Words from a member

You and the entire membership of Netwest have been an inspiration to me in my writing life. The group is a welcoming & encouraging gathering of like-people. Thank you for all you've done for others. It does not go unnoticed.
Nancy Purcell

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Congratulations to Karen Luke Jackson



GRIT by Karen Luke Jackson

Finishing Line Press, 2020


Thursday, October 8, from 7 – 8 p.m. Redheaded Stepchild will feature Karen Luke Jackson’s debut poetry chapbook GRIT which chronicles the life of Janis Luke Roberts and her alter ego Clancey the Clown. The online event will be hosted by Malaiki King Albrecht, the journal’s founder and editor and current president of the North Carolina Poetry Society. Karen's reading will be followed by an open mic.


            To access the program through Facebook, go to Redheaded Stepchild’s page here.


To access the program directly through Zoom, click here.

The book can be ordered from Finishing Line Press



Friday, September 11, 2020

Robert Lee Kendrick Published with Main Street Rag

Writers’ Night Out had a good attendance tonight with participants from Atlanta area up to Hendersonville, NC. Although we can’t hold our face to face meetings, it is fun to get together online and share our writing.

Robert Lee Kendrick presented us with a most interesting program talking about his writing technique and answering my questions. His latest book Shape the Bent Straight was published by Main Street Rag Publishing company. It can be ordered from Scott Douglas at Main Street Rag or from Robert. 

He said he has a number of books on hand because he had planned to be doing readings and book signings at this time. To order from Robert, send him an email at robertleekendrick@gmail.com He will get your mailing address and you can send him a small fee plus shipping cost. It is well worth the effort and the fee. I plan to order tonight.

If you have not joined our Writers’ Night Out Zoom meeting on the second Friday of each month, be sure to Zoom with us October 9. The name of the guest presenter will be sent out with our invitation to all members of NCWN-West and to the mailing list of those who have attended WNO in the past.

The Open Mic readers are introduced and some conversation takes place with each of them. Join us in October.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Poet, Dr. Eugene Z. Hirsch, 12/18/31 -- 9/3/20

This post written by Mary Ricketson

Gene Hirsch, MD, a poet of our mountains, died September 3, 2020, after a long struggle with cancer.  

He was a well-known writer in western North Carolina.  He taught poetry at John C. Campbell Folk School for many years, and helped Nancy Simpson start North Carolina Writers Network West 25 years ago or more.  He regularly attended critique groups, read at organized events, and taught small groups of poets at his home in Murphy.  Gene was teacher and mentor to be remembered.  He lived in Pittsburgh PA and in Murphy NC, and visited Murphy often, until May 2019.

Gene was known as a loving man who listened deeply to every poem from any kind of writer, rustic beginner to polished expert.  He cared about the craft of writing and also cared about the person writing the poem.  As a physician, he had a long career practicing medicine.  In later years he taught doctors and medical students to provide the best of medical and human help to dying patients.  The following is a quote, introduction to his long essay, Intimacy and Dying, written earlier this year, unpublished.
I am a retired geriatrician who, for thirty five years, taught humanistic values in Clinical Medicine to medical students and doctors. From 2000 to 2010, at Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh, I guided students through the ancient clinical art of responding to struggles and needs of dying people. Among other curricular activities, with permission, we (2 -4 students and I) visited patients in their homes, not to learn procedures for obtaining medical histories, but for the specific purpose of listening to their thoughts, feelings, ordeals and supports. They understood that they were being placed in the role of teachers rather than patients. This proved to be important to all.

Gene kept his illness private, made no apology for that request.  He asked me to talk with him late in his dying process, asked me to be “ears to listen, for some day my dying to be worth my life.”  I will have more to say about that after I have settled enough to review the scratchy notes I kept of this time.  He also asked me to organize a memorial after his death. He said he wants to be remembered in our mountains.  Once the world is safe to gather in person, when the pandemic is over, we will have a memorial for memory, poems, and a celebration of his life.
His body has been cremated.  At some time, in respect for his request, his family will spread his ashes privately at his former home in Murphy.  He gave that home to his wife’s son and family, a family who loves the mountains and the privilege to vacation there. 
During the final months of Gene’s illness, he engaged the help of a friend and poet in Pittsburgh, Judy Robinson, to organize and seek publication of his poems.  The result of that effort is indeed a book, published 7-15-20, available from Amazon, details below.

