So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A New Experience Tomorrow

Tomorrow I must arise early and head to the hospital to have my knee replaced. Sounds weird to me, replacing a knee. I have had several surgeries in my life, but never have I had anything replaced - just removed. In recent weeks I have been so busy having tests, attending meetings to learn about what is going to happen to me, how I should prepare, and what I can expect when it is over.

Tonight after I shower, I will wipe my entire body down with special wipes that will sanitize me from head to toe. I will arise at 6 AM and be at the hospital at 7:00 AM. The drive will take at least thirty minutes. The surgery will take place around 8:00 AM.

What has amazed me is that I will not stay even one night in a hospital. I will be back to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night. I was told I will walk out of the hospital on my own two feet with my new knee already working. 

Lexie under the covers

Because I have to be so clean tonight, Lexie cannot stay with me. 
She would be sleeping right against me under the sheet and she is not too sanitized although she is pretty clean. Needless to say, this is a brand new experience for me and I will be most happy when it is done even though the pain will begin then.

I am the most fortunate person in the world because my dear sister, Gay, will be with me for as long as it takes to recover. She has found all the right medical equipment I need. She has laundered my sheets, clothes I will wear tomorrow, gowns and pajamas, and she has gone with me to classes that were mandatory for both of us to attend.

I should never complain again about anything! I have a wonderful life, loving family and friends, and I am not afraid or worried about the outcome of this operation because lots of people are sending up prayers for me. 

I will be back on this blog in a few days, I'm sure, and I will write more about this new experience. 

My sister, Gay, in Hawaii

Thursday, January 12, 2023

2023 has begun and I think it will be good!

I am excited about the new year. I have begun scheduling events and workshops for the NCWN-West region where I live in western North Carolina. 

I am a planner, a scheduler, and a list maker. Like my father, I like to plan what I am going to do today, tomorrow, and in the months ahead. I am happy when I get my new yearly calendar book. The first thing I do is go through and mark all the dates I know I have something planned. I mark birthdays and special days in the year to come.

Perhaps it is a way to promise myself that I will be here for the next year. I think my adrenaline rises when I make plans for the future. Barry used to say I had more fun planning our vacation than I did when I actually went on vacation.

Last year was a bummer. It is a year I don't want to remember because I was stressed out with health issues -  health issues that were not as severe as the test results led me to believe. If I could I would like to sue the medical facility that caused me so much stress and worry. 

Tonight here in my apartment in Roswell, GA, we had tornado warnings and were told we would have severe weather, thunderstorms, and lots of rain. I guess it still might come, but this afternoon when the rains came it seemed no worse than any summer storm.

It seems the media is all about scaring us to death and the medical world is just as bad. 

Celebration time for football fans

I am not a football fan, but my husband and my brothers were big fans. I wish they were here to enjoy the National Championship won by their Georgia Bulldogs. My father was also a huge fan and listened to every ball game on the radio unless it was televised. I can imagine the smile on Barry's face as he shouted at the TV when the red shirts dominated the game. I didn't watch it and I am not a fan of the game which is too violent for me, but I feel happy for my loved ones who were devoted to the Dawgs. Even my brother-in-law, Stu, was pulling for the bulldogs and he is a Georgia Tech graduate. I am a graduate of UGA but never enjoyed football. 

Recently I read my words written back in 1990 and 1991. Those were fairly traumatic years for my family and for me. I kept my diaries filled with all the angst I felt as our family had to take back the family business we had sold because the buyer couldn't pay for it. It reminded me how troubled I was at the time and how worried I was about my brother, Ray, the oldest, who had begun to have health issues. 

No one wanted to take back a failing business but we had to. In my diary, I said there was a recession going on and no one was making any money. In one place I wrote, "Ray said the company must make four million dollars in the next four years." 

