Thursday, February 15, 2018


Two great writing conferences you will enjoy this spring.

April 6 - 7 - Blue Ridge Writers' Conference - The Art Center in Blue Ridge, Georgia - Visit the website for information on the presenters. I recommend this conference because I have attended every single one over the past 22 years. I have never been disappointed. In fact, I have met some of the best and best known writers and poets at this conference.

Saturday, April 21 - 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM - North Carolina Writers' Network 2018 Spring Conference - MHRA Building UNC-Greensboro,NC - Register at  or call 336-293-8844  or 919-308-3228
This is always a great conference. I attended for years but the driving is too far for me now. But if you want a jam-packed day full of literary knowledge and interesting people, please go to the Spring Conference. Ed Southern and Charles Fiore bring this event to Greensboro every year.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Online advice and aid for writers from some of my favorites

I subscribe to a few blogs and newsletters by excellent writers and editors. 

I like reading the latest posts by these knowledgeable people.  

I receive in my email a digest from Jane Friedman with several of the articles that appear on her blog. This one about how important book reviews are to writers is one I want to share with you.

A weekly digest of blog posts from 

Book reviews build symbolic capital

New authors—certainly self-published authors—have no symbolic capital. They are not (yet) known for producing quality books that seduce readers to the degree that they are willing to part with some of their disposable income, not to mention time. Is it possible for self-publishing authors to create symbolic capital? Absolutely yes, and many have.

Read more here...

I have subscribed to C. Hope Clark for many years and have never been disappointed in what she sends me.

Hope receives letters and emails every day thanking her for all she does for writers. I know she has helped me. I subscribe to her newsletter and it comes in my Inbox. I always learn something from it. She writes exciting mysteries and has a big following. Look at some of her books and give one a read. You will come back for more.

I subscribe to a newsletter by Bobbie Christmas, a successful editor and writer who lives in the Atlanta region.

I use her tips and advice in teaching my adult writing students, and I own her book, Purge Your Prose of Problems, an excellent guide for anyone who has questions about grammar, punctuation, proper format, and all those little issues that come up that no one remembers. She updates this book periodically to make sure her readers don't get left behind.

Another site any writer will like, I think, is Writer Unboxed.   They use a wide range of writers for their articles that help us continue on this journey we love.

I read others but will mention those later. Do you have favorite blogs or websites by writers that you read regularly? Tell us about them. We writers should help each other when we can.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Managing Chronic Pain without Pills

I, like many people, deal with chronic pain. To wake up in pain every day is not the norm for most people I know and I am glad. But since the early nineties, I have learned how to deal with chronic pain.

I made a friend when I moved to Hayesville, NC in 1995. She was a member of our writing group and an excellent writer. Her name is Maren O. Mitchell. One day she shared a manuscript she had written and planned to publish.

Maren had a terrible physical condition that required a major surgery and provoked much suffering. A tumor gone wild in her spine. Doctors had little to offer but addictive pain medicines, so Maren made a tremendous effort to find non-medical methods to face the pain she endured every single day and night.

In her book Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider's Guide, we see how she taught herself to use what she could do herself to mask the pain and continue with her life.

She writes this: September, 1987: The back pain increased; the numbness and skin pain increased. MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) revealed an intramedullary tumor, a tumor within the spinal cord, five vertebrae in length with cysts top and bottom, most likely an ependymoma or astrocytoma, unclear whether benign or malignant. The neurologist advised me to wait for surgery until either my walking, bladder, or bowels failed. He thought that immediate spinal cord surgery would be more damaging than the loss of one of these functions.

Before the spinal surgery, Maren would undergo removal of her ovaries and Fallopian tube. That eased some of the abdominal pain.

On December 8, 1987, she endured a seven hour spinal cord operation involving a thoracic laminectomy from T4 to T9. The placement of the tumor was unusual. It was inside the spinal cord. The surgery affected both the spinal cord and the nerves that enter and exit the spine.

Much of my own pain is nerve pain and I know what that is like. Awful and very hard to contain.

Maren had to relearn to walk and spent six weeks in inpatient rehabilitation. She found that touch was painful, and everyday activities like talking on the phone, driving, swimming, laughing and sleeping can intensify the pain.

