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 teaching writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching writing. 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. 

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, March 12, 2016

Writers' Conference in Blue Ridge, GA April 8-9

Local writers, in WNC and north Georgia, have a great opportunity in April to attend a writers conference near us. In Blue Ridge, GA, Carol Crawford has brought together a fine group of presenters who will cover poetry, nonfiction, fiction and writing for children.  

Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, agent, has vast experience in choosing and  selling books  for children. She  has worked for several publishers in this  field. Stephanie is the keynote speaker.

Robert Brewer, senior content editor of the Writer's Digest Community, will speak on poetry.
Steven Harvey, author of The Book Of Knowledge and Wonder, a Memoir, and  other nonfiction books, is  on the program.
Tara Lynne Groth, expert on social media, freelance writing, and marketing, is also a presenter.

Now click HERE to see who else will be there. 

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. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Speaking in Hendersonville and visiting with NCWN West Members

Just got back from a delightful time in Hendersonville, NC where I had a chance to visit with writer and Netwest Representative, Lana Hendershott, at Tooley's. 

I was there by invitation to speak at Senior Friends, a 200 member group of older people who seem to be staying quite active and enjoying life. Carol Crawford, poet, writer and director of the annual Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Blue Ridge, GA. was a featured speaker as well. In fact, Carol received an invitation from Roy Freedman for a writer and a poet to speak to the group. She asked me to be the writer. She took this opportunity to read from her wonderful new poetry chapbook, The Habit of Mercy
Carol Crawford at Senior Friends in Hendersonville

I spoke as a writer and teacher. My theme was that writing is good for seniors whether they journal, write about their lives for family or publish a book. I talked about how writing had been such an integral part of my life, especially my healing after loss of my husband. I could see heads nodding as I talked. I felt a real kinship with the 50 plus men and women who sat before me. My thanks to Roy and to Senior Friends for inviting Carol and me to be a part of their fine group Thursday evening. 
Glenda at Senior Friends in Hendersonville

Carol and I were so pleased at the warmth and appreciation of the group after we finished. NCWN West member, Pat Podlipec, is a member of Senior Friends. Another woman told me she remembered me from the annual Blue Ridge Bookfest held in Flat Rock. How nice it was to be remembered for our Netwest panel discussion when we were there a few years ago. I'll always remember that event was held opposite Ron Rash's workshop. Talk about bad luck! We still had a good audience and we all had fun. 

Lana and I discussed an open mike event she hopes to create in Hendersonville very soon. While it is very easy to get a public reading started, one must find a good venue and then decide how to schedule those who will read. Should the reading be for poets or writers? Maybe both? But poets can read two poems in three minutes, easy. Writers need at least five minutes. Those little details have to be worked out, but I feel sure Lana will get this going soon.

I told Lana I'd love to come up for the readings when she gets an event going, and I'd be glad to come for the inaugural if she wanted me. With so many writers in Hendersonville I know the writing event will be well attended, and it will give them an opportunity to bring writers together there. With one Netwest sponsored event open to the public all the writers and poets will get to know each other and, like our writers in my neck of the woods, they can socialize with like-minded people, share opportunities, and make life long friends. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Thoughts on JCCFS

Although I am not teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School this year, I encourage my readers to take one of the writing classes offered this summer or fall. JCCFS has influenced my growth as a writer and poet and as a teacher. Click on the link below and read my thoughts on this wonderful little place in Brasstown, NC.