll probably come right back.”

“That sonofabitch.” She hauled the overloaded tray up on her shoulder as if she were burping a baby and darted out the front door.

Austin couldn’t hear the conversation that followed, but he could tell by the mayor’s startled expression and the animated bobbing of the waitress’s head that the discussion was definitely, and enthusiastically, one-sided. She pushed the entire tray into the mayor’s arms. As he struggled to balance the tray, a few biscuits tumbled onto the pavement where a constituent’s beagle was more than happy to help himself to a free sample. The waitress then reached into the mayor’s back pocket, pulled out his wallet and removed funds to pay the bill.

She returned into the café casually, confidently, totally unaware of the stares and whispers beginning to sizzle from the background. Some country music station was playing on the kitchen radio, and she seemed to walk in easy rhythm to the music.

“Sorry about that, dear. I always knew he was going to slip out on me.”

“I think that was actually my fault.” Austin was almost afraid to volunteer who he was. “You see, I’m the new town manager and I don’t think he was pleased with—”

“Town manager?” Her bosom was uncomfortably close to Austin’s eye level. “I didn’t know we had a town manager. I thought the town just managed itself.”

“Believe me, I wish it did.”

She brought out a cup and poured his coffee.

Austin noticed the handle on the coffeepot was black, not the bright orange that signified decaf. She also brought him the pie a la mode, though he didn’t ask for it that way. But after seeing what she did to the mayor, he decided not to argue

LIVE -- author presentation of Leaving the Comfort Cafe

Why simply read an excerpt from Leaving the Comfort Cafe when you can hear it with an Eastern North Carolina accent?

I love doing readings. Maybe it's because I'm a bit of a "drama queen" but I enjoy the sound and rhythm of words, phrases, and the regional dialogue quirks that make things particularly lively (especially if the story takes place in the South).

If you'd like me to give a reading at your book club, etc., just let me know. I absolutely love interacting with readers. I'm even willing to travel and incorporate it as a "working vacation"---but point me in the direction of the nearest Holiday Inn and I'm set....

Other Wild Rose Press Author Blogs

The Wild Rose Press is a traditional electronic and print publisher of romance stories. Let me just say the folks there are awesome to work with--they did such a great job with Leaving the Comfort Cafe. Please take time to visit the other Wild Rose Press author blogs during this Stop and Smell the Roses event.

Here are the links to the blogs....enjoy!


www.findagreatroman apps/blog/


www.plotsandthoughts.blogspot. com

www.willtravelforromance.blogspot. com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blog-o-rama and a chance to win!

On June 29, myself and other authors with the Wild Rose Press will be participating in our publisher's all day blogging event. Several WRP authors (including myself) will be posting excerpts from their books, blogging items about writing, etc. A link to all the authors participating will be available on each blog.

Now, the part you've been waiting for----leave a comment and your name is put in a hat for a drawing to win a FREE copy of my novel Leaving the Comfort Cafe. But you have to leave a comment...

What I like about "The River"

There is something about Flannery O'Connor's "The River" that gives you the same sinking feeling you get when you crest the highest hill of a roller coaster---you see the twisted mangled mass of tracks out before you, and you know that you're going to dive headfirst into it, and there' s nothing you can do to stop it; you are at the mercy of the laws of physics.

For me, "The River" is something like that. I refuse to post any spoilers on this blog, but what I will say, is that Flannery sets us up so well for the ending, that we're not 100 percent sure we even see it coming. We're still enjoying the few little dips and turns of the gentle roller coaster weaving as it prepares for the big climb. When I got a hint of what was to come, I felt so helpless, I so wanted to dive into the story and among the characters to effect a change, but I felt like I was at the top of the roller coaster, and I got that same sinking feeling in my stomach.

Powerful stuff. Read it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Writer Resource of the Week---IT'S BACK

After a long hiatus, welcome back the writer resource of the week. This week's resource is:

The Association of Authors' Representatives

Need an agent? Don't know where to start? Just what's up with this agent thing anyway? Check it out, particularly the FAQ section.

Life, interrupted

Strange how things can transform dramatically and then as soon as they start they are resolved, leaving you relieved but at the same time kind of wondering what just happened.

I went for my first mammogram and got the dreaded "call back" meaning they found something that was an "area of interest." An ultrasound revealed a mass that had some suspicious qualities. Long story short, a biopsy revealed a benign (thank you, Jesus) tumor. The tumor, a fibroademona for any of those of you who would like to look it up on wikipedia, can just hang out indefinitely because they do not become cancer---sometimes these things do grow, but that's not usually the case (once again, based on my "professional-no-medical-training-whatsoever opinion.")

