Monday, February 8, 2021

How I created Writers Circle around the Table

Robert Brewer, the senior editor for Writers' Digest, taught this class in my studio

For ten years I opened my door to my writing studio and enjoyed the writing instructors and the writing students who entered. They became friends of mine and came back again and again for classes in my casual and informal setting. What a blessing it was for me after my dear husband passed away in July 2009. 

I was lost at first, wondering what to do with my life now that I was alone and my friend and loved one was no longer there to comfort me, support me and encourage me to follow my dreams.
My poetry book, Now Might as Well Be Then, published by Finishing Line Press in October 2009, should have been a very happy experience for me, but without Barry to share my joy, I felt empty. I don't remember even giving one reading from my book. Nothing mattered as I grieved my loss.

I took a big step for myself a few months after losing my husband. I registered for a week's retreat at Wildacres, north of Asheville, NC, near the town of Little Switzerland. The four-hour drive up to the mountain site where the lodges were located filled me with anxiety. For forty-five years, I never traveled far without Barry driving me. Most people might not relate to my hesitancy to pack up my clothes and head to a place where I knew no one and had no idea what to expect when I arrived. But it was new and scary for me. I was extremely aware of being alone.

The week I lived, wrote, and made friends at Wildacres Retreat, changed me and prepared me to begin a new life. That week, I decided to live and do what I most enjoyed -- take classes with excellent writing instructors and teach beginning writers what I had learned.

With help from good friends, my downstairs area, my daylight basement, became Writers Circle around the Table, my writing studio. I loved that space in my house. It had a private entrance with a deck and the inside had two windows that brought in light. The wall of sliding glass doors created an atmosphere of openness that everyone enjoyed. We had such good times there. The fees for classes were low because I knew most of the writers in the area had only so much to spend on their hobbies.  I was able to bring in teachers for little money because I provided them a place to stay while there. With a private bedroom and spacious bathroom, free wi-fi, and time to work on their own projects, most of them loved coming to my studio.

Some students urged me to teach more classes, and soon I was holding a three-hour class once a week. 
Again, this was successful and enjoyable for me and my students. For ten years I lived alone and looked forward to classes with my students and writing friends. 

Carol Crawford, standing beside the whiteboard, taught these students in my studio.

But my life became stressful with the illness of my older sister, deaths in my family, and the worry about my last living brother and his ill wife. I felt the world was closing in on me. Running the studio began to be overwhelming. The hardest part was the advertising and promotion of classes. My time was spent, not on my poetry or prose writing, but writing promotional articles and emails trying to encourage writers to come to the studio for my classes or the classes of other writing instructors. Collecting fees and keeping up with expenses seemed more trouble than it was worth. My writing suffered and almost became extinct.

I was also trying to keep NCWN-West, the mountain program for writers that had helped me begin publishing my poetry in 1996, viable and intact although we had no leader. I had resigned when Barry was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, but I remained an active member. We found ourselves with no  Program Coordinator, and I did not feel I was ready to take the job again.  

Soon I was grieving again as I lost beloved family members. My sister, June, died and my brother, Hal died while caring for his seriously ill wife. A month later, she passed away as well.

The effort to continue the studio became too much for me. My physical health faltered and going up and down the stairs to the studio grew more and more difficult. With sadness, I stopped using my studio, stopped holding classes there, and no longer taught. 

Today, in spite of some health issues, I feel good and am teaching again. 
I am grateful for Zoom and other online venues that enable me to teach wherever I am - in Roswell with my sister or at home in Hayesville. Today I learned that the North Carolina Writers' Network annual Spring Conference will be online. I can attend from my home and feel connected to writers from far away. I can see familiar faces without having to travel long distances, learn from instructors so I can be a better teacher for my students.

As time goes by, we can adapt to the changes and still live the life we enjoy.
I urge all who read this to find new ways to continue with what you like to do and also find new ventures that are fulfilling even when you can't go out among people. I find it amazing how folks have invented ways to reach out and connect online, to bring people together virtually, to see loved ones and talk with them.

We live in a world today where it seems the Media is doing its best to frighten us out of existence.
I am hopeful and believe that we will live through the pandemic, we will all be vaccinated and one day this virus will be under control. Being fearful makes me sick, depressed, and hopeless, so I am not going to be scared that tomorrow will never come. I will continue to wear masks, to use all the prevention measures I know, to avoid crowds of people, to safe distance myself, and take care of myself and my loved ones even after I have my second vaccination shot.  I have learned what to do this past year and now it is my new normal. 

I hope you, my readers, are doing the same. I want us to all be back here next year feeling good about what we accomplished during these tough times.
What do you think?


Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Skeleton at the Old Painted Mill by Celia Miles

If you want to sit back with a good book and push all the turmoil of the world news out of your mind, you want to read the latest book by Celia Miles, who writes and works in Asheville, NC. Her mysteries are popular and her fan base keeps growing. Celia is drawn to old mills here in Appalachia and around the world. They become settings for much of her writing.

