Sunday, May 17, 2020

Mary Ricketson, poet and mental health counselor, writing through a pandemic

Mary, thank you for being our guest on Netwest Writers today and taking time to answer our questions. You work as a mental health counselor, and I imagine the pandemic has changed your work life in many ways.

GCB:  Are you working from home and are your clients accepting the new methods you have to use now?

Mary: Thank you for asking about my work as a counselor.  It’s the science, talent, and heart that feeds me well beyond whatever we usually think of as career.
Yes, I’m working from home.  Most people are fine with this change from in person visits at my downtown office, since all of us understand the safety needs of the pandemic.  I have a revolving door of clientele, so already there are some I’ve never met in person.  There are a few people who prefer to wait, deal with their issues when they can meet with a therapist in person.  I treat that like any other personal preference- it’s up to them, handle it with all the respect any human being deserves.
The pandemic is very stressful for people.  No one calls for help simply because of the pandemic, but it adds to stresses already there.
GCB: I imagine you had to learn new technology for working at home and did your clients have trouble accepting the changes?

Mary: Primarily I’m working via my cellphone.  I’ve learned to use speaker phone so the phone is not in my ear all the time, and I’ve learned some tricks about how to keep it charged.  I do meet via video with skype.  I already knew how to use this, so I’ve managed to avoid learning a whole new technology, thankfully.
Some people have to go out to their car with their phone to gain the privacy needed for a counseling session.  Other people simply can’t manage because their children are home from school.  Some arrange for child care.  Others muddle through.

GCB: Do you find working from home more tiring or easier than going to your office each day?

Mary: I miss my office.  I thought it would be a real treat to work from home, and indeed in some ways it is.  I’m incredibly more fatigued at the end of my work day now.  It takes much more energy to attend only via voice, or even the face that shows in the  video of skype or any other tele-conference.  I’m constantly finding words and asking questions to make up for the nonverbal cues and the energy I usually get in person.  Besides that, there is a difference in the reward I feel.  Nothing makes up for that in person energy exchange.  For now, however, it’s safety at all cost.

GCB; You are a poet. How has this chaotic time affected your writing? Do you feel less creative or more creative in your writing? Do you find you write more now being home so much?

Mary: I’ve been determined to write as much or more as usual during this pandemic.  I’m counting on creativity and my time in nature to bring me the balance I need in life.  Honestly, the pandemic stress is so gigantic, it’s a tough call to meet that balance.  I can keep writing and even bring poems to completion, but the business side of writing, like submitting, is suffering down here at my place.
My schedule is to get focused during my early morning walk, then start writing before the world gets in my way, and before going to work.  I’ve kept this schedule during this odd time.  It gives a predictability to my life, and I think it keeps me tuned with the time and ritual when I expect my creativity to appear.  I even take a note pad on my walk, write down images or ideas.  If I don’t, it all drifts away like a dream you think you are going to remember.

 GCB: Recently you published a poetry book, a memoir in poetry, about your parents and your life growing up in Mississippi. Tell us how that book came to be. Did you set out to write poems for this book or did you find you had poems already written that fit in this theme?

Mary: Slowly I came to a decision that my life in Mississippi during my formative years was worthwhile.  I avoided knowing that for a great deal of my adulthood, embarrassed about the racism of the times.  Other problems in my family were not what I wanted to write about.  I worked within myself for quite some time to find the worth, discover what I was proud of. 
I did set out on purpose to write the poems that turned into the book.  I went through picture albums, remembering, jotting notes all over my house.  I phoned my brother and sister, asking for tidbits and gems.  I talked to my parents, if you can really talk to the dead.  I called one cousin on my mother’s side, and I talked often to my aunt on my dad’s side.  All this generated memories in a kaleidoscope kind of fashion.  I was thrilled and frustrated with no pattern coming to the surface. 
I kept noticing point of view in any kind of poems I read.  I got the idea to get inside my parents as best I could, try to experience the move to Mississippi and our life there, how it must have been for them.  That turned a corner.  I got excited to the max, started writing in every spare minute I could find.  By the end, I had fallen in love with my parents and found a new aspect of being proud of my life.