Looking back now I realized again, how grateful I should be, and I am, for having brothers and Barry turn that business around and sell it again. I don't know if they made the four million goal, but they did sell the plant a second time and all seven of us Council kids were saved from bankruptcy. One thing my father did well - raised his offspring to work hard and never give up.
However, that stress took a toll and in a couple of years, Ray was diagnosed with cancer. 

But, we are going into a new year now -War is raging, politics is rotten and mean, the government is a place where infighting seems to be the new way to govern, and our society is divided while wanting the same things. We all want freedom, we want peace, we want our families to be safe and secure, and we want to be united. But someone or some people keep stirring the pot doing all they can to scare us into believing our way of life is disappearing and we must blame our neighbors and friends. 

I don't believe that because I see kindness and caring every day. If I didn't see the news or read the headlines, I would be as happy as a lark because I seem to only see good and kind people. Cynicism and nasty comments on social media seem to have disappeared from the pages I see on Facebook. I see hope and faith and joy on the pages I read. Even some of the news programs are showing more kindness and love than they used to. 

I want to believe that others see this, too. I plan to have a good year -- right after I recover from a complete knee replacement. 

How about you? Do you look forward with hope or fear? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Christmas - The Season Begins

The Christmas season is upon us. Stores are filled with shoppers, but I am not one of them

Many people I know are sick with flu, COVID, or other viruses and I don't want to be one of them.

Recently in my mountain town, the Methodist Church had to cancel or postpone their Christmas cantata because so many of the choir were sick. Recently my county and the county next to mine were both mentioned as being very high risk for COVID. Out of all the western NC counties these rated highest in the number of people sick with coronavirus. I was there last weekend and we only ventured out one time to have lunch with a friend. 

I am not surprised that this region is still getting ill. Many of those living there were deniers of COVID when it first began to spread. We were told this fall and winter would be hit hard with all this illness because people had quit wearing masks and were gathering inside for parties and family reunions. In Clay and Cherokee Counties many never wore a mask and many were sick and died. 

I have had COVID-19 twice and was very ill but because I did have the vaccines the second time, I did not end up in the hospital. For that, I am most grateful. I am a high-risk person because of my age and health issues, so I must be careful. My friends and family try to keep me from being exposed to the flu and other respiratory ailments. 

I still wear a mask when I go out in public, but where I am now, in the city, I can order from a restaurant and have my meal delivered curbside. I only go to Publix or Target where I can ride in an electric cart and I wear a mask. Thanks to my family I am not lonely even though I don't go out much. 

Barry's last Christmas standing in front of Gay's decorated fireplace. 

I will continue to enjoy this beautifully decorated house thanks to my sister and her husband. 
In the last decade, I have spent the holidays with Gay and Stu and often tell them Christmas begins when I walk in their front door. 

We have many happy memories of Christmas when our parents and siblings were still with us. Wonderful meals, family reunions with local aunts and uncles and cousins, and always spending Christmas day together at Mother and Daddy's house. All of them are gone now except for my sister and me. I am glad we have those dear memories to reflect on even when they bring forth tears. 

I notice my nieces and nephews share their memories of their childhood Christmases on our family Facebook page. I sometimes can't believe I held them when they were babies and now some of them are grandparents. Where did those times go? How did they go so quickly? 

The last week our days have been rainy and miserable, but we expect some nicer days to come. As long as my loved ones remain healthy, I am happy and hope to see some of them in the coming months.

Stu plays Santa on Christmas morning. He loves Christmas, too. 

I hope your holiday season is going well and you are enjoying life. Stay well and be grateful. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Writers are enjoying community in far west Netwest region

One thing writers usually know or realize is that we all need a community of writers. 
Whether online or in person, we crave the company of and conversation with others who write. For most of my life, I wrote alone with no other writers with whom I could share my work. I didn't know any other writer when I lived in south Georgia. For years I wrote personal essays, some poetry and short stories which no one ever saw. I had no one except family to read my work. I believe family is of no help with deciding if my writing is good or not. My poetry was criticized because it did not rhyme. No one in my family group enjoyed free verse poetry. My true stories were criticized because I didn't include my siblings in the narration. 

