RSS Feed

Category Archives: Writing

Join the AWA for the Second Indie Author Day!

Photo from the first Indie Author Day

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!
  • 4-5 PM Keynote Address (TBA) and ReceptionTo register as one of the authors please visit: http://www.athenslibrary.org/indieauthor

    Date:
    Saturday, March 17, 2018
    Time:
    12:00pm – 5:00pm
    Location:
    Multipurpose Room A, Multipurpose Room B, Multipurpose Room C

Advertisements

What Will You Do in 2018?

loveprintstudio.blogspot.dk

Few people recognize the symbolic value of the blank slate, the clean page, more than writers. Whether looking at our characters, our projects, or the actual blank page in front of us, we know that possibility is a magic few recognize in all its potency.

The idea of  ‘New Year’s goals’ has acquired a cynical sheen in today’s society — many of us make them either in bad faith or we softly snicker at those who create such plans and count down the days until that donut is eaten, or that new project is abandoned.

It is easier to laugh at our human shortcomings than to embrace the profound weight of our enduring strengths. Because, as Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I love that responsibility. I love the power you and I have to create a 2018 for the ages. A year from now you can be in disbelief about how much you have accomplished, and so can I. The question then is: How much do you love the beauty you have been given?

We are storytellers, artists, wordsmiths and teachers, and within us lie worlds undiscovered and un-shared. Be like your heroes and write the words coursing through your soul, share the stories and lessons shining from their private and scared alters, and act in the manner of the glorious and the gladdened. Whether you create for yourself, the world, or a host of angels, this year take up the actions of your heart — and take them seriously.

 The next 365 days are yours. You may dance in them, adventure through them, cry at their indescribable beauties and at their searing sorrows. Be challenged by them, taught by them, confounded by them — but they are yours.

They respond to you, to your beck and call, to your intentions and your actions. Under hard work, they bloom. Sprinkled with inspiration, they sparkle. Blessed with your faith and fanaticism, they will turn the next year into a paradise, a wonderland of exhaustion and excitement, of hard work and amazing victories, of goals sought and revelations found. There is nothing trivial — no meat for the cynic — in the land you and I are envisioning.

We see the beauty that is but the reflection of the seeker.

Diply

The successes of this new year will be built with strength, for inspiration, by dedication. The victorious will be the passionate and purposeful. They will illumine the Earth, and set the stars to jealousy.

Their work will realign the cosmos. Their journeys will become legend. The statues built in their honor will tower for a hundred years.

They will be you and me. We will be the prototypes of a new renaissance.

And when you share your vision with the world, the every one of us will see the beauty of this existence a little clearer.

I can’t wait.

B. Lovely Events

Upward and onward,

Katherine Cerulean

AWA Founder

Know Your Local Writer: Ruby Mae O’Dell

Welcome to the sixth in a series of interviews with Athens-area writers.  The hope is to inform you about new techniques you might want to try, increase your knowledge of the individuals in your community, and inspire you on your path.  Please contact me if you’re interested in answering our writing questionnaire and being featured here as a future ‘local writer’.

NOTE: Special thanks to AWA co-founder Jill Hartmann for originally supplying us with these wonderful questions for the series, and to the author below for supplying the photos and memes.

 

At what point in your life did you become a writer and how did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved reading (especially Love Inspired Suspense novels) and a small part of me wanted to write the kind of stories I loved to read so much. I first toyed with the idea of writing back in 2014. I wrote a couple of pages of what would later become my debut novel, Hidden Treasures. My Papaw passed away shortly after and I set my seedling of a dream to the side, silently thinking, my work isn’t good enough anyway.

But then, in August of 2016, my dream of writing a novel came back full force. My seedling dream had spouted inside my heart and was continuing to grow. I pulled out my first attempts and read, reread, and reread again. I knew they were okay, but they weren’t great. If I was going to do this, then I needed to beef up my writing. My opening with my heroine pretty much stayed the same but my story line had completely changed. 

Anywho,(I know I’m strange, but “anywho” is in my vocabulary and from the mouth of Ramona Quimby, it’s a much funner word to say. Lol) I was still doubtful of my writing abilities and my parent’s twenty-fourth wedding anniversary was coming up. So I decided to write a short story about their wedding day as a gift to them and also to kinda test the waters to find out what my family thought about my writing. Everyone loved it and it inspired me to show them my novel in progress a few days later.