 GCB: Do you prefer traditional publishing  or self-publishing of your poetry books?
         Mary: So far, I’ve only published by traditional publishing. I’m intrigued by self-publishing; I may go there yet. Mainly I want to present my writing in the most professional and respectful way I can.

 GCB: I find that marketing is the hardest and most time consuming part of being a writer. How do you feel about marketing and do you have any tips for our readers on how to best handle this part of being a writer?

Mary: I always wish I knew more about marketing, or that it would come easier, and that someone would do it for me.  No one does it for me, it’s harder than it looks and it constantly changes, and no one seems to understand enough. 
For me, it helps to talk about my books to everyone I know and even some I don’t know.  I have to push myself about this.  I read in public everywhere I can, bring books for sale, and keep looking for new places to read.  I try to invent places to read.  I stop myself from dreaming about being popular and fame coming naturally to me.  I go to writing conferences whenever I can, volunteer to read and also trade books with other authors.

I keep wanting to learn to budget my time to spend a regular portion of time weekly on the business end of writing.  I’m not there yet, but I’m sure it’s the right practice to achieve.

 GCB: You have been a member of NCWN and NCWN-West for two decades. How has this membership benefited your writing life?

Mary: I would have done nothing with my writing if I had not been a member of the North Carolina Writers' Network.  The alliance with other writers has been the cornerstone of my writing.  The tradition of joining with others for critiquing our work has been skill-building help and a motivator for me.  I’ve grown in confidence as a writer during my time as a member.  I need my connection with other writers in order to grow. 

 GCB: I often teach aspiring writers. What advice would you give an aspiring poet who wants to one day publish his/her poetry?

Mary: Write daily if at all possible.  I used to set my alarm for 5 am so I could write for an hour before getting my child up for school, do all the getting ready, and then go to work myself.
Share your work with others.  You don’t quite know yourself if you live in total isolation.  It’s the same with writing.
Read your work in public.  Our reading events are as much for ourselves, our own growth as for the opportunity to share and entertain.
Write from your own experience.  Be willing to learn who you are, be willing to be surprised at who you find.
Tell the truth when you write, even if you change the truth somehow.  That may sound like a riddle.  It’s not.
 GCB: Tell us about each of your poetry books, please, and where they can be purchased.

Mary: Disorgananza was my first book, in 2000.  It’s a small book, printed on a home computer, and put together for family and friends, mostly as Christmas gifts. 
I have one copy only now.

I Hear the River Call my Name is my chapbook, my first book via a publisher, Finishing Line Press, 2007.  I didn’t know I could do this.  I took a class in putting a chapbook together simply because the class was being offered, and well why not?  This book is out of print.  When I spend more time on the business of writing, I’ll figure out how to re-publish it.

Hanging Dog Creek is myfirst full length book, published by Future Cycle Press, 2014.  I did this on a wing and a prayer. 
I had to deal with a lot of editorial suggestions and even harsh criticism.  But someone there believed in me, and kept encouraging me not to give up.  I had lost a great deal in life by then, that there was no way to keep.  I was determined to get this done, and I did.

Shade and Shelter was published by Kelsay Press, 2017.  I felt like I sent that manuscript to a million places, and ultimately changed the title a time or two.  Once Karen Kelsay accepted it, there were no significant changes to be made.

Mississippi: The Story of Luke and Marian was also published by Kelsay, 2019.  I frankly did not know how in the world I would get this book published.  Over and over I submitted it.   When I was ready to start over with a real big breath, I sent an inquiry to Kelsay press because I had not received a response in the time they advertise.  I got an almost immediate reply saying my book was already accepted, but someone in the chain of staff had not seen her email.  After that, things went pretty fast.

Hanging Dog Creek, Shade and Shelter, and Mississippi are all available directly from me, or from Curiosity Bookstore in Murphy, or City Lights in Sylva,NC or order on Amazon.

Thanks, Glenda, for this opportunity to converse about writing.  It’s been fun.

GCB: We appreciate Mary Ricketson taking time for our interview and for all she does for writers.

