AWA founder Katherine Cerulean closes out an ‘Open Mic’ event at ‘Normal Books’
I, AWA founder Katherine Cerulean, am making a long-planned move and stepping away from the association starting in October. I leave the Athens Writers Association in the super-capable hands of co-founders Jill Hartmann and Rob White and they have some exciting new events and ideas to unveil in the coming months. Ever since we first talked about my plan over two years ago, they have been nothing but supportive and encouraging.
I’m making plans to travel more with my sister, to see more of the world, and — having returned to my original passion of screenwriting — I’m now throwing all my time and energy into breaking into Hollywood.
Even though this is a very exciting time in my life, it is by no means easy to step away from you all and the great association you all have built.
I had no idea when, in March 2013, I typed the name ‘Athens Writers Association’ into a Facebook group page and thought, ‘Hey! That’s a great name,’ how great — for me — it would become. I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, had some of the most special, most magical days and evenings of my life with this group, and become more confident and felt more loved than ever before.
It wasn’t always easy (just ask anyone who’s edited a self-published collection!) but I was always learning, growing, and grateful in every challenge. If I met you, even once, know that you touched my heart and improved my experience. Thanks especially to everyone who helped me by leading classes, hosting events, editing aforementioned collections, and generally trying to make the association better. You truly did.
But even as I step down as president and pass off hosting duties, I hope you know I’ll always be available by email and happy to talk to AWA members or help you if you have any writing-related questions. In the same vein, well-wishes and nostalgic revelries are always welcome too at Katherinecerulean@gmail.com
For the month of September, there’s a few more events I’ll be at if you want to hang out a little more:
Wild Wednesday Write-In, September 4th, 2:00 PM at Jittery Joe’s, Epps Bridge
Film Athens Happy Hour, September 10th, 5:30 PM at Flicker Theatre and Bar
Final Wild Wednesday Write-In, September 11th, 2:00 PM at Jittery Joe’s, Epps Bridge
Katherine Goodbye Party!, September 22nd, 4:00 PM at Akademia Brewing Company
Sharing the Journey: A Gathering of Writers, September 29th, 4:00 PM at Jittery Joe’s, Epps Bridge
There is no way to express how much I have enjoyed this group and how proud I am of all of you! Let us not say goodbye, but au revoir, which means Goodbye until we meet again.
As writers, we often work alone, and much of our gift comes from standing outside the circle of light, and looking in. But with the AWA, I truly felt brought into the circle of the firelight, sharing in the stories, the warmth, the laughter, and the possibilities inherent in us all. You helped me and encouraged me, nourished and cheered me, and have now given me the strength to continue on down the road, following my true path, my north star.
Newcomers to our monthly Athens Writers Association social gatherings often ask this question when our president and founder, Katherine Cerulean, mentions that I host monthly “Read-Ins” at Barnes and Noble Cafe in Athens, Georgia.
Katherine asked me to write this guest blog post for the website – feel free to contact me if you are interested in experiencing a “Read-In” with us. Please email me through my website, jillhartmanneditor.com, or contact Katherine at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Read-In” is a term that I coined in October 2015, as a spin-off to the “Write-Ins” that Katherine started with the AWA from the beginning.
(Katherine currently hosts a weekly “Wild Wednesday Write-In at Jittery Joe’s on Epps Bridge Parkway from 2-4 pm every week for those of you who, like me, thrive on writing with other authors. Let’s be honest – there’s power – and inspiration – in working together).
Back in the “old days” (circa 2013-2014), the Athens Writers Association held our meetings, events, and most of our public readings at The Coffee Shop of Athens (sadly, they closed for business in November 2014). It was the perfect venue for “write-ins,” our workshops (they had a private meeting room upstairs), critique groups, guest speakers (e.g. Philip Lee Williams, Bobby Nash, Lacey Wolfe, and other local authors), and best of all, performing public readings in front of a live audience.