What books have you read that shaped you as a writer? Which authors’ work do you admire and why?

If it’s Christian and romantic, suspenseful, funny, heartwarming, thrilling, or all the above, I love to read it and every one of them has encouraged and helped me in my course to become a better writer. But the Book that has inspired me the most, I would have to say, the old King James Bible. There’s no other book more inspiring to me or that has better shaped me as the writer that I am today.

As for authors, the One I most admire is God, the author and finisher of my faith. For those who’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, y’all know we writers are commonly divided into one of three categories; a plotter, pantser, or a plantser. A plotter plots out a story before it’s written, a pantser writes as she goes, and a plantser does a little of both. If asked which category I fit in, I’d say “Neither. I’m a Spirit-Pantser.” Allow me to explain, I have no idea what I’m going to write, or even how the story is going to turn out until God reveals it to me. 

photo from Global Stewards

Which piece that you have written are you most proud of and why?

That is a tough question to answer.  It’s hard to pick a favorite. To date, I’d probably have to say passages from my debut novel, Hidden Treasures. But I also love this passage from the sequel, Seeking Refuge:

“What make’s you think that God wants you to help me?” The curiosity in her voice was loud and clear and she knew he’d heard it as well.

“Just a feeling. Sometimes it takes more faith to trust God’s will than others. But that’s why they call it faith. We trust Him even when we can’t see the outcome. Sometimes it feels like you’re walking with a blindfold on, with nothing to guide you but Him.”

She pondered that, though she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it. How could he have faith about what God wanted from him, without anything to go on? “I don’t understand how you can follow God blindly. Don’t you ever doubt His decisions?”

“Of course I do. We all do at some point in our lives. But it all comes down to trust. He promises He will never leave us or fail us. But we have to make that choice to trust Him. He doesn’t force us to trust Him.”

Trust. That’s the hard part,” she added with a small sigh.

A corner of his mouth hitched up in a crooked grin that did strange things to her heart. “It is. It’s a simple choice, but it’s definitely not an easy one to make.”

 

Why? Because they’re strong and encouraging messages of faith that have inspired me to walk closer to God and I pray it does the same for my readers.

Do you gravitate toward a particular genre(s) and/ or format when you write? Tell us more about which genres and/ or formats are your “passion?”

I love to write Christian/Romance/Suspense! But I do enjoy a slower pace now and then and write a more heartwarming Christian romance, minus the thrills, dangers, and/or suspense. My “passion” is to write the stories God lays on my heart to write and encourage others to walk closer to the Lord through the written word.

Have you studied writing and/ or attended writing seminars, workshops or conferences? Where and what did you learn from your classes/sessions and other writing teachers? Did any of them stand out to you and why?

Majority of my writing abilities are simply a gift from God. There’s no other explanation to why I’m able to write the stories that I write. I have studied and researched a bit on the subject (mostly on editing), and I have to say I’ve benefited the most from reading other writer’s blogs and tips and taking part in writing challenges that Harlequin hosts on their blog, SoYouThinkYouCanWrite.com

I’ve also participated in two different writing contests and while I didn’t place, the feedback I received was beneficial to me. But honestly, it wasn’t nothing I couldn’t have learned myself by doing a little more research and keeping that money in my pocket.

The biggest learning experience about writing that stands out to me is simply to write what God gives me to write. When I try to write on my own to suit me it’s impossible and it never feels… right. I have to listen for God to whisper the story into my ear.

Another great learning experience is being willing to let go and let others read my work, and being willing and open to any and all comments, no matter how criticizing they may be. Another experience that stands out is simply learning to enjoy the adventures that God sends my way that I can somehow twist into stories.

Have you had any formal writing jobs and/or published any of your work? If so, tell us about your jobs and/or your publications.

I’ve wrote a few songs that my family and I sing and I have published one of my novels, with a contract offer on book two. My debut novel is titled, Hidden Treasures. It’s the first in a series of twelve books, each about a different Sawyer child. The series is titled, Faith In The Valley, they’re set in a small valley town in Eastern Tennessee.

What is unique about your writing process? What works for you, and what doesn’t work?

Ha, ha, ha, I think I’ve already covered this question multiple times in the previous questions. But just in case, I feel my writing process is unique mainly because of my solely following God’s lead when it comes to writing and not planning out ahead of time. Another thing is, I work on multiple books at a time. I simply can’t stick to just one book. If I don’t have multiple projects then I hit writer’s block.  As for what doesn’t work for me, here’s a small list; plotting, stick to a single project, work in complete silence, and I can’t listen to any music with lyrics while writing.

Something else that makes me unique, I write Christian Romance and have never been on a date, kissed a boy, or even came close to having a romantic relationship before. I’m yet to find a single romance author who isn’t married or at least had a little case of puppy love once in their life. *shrugs. Is that unique enough? Lol.

What is the most challenging area of writing for you?

Definitely the editing. I’m currently taking a high school English course in Rod and Staff in hopes to make it easier (it seems to be working so far!). It isn’t as much the cutting or adding for me, as it is the grammar. I’m a simple country gal who tends to write the way I talk and that clearly ain’t acceptable in the book world (though, writing characters who are countrified like me, I can get away with writing that way in dialogue. *Grins).

What are you currently writing?

*whistles lowly. You really want that list? Lol, currently I’m working on six books in my Faith In The Valley series; Seeking Refuge, Protective Secrets, Unseen Dangers, Hidden In The Ashes, Mistaken For Murder, and Obscured Faith. Seeking Refuge is already under contract and just going through revisions. I’m also working on a book entitled, Rodeo Storm, that’s part of another large family series I’m writing, Echoes Of Danger. I’m also working on another two books that not series related, The Deputy’s Second Chance and To Protect The Witnesses. Out of all nine, all but one are Christian/Romantic/Suspense novel. The one exception is The Deputy’s Second Chance, a slower paced story that has it’s share of conflicts, comedy, and romance.

What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to write?

Write the story God lays on your heart to write. Enjoy the adventure writing brings. Read published books that fit into your genre, they’ll inspire you to better your own writing. Just write one sentence at a time until it’s finished. Setting small goals make the task less daunting and brings you to your ultimate goal of finishing a lot sooner than ya think. Don’t worry about editing until after you’ve finished. Get your story on paper first, you’ll have plenty of time to revise later.

Ask yourself, “Does Jesus delight in what I write?”

How has being a writer changed your life?
Wow, tough one. I have to say it’s brought me closer to the Lord as I have to listen for Him to speak to me in order to write. That, in return helps me to listen to Him more the rest of the time as well. As a result, I find I’m closer to my family as well.

The Public Reading was a Hit!

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

The Collection is Here!

The AWA’s third collection, Laughin’ in Athens is out! Check out our humorous collection in ebook and paperback on Amazon, and (coming soon) in select Athens, GA stores.

It took a lot of hard work and quite a few tears were shed (of laughter) but we four editors — myself, Jill Hartmann, Jennifer Innes, and Rob White — are proud to present our largest collection yet: 174 pages, thirty authors, and thirty-three pieces designed to make you think a little deeper, feel a little more, and (especially) laugh at the absurdity of everyday life while seeing a bit of reality in the most fanciful of jests.

Laughing alone is good; laughing together is even better!

Come out and join us for a Public Reading of Laughin’ in Athens on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 at the Athens-Clarke County Library at 3:00 pm — 5:00 pm. This event will take place in Multipurpose Room “C” (at the end of the first hall on the left) and will feature a wonderful selection of our contributors reading short pieces. We’ll also have copies of the collection on hand to purchase.

Laughin‘ in Athens will also be available at our monthly Gathering for sale.

from Picture Quotes

Thanks again to all the wonderful writers who submitted their work, and to everyone for their suggestions, ideas, and help throughout this process.

So please join us if you can on September 9th for an evening of Laughin’ in Athens!

Know Your Local Writer: Katiedid Langrock

Welcome to the fifth in a series of interviews with Athens-area writers.  The hope is to inform you about new techniques you might want to try, increase your knowledge of the individuals in your community, and inspire you on your path.  Please contact me if you’re interested in answering our writing questionnaire and being featured here as a future ‘local writer’.