I wanted to thank all of those friends of mine who prayed for me. I can't imagine the intense emotional and physical struggle for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, but I can say that being called back for a biopsy was scary enough...

However, this whole experience reminded me of something cool that St. Paul said in the book of Romans, that nothing--nothing in heaven, or in earth or seen or unseen---can separate us from the love of God.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Short stories that have influenced me as a writer

Ever so often we read a short story and we are like, man, I wish I had thought of that, or we are so bowled over by the writer who has such a distinct command of the craft, or ...well, you get the point.

Following are ten of the short stories that have influenced me as a writer. I've picked these because I felt that I've learned something fairly profound as a writer from each one. These aren't necessarily my favorite short stories, but something about them resonated with me. Over the next couple of days, I'll be deconstructing these stories, and examining what makes it work, and what influenced me.

I'd love to hear from my writer friends, old and new, about this. Please feel free to post in the comments section, and I really, really will respond. Seriously.

In addition, if I can find online links to the stories, I would love to post them and maybe even have a commentary / discussion on them through the comments section.

Here they are, in no particular order:

"The River" by: Flannery O'Connor

"Happy Endings" by: Margaret Atwood

"The Veldt" by: Ray Bradbury

"Bigfoot Stole My Wife" by: Ron Carlson

"The Birthmark" by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Scrabble With God" by: John M. Ford

"Fat" by: Raymond Carver

"Hills Like White Elephants" by: Ernest Hemingway

"The School" by: Donald Barthelme

"It Had Wings" by: Alan Gurganus (from Rocky Mount, btw. I got to meet him. Cool guy. Great writer. Gorgeous voice.)

"Charles" by: Shirley Jackson (of course, "The Lottery" is up there too, but because you always see that listed, I'm listing this one....)

"Nipple" by: Wendy Brenner

BONUS: This next one is a bonus because it is a recent "aha"moment I had as a writer. My friend Nathan Ballingrud won the Shirley Jackson Award for his short story, "The Monsters of Heaven." Knowing Nathan since seventh grade (geez, Nathan, has it been that long?) I've always known he could write, but ---dang! I'm not just putting this up here because he's my friend, but because I seriously, seriously, learned something about the craft from this short story, which we can discuss with later comments these upcoming weeks.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cool writing article

Check this out from Writer's Digest --the link is below.

I thought it was really interesting...

Michael Crichton's Top 5 Writing Lessons.

Did I ever understand how this blog thing worked anyway?

It’s good to at least try to get back into the blog writing thing.
I’ve found that I’ve been so obsessed with trying to get things out, that I’ve neglected a few of my short stories that I’ve been meaning to rewrite and polish.

It’s strange, but I seem to have the opposite problem of many other writers; many are hesitant or rarely send things out---they would rather just write. I seem to be getting a little OCD about sending things out. If I don’t have at least 5 short stories circulating around, I feel like I’m really backing myself into a corner and missing out on something.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blog event and chance to win a prize

  • I'm participating in an all-day blogging event with my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, in mid-June (June 22 if I remember correctly. I'll post more information as the event approaches.)The anyone who comments on my blog that day has a chance to win a FREE prize...not sure what that will be, but most likely a hard copy or electronic copy of my novel, "Leaving the Comfort Cafe." Essentially, I just take the names, put them in a hat, and get a third party to draw it out...sorry I can't bring it in the envelope with security guards like they do on American Idol....
  • I'll also be giving a writing seminar in July. A limited number of participants will be able to have their questions answered about how to get published, how to finally start that novel, etc. This will (hopefully)be the first in a series of lectures / seminars. Though it has no formal name, I'm thinking of calling it the "Shut up and write!" series.

Upcoming Events and Writing Seminars

After a long hiatus, I am finally back. It has been wonderful to have the opportunity to teach English 114 (technical and professional communication) but that on top of a full time job has been exhausting (though given the present economic conditions, I am very grateful to be gainfully employed. The exhaustion isn't a complaint. Let's face it, I'm pretty much exhausted anyway.)

I love the quote from Ursula Le Guinn, though I haven't read any of her work in a long time. I definitely need to revisit it. The last book I read was the "Tombs of Autaun"(spelling?). I really loved it.

Now that I'm back 'on the wagon' of writing blog posts, let me know what you'd like to see, any advice about writing, etc. etc.