(We also performed in a few other Athens venues in 2013-14, including The Globe, UGA and Cine, but The Coffee Shop of Athens was our “home base.” ).
Luckily, we have found a new home for our public readings at the fabulous Normal Books on Prince Avenue. Although we hosted a successful reading for our anthology, Laughin’ in Athens at the Athens-Clarke County Library in September 2016, and we are grateful for the ACC library’s ongoing support of our organization, we are thrilled to have formed a new partnership with this local gem in Athens).
However – there was a void, so to speak, in our programming, after The Coffee Shop of Athens closed. Throughout 2015, I remember missing reading in front of the live audience – it is important to be able to bring our writing to life by reading it aloud, in voice and character, for there is a difference in hearing the words performed that makes the stories and poems come alive, in a way that reading it on a piece of paper alone cannot compare to.
Breathing life into the words we write has its own power – not only to entice people to want to read more of our work, but to teach us how to become the best public speakers and self-promoters we can be. All of us, if we’re lucky, will one day be standing at a podium in front of a large group in a bookstore, at a book fair, on a stage…telling a crowd of strangers about ourselves, as writers, and about our amazing book that we want them to buy (otherwise known as the book tour).
I wanted to bring that back to the Athens Writers Association. I missed it, and many people asked us, “When are you guys going to do another public reading?”
For a while, we didn’t have an answer. Until, I came up with the idea of a “Read-In.”
We had our first “Read-In” at Jittery Joe’s, but it didn’t take long to find a permanent home at Barnes and Noble Cafe. As I’ve always told people, what could be more inspiring than reading our stories and poems in a bookstore?
I never expected the “Read-Ins” to become as popular as they have. (We recently celebrated our 3-year anniversary). Katherine tells me that she frequently hears people rave about the “Read-Ins” – how much fun they are having, how positive of an experience it is, and how good it feels to get support from their peers when they read. I hear some people are even getting over their fears of reading in public. All the things I hoped for when I came up with the idea. I am so glad that people keep coming back, and for me, personally, I look forward to it every month.
We have a handful of regular participants, and we always welcome new people – I keep it light and positive and upbeat and informal (people can come late and leave early), we keep the meetings to 2 hours, we always meet on a Thursday night, and best of all, if people do not bring something to read to the group, we are happy to have them participate by listening and giving feedback (which also is not required, but in 3 years, I’ve only had one author tell us she did not want feedback. Most of our writers come to hear both the accolades and the constructive suggestions from their peers).
We do have a few guidelines to keep the “Read-Ins” running smoothly: 20 minutes per person, for reading and feedback, no cell phones at the meeting (not at the table, that is), treat people with respect – i.e. when you give feedback, be honest, but be encouraging and helpful, not derogatory – which is not a problem. Our writers are the most supportive group of people you could hope to read for – or so I’m told by many of our participants.
Because we read in an open cafe in a bookstore where children are sometimes present, unfortunately, we have to keep our material “PG-13,” but it’s a small sacrifice in order to be able to come to Barnes and Noble every month. They are very accommodating and supportive of our group’s monthly gatherings.
You might ask, what is it specifically about a “Read-In” that makes it so special?
Well, I will tell you that you might hear a different answer depending on whom you ask.
For me, it’s a toss-up between the people who come and their amazing writing – which, let’s face it, go hand in hand.
There have been so many incredible people who have been part of the “Read-Ins” and their writing has never ceased to impress and entertain me, but here are a few of my memories that have made our AWA “Read-Ins” so unique and meaningful:
One of our veterans, Jay, is a “renaissance” writer: he writes in a unique voice that showcases his talent for humor, dialogue, character and creativity. He writes science fiction, scary stories, memoirs, travel essays, fiction (one of his short stories was published in a literary journal), humorous anecdotes about his personal adventures…he’s done it all. Everyone loves his writing – he always entertains us, and he also is very helpful and encouraging to others – whether they be other veterans or brand new to the group.
