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.
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: