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
Showing posts with label John C. Campbell Folk School writing program. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John C. Campbell Folk School writing program. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Never too late - Make your change today!

In May 1995, Barry and I moved to Hayesville, NC having no idea how our lives would change.
A few months later, I would meet Nancy Simpson on the phone after I registered for membership in the North Carolina Writers' Network. She invited me to take the poetry class she taught at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

I had not planned to take a writing class, especially not poetry, but had hoped I could learn more about writing in North Carolina from the quarterly newsletter mailed to me by NC Writers' Network. I knew nothing about the folk school which was only a twenty-minute drive from my new home in the mountains.

Although I had been writing most of my life starting with stories in high school and a poem or two in class. My English teacher liked a poem I turned in for an assignment, and told me I should submit it to a magazine. That was all I was told and since I had no idea what magazine might accept my poem, I did nothing with it and was pleased she thought I had written something worthy of publication.

I had not shared my writing with anyone and did not know if I could write or not.
But Nancy talked me into taking her class. "It's free," she said. "I'm offering you a scholarship." Nancy had seen my name on a list of new members of  NCWN-West, a program she headed and helped create in the far western part of the state.

How could I possibly turn down such an invitation? Nervous and self-conscious, I attended the first class. It was taught in the Orchard House, one of the old farmhouses on the campus that served as a dormitory for students and also classrooms for writers and photographers. I fell in love with the living room right away. We sat on a sofa and overstuffed chairs as well as plain wood straight chairs. I immediately felt at home.

That day, that class, that place, and Nancy Simpson changed my life completely.
That was my first writing class but not my last. I registered for many classes at the folk school with great teachers who came from other places in North Carolina and from other states. Nancy knew so many writers and she invited them to come to John C. Campbell Folk School to teach.

Because I was a local resident and didn't require sleeping quarters, my tuition was discounted. That was the reason I could afford to take classes there. I began publishing my work the next year after taking classes and joining the network. As years passed, I began teaching beginning writers sharing what I had learned.

Nancy Simpson was the Writer in Residence at the folk school. She called me one day and asked if I would teach a weekend class. The original instructor had to cancel.

The day I turned the lock and walked into a classroom to teach for the first time at the folk school, I almost wept with gratitude. I will always remember the students who came and who were disappointed that the instructor who was originally listed for that weekend, was not coming. 

But the evaluation sheets handed in after class gave me high praise for knowing my subject well and all seemed very satisfied with my class. I knew another door had been opened for me. Soon I was teaching a weeklong class every year at JCCFS and teaching adult education for writers in the local junior college.

My first weeklong class taught at John C. Campbell Folk School

If you like to write and want to further your education in writing poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, I urge you to start with classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  You will never regret it.
See this information from the folk school website:

Local Discount Program Information

For Our Neighbors:

The Folk School is proud to offer 25% off tuition and a guaranteed spot upon registration to people living in the following counties:

North Carolina: Cherokee, Clay, Macon, Swain, and Graham
Georgia: Fannin, Towns, Union
Tennessee: Polk

Those looking to receive this benefit are required to present one of the following, showing proof of local address: a valid driver’s license, voter registration card, tax bill, or utility bill.

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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Take a weekend class with Darnell Arnoult at JCCFS

The John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC is just twenty minutes from my house in Hayesville, NC. We who live in the local area can apply for a discount for classes at JCCFS. Great Deal!!

Darnell Arnoult, author, poet and instructor

The lineup of writing teachers this summer is excellent. My friend, Darnell Arnoult will teach a weekend class on creative nonfiction on September 2 - 4. I would be there if I didn't already have a prior appointment out of town.

Experiment with short memoir or essay, in the tradition of authors such as Dinty Moore, Abigail Thomas, and Sonja Livingston. This form uses the fluidity of prose as its structure and the imagery and compression of poetry as its engine. Explore the power of a well-wrought sentence and the turn of a tale. We will concentrate on pieces from 25 to 2000 words to tell a single, true story. All levels welcome.

Her classes will be similar to the classes I teach on memoir writing. However, Darnell was one of my first teachers years ago. Over the years, I have taken classes with her and even traveled distances to study with her. She is one of my favorite instructors and used to teach workshops for Writers Circle around the Table and for NCWN-West. 

Creative Nonfiction in a Flash

(Local residents, if you live within driving distance each day, get a discount)
Instructor: Darnell Arnoult
Arnoult, former Writer-In-Residence at Lincoln Memorial University, is the author of the novel "Sufficient Grace" and also "What Travels with Us: Poems," winner of the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature and SIBA Poetry Book of the Year. Her latest publication is "Galaxie Wagon: Poems" (LSU Press, 2016), which received the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing and was a finalist for the Judy Gaines Young Book Award. Darnell was also the recipient of the 2009 Mary Francis Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters and was named the 2007 Tennessee Writer of the Year. Her work has appeared in a number of journals. She holds an MFA from the University of Memphis and lives in Mebane, NC.
Skill Level: All Levels
Please call (1-800-365-5724) to register for 2022 classes.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Teaching Adults to Write about their Lives - fascinating and fun

Dana Wildsmith, excellent writer, poet and teacher, writes about her week at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and for a few minutes I long for those times when I taught there, when I ate at the family-style dining tables and talked with strangers I would likely never see after the week ended. The folk school is a magical place, and if there are ghosts, I know they live in those buildings and walk those grounds so lovely in the evening and early morning fog.