An editing client of mine, Eric, works full time, and began writing in his spare time a while back. He has his own website, wrote a book of Christmas stories, and has been working on another science fiction/adventure book that is fantastic. But, he had not read any of his writing in front of other people and was not sure, at first, if he felt comfortable doing so. (Often we writers feel shy about public speaking, that’s one reason we express our thoughts in writing instead). When Eric first came, he waited for everyone else to read first before deciding if he wanted to read his own writing. From what I recall, his impression of the others’ positivity and moral support inspired him to get his feet wet and take a chance on reading his own prose. He told me afterward that it was such a positive experience for him, that it eliminated his fears of reading aloud, and he was eager to come back again. I was touched that we made his first try at a public reading such a great experience for him – and – that it made him want to come back for more!
Two of our regular participants, Chris and Sharon, often bring their poetry (Sharon also writes prose). Their poems are honest, raw, lyrical and have moved me, deeply, as well as doing so for many others. I appreciate that they trust our group to be a place of safety and appreciation for their very personal and beautiful poems. Poetry is meant to be read aloud, no doubt, but I do not take for granted that they both are open to sharing their poems aloud, with us, publicly, nonetheless.
My colleague and co-founder, Elsa, has shared many excerpts from books she has written, or is writing, and her voice is powerfully unique and strong and creative. She creates complex characters with humor and fire who make you think. My favorite, so far, is “Connie.” Elsa laughs whenever I bug her, “When are you going to read us another chapter about ‘Connie?’” It’s almost like a private joke between the two of us now (she has read two or three chapters from the book, which may be a series, I’m not sure), but I get a rise out of her every time I bring up “Connie.” It’s fun, but seriously, we all have found “Connie” to be brash and funny, and the story is a shocker at times, but in the best way!
A few months ago, one of our newer members brought her 11-year old granddaughter, Ella, to read (Yes, young writers are always welcome!) and being a former teacher, I took special delight in hearing her read her poem about her horse. Ella has a gift, and a voice that is pure and authentic, as most young writers do, before the world of publishers and editors, and school, period, for that matter, edits it for them. That experience took me back to my days as a teacher. I often don’t think about how much I miss teaching, and especially, how much I miss working with the kids – it is a labor of love that is truly worth it.
We host writers that come a few times, and then life happens, and we don’t see them again. They have enriched our “Read-Ins” as much as the regulars and I treasure all the prose and poetry they have graced us with over the years.
One of my favorites was Jamie. He came a couple of times to read from his fan fiction, based on the movie, “Carol,” starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Oh my gosh! Jamie’s dialogue was mind-blowing! I didn’t see the film, but I felt as if I walked right into the middle of it. (Fan fiction is a genre where people take the characters from a favorite book or TV series or movie and create new plots to continue where the original piece left off. It’s very popular with the Twilight and Harry Potter books). We were all struck by the powerful scenes that Jamie wrote, and by his fearless performance. I’ve seen Jamie at the ACC library a couple of times and I hope he will come back someday.
That’s just a taste of what we do at “Read-Ins,” and why they are so important to our writers in the AWA (or so I’m told:) I hope that we continue to welcome new writers, new readers, fresh voices, and their fiction, essays, non-fiction and poetry for years to come. We’ve been going strong so far, and I am so happy that the monthly “Read-Ins” have become such an integral part of the Athens Writers Association’s mission to bring writers together in a circle of mutual support and professional growth through collaboration, cooperation and camaraderie.
Thanks to all the wonderful audience members who came out to support us on Saturday and thanks to Normal Books for their wonderful hospitality!
And we especially appreciate the 14 wonderful readers who shared their awesome writing with us!
For anyone interested, we plan on doing another one soon — keep an eye out for the announcement. And here’s a few pics of the fun —
AWA co-founder Rob White
Chip McDaniels reads from her memoir
Katie Kreutzer reads from her graphic novel
A full house!
AWA founder Katherine Cerulean closes out the event (thanks to co-founder Jill Hartmann for the great photo!)