NOTE: Special thanks to AWA co-founder Jill Hartmann for originally supplying us with these wonderful questions for the series, and to the author below for supplying the photos and memes.

At what point in your life did you become a writer and how did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I have one of those amazing stories of superb teacher intervention. I was eleven years old, combating a rough spell of pre-adolescence and lost my drive to succeed. I wouldn’t do my homework or take any tests. Rather, on the back of the forms I routinely refused to fill in, I would write stories about a rebellious young girl who could do no right.

I should have failed that year. I was practically begging to fail. But rather than seeing a flunkee, Mr. Patrick saw a kid in need of a little special attention. He called me after class one day to make me an offer. If I could muster the ambition to ask him for an alternative to the homework or tests, he would give me a unique story-based assignment. However, if I ever asked and then failed to hand in the work, the deal was off.

From that day on, I never answered math equations, but rather, wrote word problems that proved I understood the lesson. I never took another scantron exam about ancient Egypt, but rather wrote stories from the point of view of King Tut. Mr. Patrick saw potential and put the pen in my hand. He could have failed me that year. Many other teachers would have. Instead, he gave me my career and a creative outlet has never let me down.

 

What books have you read that shaped you as a writer? Which authors’ work do you admire and why?

No book shaped me more as a writer than Catcher in the Rye. That book inspired my foray into screenwriting. I had never read anything written in that way; in the first person with such a command of voice and such a unique world-view. As a fifteen-year- old, Holden Caulfield was my heartthrob of choice.

I was so smitten by CITR, that – in my free time – I wrote monologues from the perspective of the other characters in the story who didn’t get a fair chance to speak. The monologue I wrote from the perspective of the prostitute won an award the following year when, at sixteen, I attended summer-college at Syracuse University. It was there that a professor told me for the first time that I could write professionally. If only I were brave enough to try.

Which piece that you have written are you most proud of and why?

Oh man, I have no idea. When I am writing for myself, I always like to push myself to try something new. I will tackle a new genre or story-telling style. Anything to force myself to learn and adapt and mold language in new and exciting ways. A few of these attempts have ended in miserable failures, but each of these experimental babies are loved equally. I can’t pick a favorite because, since they were each equally out of my comfort zone, they each equally taught me something profound.

The accomplishment comes not from believing I have a new style or genre nailed down, but rather, in knowing that I don’t have to be afraid of it. In learning that now I have yet another arena in which I can play. And isn’t that the best part of being a writer, getting to play?

All this being said, getting to go to the Emmys when Project Mc2, a show I helped develop and write, was nominated for Best Children’s Program, was a pretty spectacular experience.

— Walt Whitman

Do you gravitate toward a particular genre(s) and/or format when you write? Tell us more about which genres and/or formats are your “passion?”

As stated in the previous question, I love to play and try new things. However, I will say I have two passions and though folks find them quite dissimilar, I couldn’t disagree more.

I love to write for kids, particularly around the preteen age, and to give them stories full of complicated emotions. It is so important that we tell kids, “I see you” and offer them stories in which they see themselves and their feelings are validated. Superheroes and dystopia are fun and have a place, but to take a story that walks along the school halls with them and shows the complicated inner-workings of young friendships is key to a kid’s self-esteem and understanding of their placement in the world.

My other passion is female raunch-comedy, such as Bridesmaids or The Heat. And though it seems like an odd departure, I love it for a similar reason. Women, for too long, have been silenced. Our humor is silenced. Our sexuality is silenced. Our emotional wants and needs are silenced. We are currently in another wave of the feminist movement and I love being a part of it. I have spent my entire life (not just career) being asked whether I think women can be as funny as men. Duh! Now, finally, this is changing. Of course we are just as funny.

The true question was never whether women are funny, but whether men are willing to laugh. And the answer we see now, is yes!! Male allies are supporting funny women. And through these stories, women can talk about things we were never allowed to talk about and show off talents that, before, many felt uncomfortable with us showing off.