At the end of this post by Dana she tells us what her students say about taking her class and writing personal essays. Like me, Dana teaches students to write about themselves, tell their stories and put words to paper on subjects they would never have thought to write about had they not registered for her writing class.

Tonight my group at Tri-County Community College was thin as one student had to drop out and another was absent. But the writing by those present was thick and heavy with family stories and happenings from their youth.

“I would never have thought of this if it hadn’t been for you,” Roger said as he explained how he came to write the story, The Smell from Hell. He was a stock boy in a store, just a teenager, and worked for $1.00 an hour in south Florida. In a short page of writing he entertained us, made us laugh, informed us of what life was like back then, and enlightened his readers with knowledge and history of gender specific jobs and how in today’s world a stock boy has a new politically correct title – inventory engineer- or some such thing. Roger has written serious, thought-provoking articles as well as hilarious stories of his youth. He submits opinion pieces regularly to the Graham Star, his local newspaper, and he is a political news junkie.  

Diane also wrote a humorous piece for tonight. She chose the prompt, Write about stories that are told and re-told in your family. She took us on a trip across country in an old VW Bus loaded with a bunch of kids and her Aunt Elaine who confronted a bear in the campground one morning. The trip changed Aunt Elaine’s life forever. Diane has writing experience, but in this class she has learned to take her skills further and deeper as she explores the use of the five senses and includes details as well as dialogue in her creative nonfiction. In another story she wrote, we all fell in love with her Irish Grandmother.

Kathy brought one of her children’s stories – What if?  Kathy is a dedicated writer who will one day be well-published. I can see this manuscript illustrated by a good artist and in the hands of children who will love it. Kathy has also brought us to tears when writing about her pet squirrel.

Like my mother and my sister, June, I delight in hearing the unique stories about the lives of others. I think June enjoyed her life at Assisted Living because she met so many people and heard their personal stories. I liked for her to tell me about them and often I had the chance to meet them as well. 

I thrive on seeing my students’ work improve each week. I will miss these creative writers over the winter. My next class at the college is scheduled for Fall, 2017. But I hope to teach at my home studio next summer.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Poetry with Karen Paul Holmes

Our first workshop of 2014 will be with poet, Karen Paul Holmes, of Atlanta and Hiawassee, Georgia. We are pleased to have her teach once more at Writers Circle.

She has taught writing at national conferences and at the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has a full-length poetry collection, Untying The Knot, forthcoming from Kelsay Books (August 2014) and recently received an Elizabeth George Foundation grant for poetry. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, POEM, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia (Texas Review Press). 
To support fellow writers, Holmes originated and hosts a critique group in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in Yong Harris, GA. A former VP of Communication at ING, a global financial services company, she says she now leads “a kinder, gentler life” as a freelance writer, poet and teacher.

March 22, Saturday afternoon, 1 - 4 p.m. - Karen Paul Holmes - Fee $35

Express Yourself Through Poetry

Some of us are better than others when it comes to expressing emotion. Yet the feeling in the poem is what connects it to the reader. In this class we'll explore how to free yourself by expressing yourself in third person or through a persona. We'll look at examples of heartfelt poems that do not cross the dangerous bridge of sentimentality. 

We'll also learn how humor can help communicate serious emotions -- like anger, grief, regret --  in poems that are both salty and sweet, that touch readers' emotional cores while also making them smile. 
Class will include an optional prompt ahead of time, so you can bring a poem of your own to share.

For registration information,
contact or call 828-389-4441 for more information.
You may send a check for $35 to Writers Circle, 581 Chatuge Lane, Hayesville, NC 28904 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

John Campbell Folk School Festival was Fun

In 1996 I signed up for my first writing class at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. If you have never been to this special place nestled in the beautiful mountains between Chattanooga, TN, Asheville, NC, and Atlanta GA, please add taking a class at JCCFS to your bucket list.

This weekend my sister and BIL, Stu, came up and we had the greatest time. Saturday afternoon we drove over to Brasstown and found ourselves caught up in a traffic jam. Who would have thought we'd have a traffic jam on Settawig Road? Cars were bumper to bumper and we had become discouraged by the time we reached the parking area on the campus. Stu dropped off Gay and me at the entrance near the Gift Shop. Thousands of people come from all over the country and I'm sure from other parts of the world to visit JCCFS on festival day.

This is a place where I always see people I know. We made sure we arrived in time to see Butternut Creek and Friends, a great singing group that includes Steve Harvey who plays banjo, ukulele, guitar and he sings.
We have been fans of the group for over sixteen years. Steve is an essayist and will be teaching a class at the Ridgeline Conference this weekend.