Glenda Council Beall is Program Coordinator for NCWN-West , Owner/director for Writers Circle around the Table.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A message from Travis Denton and Katie Chaple

From: Denton, Travis W 
Dear Friends—
Katie and I hope all’s well where you are, and that you and yours are all safe and healthy. (Katie continues to tell me to stop touching my face.) Right now, we’re all physically distancing ourselves, but I have an opportunity for you where we can be “virtually” together this summer and do the good work of poetry.

Katie and I are co-leading Manhattanville College’s Summer Writer’s Week Poetry Workshop in Purchase, NY coming up from June 22 to June 26. This is a wonderful and exciting program that we’re thrilled to be a part of. Now, the program is going to happen via Zoom (not in person, because of, well, you know) and that’ll work just fine. We’ll have a lot of fun, and do the good work of poetry. We invite each and every one of you to be a part of the workshop. Please do hurry to sign up—space is limited.

Our poetry workshop will be in the morning each day for about three hours, and in the afternoon there will be craft talks, and poetry readings in the evening. And if you sign up to join our poetry workshop, we will also offer each of you an hour’s worth of free one-on-one poetry/manuscript consultation. How’s that?

Here’s the link to the Manhattanville Summer Writer’s Week Webpage with all the info on how to join. Feel free to share this link with anyone you think might be interested. If you have any questions at all or just want to be in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Stay safe, everyone!
Only Good Things Always,
Travis & Katie

Friday, May 15, 2020

Book Release during a pandemic? What can you do?

In the above newsletter from Authors Round the South, Lady Banks tells us what smart authors have been successfully doing.

Renea Winchester, is author of Outbound Train, set in her hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina. It is the story of the iron-willed women of a local textile plant. I like the story already. 

Dealing with the frustrations and anger COVID-19 has brought into our lives

Even when we know what to do, it often takes someone to remind us why we should.

We know it is best to let the anger and feelings of helplessness out. We should rant or write but we should get it out of our system, right?

I spent about a week ranting and being irritable with everyone. Even my closest friends and family still don't want to talk to me. For several nights I could not sleep at all. I would find myself still awake at 6:30 a.m. Then I felt awful all day long. I began to worry that something was wrong with me, that I was ill. I was ill. I had become sick from all the negative feelings in my body.

Part of my stress was due to my brother who has been in the hospital twice in the past couple of months, very, very ill. We think now he had COVID-19. He was on a ventilator for several days, but the tests were not given back in February when he was sick. Whatever he had has left him with heart problems which gives me more reason to be concerned.

My brother a few years ago telling stories at the family reunion

I went on a tirade on Facebook, something I don't normally do. Now I am avoiding FB and writing more, reading more blogs, listening to Audible, and watching videos that I enjoy. I try to avoid TV news. I realize that it stresses me out more than anything.

This writer Sharon A. Bray, EdD has explained how holding in our negative feelings is harmful for our health, and she offers some ways to deal with our anger and frustrations. She says: The nice thing about writing about difficult emotions or frustrations is that it helps you release them from you body to the page. You can be honest. No one needs to see what you’ve written.

Check her out and see if you agree with what she has written. She is a cancer survivor and helps others by teaching them to write about their difficulties.

Have you found writing to be a way of dealing with your emotions?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Road Map for Writers

A book is out that we all want to read.

The Author's Journey: A Road Map for Writers - From Draft to Published Book 

Pat Zick,novelist and part time resident of Murphy, NC has published the book we need to read if we want to publish a successful book. She writes as P.C. Zick and is a member of NCWN-West.

Find this book here now.

About P.C. Zick

Bestselling author P.C. Zick describes herself as a storyteller no matter what she writes. And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and creative nonfiction. She's won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and novels.
Pat says she hopes to be back in the mountains before too long, but for now she is self-quarantined in her home in Tallahassee, Florida. She was scheduled to teach a publishing class at the Moss Library in Hayesville in June, but she is now thinking about teaching the class on Zoom. We hope she will teach  even if from her home.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Writers' Night Out in May

We held our second Zoom online Writers' Night Out on Friday with guests,    Travis Denton and Katie Chaple,husband and wife poets from Atlanta, Georgia.           

The evening was enjoyable with the two talking and asking questions to each other about writing poetry. They were humorous, relaxed and likable.