Cards and words of sympathy may be sent to Gene's wife, Virginia Spangler, 139 Overlook Drive, Verona PA 15147.

In fond memory of Gene Hirsch,  
Mary Ricketson

Speak, Speak, pub July 15, 2020
Paperback $30, Amazon

Dr. Eugene Hirsch, Gene, to all who know him, has extended to me the privilege of editing his poetry, an assignment I accepted with pleasure. This collection, “Speak, Speak,” is the culmination of Gene’s long career of writing, and reflects the complexity of his mind and experience. As a physician/writer he joins a distinguished list, and in my opinion as a reader/editor, he earns his place among the others, notably Maugham, Chekhov, William Carlos Williams.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Zoom along with Writers' Night Out!

 Robert Lee Kendrick 
in Conversation with Glenda Beall

Friday, September 11
7 pm
Open Mic Follows
NCWN members will received the Zoom link via email 

Join us for this month's Writers' Night Out featuring South Carolina poet, Robert Lee Kendrick. His third book, which is a novel in verse, is Shape the Bent Straight, recently published by Main Street Rag.  

Of Kendrick's first full-length collection, What Once Burst with Brilliance, former NC Poet Laureate, Joseph Bathanti, said, "These poems are achingly elegiac – a deep, unslaked yearn for a past not vanished but resurrected through the time-honored autobiographical ‘I’ of the eye-witness dutifully chained to memory. Kendrick’s poems are at once documentary and unforgettably imagined.”

Kendrick grew up in Illinois and Iowa, but now lives in Clemson with his wife and dog. After earning his M.A. from Illinois State University and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, he held a number of jobs, ranging from house painter to pizza driver to grocery store worker to line cook. Main Street Rag also published his second poetry book Winter Skin. His poems appear in Birmingham Poetry ReviewValparaiso Poetry ReviewAtlanta ReviewTar River PoetryLouisiana Literature, and elsewhere. 

Open microphone will follow for those who’d like to read their own poetry or prose with a time limit of three minutes

Those wishing to participate in the open mic can sign up to read by emailing Glenda Beall, glendabeall@msn.com.

Zoom invitations will be sent out again to NCWN-West members before the event. For more information, please contact Glenda Beall.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Maureen Ryan Griffin interviewed on Podcast

Many of us in western NC and north Georgia have had the pleasure of taking workshops and classes with Maureen Ryan Griffin either through Netwest or John C. Campbell Folk School. Her business, WordPlay is thriving from her home in Charlotte, NC.

I have subscribed to her newsletter for many years, and today learned she was recently a guest on a podcast. You can listen to Maureen talk about her journey that led her to writing, teaching and creating her own business. You get to know the person as well as the writer.
Click on this link:  https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/rose-cast-with-dr-sara-rose/e/65202933

Visit Maureen's website: https://www.wordplaynow.com to see how you can take classes online at this time when she can't meet with you face to face. 
She is the best teacher, and she inspired me and encouraged me when I took her classes years ago. She is a generous person with her students and in her personal life. I recommend beginning writers get to know Maureen.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Our friend, Scott Owens, has a new poetry book. Order now for discount

Scott Owens from Hickory was a regular instructor at Writers Circle around the Table for many years. We loved his poems and learned from his classes how to improve our own poetry. Now he has a new poetry book and I just ordered my copy.  This is what Scott has said about this book:
My forthcoming book of poems, Counting the Ways, has taken the longest of any of my books to be written. I started the collection, without knowing I was doing so, as an undergraduate at Ohio University.

The poem, "Breakings," built on the various manifestations of brokenness in my childhood and its lingering presence in adulthood, served as the seminal poem, the model, if you will. But I didn't understand that for another 35 years.