Nancy Simpson, Program Coordinator and co-founder of NCWN-West

But, when I moved to North Carolina in 1995, and joined the NC Writers' Network- West, I automatically became a part of a fantastic writing community. Nancy Simpson, poet and teacher, founder and Program Coordinator of NCWN-West, encouraged me, advised me, and supported me in writing and in taking leadership roles. The others in the poetry groups and prose group did the same. I took classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School with excellent writers who were instructors. I began publishing my poetry the year after I arrived in the mountains of North Carolina.

Some have said that writers don't need NCWN-West now because we have the Internet, but they are wrong. Here in the mountains of Appalachia, we need the community of writers who live near us. We have always been a very generous group that wants to help each other improve and get published. 

We have a monthly poetry group that meets in Young Harris, Georgia. We also have a monthly poetry group that meets in Hayesville, NC. 

Coffee with the Poets and Writers meets monthly at the library in Hayesville, NC. All groups are open to the public. 

When the pandemic hit, we had to stop meeting in person for two years. We moved to Zoom to hold meetings online. Our monthly Writers' Night Out has become a Zoom event with writers from distant states joining us. 

Mountain Wordsmiths meets monthly, on Zoom, at 10:30 AM and has become popular with our members from all nine NC counties and north Georgia counties. 

I am happy we were able to keep our community going through Zoom meetings even though some of our members have not been that comfortable going online. It was of utmost importance to keep our members safe during the worst of COVID-19. Now that we can get vaccinated and practice social distancing and wearing masks, it is safer to meet in person. 

I think our writing community has survived the pandemic and it will continue to be a stable program for writers in the remote mountain areas of North Carolina and north Georgia. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

I Have Been Reading These Books

Books I recommend:
I have been reading a book by a Southern writer, Bill Lightle, who grew up in my hometown of Albany, Georgia, and witnessed racism for the first time when his family moved there from a small all-white town in the mid-west.

He was witness to those early days of school integration when white people, who feared what their lives would become if their children had to interact with Black children, did all in their power to stop the process ordered by the Federal Government. Bill, as I did, experienced the upheaval in southwest Georgia and later in his work as a reporter for the Albany Herald Newspaper when the races clashed. 

He goes on in his book to show how race has been a large compelling factor in all politics in the deep south. Although Bill is recalling history, this is a timely book because the run for governor at this time in 2022, is between a white man, a Republican, and a Black Woman, a Democrat. Their values and ideas for the state are very different. 
This writer keeps you glued to the pages of this nonfiction book because Bill Lightle is a good storyteller and that makes a good book.

Another book I am enjoying at this time is a John Grisham novel, The Boys from Biloxi about the growth of underworld crime along the coast of Mississippi a few years ago.

The main characters are two boys who grew up together doing what teenage boys do. But their lives took drastic turns as one became a lawyer who planned to clean up the Biloxi coast where gambling, prostitution, and drug use had become the norm. The other boy was the son of a major crime boss who headed a group known as the Dixie Mafia. And there lay the conflict of the book. As usual John Grisham keeps the reader turning pages to see how this all ends. 

I have always liked Grisham legal thrillers.

They are surprisingly clean books but have that built-in tension we readers thoroughly crave in his books. To me, that is the skill of a major storyteller.

I have come to like this author not only for his books but for the kind of human being he is. I learned this from watching YouTube videos where he is interviewed or where he is speaking before an audience. He has a dry sense of humor and a self-deprecating way of charming his listeners. He is honest about himself and his feelings about how we human beings can do better.

I also like the way he gives his wife so much credit for his writing success. She is his first reader of everything he writes. He listens to her critique of his books even when she tells him, "Your female characters suck." They have been married for several decades now and they are expecting their first grandchild.

What are you reading now? Got any recommendations?

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Choose a word and go where it takes you

In an effort to remain relevant for writers while not holding classes, I plan to do more posts that could be helpful to writers whether poets or prose writers are reading here.

