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 Writers Circle around the Table. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writers Circle around the Table. Show all posts

Sunday, September 17, 2023

My Friend, Gene Vickers, author

Glenda Beall is seated in front of Gene Vickers, author

A few years ago, I asked for members to volunteer to staff our NCWN-West booth at the Festival on the Square. A former student of mine, Gene Vickers, now an author of several books, stepped up to help.

The first time I met Gene was in 2008 when I taught a writing class to earn money to help pay for publishing our very popular Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, an anthology filled with poems and narratives by western North Carolina writers and by writers from the North Georgia mountains. 

My husband, Barry, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. I was still in shock and very afraid. I told my students in that class about Barry and what we were facing. I didn't dwell on it and went on to teach my class. At the end when I thanked everyone for coming, a man stood up and said to the group, " We need to pray for this lady as she faces some tough times ahead." 

I wanted to cry. I felt that this man knew what was happening to me and I did need prayer and comfort. That man was Gene Vickers who did not know me and I did not know him.

That year was as tough as it gets as Barry began chemo and radiation. We were both so afraid but had hope that he would beat this insidious disease that claimed the lives of so many. It had taken my dear brother, Ray, from me. I would not let myself believe that it would take Barry. But it did. In 2009, he died in a hospice center in Cumming Georgia after spending weeks in Emory Hospital.

In an effort to start a life with meaning and substance, I remodeled my daylight basement and began my writing studio, Writers Circle Around the Table. It was the best therapy for me as I grieved.

A few years later, Gene Vickers registered for a class at my studio. He was the only man in the class and I think he was uncomfortable. After the class closed, he asked if I would give him private lessons. I had not taught privately before, but I knew Gene did not like taking classes with others. And I knew he had a massive imagination. In class when I gave a prompt to have my students write something, Gene would write a full-fledged short story within five minutes. 

It was obvious he was a writer. But he had not been educated as a writer or taken workshops to fine-tune his capabilities. He was well-read and discussed authors he liked and how many of them ignored the rules we taught and felt were important. He came to my studio for one hour each week and I enjoyed working with him. He was a quick learner and I saw his progress increase every week. 

He was also a member of a writing group where he shared his stories and received feedback. His first book was filled with many of the stories we worked on in my studio. It is a delightful book in which teddy bears talk.  The bears are real and live in the home of Gene and his wife Elaine. He said this book was for his grandchildren. It is also a good book for empty-nesters. 

Gene followed my advice and found an editor who helped him publish the book.  His books are available on Amazon and in local bookstores.

This is one of my favorites:  "Set in the mountains of North Georgia, Amen and Amen is an unforgettable story about people learning to love one another in spite of societal boundaries and cultural divides. More than that, it raises questions about whether those boundaries and divides actually exist outside the minds of the characters who have been conditioned to dislike people who are not like them. Residents of gated mansions and double-wide trailers appear to have little in common with one another until a millionaire's son and the daughter of a factory worker fall in love.

Some say parallel roads never meet, but bridges can be constructed to connect them by those willing to chance it."

I think this book is timely as our country seems divided on many issues. Amen and Amen is an uplifting novel that I enjoyed very much. 

I am happy that I had a small part in this author's success, but my part was small. He is a man who has a natural talent and self-discipline that all writers need. 

I like that his books are not filled with vulgar language or murder and gore. He is a storyteller and like most of us Southerners, I was brought up on storytelling. 

If you have read any of Gene's books, let me hear from you and tell me your thoughts.

Enjoy the fall weather and maybe the hurricanes will leave us alone so we can be outdoors more. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Writers Circle Around the Table again

I am excited because I have decided to start my writing classes again. I am looking at September and trying to decide whether to go virtual or teach in a classroom. 

I have heard from several writers who would like to teach for Writers Circle Around the Table again. Although I have only taught memoir writing for the past few years, I might think about doing a poetry workshop. 

I began learning to write poetry with a terrific teacher, the late poet, Nancy Simpson, and all of us who took her classes learned so very much from her. You can hear us talk about that in this video made when we honored her after her death. 

She taught us what makes a poem. She taught us how sound is so important in a poem, and that is something that you will find in my poetry. Also, metaphors are a part of poetry that many don't use enough. I have every handout she gave us and the lesson that went with it. 

I always loved poetry, but it was Nancy who taught me why.

Thanks to Raven Chiong, we have this photo of the poetry critique group she leads each month at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville, NC.
Netwest Bee City Poets facilitated by Raven Chiong - standing, far right first row

This group meets at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville, NC on the first Thursday. All who write poetry are welcome.  

If you are just beginning to write poetry and want some good feedback on your work, this group has many experienced poets, published and knowledgeable. The first row in this photo includes Brenda Kay Ledford, Glenda Barrett, Mary Ricketson and Joan Howard who all have published poetry books and their poems have graced the pages of many journals and reviews. 

I am proud and I know Nancy would be proud of so many of her students who became outstanding members of NCWN-West and whose books now live in homes not only in the mountains but all over the country. 