I picked up on the possibility of motif poems about 5 years after writing "Breakings" and dabbled with them for another 30 years or so, even conceiving the idea of a collection of them some 10-15 years ago, but I didn't see the relation to "Breakings" until just a few years ago. In any event, here is the poem "Breakings"

You can still get the Advance Order discount on the book at https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/…/counting-the-ways-sco…/

There were always bottles in the well house,
lined up on 2 X 4s, piled in boxes, hidden
above the door. He hung them, bottoms up,
on the sticks he planted in the pasture.
Sometimes he used coffee cans, milk jugs,
a red-lined slopjar, anything to make a noise
as it swallowed the rocks or took the blows
hard against its side. But nothing could match
the sounds of shattered glass, nothing
could match the thrill of breaking.

The changes came sudden but incomplete.
What was once a bottle grew into
the many faces of breaking,
mirrors and windows, stung
running of cows, frantic beating
of redbirds, cries of children.

His father went off to war
to practice breaking on other men.
He became so good at it he came back
to teach others the black magic of breaking.

His mother stayed home and broke water,
broke in husbands and children,
broke her back to hold
some fragment of family together.

The old man, his grandfather,
broke the earth, broke cows
in the pasture, chicken-bones
in his teeth, taught him to break
limbs with the red axe,
the necks of chickens and rabbits,
legs of owls in fox traps,
skulls of cows in the stable.

He saw the breaking of land,
the endless bending of backs
and knees, the big-handed breaking
of his mother’s face, his brother’s
mouth, his own shattered skin.
He heard the news of breaking,
of Attica and Kent, King
and My Lai, the fields and jungles
scattered with war, the streets
emptied through breaking of walls
and windows, hearts and heads.

He saw the night shattered
with noise and lights, a man’s body
broken open on the porch,
the life splattered on the window,
lying messy on the floor.

He wanted to leave it all
behind, to break the habits
of breaking, but even now,
he knows the hearts of those
he loves like glass.

          By Scott Owens

Monday, August 17, 2020


Fee is only $25 for two hour workshop with poet, writer and editor, Carol Crawford. No matter where you live, you can attend because this is a Zoom meeting.

What text on the page do readers never skip? Dialogue. The conversation between characters catches the eye even when the reader is scanning the page. 


On Thursday, September 24, 2 - 4 PM, Carol Crawford, published writer and editor, will teach a class via Zoom for those who want to improve their writing of dialogue.

Bring your characters to life with dialogue that is authentic, clear, and compelling. Capture the flavor of personality and culture through speech that sounds real. In-class exercises will cover word choice, tone, action beats, what to leave out, and format in this interactive workshop.
Register no later than September 19. 
Email gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com to receive instructions for registration.
Fee - $25
Sponsored by NCWN-West

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Opportunities for Writers

387 Beaucatcher Road
Asheville, NC 28805


Dear Editor, please announce these offerings for writers, such as our Hard Times Contest, open to any writer regardless of residence or experience. The Writers’ Workshop is a non-profit writing center founded in 1985. Thanks so much! – K. Ackerson, Exec. Director

The Writers' Workshop is offering on-line classes for beginning and experienced writers. Each class meets on Saturdays, 10-3 pm (with 1 hr. lunch break). Registration is in advance only, at www.twwoa.org. Classes are $65. Financial assistance is available for low-income writers in exchange for volunteering.

To register, email writersw@gmail.com, or call 828-254-8111.

Hard Times Writing Contest  
 Deadline: Emailed or postmarked by August 30, 2020.
1st Place: Three free workshops (in person or on-line); or 50 pages edited and revised by our editorial staff.
2nd Place: Two free workshops, in person or on-line; or 35 pp line-edited.
3rd Place: One free workshop; or 25 pages line-edited.
10 Honorable Mentions

  •      Write about a difficult experience in your life, how you overcame this obstacle, and how you were changed by it. Winning stories will be chosen for originality and creative writing style.
  •  Stories should not exceed 5,000 words (double-spaced, 12 point font). Your name, address, email and title of work should appear on a separate cover sheet. 
  •  The entry fee per submission is $25. Multiple entries are accepted.    Enclose self-sealing SASE for critique and list of winners.
  •      Make check or money order payable to The Writers’ Workshop, and mail to:  Hard Times Contest, 387 Beaucatcher Road, Asheville, NC  28805.
  •      Emailed submission may be sent (in Word Doc) to writersw@gmail.com, with "Hard Times Contest" in the subject. Entry fee is payable online at www.twwoa.org.
* * * * *

Please note: We also offer online one-on-one tutorials for any writer, regardless of experience. Whether you need help getting started and sticking to a schedule, or how to polish your work for publication, we're here to help.