Just like with writing for kids, this is a genre that helps women see themselves reflected in media in a way they haven’t been allowed to see before. For as silly as it can be, it is also important because it validates and helps women find their footing and their voice. I love them both.

Have you studied writing and/or attended writing seminars, workshops or conferences? Where and what did you learn from your classes/sessions and other writing teachers? Did any of them stand out to you and why?

I majored in Creative Writing at Miami University. Two teachers stand out above the rest: Steve Bauer and Dave Kajganich, both excellent writers. They were hard on me. They were clear on what makes a story and what is just fluff. They didn’t give a whistle if you used pretty words. They cared about conflict, about stakes and about emotional connection. They geeked out to authors who did it differently; they encouraged me to try new things. They didn’t get annoyed or dismiss your talents if you failed, but kicked you in the butt to try again. I’m so lucky to have had them as my mentors.

Have you had any formal writing jobs and/or published any of your work? If so, tell us about your jobs and/or your publications.

I am a TV writer and I have a syndicated humor column that appears in newspapers every week around the country. My television work is primarily for kid/teen shows: Lalaloopsy, Project Mc2, etc. Before moving to Athens from LA, I also worked on the network-side of things as a story development executive. I’ve been fortunate enough to keep getting work writing for television since I moved here 10 months ago. I’m currently writing for three TV programs (including a live-action show coming out of Atlanta), but due to the NDAs [nondisclosure agreements — Ed.] I can’t disclose more. Other fun scripted work comes in the form of writing scripts for games and apps. A Disney game I wrote should be coming out soon. I’m also a columnist for Script magazine. Last year, my book was published, titled, Stop Farting in the Pyramids.

What is unique about your writing process? What works for you, and what doesn’t work?

My number one must-do is finding my emotional connection to the story. Emotional connection is everything. When people ask me what is the one thing publishers and producers are looking for, my answer is always this: all they want, is to feel something. And here’s the trick, when you feel while writing it, your readers will feel it to.

So the challenge now becomes, how, during the writing process, do you, the writer, get out of your head and into your heart? Whenever I coach writers through my company, Write in the Wild, one of the first things I have them do is take a walk in the woods with me. There is a lot of science behind this that I won’t get into here, but suffice it to say, nature provides a quick access road to emotionally connecting with your story and characters in a way that can’t help but show up on the page.

It’s probably the most unique thing about the way I work and has never failed me. It took a girl with no film school experience, only $86 to her name and no Hollywood connections in one of the most competitive industries in the world, and provided the career of a lifetime. I love what I do, and getting my readers, specifically the publishers and producers, to feel is what earned me my career.

What is the most challenging area of writing for you?

Dialogue is my forte, so I often get so wrapped up in what my characters are saying, that I forget (or neglect) to account for what they are doing. This is particularly bad when it comes to the cartoons I write, because cartoons are visual and rely far more on action than words spoken.

What are you currently writing?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently on 3 shows and ghostwriting a really awesome book about service dogs. I also have my weekly humor column. But, man, I really can’t wait until things slow down a bit and I can write some stuff for me again. I have 3 books I want to write and a deliciously cheesy Christmas movie that would be perfect for Hallmark channel. It’ll pour some sap right into your eggnog.

What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to write?

Good question! Take the time to read about and learn structure and character archetypes. It’s important to have this in your arsenal. But do not, under any circumstance, feel beholden to them. Humans have been telling stories since the dawn of our existence. It’s a species gift and a special gift. You have storytelling in you. So study it, then put it on the backburner and really consider what it is that you want to say.

What is the message you are trying to send out into the world? People always like to say, “It’s true that every story has been written, but no one has written like you would.” But this statement is only sorta true. You can only add something new to say if YOU actually show up. If the unique YOUR shines through. So, get in there. Get dirty. Find your emotional connection to the story, to the characters. Let them surprise you, inspire you. Let them make you cry. Let them make you laugh. Let yourself feel all of this.

Because you can’t write anything worthwhile if you are simply following someone else’s mile-markers. Set off on this new trail and see it as an adventure. Don’t force the course, or your story, in any particular direction. Once you are tuned in to your craft and into your characters, you can let them lead you. Writing is hard, but it is oh-so fun.