Here are some of her titles found at

  • A Thyme for Love
  • ThymeTable Mill
  • Mattie’s Girl: An Appalachian Childhood
  • Sarranda 
  • Journey to Stenness
  • Sarranda’s Heart: A Love Story of Place
  • The Body at Wrapp’s Mill: A Marcy Dehanne Grist Mill Mystery 
  • The Body at StarShine Mill: A Marcy Dehanne Grist Mill Mystery 
  • Sarranda’s Legacy: 3rd installment of Sarranda’s saga
  • The Skeleton at the Old Painted Mill: A Marcy Dehanne Grist Mill Mystery 

Glenda Beall, left, and Celia Miles, right

She writes in various genres, and her fiction—all women-oriented—reflects her interests in old grist mills and Neolithic sites around the world.

She attended Brevard and Berea Colleges and has graduate degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and IUP in Pennsylvania. She taught at Brevard College and retired from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College as an instructor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Washington Tragedy

 This post is by Roger Carlton, newspaper columnist, and my former writing student. We appreciate him sharing this column from last week's Graham Star Newspaper with us.

The best way to start a conversation is to make sure that both parties understand the keywords that will be used. Let's start with "demonstration." This means that people like environmentalist Greta Thunberg gather people together peacefully to call government to action. The second word is "protest." This means that people gather together peacefully or violently to oppose a governmental action. The Black Lives Matter protests come to mind. 

The third word is "insurrection." This means that a group of people gather with the purpose of stopping or overturning a governmental process. Insurrections are always violent. They are incited by someone or some group who want power or who have power and want to keep it. A fourth word is "incite." This means that through word or deed someone motivates a group to do something. Incite has a negative connotation usually tied to motivating a mob. 

The insurrection that happened in Washington last week was a blatant attempt to overthrow a lawful election validated by the courts. The final effort by our President to stay in power was to incite a mob to go to the Capitol to stop Congress from accepting the vote of the Electoral College. Words can be powerful and in this case, the power threatened our democracy. It doesn't take much to motivate an angry crowd to become a violent mob. The result was destruction and death in the Capitol of the greatest democracy ever known to mankind.

Who is at fault and what should be done?

Impeachment is a process that requires more time than the few days left for this president. Congress seems to be thinking bipartisan for the first time in years so why blow the opportunity that this presents for incoming President Biden to solve our many problems. The 25th Amendment requires that the Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet members vote to remove the President who can then appeal to Congress to get his/her job back. Again, a spineless Cabinet would have to vote and the President would probably want to force Congress to vote. Not worth the further divisiveness that would result.

The best approach would be for Congress to censure the President in his final days in office. It would require a quick vote on a simple question. Senator and Representative, do you vote for censuring the President for his actions to stop the Congressional vote on validating the decision of the Electoral College? A simple yes or no without equivocation. We all deserve to know where our elected officials stand on this issue. 

There are so many other issues to address.

Blaming the mob for not protesting peacefully is an excuse for ignoring the President's incitement. This is called transference which means that your own failure is someone else's fault. The role of social media in broadcasting the incitement raises the need for separating First Amendment protections for individual speech from the spreading of that speech by profit-making corporations. 

The utter failure of the various agencies to protect the Capitol raises issues that need investigation. The role of the media during the storming of the Capitol was very questionable. Reporters are supposed to report the facts without emotion. That did not happen. It was not helpful to have reporters a few years out of journalism school talking about the demise of democracy or the need to impeach the President.

Our democracy will survive. Will the whirling dervishes like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell who have gone from blind support to condemnation be held accountable? Was this past week a violent catharsis that will be repeated or do the tragic events call for the beginning of a reunification process? That depends on how much poison is left in the system.



Saturday, January 9, 2021

An Interesting and informative night at Writers Night Out Friday evening

Writer’s Night Out was held on Zoom Friday evening, January 8 and 16 participants enjoyed the poetry by Karen Luke Jackson from her book, Grit.  Carroll Taylor hosted the event.

Grit, published by Finishing Line Press, is a tribute to and a memoir about Karen’s sister, Janis Luke Roberts who became a professional clown. The illustrations in the book are perfect for the story, for Janis’ voice. Janis entertained in children’s hospitals and in prominent venues around the country. But she also visited schools and other places where she uplifted children.

After an elementary school visit, she had a phone call from a young boy who asked to speak to Clancey the Clown. The child asked if he could live with Clancey in a town created by Janis Roberts for a book she wrote. She learned that the child needed to escape his abusive home. This incident made Janis aware of how important her work was as a clown. This phone call opened the door for the little boy to receive help.

Karen Jackson gave a terrific presentation that could be a lesson to all poets. She held her audience close with every word she spoke. The narrative poems grabbed me by the heartstrings. As Joseph Bathanti said recently at WNO, using narrative poems for a reading draws the listener in. We heard poems in several voices which made the collection even more interesting.

 Whether you are a poet, normally like or dislike poetry, you will be pleased you read Grit. Contact Karen Luke Jackson at

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Karen Luke Jackson will be featured on Writers' Night Out

Join us Friday evening, 7:00 PM, January 8 online for Writer's Night Out.
You know you will be home all comfy and warm. 
Click on Zoom and meet Karen, a writer of prose and poetry. Her work has been widely published. She did not let the pandemic slow her down. Karen has made appearances online all over the state of North Carolina. She read on Six Minute Stories.