If you'd like more information on setting up a personal or class meeting via Zoom, or on the phone/email, please email us at writersw@gmail.com. Mention your name, email, genre of writing, & any questions re your work. We'll set this up at your convenience!
THE RENBOURNE EDITORIAL AGENCY provides expert assistance with revising and editing your work - memoirs, fiction or creative non-fiction.  We use a fine-tooth comb to ready your work for publication. For details, please contact www.renbourne.com, or call 828-254-8111.
The Renbourne Editorial Agency is a division of The Writers' Workshop of Asheville, NC, a non-profit literary center founded in 1985.


Karen Ackerson, Exec. Director
The Writers' Workshop
387 Beaucatcher Rd.
Asheville, NC 28805

Friday, August 7, 2020

Poem published by Dissident Voice for Randy Mazie

Randy Mazie

Congratulations to Randy Mazie. His poem,
A Message from Homeland Security to all Neighborhood Homeowners is published in Dissident Voice.

Read it here.

Randy is a recent member of NCWN, NCWN-West, and lives in north Georgia.
He has Master's Degrees in Social Work from Columbia University and Business Administration from Barry University. His non-fiction has been published in professional journals, fiction in Defenestration, and poetry in numerous media including Light, The MacGuffin, DASH, and the Anthology of Transcendent Poetry, Cosmographia Books, 2019. He occasionally blogs at www.thewritersvillage.wordpress.comRead other articles by Randy.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

We meet virtually in the fall for a writers' conference

Virtual Conference instead of Fall Writing Conference in Durham as planned by the NC Writers' Network.

I expect this conference to be a great experience for those of us who sign on to participate. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Cabin Fever Conference in the spring, held on Zoom. I met the presenters and was able to ask questions and receive the recorded workshops for later perusal. 

Registration for this conference will be opened in September. Stay tuned to be sure you get included.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Carol Crawford and Glenda Beall hold a conversation at Writers' Night Out August 14

NCWN-West sponsors Writers' Night Out Friday evening, August 14, 7:00 PM. 

Carol Crawford

We will meet on Zoom for this reading and conversation with a published writer, a poet and editor, Carol Childers Crawford. Our guest lives in Blue Ridge, Georgia where she runs her own business. 

More about Carol:
Carol Crawford is the owner of Carol Crawford Editing and author of The Habit of Mercy, Poems about Daughters and Mothers.

Carol has led workshops and taught creative writing for the John C. Campbell Folk School, the Dahlonega Literary Festival, The Red Clay Writers’ Conference, Writers Circle Around the Table, the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and the Carrollton Writers’ Club. She has been a volunteer with the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference since it began more than twenty years ago.

Carol's essays and poetry have been published in the Southern Humanities Review, the Chattahoochee Review, and the Journal of Kentucky Studies among others. Originally from Texas, she holds a journalism and English degree from Baylor University. She loves to help people tell their stories.
She spends her free time doing needlepoint and badgering county commissioners about library funding.

Carol and Glenda will talk about editing and other things. Carol will read a couple of her personal essays. 

 Open microphone will follow for those who’d like to read their own poetry or prose with a time limit of three minutes.

Those wishing to participate in the open mic can sign up to read  by emailing Glenda Beall, glendabeall@msn.com.

Zoom invitations will be sent out again to NCWN-West members the week before the event. 
  For more information, please contact Karen Holmes at (404) 316-8466 or kpaulholmes@gmail.com or contact Glenda Beall.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Conversation with Carroll S. Taylor, novelist

We are pleased to have as our guest today, Carroll S. Taylor, novelist and author of a new picture book for children.