For more fun with Normal Books, come out in October for the Collaborative Storytelling Event. Six AWA writers will come together to tell one story — each reading their section aloud as a tale of awesomeness unfolds!
The event will take place on Saturday, October 13th at 3:00 PM.
Come hang out with other writers as they try something new and support a great local business at the same time!
The Athens Writers Association is pleased to offer two events in association with ‘Normal Books’ on Prince Street in Normaltown. Both events are free and open to the public.
First, we are holding our second Open Mic Event on Saturday, September 22nd from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM (sign-up is at 3:00 PM and arrive early, last time spots filled up quickly!). This showcases writers of all kinds reading their fiction, non-fiction, poems, and essays (each reader has an eight minute time allotment). Please keep your content PG-13 and under since this is a family establishment and people will be shopping while we read.
Second, in October, it’s time to scare up some fun with a Collaborative Storytelling Event. A limited number of AWA writers will come together to tell one story — each reading their section aloud as a tale of awesomeness unfolds! We almost have enough storytellers but contact me by September 8th if you are seriously interested and would like to join us — email@example.com. The event will take place on Saturday, October 13th at 3:00 PM and participants must be able to attend a pre-event table reading.
Neither of these dates are home UGA football games, so they should be beautiful autumn days to get out and enjoy the magic and community that permeates Athens in the fall!
Come hang out with other writers, possibly read your work in public, and support a great local business!
Athens’ own ‘Flagpole’ magazinehas been a wonderful local resource for decades and their annual end-of-the-year ‘Slackpole’ issue has enabled many AWA members to see their names in print for the first time.
The term ‘slackpole’ comes from the fact that the staff supposedly gets to ‘slack off’ and let new writers take over the pages of that issue — but as someone who’s edited a large anthology of writers, I can say with some certainty that I’m sure there’s very little ‘slacking’ going on for the editors that week. 😉
And now there’s another reason to love the summer months — 2018’s Summer Slackpole! Check out the call for submissions —
Come join the Athens Writers Association in a celebration of independent writers, libraries, and great reads! The Athens-Clarke Country Library is holding their second Indie Author Day on Saturday, March 17th, 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
The AWA will have a table, as will several members including co-founder Rob White. Come find some great books, ask us all your questions about self publishing, and hear founder Katherine Cerulean talk as part of the 12:00 pm author’s discussion panel.
It will be a fun day!
More details from the Library:
Join us for a day celebrating self and indie published authors!
12-1 PM My Self-Publishing Journey: a panel discussion with self-published authors
1-2 PM How to Market your Self or Indie Published Book: a discussion with Bob Babcock of Deeds Publishing
2-4 PM Indie Author Marketplace: meet and mingle with indie and self-published authors as well as purchase their titles!
Katherine Cerulean and the Athens Writers Association are proud to announce four new FREE classes this fall! These “super-size” classes will be on some of the most requested topics and feature expanded bonus features.
NOTE: All classes will take place at the Athens-Clarke County Library in Multipurpose Room C.
by Sarah Cerulean
AWA founder and all around good egg Katherine Cerulean (who writes many of these posts 😉 ) will teach all four classes.
The first class is the always in demand The Beginner’s Guide to Self Publishing on Saturday, October 7th, 2017, 3:00 pm — 5:00 pm. Learn the basics of this hot topic —
Learn the differences between traditional publishers, both large and small, and self publishing
Find out more about Amazon’s pay scale and cost of publishing on Createspace
Learn how to publish for almost zero money — and why you probably shouldn’t
Find out how to protect your work
Look at the differences between ebooks and paperbacks
Find out if formatting is as terrible as you’ve heard (no hints ahead of time!)
Find out what an author’s platform is and why you probably have already started one
See examples of self published local books and ask questions
Next up: 10 Tips for Building Believable Love Stories! On Saturday, November 11th, 2017 at 3:00 pm. All the great info from our popular class and article with an added bonus!