When I think of the pain of fibromyalgia, neuropathy, trigimenal neuralgia, pinched nerves in the back causing sharp and constant pain in the legs and feet, I know what it is like, but still can't imagine pain so bad that my clothes hurt me when they touch my body. Maren has pain when her bedclothes touch her, when she tries to sleep. She learned to cut the toes out of tights and to wear one leg of tights because she needs the close touch at night. Soft touch can be more painful than firm touch for her.

Maren's book is about what she discovered, on her own, she must do to live with chronic pain. We can't depend on pain medications all the time. They create havoc on our kidneys and liver and often patients become addicted to them. Over time, the patient wants more and more of them until nothing helps the pain anymore.

I have read this book more than once. I decided to write about it again because I think the everyone should know about it and read it. If you are lucky and don't have chronic pain, read it to understand those who do deal with this every day of their lives. Often chronic pain is an invisible illness and even family doesn't realize what the patient goes through.

You would not expect Maren to have a great sense of humor, but she does. She is a highly published, intelligent poet and writing is one of the methods that she uses to deal with pain. If you write seriously, you know how you can be transported from your normal life into a story or poem or some other kind of writing, and you forget yourself completely. I have done that.

Another way she coped was to remove her mind from her pain by helping to reduce the pain of others. She found that victims of stroke or accidents who had similar permanent changes in their lives joked and laughed, shared information with each other while beginning their new lives.

Maren and other patients at the hospital where she had surgery were warned by nurses at the hospital about laughing too much. They were told they should realize their situation was serious. But, laughing was also a way to deal with the fear of the unknown future. I know that laughter helps my pain and helps all kinds of healing.

Maren learned that when she was with others, it helped her chronic pain. I have found that to be important for me. I can be in pain and thinking I just can't leave home today, but when I force myself to socialize with friends, to attend classes or invite someone to meet me for lunch, I lose myself in the joy of talking, laughing and just being with another human being. I get lost in teaching writing to adults, and for a short time my pain is pushed way back.

"One must be distracted from pain instead of pain distracting you." Maren says thi, and I know it is true.

Pain drains us of energy so we must carefully plan our activities so we don't over do. I am a list maker. I make a list almost every day of what I hope to accomplish tomorrow. What Maren learned, and I have learned, is that it is Okay if I don't accomplish everything on that list. If I go to the grocery store and it takes me over an hour, I should go home and not run other errands. Trying to do too much on one trip is not the best thing for me. Even though I have five things on my to-do list, I have become accustomed to doing one or two and letting the others wait until later.

Maren says that having animals in her life and nature, gardening, even caring for one plant, helps her deal with the pain. She has a terrific chapter on sleep and what she has learned helps with getting good sleep, so important when dealing with pain. Another chapter is on music and how that aids living with pain. "Music is one of the best medicines from the Gods," she says. I agree with her. I enjoy music and often get up from my computer, tired and hurting. I put on music I love and I will dance. Dancing is good exercise and helps me emotionally and physically.

What I have learned about pain and living with pain the past twenty years or more is that no one can fix it for me. I have to make the decision to get out of the house no matter how bad I feel at the time. I have to stop the pity party before it creeps in. I accept my pain and I accept that I am the one who must deal with it. Maren's book has been helpful to me. I practice many of the methods she uses. I get regular massages to help the muscle spasms. I see my chiropractor on a twice a month basis to relieve the pinched nerves that inhibit my ability to walk, sit or stand to do normal activities. I reach out to others and try to help those I can. I make appointments with friends and family members so I can laugh and enjoy being with them. I make an effort to avoid stress, to eat correctly, to see my medical practitioners on a regular basis, and, most of all, I make a big effort to get plenty of sleep. My friends know I am not an early riser and sometimes when I awake early, I go back to sleep for an hour or two. I am not lazy, but I listen to my body and if it tells me I need a little more sleep, I go back to bed.

I don't make resolutions each year, but I promise myself to see my loved ones, family and friends, more often and spend quality time with them.Throughout Maren's book are her poems which, alone, would make this book worthy of your time, but they add the necessary spice to the recipe for dealing with chronic pain.

Visit Maren's website:

Read the many reviews on

I know some of you, my readers, live with pain. How do you manage it and live a normal life?