Yes, I am getting the itch to work with writers, especially those who are just putting their toes in the water and who need to know more about their opportunities. 

I will be getting out the word when I schedule my class in September. Meanwhile, if you live in Hayesville, Murphy, or Hiawassee, GA let me know if you prefer to meet in a room or online. 

Here is a prompt if you need something to get you writing:  Begin by writing, I will never forget the time when ...

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Happy 2022

 Happy 2022, Readers and Friends,

I have been very busy with my sister and brother-in-law, Gay and Stu, moving my belongings into the lovely apartment they created in their home for me. Although I have a bedroom suite that belongs to them, I have no living room or dining room furniture yet.

We made a trip to Hayesville this past weekend and brought back more furnishings. Gradually it is looking like a real home. 

This is the time for me to begin scheduling for Writers Circle Around the Table.
My plans for the coming year include inviting other writers to teach workshops and classes on writing - poetry, creative writing, creative nonfiction, and marketing writing. From 2010 until 2019, we held face-to-face writing events in my home studio. 

We can no longer meet in person, but we can continue our classes and workshops with writers who like to meet on Zoom. Our classes last year were well attended and received excellent evaluations. With the ability to teach online, instructors will not have to travel long distances and can live anywhere they have Zoom availability. 

Today I received an email from a former student who said she had joined the NC Poetry Society, and she gave my classes credit for her doing so. 

I am excited about the future and where this new year will take us. Possibilities avail! Let's see where we go. 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Writers Circle around the Table - images from the past ten years

My dear departed friend and neighbor, Ginny Walsh, Barbara Gabriel, Staci Bell around the table in the early days

Scott Owens, prolific and talented poet from Hickory NC taught here many times. We hope to have him again.   
Scott has a new poetry collection, Sky Full of Stars and Dreaming that I recommend. It includes some poems from his earlier books and new poems as well. His poetry is heartfelt and relatable to anyone who has empathy for suffering in our world. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I smile when reading his words, but I always enjoy them.  Read one of his poems here. 

A very popular writing instructor, Steven Harvey, an English professor at Young Harris College who is now retired. His students at Writers Circle loved him. Maybe he will teach for Writers Circle again one day. He has written many books and my favorite is his memoir, The Book of Knowledge and Wonder, a memoir about the suicide of his mother published by Ovenbird Books as part of the "Judith Kitchen Select" series.

At this class we had a man attend. Gene was working on his first book and now he has written his third.
Front right, Jo Carolyn Beebe is a delightful writer of historical fiction. 

Michelle Keller taught classes on genealogy. We all learned so much. She has found that she and I are distant cousins because we both have an ancestor descended from Francis Posey who came to this country when it was being settled.

From 2010 until 2020, we enjoyed meeting and learning together at my studio
The students became my friends and the instructors became friends that I cherish today. 

Who knows what the future holds with this virus crippling our country and the entire world, but maybe we can once again have people gather around my table and leave with a smile and a feeling that they can write that book, that poem, or article they always wanted to write. 

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?


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Photo by Roger Carlton

Located on Lake Santeetlah facing south across the the lake using my Apple I-Phone 7. The time was around  6:30 am and the shot lasted for less than 10 minutes. The early bird catches the best image.


Roger Carlton is columnist for Graham Star newspaper. He was once a writing student of mine. He has developed a great eye for photography. I believe this view is from his lovely home on Lake Santeetlah in western North Carolina.

Roger says the Graham Star is using some of his photos on the front page of the newspaper. Who says life can't get better after retirement? Roger has found a new calling with writing and photography. He spent his working years in city management. We are happy to have him as part of Writers' Circle around the Table.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Changes at Create Space? Read Tara Lynne Groth's news here.

I learned today from the newsletter of my friend TaraLynne Groth that Amazon’s CreateSpace  is getting out of the author services business. Self publishing writers will need to go elsewhere for important author services, including editing, cover editing and book formatting. 

As of April 18, 2018 writers who self publish with Create Space will have to do more of their own work or pay for those services that Create Space no longer provides.

Too bad for me, the procrastinator. I had planned to publish a couple of short books through Create Space.

Tara Lynne sent her good news in her newsletter today. 

Through her use of Linkedin she has landed a job with “one of the largest mutual fund companies in the world.” Congratulations, Tara Lynn!

We have been fortunate to have Tara Lynne Groth teach some classes at Writers Circle around the Table, and she was well-received as a speaker at our Day for Writers in Sylva, NC in 2017.  This young woman is extremely knowledgeable about the freelance world and the modern methods of marketing. I hope she will have time to come back to our region before too long.

Tara Lynne will be changing the focus of her writing business now. Read about what she will be doing in her newsletter whichyou can find online.

She has a new collection of short stories ready to shop to publishers soon. I have her book, Magazine Queries that Worked, only 6.99 in print now at This book should be on the shelf of all who want to write and sell articles for magazines or newspapers.