And lastly, be brave and be kind to yourself. If you want to be a writer it takes guts to put stuff out into the world and then you have to be prepared to accept that rejection will come. It does for all of us. Bravery is a must to get started. Being kind to yourself is a must for having a long career.

How has being a writer changed your life?

I don’t even know how to answer this; it’s given me my entire adult life, my entire career. I get paid to jump into the mind of a teenager saving the world, and then into the mind of a bumblebee out to become a princess. How cool is that!? And, I believe, if you are doing it right, writing anything can be a healing experience. When you breathe emotional truth into your characters, the actions and decisions they make, give you pause. The connectedness creates a mirror from which you can see how you personally respond similarly or dissimilarly. You are able to play with choices and thus get to know yourself better. By empathizing with characters, you can better empathize with, and forgive, yourself.

Writing is such an amazing tool that utilizes your complete mind, body and spirit. Your imagination leaking down into your fingertips, your brain and heart communicate in open dialogue. It’s a wondrous thing.

Cheers to everyone who has chosen this path, it is a winding, twisting road, but the views are amazing and the adventure is oh-so worth it.

A NOTE FROM Katherine Cerulean: I’m very excited to have such an experienced TV writer teaching here in Athens and I’ve signed up to take Katiedid’s special 8-week screenwriting / TV writing class which will begin mid-September! She’s offering it at a one-time only introductory price and it will go over the basics and then get into the tips, tricks, and nitty-gritty that made her – someone with no connections who didn’t go to film school – a successful working  professional writer – even from here in Athens. Come be my classmate and we’ll learn together!

She also has a writers retreat that she will hosting along with Silver Compass Tours – known for their fine wine and food tours – in Italy in spring 2018 (!).

Find out more at WriteInTheWild.com

Know Your Local Writer: Charles Beacham

Welcome to the fourth in a series of interviews with Athens-area writers.  The hope is to inform you about new techniques you might want to try, increase your knowledge of the individuals in your community, and inspire you on your path.  Please contact me if you’re interested in answering our writing questionnaire and being featured here as a future ‘local writer’.

NOTE: Special thanks to AWA co-founder Jill Hartmann for originally supplying us with these wonderful questions for the series, and to the author below for supplying the photos and memes.

At what point in your life did you become a writer and how did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

First of all, I’m honored to answer these questions for the Athens Writer’s Association. Thank you for this opportunity.

The simple answer is: I don’t know how not to be a writer. From an early age, I enjoyed writing, beginning with silly childhood poems and moving onto teen angst-y kind of poetry about the passions of young love, the tribulations of separation and rejection, as well as parental friction.

In high school, my English teacher told me, “Whatever you do in life, make sure writing is a part of it.” I never forgot his advice, but also didn’t take it completely to heart, until rather recently.

Instead, I entered the public policy field, which required an abundance of writing, although of the academic and technical kind. However, the profession, and my series of positions, was less than satisfying. 

The turning point came when a dear friend of mine committed suicide in 2009. The event changed my life. I pondered questions deeply. Are you satisfied with your life? What do you want in life? A meeting with mortality has extraordinary potential for setting and/or redirecting the course. The night of his passing, I sat down and words poured out of me. More specifically, I felt his words poured through me, as if I was a vessel for his story.

It was the first time in many years that I allowed inspiration to flow without the internal editor questioning and sculpting and rearranging. I realized how much I wanted and needed to write.

For the past seven years, I’ve dedicated myself to practicing, learning, and growing as a fiction writer, a bit of a rewiring, if you will.

At this point, I consider myself a writer, but the next step is becoming a published author.

What books have you read that shaped you as a writer? Which authors’ work do you admire and why?

My all-time favorite is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’m enamored of his reporter’s style and the atmosphere he creates in his settings. Most of his work is set in revolutionary Colombia, but the applications and connections are universal. I can imagine his stories taking place in the Civil War-era United States, for example. I enjoy his lesser known works, the novella entitled ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold,’ and ‘The Autumn of the Patriarch.’ Garcia Marquez’s calling card is magical realism. I love how he weaves the material world with other realms and I’m grateful I discovered him early in my writing journey.