We had a glitch at the beginning of the hour because we had sent out two different links for the Zoom meeting, but hopefully, everyone found us eventually.This type of venue is not as familiar to us as we would like, but hope we can master it before long. Our open mic readers were in Florida, Watkinsville, Georgia, Hiawassee, Georgia, and local.

I thought it interesting that Katie and Travis have already scheduled a week of workshops in the fall and all will be online. We will probably find that many of the gatherings we have been used to will end up being online. NCWN has ongoing workshops online. 

At the present time, we have no plans to hold Coffee with the Poets and Writers this summer even if the Moss Library opens soon. Neither will we hold the Literary Hour at the John C. Campbell Folk School if it opens soon. We hope to plan for the fall, but will see what the country looks like then. 

Because these meetings are open to the public, we would have to police seating and wearing of masks and our leaders aren't ready to take that on now. Also, many of our members and audience are over 65 which puts them in the high risk group for COVID-19. We prefer to stay home and wait than to take risks with our lives.

I hope you are learning how to take online classes to improve your writing and to motivate you to write while you are home. With more time on our hands, we can polish up those manuscripts in our folders and submit them.

We would love to have our members contribute posts for this blog. Give us ten tips for writing poetry, fiction, short stories or creative nonfiction. You are accomplished writers, and I know you have things you can share with others.

If you have a list of prompts you could share, send them in and we will publish them. We don't get many comments but we have a large readership from all over the world. When you post here, we will also list your books, your website, etc. This site belongs to our members. Let us hear from you.
To make it easy, send to 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Comments on April Writers' Night Out on Zoom

Carroll S. Taylor comments on April Zoom meeting for Writers' Night Out
I’m so glad I attended last night.  I need the connection with fellow poets and writers, and I think our gathering felt surprisingly intimate despite our distances apart. Poetry has the power to bring us all together. Thank you, Glenda and Karen, for organizing everything. Thank you, Rupert, for sharing your poetry.
WNO brought light to a dark night.

On Sat, Apr 11, 2020 at 11:11 AM Bob Grove wrote:
I'm sure all the participants share the same delight in meeting and hearing from each other.
Warmest regards for the weekend,

Thursday, April 30, 2020

News from Netwest PC

On our latest membership list for NCWN-West, we have 116 members. Our members come from Henderson County down to Cherokee County, and we have twelve members from bordering counties in Georgia.

Most of our counties have one or two Netwest representatives, but we still need people in Transylvania County, Graham County and Cherokee County. We are able to reach more writers when we have a representative who makes himself or herself available to members, and who cares about those she represents. The best writers are generous writers, and I hope you will think about being generous in your county.

What can we do for others during a pandemic?
In this time of having to give up so much in our lives, I see our fellow writers  lending a helping hand to others. I see people searching for ways to make their lives meaningful during this crisis. 

I don't have money to give away, but I want to help our local food pantry which is feeding many, many people who can't work because their places of business are closed, who don't have a paycheck coming in and need to feed their children.

Estelle Rice, member and co-author of Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins, joined with me in offering all profit for the next month from sales of our book to the Clay County Food Pantry. This is done through City Lights Books in Sylva, NC where you can order online, and they will ship the books at a deep discount. I sent out a few emails and posted it on Facebook and my blogs, but hope you will help us spread the word. This helps our favorite bookstore as well as helping the food pantry.

I have been surprised at the response. One person thanked me for reminding her that she should send a check to the food pantry in her county. Another person who was once a member of NCWN-WEST simply sent a check for the Clay County Food Pantry. We all want to help when we can. Be creative. How can you use your talents to help others?

For four weeks in March, I taught a creative writing class for Tri-County Community College. We met once at the college, but three of the classes I taught online using Google Classroom. The students enjoyed it so much, I decided to teach another six weeks, but at no charge. 

While we are home and looking for things to do, taking an online class is a way to keep motivated to write. It is good for me as well. I have learned a new skill and find that Zoom gives us a perfect way to stay connected. My students  enjoy sending in a writing piece each week that we all read and offer helpful comments. I critique each individual story and send back to the author.

So, although I am self-quarantined, I am using this time to help others as well as myself. 