This class explores how to turn a common romance into something extraordinary. Readers love love stories! But all too often we writers fall into either redoing the cliches we’ve seen a million times before (tripping and falling into a love interest’s arms), or we imbue the relationship with pat, uninteresting emotions and flawless characters. And yet in our real lives — and favorite fiction — people are rarely flawless, situations rarely perfect, and it is those exact qualities that draw us in and make us fall in love. Your story deserves no less of a happy ending! We will discover how to make your characters interesting and unique, create realistic obstacles for their happiness, and make audiences root for the couple’s perfect walk into the sunset (cancel that cliche — walk into the Frogurt Shack).
NOTE: This class is about improving a love story in any medium and genre. I’m not a genre Romance writer and so don’t know the ins and outs of that particular field; but a relationship you can believe in helps in any genre.
Bonus: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by October 28th with a one page description of your characters and/or story and the first five will discussed and your questions answered at the end of the class.
Next, move from the big questions about your writing to the even bigger questions about your life! How to Reevaluate Your Life is inspired by the most popular post on my blog and will take place on Sunday, December 9th, at 3:00 pm. There comes a time when you realize your goals and plans may no longer be in alignment with your life and actions. You may feel lost, discouraged, and even wonder just what would make you happy anymore — THIS IS ACTUALLY A WONDERFUL PLACE TO BE IN. When you realize you’re ready for a change, you can begin to look at your life anew, discovering what parts you really love and what ideas and situations you have outgrown. We will explore how to rediscover your passions and purpose, figure out which relationships are helping and hindering your journey, discuss simple ways you can begin to improve your life today, strategies for evaluating your life during the holidays, how to turn obstacles into advantages, and why where you are at this moment — standing here in frustration and uncertainty — is actually the best place in the world you could be in, and the start of your awesome, Hero’s Journey.
NOTE: This class focuses on evaluating where you are and what would improve your life. For more concrete planning, rejoin us in one month for 2018: Goal-Setting and Amazing Success.
Bonus: Email me at email@example.com by November 28th with a one page description of your life/issues/challenges and hopes and goals. The first five will discussed (without using your name or personal details if you wish) and your questions answered at the end of the class.
Lastly, after you’ve reevaluated your life, you may need some new goals. Join us in the new year for an explosion of excitement and list-making (!). 2018: Goal-Setting and Amazing Success will help you start strong and stay on track. Join us On Saturday, Jan. 6th, 2018 at 3:00 pm. Come with your “Big Dream” and learn how to figure out the steps you need to take, and how to break your objective down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Discover how to stay on track, create the life of your dreams, turn obstacles into advantages, and knock the new year out of the park!
Learn from someone who has spent her entire adult life setting goals and refining techniques for success. It’s not magic; it only takes a good attitude, a well-thought-out plan, and a willingness to WORK HARD. Ralph Waldo Emerson said ‘Do the thing and you will have the power.’
Katherine has written three screenplays, six novels, a self improvement book, dropped three sizes, traveled to Europe alone, started a writing association, edited two collects, and set up public events for her group, and gotten rid of 90% of everything she owns. And she wants to help you do all that and more. Come pick her brain and learn how your past failures have only helped teach you how to be ready for success in 2018!
BONUS: Sign up at the end of the class to email Katherine once a month for the next six months to ask questions and work through new challenges. A FREE life coach in email form!
Note the awesomely-drawn chair by Katherine Cerulean (!)
A crowd of thirty-seven people came out for our Laughin’ in Athens release party and Public Reading event at the Athens-Clarke County Library on Saturday, Sep. 9th. We sold copies of this, as well as the two previous, collections. We also signed books, marveled at giant pink balloons (thank you Party City!), and snacked on “funny” candies.
Thanks to all our wonderful readers, Alia Ghosheh, Genie Smith Bernstein, Janine Elyse Aronson, A C (Shorty) Wilmoth, Chelsea Brooks, Katherine Cerulean, Rob White, Larry Coleman, Hannah Thomas, Zhanna P. Rader, Billie H. Wilson, Shantala Kay Russell, and Jay Barnes. And thanks to everyone who donated and/or bought books from us!