Carroll, thanks for taking time to answer some questions.  First, let me say how much I appreciate your being an active member of NCWN-West and for your assistance to me over the past couple of years.

Chinaberry Summer began in the summer of 1978. I was in grad school, and I enrolled in a fiction writing class with poet Bin Ramke as our instructor. We primarily wrote short stories, and I wrote a story entitled “Chinaberry Summer.” It was basically what is now Chapters 22 and 23  in my book. 

I retired (the first time) from teaching in 2004, and I felt it was time for me to stop grading essays and focus on my own writing. I thought about that lost story, and I began to reconstruct and rewrite it. I had never written a book before in my life. What was most important was to get my ideas on paper. Suddenly the characters started taking on lives of their own, and the story morphed into a book. Some may or may not understand this process, but I learned to get out of the way and let my characters write their story.

When it was time to publish Chinaberry Summer, I received many rejections. My novels are quirky Southern literature, and they don’t fit into every publisher’s desired genre. The narrator is Sissie Stevenson, an outspoken fifth grader who questions everything. 

By happenstance, or maybe by divine guidance, I discovered that a colleague at Columbus State University has a small publishing press in Auburn, AL, New Plains Press, and he agreed to read my manuscript. From there, the long process of publishing began.

When I finished my first book, I realized that my characters Sissie and Spud had much more to say, so my second book, Chinaberry Summer: On the Other Side, focuses on the other side of Sissie’s family and Sissie’s grandmother who has “the gift.”

I remember my first poem, written for my grandfather. I hadn’t started first grade yet and there was no such thing as kindergarten where I lived in Harris County, Georgia in the 1950s. First, second, and third grade at my school met in the same room with one teacher. The character in my book, Mrs. Clara Sue Martin, is my tribute to the remarkable teacher who taught me for three straight years. 
For my grandfather’s birthday,  I wanted to write a poem. I asked my mother, “How do you spell when? She misunderstood what I said and spelled it w-i-n-d. So the first line of my poem began “Wind you…” I still think back on that little poem over sixty-five years later and laugh!
I wrote some poetry and short stories when I was older. I remember my poor, patient ninth grade choral teacher. I admired her so much, and she read my poetry, which was, I remember, about loneliness, lost love, and teen angst. I would hand her my poems and leave the room, too shy to stay while she read them.
My students paid me back later when they asked me to read their poems. But the beauty of all that is trust. Poetry is highly visceral. A poet lays bare a portion of his or her soul for others to see. When a teenager hands a poem over to a teacher to read, that is a highly vulnerable moment in that teen’s life and a great compliment to the teacher.
Much of my writing went into the years I taught high school journalism, newspaper, and yearbook classes. I was busy teaching students how to write, and that work extended into the eight years I taught freshman essay writing classes part-time at Columbus State University.
3. I am a fan of character-driven stories and books. The characters in your Chinaberry series remind me of people I have known as I grew up in south Georgia. Do your fans relate to your books because of the characters?

I believe my fans relate to the characters and the time in which the books are set. Many of my older readers relate to a pleasant visit back to 1959-1961. I include things that people their age will remember, such as rotary phones, party lines, and TV programs like Sky King and Mighty Mouse. But I have had a really great response to the characters. Most readers figure I must be Sissie, but many of them have told me how much they love Spud. They ask me who he was in my life. They are astonished when I explain that Spud does not exist; he is fictional. He exists only in my book. Aunt Pearl is also fictional. I created Aunt Pearl as a composite of every annoying female relative or gossipy church lady I’ve known. I feel such joy when my readers believe all my characters are real. One of my friends was going through a terrible time with her husband’s illness. She grew up in South Alabama, and she said reading Chinaberry Summer felt peaceful.
I love stories, books, and television programs with strong ensemble characters. That’s the beauty of my novels. The kids form a tight circle to protect and support each other, and as readers will discover in my second novel, the circle begins to include kids that were socially marginalized or kids who came to realize that their bullying was wrong.

4. In your books, Sissie likes reptiles, something that likely surprises most readers because of the stereotypical girl who is scared to death of snakes. How does this theme play throughout both books?