I listened to a webinar this week with Michael Kleber Diggs. He is a poet and this was a very good webinar as he talked about the importance of words and the efficiency of words in poetry and prose.

Today I want to offer some Prompts that might stir up your creative juices.

Here are three words that can often jar your memory or bring to light something you have not written about recently.'

Here we go:

If you want to share what you write on this blog, send an email.

This is an example of what I might write when given the word "waddle" as a prompt.

The officer pulled himself out of his squad car and waddled over to my open window. He asked for my driver's license. "Where you going in such a hurry, little lady?" 
Sweat puddled in the creases of his forehead under the brim of his hat. I wanted him to mop his face. He looked so uncomfortable to me that I felt sorry for him even though he was likely going to give me a ticket.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Who is teaching at the Folk School?

The John C. Campbell Folk School is not only a place to learn how to play musical instruments, dance, sing, and create beautiful paintings and other crafts, they have a wonderful writing program as well.

In the early '90s, Dr. Gene Hirsch, a poet, persuaded the school to include writing as one of the arts taught on the lovely campus. 

The program continues today with excellent instructors. Visit this page and see what is offered now for poets and prose writers in the coming year.

I studied poetry with some outstanding poets and took classes with other writers. Some of the people I recommend are Valerie Nieman, Carol Crawford, and Dana Wildsmith. All of them are excellent and you will enjoy being a part of their classes. 

Carol Crawford

At the folk school, there are no grades, no harsh criticism, and only kindness and enthusiasm prevail. Competition is not encouraged. 

I built friendships there that have lasted for many years. The folk school is like a fun vacation where you do something you enjoy all the time, and take home something very special when you leave. 

Right now the campus is glowing with fall color. I remember how I used to feel when I walked through the fallen leaves along the paths and trails. It is a happy place where no one is judged or made to feel unworthy. I always left there with a happy heart. 

If you can, you should go and spend a week or even a weekend, at the John C. Campbell Folk School. You will never forget it.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

What I am doing during the lull

During this lull in teaching, I am taking online classes and organizing manuscripts of poetry and prose. 
I have enough poems to make a collection, but I think I will do a couple of chapbooks. They are less expensive to publish and cost the reader less than a collection.

Some of my favorite poems have not been published and I want them to be read. Most of my prose pieces, my memoir, personal essays, and short stories, have not been published. I am determined to publish them soon.

I am not as concerned with how they are published as I am with how well they are published. An editor says my short stories will appeal to readers who like to read clean stories, and in today's world, where will I find them?

I am not someone who would avoid using blue language in a fictional piece if they were the words of a character. We must stay true to the character's use of language, his upbringing, and his lifestyle and I have done that with some stories I have written. But I was brought up around people who did not curse or use obscenities around me. Even my husband toned down his rhetoric in my presence. I am not above using a little bad language when I get upset or angry, but I limit myself to damn (the verb, damn means to criticize or to condemn as bad), hell, or SOB. 

I am not overly religious or judgemental but I just prefer not to use the filthy, vulgar language I hear in movies and on TV today. I find it offensive and used more than necessary just for the shock effect. But I can turn it off and find something more to my liking. 

Lexie dressed in her halter and ready for the dog park

Meanwhile, between eating out with my sister, taking Lexie to the dog park, and sleeping a lot, I continue to work for Netwest, prepare my writing for publishing and go to doctor appointments. 

When I am back in Hayesville soon, I will be having a book signing at the charming new bookstore in Blairsville, GA. Book Bound Books will host Carroll Taylor and me on Friday afternoon, October 28, from 3:00 - 6:00 PM at the store on 35 Blue Ridge Street, Blairsville, GA 30512.

If you are in the area, please come by and see us. You will want to check out this terrific bookstore and see the books by Carroll and me. Carroll has a beautiful children's book and two great YA novels. I will have three of my books there.

Hope to see you then.