On Friday evening, 7:00, May 8, we plan to hold another Writers' Night Out on Zoom. The April WNO was well-attended and enjoyed. I will host, and we will send out instructions on how to join us.

Rosemary Royston, our Netwest treasurer, wrote a post on her blog today that I want to share with you.

NCWN will hold an online course on May 20, 7:00 PM.
Topic: "Revealing Character Through Dialogue" with Xhenet Aliu

I have been teaching this subject, and I hope to learn some new tips to pass on to my students. I believe that dialogue is such an important part of writing and often the hardest part. It is a perfect way to reveal character. If you haven't received an email about this class, go to and you can register.

What are you doing to help others while staying at home and being safe? 
Email me, or leave a comment on this site.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Update on Writing Events and what to expect in the future

Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville, NC is still closed and will be through May 2. 
Coffee with the Poets and Writers will not meet in May.

The Literary Hour usually held at the John C. Campbell Folk School will not meet in May.
Tri-County Community College is closed and the NCWN-West poetry and prose groups will not meet until the college is opened again.

No events are planned for NCWN-West until we all feel safe gathering in groups again. At this time, I can't imagine when that will be.

We might hold some Zoom events for writers including Writers' Night Out in May, but at this time we have no definite plans.

We would like to hear from you. Would you like to meet on Zoom or on Skype?

If enough of our members want to meet online, we will look at that possibility.
Leave a comment on this blog or email me your opinion.

If you participated in the Cabin Fever conference held by NCWN last Saturday, please let us know your thoughts about it. I signed on for four workshops and I did enjoy the entire day. Some of the groups had as many as 63 attending. Some of them muted their video and we could not see their faces. But that was fine. Some also muted their audio and they did not speak during the class time.

The instructors were excellent, especially Lynn York, editor for Blair Publishing and Robin, her co-instructor was exemplary in her presentation. I think this was the most detailed presentation I have seen or heard on what happens as your manuscript goes through the process of being published. Some of my thoughts on traditional publishers and marketing changed after hearing them speak.

I am teaching a free writing course for the next four weeks online using Zoom. If this experiment goes well, I will consider opening Writers Circle Around the Table and teaching online for pay in the coming months. 

We can make these months at home productive if we use our time to reflect on what we do, what we like to do and how we can better achieve our writing goals.

We can use this time to submit to contests and keep our work out, don't hoard your writing on your computer, submit it and give it a chance to mingle while you stay home. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

How Can You Help Others?

From now until June 1, Estelle Rice and I are offering our proceeds from the sale of Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins to the Clay County Food Pantry when you order from City Lights Books in Sylva, NC.  This volunteer organization feeds many people and the need is large right not.

City Lights is offering a reduced price for shipping as their way of donating.

Send a book to a friend who is staying home for protection from COVID-19.

Signing books last December - It is a great gift to have on hand for those random times you need one.
Remember a birthday coming up and send this delightful book of stories and poems about domestic pets, dogs, cats, horses and birds.

This is what author Lisa Turner said about our book:

 Evokes those special memories and relationships with our animal friends

"The emotional experiences with our beloved pets are captured in poetic detail and images in these wonderful stories in Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins. Our human lives are so enriched by the special relationships we have with all creatures large and small, and these stories capture this delicate and powerful drama so much that we will enjoy reading them again and again. Highly recommend."

Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Something to Celebrate

Glenda Barrett

Glenda Barrett's poem, Ordinary Things was accepted for publication in July issue of Front Porch Review.  Also, she has had two poems, Coming Unglued, and Clarityaccepted in Willows Wept Review for Summer

Glenda lives in Hiawassee, Georgia, a member of NCWN-West for many years. She is well-published in many journals and reviews. She is author of two books, including When the Sap Rises, published by Finishing Line Press in 2008.
Besides writing poetry and prose, Glenda is an artist and photographer. Her artwork is online at Fine Art America. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Writers' Night Out with Zoom

Tonight, April 10, at 7:00 PM, we held our monthly Writers' Night Out meeting on Zoom where we could see and hear each other. Karen Holmes hosted this event that featured Rupert Fike who did a terrific job of reading his poetry and talking to us about the craft of writing poetry. I believe twenty people participated, and some were audio only using their phones.