I grew up fascinated by reptiles and amphibians. We lived in the country, and those critters were everywhere and were often a part of my life. My family always sat together around the table after supper and talked. My father and I loved snakes, so I would go get an encyclopedia and we would look for pictures and information about snakes all over the world. Consequently, I don’t have much patience with females (and males) who squeal when they see a snake or a lizard. 

For Chinaberry Summer, I decided to create a strong female character who would narrate my story, and at the same time, advocate for animals who have no voice. Of course, in Sissie’s youth, not much was taught in school about our ecosystem, our environment, and the preservation of wild animals who literally stand in the gap between humans and disaster. For example, without snakes, we would be overrun by vermin. In both books, Sissie comes to realize that most people need to be educated about reptiles and amphibians and their importance. She does not always say that someone killed a snake; she says they murdered the snake.

5. Besides entertaining the reader, your books also touch on values we hope children learn such as protecting a friend from a bully. What other things do you want children to glean from reading your books?

My books emphasize anti-bullying, respect for the creatures many people despise (snakes, spiders), and kindness to all creatures, both humans and critters. I want children to understand that, sadly, bullying will always be present in our society, whether it’s at the work place, in the military, on social media, in the family, sports teams, or any other social interactions in which one person decides he or she is superior to others and engages in any form of abuse. In effect, bullying is a malignancy. The key is for students to recognize bullying and respond to it appropriately. 

No child should be emotionally damaged or ever commit suicide because of a bully. In all three of my books, including my children’s book, I stress the importance of having a diverse group of friends. I want students to be aware if classmates are being bullied. It is important for Sissie to ask questions and speak up. When I was growing up, nice little Southern girls often faded into the wallpaper. After all, what will people think?

I also emphasize generational storytelling. My grandfather often sat with me in the porch swing and passed down family stories. My other grandfather died when I was five, but I remember many things he taught my sister and me in that brief time. Both of my grandmothers lived to be older and passed down a huge amount of stories from their lifetimes. 

My maternal aunt was one of our family historians. I often called her to help me with farm questions. She grew up on my grandparents’ farm which they had received as part of FDR’s “New Deal,” so she helped me verify those facts in my book. Sadly, she died as the result of a car accident at age 68. I dedicated my book to her. She never knew I finished it. I will forever be grateful for the time all of them spent telling me family stories. I hope my Chinaberry Summer books will not only encourage older readers to pass down their stories to their families but will also encourage young readers to learn about their family history.

6. In what way do you think your years of teaching children influence  your writing life?
I taught a variety of courses during my teaching career. Much of the time, besides teaching French, I taught English and Journalism. I also taught English as a Second Language. One of my favorite courses was Creative Writing. My students were excited to learn about different forms of poetry. They learned to write short stories. Some of them found refuge in writing. Throughout my teaching career, I learned along with my students. I taught them a lot, but they taught me as well.

Over the years, whether teaching in high school or college, I witnessed a lot of students who had emotional scars. I tried to provide them essay topics for them to express issues they were trying to deal with at home. In my Chinaberry Summer books, I dealt with bullying; but parents and students need to realize that bullies are not just playground ruffians. Sometimes family members and teachers bully students. In Feannag the Crow I stressed socialization skills. Simon the lizard teaches Feannag that he should always have friends. That idea also goes back to the idea of an ensemble of characters in my novels and the support friends give each other.

7. You have a grown son and a grandchild now. Does that influence what you write and publish?
When my son was growing up, we always had books in the house. He enjoys reading and writing, which comes in handy for his sermons.  I love it when he reads my poems and gives me feedback. We discuss our writing ideas. I hope someday my three-year-old granddaughter will read my Chinaberry Summer series, but Feannag the Crow is a book she can enjoy now when her parents read it to her. I dedicated the book to her. It is a living legacy of myself given to her. The message in Feannag’s story is for every child who reads it, but I hope she will hear my voice when she reads the words. Because of the pandemic, I had to mail her copy to Washington State instead of delivering it in person. On FaceTime, I watched her open the envelope and find the book. The first thing she saw was my picture. She was so excited. Then she turned the book over and began pointing to the birds and telling me what color they are. I plan to write at least two other Feannag books for her to enjoy.