Another favorite is Hunter S. Thompson. In a sense, he’s similar to Garcia Marquez but opposite. Garcia Marquez makes the unbelievable feel real, while Thompson had a penchant for making the real feel unbelievable. His brutal telling of politics and public policy beginning in the 1960’s serve as reminders of where our country was at the time and warnings about where we’re going.

A third author I’ve learned from is Dennis Lehane. It’s strange, because I don’t find his books overly entertaining, but I’ve taken cues from his works about grounding my settings and developing pace. Incorporating elements of Lehane’s style provides a certain balancing mechanism to the atmosphere and lyrical beauty of Garcia Marquez and the vitriolic, face-smashing prose of Thompson.

Other inspirations include Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and local author Eddie Whitlock. I also like darker writers like Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Some call it horror, but I see it more as the shadowy side of our subconscious selves.

Which piece that you have written are you most proud of and why?

Two pieces come to mind.

First is the first short story I had accepted for publication in 2013. ‘Snout of the Alligator’ appeared in an anthology of “new” Southern Gothic by a small publisher in New York. I still keep in contact and receive advice from the editor. Opening the acceptance email was a profoundly rewarding and motivating experience.

As writers, we spend so much time alone with our thoughts and characters, and little victories along the way serve as motivation to continue. ‘Alligator’ began life as a chapter in the novel inspired by the life and death of my friend who committed suicide. He made a big impact on my shift to a writing life, so it feels fitting that my first publication was inspired by him.

The second piece is the novel I completed last year, ‘We Were Hungry.’ I’ve written four novels over the past few years, but none satisfied me enough to submit to agents or publishers. When I finished ‘We Were Hungry,’ I felt for the first time that I’d written the book I really wanted to. I’ve always wanted to give readers a similar feeling to the atmosphere in Garcia Marquez novels, and for the first time, I felt I was in the ballpark. Not a home run, or perhaps a base hit even, but watching the game from the bench, at least.

‘We Were Hungry’ was the first piece I submitted for a writer’s conference and it won a ‘Best Manuscript Award,’ which was very rewarding and signaled: “Yes! I’m in the ballpark!”

Do you gravitate toward a particular genre(s) and/or format when you write?   Tell us more about which genres and/or formats are your “passion?”

Determining genre is a huge challenge for me. My writing isn’t formulaic, but genre is extremely important when self-publishing or querying agents and publishers. As humans, we love to categorize, and fiction is no different. My style has been called “dark but hopeful,” so I wish that was a genre.

I enjoy reading thrillers, magical realism, Southern Gothic, some dystopian, and what they call literary fiction (I’m still unsure about what that means, exactly). The English teacher mentioned above read one of my pieces and called it: “Hunter S. Thompson meets Edgar Allan Poe with a twist of Bram Stoker,” and I can live with that, but must also keep pushing and redefining those boundaries.

My stories are psychological, about what pushes humans to the edge of their own minds and what either pushes them over or pulls them back. My protagonists are often people viewed by society as different or outcasts. Schizophrenics, addicts, war veterans, and others who are often marginalized. Society casts wide nets of judgment about those perceived as different from the status quo. But at the essential core, all humans are on a journey and have unique stories regardless of the circumstances surrounding their lives.

I believe the health of a culture is mirrored by how “the outcasts” are treated, and when I look at our culture, the image in the mirror isn’t pretty. Everyone deserves a voice, and I hope my writing honors those who rarely have one, and that it’s accomplished within a story that is entertaining, thought-provoking, and dashed with some humor. After all, a bit of humor helps us take ourselves less seriously.

Have you studied writing and/or attended writing seminars, workshops or conferences?  Where and what did you learn from your classes/sessions and other writing teachers?  Did any of them stand out to you and why?

I’ve attended the Atlanta Writer’s Conference. The best part was being surrounded by other writers, networking and making contacts, and comparing experiences. The icing on the cake was presenting my work to editors and agents and receiving feedback, which is next to impossible with online querying. I urge anyone who is serious about publishing to invest in yourself by attending a conference.

The Athens’ Writers’ Association provides presentations and reading/writing groups, which are great sources for meeting fellow writers, motivation, and feedback.

Have you had any formal writing jobs and/or published any of your work?  If so, tell us about your jobs and/or your publications.