I'm bringing back the FREE writer resource o' the week. Hopefully I'll be doing a writing seminar pretty shortly...I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

How to Create a Beach Writing Retreat

First, take a condo or a place with indoor pools that is running one of those $50 or $60 a night specials.
Second, take a really cool writing buddy who inspires you and gives great feedback (thank you, Carole)
Third, take some really loud rednecks in the floor above you that keep yelling "Hey! I can't hear anything you're saying!!!" off the balcony to someone down on the beach (who obviously can't hear a word they're saying).
Fourth, yell back "Woooo yeah!!!!" from your balcony back at the rednecks.
Fifth, steps three and four are optional.
Most importantly,
Take your laptop, pack a lot of magazines, (trade magazines, of course) and bring something to work on during your time there.
Sixth, remember that all work and no play does make Jack a dull boy...(no, I'm not channeling the "Shining" here...) go to the indoor pool. Go to the beach. Wrap up in a towel on the beach because even though weatherman said it is going to be 70+ degrees the wind is cold and you don't believe it is really the 68 degrees weather dot com says it is...
Seventh, wonder if the cute guy who hit on you at the pool knows that you're a writer, you haven't been hit on since the Clinton administration, and you are going to mention him in this blog.
work on stuff and set up a designated time for "critiques and coffee" (or cocktails, or whatever...) READ IT OUT LOUD to each other. Be kind. This is not the time to be persnickety...unless the author tells you it is, in which case, go for it. This is just a --yes, right direction or --whoa, don't go that way, buddy....
More to come...
What happens when two writers take a long weekend to work on some stuff...we'll you'll find out....

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weymouth Chronicles part two - "Searching for Cannoli"

If you missed my earlier "Cannoli" remark, scroll down and read the earlier posts.

Below is the stable area near Weymouth. Southern Pines is very big horse country. One of my friends and fellow writer, Billie Hinton (great writer, check out her stuff on is also an accomplished rider. She says that horses will tend to easily pick up on any type of "baggage" you may be carrying, and more often than not, the horse's behavior is an outward reflection of the rider's inner personalities or struggles.

There is a ghost in the house, and I have had some curious and interesting "encounters" with him (we are convinced the ghost is a he). Nothing too X-files, just random doors slammed when no one is around and shoes and smaller items in your room rearranged, cell phone charger cords gently tied into several knots, things like that.

At right is one of my favorite rooms in the house. It's just a small alcove, and I don't think it is "officially" a room in the house. I call it the "Jo Marsh Room" because it just reminds me of Jo's garret from Little Women, where she would pen her stories. I like to write in it sometimes to get a change of scenery. This place truly is a blessing and I am humbled and honored to have been selected. (and yes, that's my stuff on the bed there)

I have really gotten a breakthrough in writing the opening chapter of my Big Tom Wilson book that I'm going to send to agents, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. I've just really had to get together a book proposal, and to be quite frank, I think the proposal is harder to write than the book! I used some of my time here to get through the "nitty gritty" of it (marketing plan, etc. etc. ) and then, strangely enough, I got an inspiration for a new opening that would balance the old and the new...I feel pretty good about it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chronicles of Weymouth - Part One: "Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli"

Weymouth Chronicles

My reflections on the writing residency at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities

Days 1-3

“Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli

I love that line from “The Godfather,” and it seems that it sums up the way my fellow writers and I pack to go to Weymouth. It’s not a matter that we bring too much stuff, it’s a matter of WHAT we bring. Granted, the environment here is so wonderfully casual, but I find that my clothes and toiletries make up a scant ¼ of what I bring. The rest? Books. Books on writing, copies of Writer’s Digest, notes about places to submit things, books of notes that I’ve taken for future books, printed out copies of books that I want to edit. And of course, the laptop and printer. I'd forget a washcloth before I'd forget that (in fact, I did ).

Also---though I rarely buy books at retail price---I always have one impulse buy of a book at the Country Bookstore, an independent bookstore here. Sometimes it’s a writing journal or bookplates. It’s my little treat for myself and a way to support local businesses [this is an AWESOME bookstore --support your local bookstores!!!!]

Below: the gorgeous view from my bedroom window of the Weymouth grounds.

ASIDE—if anyone is interested, this time that book is “The Reader” which was made into a movie with Kate Winslet. I didn’t want to see the movie before I read the book. I confess, it was the back of the book jacket that intrigued me; a teenager is rescued by a woman twice his age, and they become lovers. Then she disappears. The next time he sees her, she’s on trial for a terrible crime. It’s hard for me to say what really pulled me into that story (all “Mrs. Robinson” comments aside) but it was simply a fascinating read. Be forewarned, it is also kind of dark , but a very, very compelling story [and to my friends who may be more easily offended than I—the first part of the book has some R-rated material].