8. The picture book, Feannag the Crow is a delightful story with fabulous illustrations. Tell us about that book and how it came to be written.
I can honestly say that Feannag the Crow was a result of serendipity. I didn’t set out to write a children’s book. In fact, this is my first one. I think Feannag, who is a pushy little bird, wormed his way onto my list of writing ideas. He wanted to be born; and once he hatched, he bypassed the usual route of fledglings and their preparation for flight. Feannag was born ready.
Two factors influenced writing my book. First, I have always loved crows. They are social, loud, and comical at times, but they are also highly intelligent. Every morning at my house, I feed roasted peanuts to a few crows, whoever decides to fly in for breakfast. I call them with my human Caw! and they show up from the trees. The second factor was our trip to Scotland last year. My husband and I loved the Highlands and the Scottish people.

One evening I was trying to decide what to write about next. Feannag and Scotland suddenly came together. The book also gave me the opportunity to spotlight some of my favorites—a lizard, a turtle, and a snake. Feannag is Scottish-Gaelic for crow. I have a picture of a thistle in the book, which is a nod to Scotland.

Amy Ammons Garza, who did the book’s layout and editing, suggested that I do a series preparing children for the process of socialization. I liked her suggestion, and I already have ideas for two more Feannag books I hope to write. I cannot say enough about Amy’s patience and skill. Doreyl Ammons Cain, her sister, is an incredible illustrator with a tireless work ethic. I was blessed to find them.

9. You have a diverse talent for writing and you have written stage plays. Tell us about that part of your writing life and do you plan to pursue that genre.
Sometimes my writing is for publication, and sometimes writing is for the pure pleasure of writing to see if I can actually do that genre. My screenplay was recently professionally edited. All I need to do is make myself sit down, sort through the corrections and suggestions, and make those changes.  A screenplay needs to be character driven with less description. It must fit a specific format. Then finding a market is difficult.

I attended a screenplay writing seminar years ago. The instructor told us that he could not guarantee that our screenplays would be successful. But, he added, he could give us a 100% guarantee of failure if we don’t write the screenplay. That advice, of course, could apply to any of our writing.

10. Feannag came out just as the pandemic exploded all over the country. At this time you can’t hold book signings or give readings to the public in book stores or public places. How are you finding ways to promote your new book while staying home?
Sales are slow at the moment. I have mailed out quite a few copies between here and the West Coast. I am so thankful for social media and for my publisher’s website for sales. Amy designed business cards with Feannag’s picture. She also designed mail order pamphlets that I can distribute. In addition, she designed Feannag labels for my mailing envelopes so every time I mail a book, I am also advertising it. I am contacting area bookstores for consignment sales. School contacts are dicey at the moment. I anticipate an uptick in sales when I am at last able to hold an official book launching party and do readings for area bookstores and festivals. The book really is lovely. It’s a First Edition, and all artwork is original pastels created by Doreyl Ammons Cain, who founded the Appalachian Mural Trail with her husband Jerry.

11. As you know I teach aspiring writers. What advice can you give fiction writers who want to become published writers one day?

Writing is one of the hardest things you will ever do, not because of the process or writer’s block, but because it’s often difficult to make yourself sit down and write. It takes discipline. So many distractions pull us in different directions. I write on my computer, so it’s easy to do a quick research on a word or idea and suddenly find myself scrolling on Facebook.

Writing is a solitary occupation. That’s a good and a bad thing. Sometimes you will feel all alone and wonder why you’re writing. You may become filled with self-doubt. But you have to push through those moments. The good thing is that I need to have some solitary time to write. Even that can be challenging. Often the TV is going and my cat feels compelled to startle me by jumping up on my desk and striding across the keyboard wreaking havoc on the words I just typed. So writers need a designated writing area where they can work with as little distraction as possible.

You also need to discover your best time for writing. For some writers, it’s early morning or after everyone has left the house or gone to bed. For me, it’s very late at night. I’m often writing between 2:00-3:00 a.m. I also know a few writer friends who are up that late, too. I wrote a major portion of a screenplay during lunch break every day.