Bio for Maren Mitchell

A North Carolina native, in her childhood Maren O. Mitchell lived in Bordeaux, France, and Kaiserslautern, Germany, attending local schools and learning French and German. After moving throughout the southeast U.S., she now lives with her husband on the edge of a national forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

Mitchell has worked in a variety of jobs, from proof reader to miller. She taught poetry at Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock, NC, and catalogued at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. For over thirty years, across five southeastern states, she has taught origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Due to spinal cord surgery when forty, she spent many years learning how to live well in spite of chronic pain.

Mitchell’s poems appear in POEM, The Comstock Review, Slant, A Journal of Poetry, The Pedestal Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Poetry East, Hotel Amerika, Chiron Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Appalachian Heritage, The South Carolina Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Lake (UK), Skive (AU), The Classical Outlook, Town Creek Poetry, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Appalachian Journal, The Arts Journal and Red Clay Reader #4.

Her work is included in The Crafty Poet II: a Portable Workshop; The World Is Charged: Poetic Engagements with Gerard Manley Hopkins; The Southern Poetry Anthologies, V & VII; Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems; Sunrise from Blue Thunder; Nurturing Paws; and Echoes across the Blue Ridge.

Poems are forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Slant: A Journal of Poetry, Poetry East, Chiron Review and Hotel Amerika. Two poems, “X Is a Kiss on Paper” and “T, Totally Balanced,” have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes by contributing editors of Pushcart. In 2012 she received 1st Place Award for Excellence in Poetry from the Georgia Poetry Society. Her nonfiction book, Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider’s Guide, (Line of Sight Press, 2012) is on Amazon. Interconnecting with writers throughout mountain towns in northern Georgia, she participates in monthly critique groups and public reading venues.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Karen Holmes new poetry collection by Terrapin Press, No Such Thing as Distance

My good friend, poet Karen Holmes has published a second book, No Such Thing as Distance, and it is another beautiful book with poems that make you cry and others that make you smile. If you liked her first book, Untying the Knot, you will enjoy this one. Karen always impresses me with her poetry that expresses her deepest thoughts and feelings, her honesty about her own life and, in this book, her family. The cover photo is by her sister.

I think this book will be as popular as the first, maybe even more.

Karen Paul Holmes

Friday, January 26, 2018

Who will be teaching at Writers Circle this year?

See who is coming to Writers Circle and where I will be teaching this coming year. I hope you can join us.

Poet, Mike James

Saturday, April 14, 2018
Poetry workshop - 12:00 noon until 3:00 PM

Writers Circle Studio, Hayesville, NC

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Blog Post by Bill Ramsey is good advice for writers

Today I refer you to a blog post by Bill Ramsey, author of several books

Bill makes some very good comments on the necessity of hiring a good editor before one publishes a book.  If you have published books, either by self-publishing or going through a publisher, what did you learn about the importance of editing?

Leave your comment, please.

Remember, you can receive each new post from this site in your Inbox simply by leaving your email address on the sidebar where you see the box to subscribe or to follow. No charge.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


In an effort to  keep my readers updated on opportunities for writers and poets, I am sharing an email I received today. Check out the website to learn more.

"I found your email on the NC Writer's Network website and in an effort to expand our competition this year, wanted to let all interested groups know about the Lanier Library's 10th Annual Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition.  We are accepting submissions through March 15, 2018 with prizes awarded April 28, 2018 at the library in Tryon, NC.  
Adult and Student categories are available with prizes from $500 (Adult) and $100 (Student).

Please visit our website for more information:"

Thank you,
Amber Keeran, Director
The Lanier Library
72 Chestnut St., Tryon, NC 28782

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Saying Goodbye to a friend I never met, but who inspired me

I am saddened over the  passing of a dear friend I  never met in person. Joan Cannon and I have been friends since 2007 when I became Program Coordinator for Netwest (NCWN-West) the first time. In the fall of that year, I attended the North Carolina Writers' Network Fall Conference. At that conference, I was fortunate to hear three bloggers tell about how they created free blogs through and how those blog sites changed their writing lives.

I came home and created so that our mountain writers could connect to each other online and to the world beyond the mountains.