In the past five years, I’ve worked a few freelance jobs for magazines, writing articles on organic gardening, crystals and minerals (I co-own a mineral and jewelry business with my partner/wife), and the practice of gratitude. One was a lifestyle magazine in Nepal—a friend of mine was the editor—and that was pretty cool. I’ve also had short stories published in online journals and in two short story anthologies.

What is unique about your writing process?  What works for you, and what doesn’t work?

I’ll answer this question in two ways—process and writing routine.

Process (how my stories come to life): Writers, in so many ways, are social and cultural observers. Often, I find my story ideas by observing people, overhearing conversations, or reading newspapers. For a writer, just about anything can become a story!

The first part that comes, typically, is a character, so I spend time with that character in my head, learning how he/she would handle a situation. If I’m open to the character and his/her journey, they’ll often lead me to the setting. Sometimes, I’ll write a short story about the character to better familiarize myself with them. This begins the process of identifying conflicts and eventually pushes forth the inciting incidents which move the story along to its completion.

This is where inspiration turns into effort and perspiration.

Routine: Each story is unique and, in my view, each story requires its own rhythm. I recently read an interview with Dennis Lehane that resonated with me. He said he doesn’t like routine because it breeds a dependence on formula.

I don’t have a daily routine, but I do give a certain amount of energy to writing each day. Depending on the work in progress, I might rise with the sun or write in the evening or through the night. I try to be open to what the story and characters need at the moment, and each one, so far, has been different.

I usually have at least two queries out, whether for novels or short stories.

What is the most challenging area of writing for you?

Overall, the most challenging area is time!

As a father and business owner, the time I can devote to writing is somewhat limited, so I have to make that time count. I’ve learned through experience that writing is “ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration,” although ten percent might be too high, perhaps more like five-ninety five.

As for the writing process, editing as I go is a challenge, and one, I believe, magnified by computer software. For me, it’s important to brainstorm the story to completion before the sculpting and editing begins. I’ve found that writing the rough draft, or at least parts of the rough draft, with pen and paper keeps me in the present moment and allows the story to finish before the analysis begins.

As for the business of writing, my biggest challenge is marketing and building a platform. I want to write, not try to sell my writing, but the current environment is one of self-promotion. It’s the way of the world in the age of social media.

What are you currently writing?

I’m revisiting some short stories, tweaking them with an eye for developing a short story collection. I’m also working on a novel about a man who may or may not have schizophrenia.

What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to write?

If you feel the urge to write, do so without hesitation and without holding on to the ultimate results. Your stories are important! Even if you’re the only one who ever reads them.

If you love writing, you owe it to your deepest self to get it out. Do it for the love of writing, or because you can’t help yourself, or as a form of therapy. Tell your story! It’s the best way I know how to connect with myself, my longings and challenges, the way I interact with the world around me.

Everyone has a story to tell, and writers are the chroniclers of their time. If you want more than self-reflection and satisfaction, read books on the craft of writing, attend workshops, join a writing group, and when you get really serious, delve into the business of writing. It’s not my favorite part for certain, but if you want to publish successfully, an understanding of the writing market is crucial.

READ! Allow the books you enjoy, and the ones you don’t, to inspire and influence you. You can learn a lot about your own writing by reading the work of others.

And…don’t discount the time you spend in contemplation sitting in front of the screen for minutes, maybe hours, on end. Those moments are when the gears are grinding inside your mind, and hopefully, they lead to something satisfying.

How has being a writer changed your life?

Committing to writing and publishing has shifted my life to a more creatively-inspired one. Writing has always been my favorite and most successful form of communication, so intentionally focusing on it drives me to learn and develop more. My desire to live a writing-focused life inspired the development of a small business, so I could shift my attention from nine-to-five office existence to a more home-based life, which in turn, allows me to spend more time with my son.

Writing allows the time for reflection and contemplation, and helps me come to terms with myself, the world, and my journey. It allows me the opportunity to give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard, and I don’t take that opportunity lightly. And hopefully, I can provide an entertaining, thought-provoking story to make a reader’s life a little bit better. Planting seeds and singing songs.

Thank you and happy writing (and reading!)!