Keep one special folder. Name it whatever you like. One of the things I do when I’m writing a book, and I know there will be a sequel, is to keep notes in a computer folder for future books. I never destroy unused lines or ideas. I cut and paste them to that ONE folder so that I may be working on two manuscripts at the same time. I do the same when I’m writing short stories or poems. Cut, paste, and save. That snippet you save may not be needed now, but it may be quite useful later.
Try not to edit as you write. First, write down the details. You don’t want to lose those! When ideas come to you through the day or night, jot them down and keep them together. Trust me, you won’t remember them later. They will evaporate. When I write my Chinaberry Summer series (now on book 3), I prefer to work from an outline. I design my chapters and go from there. There is plenty of time for smooth editing later in the process. If you do heavy editing at the beginning, not only will you stifle your flow of ideas, but you will also cause yourself to become discouraged. Premature editing, in my opinion, is when a lot of writers give up.
My other piece of advice is this: Unless you’re writing historical fiction and you have to leave this century and do scads of research, set your story where you feel comfortable. A fiction piece does not have to be in L.A. or New York. There’s nothing wrong with Georgia or North Carolina. If you know those places well, set your story there if it fits. Don’t feel compelled to pick an exotic location for your setting unless you plan to visit there or do lots of research.

 Please feel free to tell us anything about yourself, or your books that I have not asked.
As I stated earlier, I grew up in a rural area of west Georgia in the 50s and 60s. Girls weren’t steered toward science and math. We were required to take Home Ec. There was no art class. There was no avenue to share poetry. Preconceived notions dominated any artistic endeavors. Football was king. I managed to buck the system a bit by taking Latin and French. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed by someone else’s expectations.
Math was not my forte in high school. I know now that I was afraid of it.  Afraid of failure. I was expected to be an A student. So for a big bucket list item, as soon as I completed my last semester teaching at CSU in 2014, I enrolled as a student in the CSU Study Abroad program held in Oxford, UK, each summer. My course was “The History of Mathematics.”  I hired a tutor, worked extremely hard on my assignments, and enjoyed the experience of a lifetime. I proved to myself that I could be a successful math student. At 65 years of age, I was one of the college kids and much older than my professor.
And so it is with writing. What often holds many aspiring writers back is their fear of failure. The idea that their writing, a piece of their souls, is laid bare for readers to see and critique. What if nobody likes my work? What if I’m criticized? So what!
On the day of my Chinaberry Summer book launch at CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, I needed to run by the bank and get some change for book purchases. I was filled with self-doubt. Who am I to think I am an author? Who will be interested in what I have to say? The signing was a planned affair, guests were coming, and I had reserved the facility for much of the day.
I was at that proverbial moment when I was ready for God to send me a sign. The bank was in the middle of a busy shopping area and apartments. I looked out across a manicured lawn, and there was a huge turtle strolling across the grass near a small stream. That was my sign. That was when I realized the truth. Through my writing, I was speaking for all the reptiles and amphibians that don’t have a voice. They are critters who have no way to protect themselves from encroaching development and thoughtless cruelty. I had my answer.
Writing a book was also one of my bucket list items. I loved launching my book at Oxbow Meadows. I had a fantastic day reading excerpts of my book for the audience and signing books while surrounded by live snakes, turtles, and baby alligators in their glass-enclosed habitat displays.
I felt I was surrounded by friends, not just the two-legged kind.  I held numerous signing events. One that I will always remember was the reading I held in the childhood home of CarsonMcCullers  in Columbus, Georgia.
But all that was not enough. I knew there was much more to the story of Sissie and Spud. I had caught the writing bug.
Thank you so much, Carroll. We appreciate your taking time to be with us today. And thanks for your inspiring words about writing.

Thank you, Glenda, for interviewing me. I appreciate all the work you do for North Carolina Writers’ Network-West and your faithful online presence as well.  You continue to be a mentor and role model for me. I moved here from an area that does not provide the level of camaraderie and encouragement I have found here, where writers and poets support one another. I’m so happy I found NCWN-West at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville one hot and humid Sunday afternoon. Serendipity!