Joan  L. Cannon, author who inspired me
Joan Cannon, a writer who lived in Morganton, NC saw that blog and wrote to me. She wanted to  know if  she lived in the region of NCWN-West. I hated to tell her she did not.
She was a member of NCWN, but was looking for writers near her. She had written a book and, being older and living in a retirement area, she had difficulty finding and  meeting other writers. In other words, she was looking for connections.

I put Joan on my email list and she received most of the information I sent to our local members. She subscribed to our blog and read it regularly. She left comments and felt she knew our members from reading about them online.

I bought her novel, Settling, and shared it with my friends. We agreed Joan was a very good writer. I had found a website edited and written by writers of a  certain age. The site is The women who founded this site deliberately set it up for older women writers and women readers. They publish thoughtful and insightful articles on many subjects and the writing is top-notch.

I suggested to Joan Cannon that she contact the editors and apply for a  job writing for them. They were delighted to have her intelligent well-written essays. Soon the woman who felt isolated in Morganton, NC was being read around the world. She never stopped thanking me for recommending she contact them.

I wrote to the editors of Senior Women:

Dear Editor,
I really enjoyed Joan Cannon's article, Relativity. I am pleased because I sent the Senior Women site to Joan and now she is here. Great. Your site is just the best and the writing you present is outstanding. The writers and the writing is more relevant to me than anything I read — print or online.

Thank you so much for having this site for older women. Here we are not ever invisible.
Glenda in North Carolina

When my husband, Barry, died in 2009, I resigned my job as PC for NCWN-West, but continued administering the blog. I also continued my friendship with Joan.  We often said we wished we could meet one day, but we never did. Joan lost her husband after a long marriage and she grieved as I did. She wrote a touching and lovely book of poetry, My Mind  is Made of Crumbs, that I treasure.

We both became active on Facebook and instead of emails, we kept up with each other there. On April 10, 2008, Joan began her blog, Hilltop Notes. Overtime, some of  our Netwest writers and others left comments. Nancy Simpson and Shirley Uphouse visited Hilltop Notes. Maureen Ryan Griffin and Tipper Pressley also commented as Joan reached out with questions about publishing as she approached eighty years of age.

I don't think blogging was her favorite thing to do, but I found her posts interesting. She was honest and open and that is important for a blogger. She could not believe that anyone read her posts so she felt it was a futile effort, but I assured her that when she submitted her short stories or manuscripts, editors googled her name and found she had an online presence.

On her author page on we can go to Joan's blog post after five years of absence. She had her problems with technology and gave up blogging for a long time. However, she did not give up writing. We can also see her books on her author page and order them from Amazon. I was inspired by Joan and admired her determination to write and publish her work when most people her age would likely not have the energy to  persevere.

After a few years, Joan let us know that she would be moving away from North Carolina where she had lived for more than a decade. She moved to Connecticut to  be close to  her family. Although we never met person to person, Joan and I were friends who knew each other in ways some friends I see often don't know me.  Her granddaughter Taylor told me that Joan was diagnosed with cancer.

This is what Taylor wrote: My grandmother passed away peacefully on October 11, 2017. As you may already know, she had been suffering from cancer and enduring chemo for about a year, but when the treatments began making her ill and generally miserable, she opted to stop them. She stopped eating and drinking at the beginning of October and was moved into the hospice ward at Noble Horizons in Salisbury, CT. I came home to Connecticut to see her just days before she passed, and she seemed relatively comfortable and quite at peace with her situation. It was such a gift to be able to say goodbye to her.

I am not surprised to learn that Joan decided what she wanted for her end of life. She chose to stop chemo and she chose to die with dignity. Good for her.

The following is from the Senior Women website:

Joan L. Cannon liked to use her middle initial because so few of her maiden namesakes are left anywhere (Huguenot LaPrades). She was retired teacher, retail manager and author of three novels in paperback, Settling and Maiden Run, a collection of short stories called Peripheral Vision and her latest, a collection of poetry, My Mind Is Made of Crumbs, all available from Amazon and on order from independent booksellers.

Joan's most recent novel is Second Growth and can be purchased through Amazon. From childhood, there have been toss-ups for her avocations among reading, riding horses, painting, local flora and fauna and writing.
Editor's note: We were gifted by Joan's vibrant, inspired, writing for the website and plan to revisit her essays often.