The event was a delight, and afterwords a group of us crossed the street to continue reveling at Champys Fried Chicken. Once there, a number of hilarious events took place — but that’s a story for Laughin’ in Athens Volume II . . .
Please check out some photos from the event —
Genie Smith Bernstein wonders “Is God a Border Collie?” before a packed house
AWA co-founder Rob White tells “The Tall Modern Tale of a Small 80s Boy”
Even from the cheap seats, listeners were enthralled by Larry Coleman’s “The Dance”
Katherine Cerulean performs her take on an unhinged robot “For Your Consideration”
“Stephen King” offers to finish our event by reading all 849 pages of his bestseller “11/22/63”. Luckily the man, later revealed to be local author Jay Barnes, read from his delightful (and briefer) story “Driving Miss Kitty” instead
A newer member of our group, Isham James, would like to start an AWA online critique group and we’re looking for other interested parties.
I know sometimes it’s hard to be able to meet up in Athens at the same place and time. Whether you work odd hours or live a little outside the city (as I do), it can be a challenge to make it to a physical meeting for a critique group. This online group will hopefully provide a chance to improve your craft on your schedule.
What are we looking for?
We’re looking for 5-7 prose fiction writers who are willing to commit to trying this idea for a few months. Why prose fiction? As well being very popular within our group, other kinds of writers like poets and nonfiction writers may be disappointed be find themselves surrounded by those who don’t understand their craft as they do. If you’re interested in leading a differently focused group, let me know!
The loose plan right now is that the group will post to private Google Docs files and each member would submit new material once a month (probably a short story or chapter). Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by August 19th, 2017 if you are interested or have any questions.
Submissions are now closed for our new comedy collection and — WOW.
We had over eighty pieces (counting each poem separately), from forty writers, adding up to over 60,000 words! That’s incredible. Our previous collections only had 22,000-25,000 words submitted. Thanks to everyone who got the word out; we’re especially indebted to Jill Hartmann and Jennifer Innes for their tireless help.
And many thanks to all who shared their wonderful pieces with us!
What happens now?
For those who submitted, you will be contacted by the end of May to let you know if your piece has been accepted. We have a panel of experienced writers as our content editors and they are now busy reading through all 60,000 words (I think they ended up with more than they bargained for!). And we’ve already read some WONDERFUL pieces.
The editors will meet in May and hash out the layout, tone, and submissions to accept for this collection. We are striving for a coherent book, so know we may end up cutting pieces of good quality if they don’t fit in with the stated theme (funny) or with the other accepted submissions.
If your work’s accepted, you will be asked to write a short bio and return to us a formal agreement allowing us the right to publish your work in our collection (you’ll retain all rights to your piece). You will receive one free copy of the paperback book that you can pick up at an future AWA event. You’ll also be able to buy as many wholesale copies for your own use as you’d like.
For everyone else, our plan is to publish the paperback on Createspace in late summer/early fall, and to have a public reading of some of the selected pieces in Athens. Please make plans to attend our event to hear these wonderful works and to just come hang with your fellow AWA writers. And if you’d like to check out the collection on Amazon or in local stores and consider buying one, that would be awesome too!
More details will be posted on this website as the publication date nears.
How exciting! And what a massive response from the Athens community — we are touched, and excited to watch this project come together.
We are a new group but, really, I'm surprised we didn't exist long ago. Athens, GA has long been known as a creative mecca. The world-famous music scene has now been joined by an expanding art and crafting contingent. Yet for some reason Athens is not as well known for its writers and writing, even though we have UGA, Terry Kay, and had the wonderful Harriett Austin Writer’s Conference for many years.
AWA was the idea of Katherine Cerulean and, along with her, the original founders are Jill Hartmann, Jennifer Innes, Elsa Russo, and Rob White.
Now come meet our wonderful, talented writers, read their words, and get excited about living near so many rising literary stars!