Several people read during the Open Mic session.

While learning to use Zoom can be a challenge for some of our writers, I believe most of us can master this and find it is a good method of visiting with family and friends as we all self-quarantine to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19. We  must follow the guidelines about staying home and helping to stop the spread of this deadly illness.

Here in our mountain area, a number of people have been diagnosed with this virus and it only takes one person to expose us and endanger our lives and the lives of those we love.

As writers, we should find this time beneficial because it gives us time to write. The most precious thing is time and e we usually can't find enough with our busy lives. As we are forced to slow down, to stay home and entertain ourselves, what better activity than writing poetry, working on our manuscripts,  revising work we have put away.

We are looking forward to the day when we can meet again at Moss Library or the John C. Campbell Folk School for Coffee with the Poets and Writers and the Literary Hour. But until that time, we can stay in touch by phone and by email or with other online methods.

Thanks to all who joined us for WNO on Zoom. Let us know how you liked it.
Contact me, 
Glenda Beall

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Writers' Night Out, Friday April 10, Social Distancing Style on Zoom,

Writers' Night Out
Social Distancing Style

Join us online,
April 10, 7 pm
Featuring Poet, Rupert Fike
reading & craft talk

Open mic

See open mic sign-up instructions below
See Zoom meeting link below

 You do not need a Zoom account nor a Zoom app. 

In a new Writers' Night Format for 2020, Rupert will read and then present a craft talk. 

Rupert Fike, poet
 Rupert Fike, who has been a Writers' Night favorite in past years, won the 2017 Violet Reed Hass prize for his second book, Hello the House (Snake Nation Press), which was also named a "Book All Georgians Should Read."

His first collection was Lotus Buffet (Brick Road, 2011), and his stories and poems have appeared in The Southern Poetry Review, Scalawag, The Georgetown Review, A&U America's AIDS Magazine, The Buddhist Poetry Review, Natural Bridge, and others. He has a poem inscribed in a downtown Atlanta plaza, and his non-fiction, Voices from The Farm, chronicles life on a 1970s Tennessee commune. He lives in Atlanta and travels throughout the south to do readings. 

Zoom instructions: You can join the group by cell phone, notebook, laptop, or computer and use audio only or audio and video. 

It's easiest to join using this link. Join Zoom Meeting
When prompted, click on "Open". 
Try to get on before 7 pm to make sure you can do it. 
It is important to use the meeting ID and the password.

Meeting ID: 680 728 955
Password: 095905
If you are interested in a practice session before Friday, contact Glenda Beall,

Open mic sign-up
Open mic follows the craft talk. 3 minutes for each reader of poetry or prose. To sign up, please contact Glenda Beall

May 8 and continuing the second Friday of every month:
We hope to continue in person at our new location--The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge-- but please check your email. 


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Renea Winchester launches Outbound Train

Outbound Train releases today !

Being an author means you’ve signed up to be vulnerable. You’ve laid out your soul for all to read. Being an author means the public’s initial perception of your work can make or break something you’ve invested years of your life into. Being an author also means some readers will adore your work, others will use their platform to voice their displeasure. And perhaps that is why authors worry, because from inspiration to final edits we have been in control. But as the ink dries on publication day and a book baby is born, an author has mixed emotions: so much love and hope mingle with the feeling of complete helplessness.

And so my friends, I give you Outbound Train, my book baby. I pray you will scatter her like petals in the wind. I pray you will experience life in my hometown from my eyes, and that you will gift me with the kindness of a book review. A book review will make or break Outbound Train. I hope you will tell your friends, your librarian and the neighbor across the street. For in these uncertain times I still believe that words matter and I need you more than you shall ever know.

With sincere appreciation.
Be well and safe during these uncertain times.

My friends, Independent Booksellers are hurting. Please call your local Indie and order a copy today. Many are shipping copies as well. Find your Indie Bookseller here.
Link to Amazon here.  PLEASE NOTE: AUTHORS DO NOT receive payments for USED COPIES sold through Amazon. These copies are most-likely damaged copies or copies sent to a reviewer who is now selling it. Please support all authors and buy new, or local books.