One day when I was here with my writer friends, we discussed how ironic it was that for female writers, (well, at least for the three of us) “over packing for Weymouthdidn’t mean 8 pairs of shoes, but rather 8 books stuffed into a duffel bag. We were perfectly content to arrive with no makeup, only one “dressy” outfit (in case an opportunity for a “first lady function” arose) and yet we would have to make an Office Depot run if we didn’t arrive with our favorite type of pen. (As any writer can tell you, we are very obsessive compulsive when it comes to the type of pens we deem "favorites." These are the ones we hide in our desk drawer and don't let anyone borrow. For the record, mine is the Pilot Precise V7--NO BALL POINT PENS. )

The things that were “important” took on a new meaning. It was then that I joked, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” I don’t know if it made sense in that context, (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen “The Godfather”) but my friends were nice enough to laugh.

The site administrators here (and at every residency I’ve been to, including Wildacres) have been more than kind and absolutely wonderful and professional. There is no TV at Weymouth, and while I mainly use my TV at home for “white noise,” it is so nice to be able to train myself to be comfortable with silence. But to be comfortable with silence, you have to be comfortable with yourself…which is maybe why we have to have so much noise in our lives.

I’ve scattered some pics of Weymouth around my blog. If there’s something that needs explanation, I'll place a cutline.

And speaking of cutlines... below is a photograph of the house from the back. My window is the second from the right. It's one of the two lights you see burning in the window. >>>>>>>>>

“Things I’m working on…aka the big cannoli

* I’m trying to get a group of short stories together for a fiction collection---but those are notoriously hard to sell. It’s easier to get them all published in different literary magazines and then get a collection (or so I’m told)

* I’ve already proofed (with thanks to my cool daddy friend) a short story and sent it off for the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. (Doris was my creative writing prof at UNC by the way, and she is amazing!) It is so much easier to get editing done here when a million things do not conspire to get in your way.

* I need to do some nitty-gritty stuff (update my website, send out some writing PRS, call places about book signings.

* I wrote (and am now rewriting) a short short “flash fiction” story for a magazine. Flash fiction is a genre (or maybe form is the better word) I’m relatively new to it, so I cant’ tell if I’m any good at it or not. To fit the theme of the magazine (which is “glass rooster”) I needed to write a story no more than 300 words with a glass rooster. Some writers finds that this stifles their creativity, but I think it actually kind of stretches my writing muscles---like running the 100 meter dash when you’re used to running cross country. In the end, trying new things is almost always good. My cool daddy writing buddies from ECU are going to exchange manuscripts with me (shout out to Will and Stuart)

* Finish the book proposal for my non fiction book---and send some query letters out to agents.

* I’d like to get a lest a few more chapters done in novel #3…but it’s nowhere near the querying stage right now….

* And then of course, one category that I simply call “being open to the universe”---at the risk of it sounding “New Age” this just means if we open ourselves up to the unexpected, I think it helps opening up the channels for God to show us new things. As CS Lewis so eloquently put it, “Our problem with God is not that we expect too much, but that we expect too little---we are like a child making mudpies in the slum because we cannot comprehend a holiday at the beach.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Back at Weymouth

Once again, I am so blessed to be able to return to the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines for a writing residency. It is amazing how productive you can be when there is no laundry, TV, housework or telephone calling you (although for the record, I have to admit I'm pretty good at ignoring the laundry and housework.)

This week I'm working on four main things:
1) Polishing up some short stories to try to get them ready for a collection.
2) Getting a short story "The Shangri-La Chamber of Commerce Welcomes You" ready to send to two contests.
3) Finishing up a book proposal for my non-fiction book, "Big Tom, a Man to Match the Mountains"
4) Getting some cover letters, etc. ready to send off....and maybe some information on some other residencies...

Thus far, things have been very productive. Planning to take a break Friday night and see a local band that is playing at a coffeeshop---I met one of their members (a writer too, btw) when I was at the coffeeshop earlier- [the story behind that is that CP&L was working on something in our area of the neighborhood, so we had no power for a good part of the morning. After the battery in my laptop ran out, I headed down there to plug up. And get some coffee. It was noon and I had yet to have my morning cup of coffee. It's amazing I didn't kill someone.