We didn't want to miss seeing the lovely twins, The Pressley Girls, who have blossomed into quite a singing group backed by their grandpa, their mother and their uncle. The girls belong to Tipper of Blind Pig and the Acorn.

The folk school holds many good memories for me from my first class there with Nancy Simpson, poet, to my first opportunity to teach a writing class. I was asked to sub for a weekend class. I had taught some classes already, but this was my first time at John C. Campbell Folk School.

I'll never forget the emotion that rolled over me as I turned the key to the door of the room where we would gather. I thought I would burst with gratitude, and I wanted to laugh and to cry at the same time. I felt I'd reached a milestone. I hoped I could give my students the same feeling I had in my first class at this magical place.

Years have passed since that day and many men and women have sat before me in writing classes at the folk school, at classes in church fellowship halls, at Tri-County Community College, at ICL classes held at Young Harris College and in my own studio. But I never forget that my life changed forever the day I took my first writing class at John C. Campbell Folk School. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dana Wildsmith at Writers Circle in 2014


Dana Wildsmith, a writer and poet I admire, lives outside Atlanta on an old family farm. She has been teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School for years but I've not been able to catch one of her classes.

So I recently asked her to teach at Writers Circle next year, 2014.
She said she would love to. We have been working on a date for her class which is to be for non-poets, memoirists, novelists, etc. as Dana writes poetry and prose. 

Today, she sent me an email and I was delighted to see that my friends at FutureCycle Press are publishing her new poetry book,
Christmas in Bethlehem.

I think we will have to have Dana come back in the fall and teach a workshop on poetry, don't you?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rebecca's travels bring her to the mountains

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing and visiting with my friend and former student, Rebecca. She is working as a student host at the John C. Campbell Folk School for a few months. Since the folk school is in Brasstown, NC and I am in Hayesville, we met for dinner at the Chop House in Murphy.
If you have been reading Rebecca's blog, you know she has rid herself of all her belongings and will live in different places around the world for the next year. She will live in Italy for awhile and in Spain, where she will go on a long pilgrimage.
If all goes well we have plans for her to live in Hayesville with me for a couple of months.
Rebecca says she is going to take my class this coming week, and she will be such an asset to me and the others in the class. If you are at the folk school in the next few months, I hope you get a chance to meet Rebecca Gallo. And read her posts as she travels and writes about her experiences.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Renaissance Rebecca posts about Your Life -- Your Stories

Writing at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC  is an experience that can change your life. Tonight I read a post on a blog by a former student, Rebecca. She tells about her experience at the folk school and how the writing class she took there made a difference in her life. That is all a teacher can ask, to make a positive difference in the lives of their students. Rebecca gave me permission to post the following on our Netwest Writers blog in 2010.  I'm sure she won't mind having it published again here, in an abbreviated form.
From Renaissance Rebecca:
On Christmas morning when I was seven, I received my first diary. An avid reader, I loved the idea of writing down my own personal thoughts and what transpired during my days.

I never intended anyone to read the words I had written. But my siblings apparently thought I had something juicy in there. I had to change the hiding spot often so my siblings wouldn’t steal it.
Twenty-six years later, stored in my parents barn, is a twenty-two gallon plastic container filled with years of my thoughts. Despite all these words written, I never considered myself a writer. Though I didn’t know the technical definition of a writer, in general I figured that they wanted their words to be read. I didn’t. Upon reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I felt such pity for the girl – she was just writing in her diary and someone thought it a good idea to publish it for all the world to read! I was sure that wasn’t her intention. I was so sure, in fact, that I wrote in the front of my diary that year that I did not want mine to be published ever. But that the guilty sister who always stole it could have the honor of reading it upon my death.

No, I never intended my words to be read. So when I found the John C. Campbell Folk School in the book “100 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life,” I wanted to take a blacksmithing course. When the catalog came, I skipped over any writing courses. I realized there was one week in March that was a perfect time for me to go, so I flipped to see what courses were being offered that month. The last one was “Your Life. Your Stories.” Hmm. I loved our family stories. And would love to get them down on paper. They said beginners were welcome. I never in my life thought I’d sign up for a writing class, but it was the one of most interesting to me on the page of courses being offered that week in March.

My fear that I’d be accused of being too young, of not having lived long enough to have anything to write about only proved partially true. I wasn’t the youngest – at 31, I was the second youngest in our class of eight. And though no one said anything, I later found out that the woman who would become the most inspirational to me had her doubts about us younger girls when she first saw us. She held her tongue on that, but thankfully spilled out her words of wisdom to us over the next five days.

When the youngest student in our class confessed to having a blog, we all asked if she could show us how to set one up. And here’s the great thing about the John C. Campbell Folk School – the teachers modify things to fit student requests. So all of us gathered around our fellow student’s computer one evening and she gave us an introductory blog lesson.

And here I sit, writing for anyone in the world to read. This is what I love about life. That you can change – or don’t have to. And it’s your choice. That you can say, “Never will I ever…” and then ten or fifteen or fifty years from now find yourself doing something you never said you’d do. All because of a book you picked up from the travel section at the bookstore.

photo by Ellen Andrews