Karen Luke Jackson is the author of Grit a poetry book that tells the story of her sister's life as Clancy the Clown. Two worlds coexist in GRIT, a poetry chapbook with photographs chronicling the life of Janis Luke Roberts and her alter ego, Clancey the Clown. From imaginary friends and childhood fantasies to fans grieving at her funeral, these poems explore how courage and imagination helped one woman overcome dyslexia and depression to become an award-winning performer.

An oral history tradition, contemplative practices, and clown escapades provide scaffolding for Karen Luke Jackson’s work. Whether crafting a poem, teaching a class, or serving as an Anam Cara, Karen searches for life-giving “role/soul” connections and helps others do the same. Stories, she says, provide an opening. They allow us to explore the core of our human experience and capture snippets of sacred mystery in everyday life.

Being a grandmother and living in a cottage adjoining a goat pasture in Western North Carolina are two of Karen’s greatest joys. When she’s not writing or companioning people on their spiritual journeys, she enjoys sitting on a porch nestled between pines and listening to bird song.

Read an award-winning poem by Karen Jackson here.

Join us on Zoom. All members of Netwest will receive an invitation. To read at Open Mic, email to be put on the list. Include a sentence about yourself or your writing for your introduction.

If you are not a member of NCWN, email me and introduce yourself if you want to attend WNO.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How to make a better year happen

Thanks to Roger Carlton for his informative and interesting articles this past year. He is a columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper.

This has been a difficult year for most folks. The only good news to some is that the year is nearly over.

In a few days, we move on to 2021. We tend to segment time and history into decades. The Fabulous Fifties and the Roaring Twenties come to mind. What historians and pundits will call the last decade will be interesting. How do you find a phrase that melds hope with despair? That will be the challenge.

This column is about moving forward in a positive manner that will allow us to find emotional peace in difficult times.

Here are a few thoughts that help me to be positive and maintain a sense of balance:


  • Who cares if the glass is half-full or half-empty? The key is which direction it is going. Try to keep the glass filling up.
  • History and its impact on our lives is like a pendulum on a well-wound clock. The pendulum can only go so far to the right or left until it swings back to the center. The key is to keep the clock wound up and not let it run down.
  • Always tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember what you said.
  • Follow the wisdom of our new Secretary of the Interior Designee Deb Haaland regarding the environment in which we live. Think of the world in terms of the Seven Generation rule. Make all decisions with the next seven generations in mind. What we do today will impact our descendants whom we will never know.
  • Don't try to eat elephants. It can't be done.
  • Turn off your devices and news feeds for at least 30 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Use the time to think and chill a bit. Whatever riled you up may not be as important later or may change more to your satisfaction in the time it took to relax.  
  • Schedule only what you can accomplish each day. Not everything can be finished in one day, but progress can be made. Jot down what you haven't finished at the end of the day and walk away. There is no need to obsess over the undone if it is on your "To Do" list for the next morning.
  • Learn from the past but don't live in it.
  • Read Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan. He profoundly writes "We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."   
  • Listen to the Bee Gees wonderful song Words if your challenges seem insurmountable. "This world has lost its glory. Let's start a brand new story. Now my love, right now. There'll be no other time. And I can show you how my love." We all need to start a brand new story in some way. 

This columnist would be remiss if he did not thank his wife Beth for her editorial insights. Further thanks go to Glenda Beall for her being the muse who helped me learn what "Creative Non-fiction" was all about. Thanks also to Kim Hainge and Jim Kreiner. Their dedication to the natural wonders of the world in which we live is an inspiration. Finally, thanks to David Brown, Kevin Hensley and the Graham Star staff for keeping our local paper alive and remembering that sunshine is always the best disinfectant.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Celebrate Christmas 2020

Last Christmas, 2019, I was attending a book party at the Morings.

On this Christmas Eve, I want to wish all my subscribers and my readers a Wonderful Christmas
If you are with loved ones tomorrow, I hope all are careful about the virus. If you are alone as many are, celebrate this special day as you wish.

I am with my sister, Gay, and her husband, Stu, who always celebrate Christmas by decorating the house, putting up a beautiful tree, and by attending church services. This year we will attend by watching the service from Alpharetta Presbyterian Church on TV. I will open the emails from my pastor who sends out the liturgy to members of our very small church in Hayesville. He also gives us a link to beautiful and moving music.

Two family members plan to take part in live nativity scenes even though the weather is dreadful.
Gay and I will skip the drive-through for this event because we hear that the rain we have had all day could become black ice tonight. 
My greatest hope is that 2021 will be a year of healing for all of us. Love thy neighbor even if you have different beliefs, different opinions, and different lifestyles. 

To help the healing, please follow all the guidelines that are proven to prevent COVID 19. Remember your family, your friends, and your neighbors need your protection. Be sure to get vaccinated when the opportunity comes. I know I will.

I look forward to taking more online writing courses and teaching online in January. No matter how much we think we know, we can always learn more.

My best wishes to you for a healthy and happy new year.

Gay makes Mother's banana pudding. Looks good, doesn't it?