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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,

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.


Classes! Get Your Fall Classes!

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 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 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!

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: 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!)!

So Many Submissions!

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.


Know Your Local Writer: Eric McMurtrey

Welcome to the third 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.


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

Answer: I actually became a writer because of two episodes of a science fiction television series called Star Trek : Deep Space Nine. One of the characters, Jake Sisko, found that his passion was writing and it became a story line that followed throughout the entire run of the series. Jake’s mother had been killed early in his life, so it was just him and his dad, Ben. Ben was very supportive of his son’s hobby turned profession – particularly early on, it was something they bonded over. I’d recently lost my own father when I saw this, and I decided that by writing, I might bond with him as well, so I took it up.

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

A: My favorite author is Lee Child. I have read several of his ‘Reacher’ series of books. In particular, his book ‘The Enemy’ is my favorite. It was written in a first-person perspective that I found really inspiring. It gave an intimacy to the story that I had never really run into before. I’ve since adopted first-person as my primary perspective for storytelling. ‘Star Trek: Best Destiny’ is my other favorite. In the story, a young (and troubled) James T. Kirk connects with his father while having an adventure and saving the day. While I definitely connected with the book on a personal level, a friend called it ‘a commentary on people’. That phrase has really stuck with me – my dearest hope is that I’ll one day write a book that is referred to in that same way.


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

A: The honest answer would be the one I have thought up but not written yet. The truth is, I don’t feel like I’ve developed yet to a point where the reality of my work meets my dreams, so… The dream is more fun. But, as I said, I assume you are looking for a different answer. “Ben and the Snow”, one of the stories from my Christmas anthology, is my favorite. In the story, a man is trying desperately to make sure his wife can make it home after she’s been gone for longer than either of them would have liked. Near the end, he believes he failed, and to be honest, my eyes still tear up when I read that moment of profound sadness as he lives it – he just wants to see the woman he loves again. And then she shows up. How can a story get any better than that?

Q: 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?”

A: *Grin* I’ll be honest, a lot of my stories are ‘Chick Flicks’. I also definitely gravitate toward short fiction – very few of my stories even make it to twenty pages. In fact, I’ve been flirting extensively with my version of ‘flash fiction’ where a given story is about 250 words, and I really enjoy it. My passion? It would be the stories that surround ‘The Ticonderoga Project’. We’ll see if I pull it off, but it’s the story of Earth’s first interplanetary spacecraft. In its whole vision, I’d like to see it tell the entire tale of the ship’s life, from the conception of the idea to her trip to the scrapyard once her day is done.

Q: 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?

A: My wife sent me to a writing conference at DragonCon. There were several speakers – it was a great experience. The two things I learned that I consider to be the most valuable were (first) HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR! I took this advice, and it was an incredible experience. Sure, I learned a lot about my bad habits as a writer – grammatical errors, plot issues, annoying habits… The one-on- one personalized interaction was very helpful, plus, I have the comparison of my version of the work to compare with the edited version so I can go back and learn from the changes a professional advised. But, moreover, to hear someone I respect tell me that if I logged the hours to improve, I could really succeed as a writer was incredibly motivating. The second piece of advice was ‘Develop Your Brand’. There were a multitude of ideas presented, but the thrust of it is, get your name out there. Build a website. Interact with people. Join groups. Support people. Accept support from people. My ‘Brand’ is Ticoproject, as an example. I even have a little story drafted to explain where that exact name comes from. Some day there needs to be a ‘Crest’ or ‘Symbol’, maybe toys… But… Yeah… Develop your brand.


Q: 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.

A: Nothing formal. Most of my work so far has been given away in one form or another so far. Honestly, I don’t feel like my work is far enough along to expect people to pay for it yet, so the bulk of it is released on my website, while I have been able to join an anthology for a writer’s group I was a part of in Wisconsin. Getting people to read something for free is much simpler than expecting them to pay, and some of the feedback I have received has been most encouraging. So… It’s been great. But, I’ve also grown to the point where I’m ready to think about how to publish some of the things I’m working on. It’s exciting to think about the future where I can really see my work in a book somewhere. Self-Published or traditional is still up in the air, but it will happen.

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

A: I’m a little ADD (Undiagnosed – *Grin*), but I’ve learned that if I don’t stick with one project, I’ll pretty much never finish it. So, I might peel off to do a bit of flash fiction which happens in a few hours, but I try hard to work one thing until it’s done. One draft, one rewrite, whatever. I don’t do well typing straight into the computer. I think for me, there are too many distractions, and paper both looks less intimidating and feels great, so… I write most everything out longhand and then enter it into a word processor as my first editing step. I listen to a variety of music, and it seems to serve as an inspiration for many of my story lines. Trust me, the fact that I’ll never sing publicly is a service to humanity, but I really respect the art form. As a point in fact, I was just listening to some Eminem on the way home. There is some great rap out there, and ‘Stealing the Enterprise’ has more plays on my iPod than most anything. It all helps.


Peanuts by Charles Schulz

Q: What is the most challenging area of writing for you?

A: Ah, finally, an easy question. Editing. I don’t like it at all. It’s painful to re-read some of my earliest efforts in particular. Working with an editor taught me how much I can improve from the process. I’m the first to acknowledge that I’ll always need the help of a professional, but I’ll learn more if I improve my editing.quote-there-is-hope-in-honest-error-none-in-the-icy-perfections-of-the-mere-stylist-charles-rennie-mackintosh-73-30-03

Q: What are you currently writing?

A: I’m working on the second draft of ‘The Deeds We Do’, which is my tale of Captain Allison Mackenzie’s adventure aboard the U.P.E. Ticonderoga, Earth’s first interplanetary spacecraft. I like to believe she’s a strong leader that my wife would approve of, and you wouldn’t mind if your daughter admired. Just for fun, I’ll tell you this – I created her on a dare from a friend.

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

A: I was really bad when I started. I am better, but I still have a very long way to go. Two things have helped me to improve – I’ve sought out the support of others, and I’ve practiced. I’ve read a few books, gone to one seminar, but when the writing hit the paper it was because I picked up a pen and started writing. Start writing anything and just don’t stop. I wouldn’t have believed it, but it will come. You’ll figure it out as you go along.

Long exposure photo of the night sky taken by the author

Q: How has being a writer changed your life?

A: I’m pretty anti-social when it gets right down to it. I have to force myself to want to be around other people, so you’d think writing would be all reclusive for me. It has actually been very much the opposite. I think a lot about things before and during the process of writing. That thought process has helped me to see when I should have turned left when I went right (a great number of times), when I shouldn’t have said something (again, a great number), and when I should have (let’s not even get into that). All of that introspection has made me more considerate of the trials and tribulations of others in the world. I see people differently because I write about people, and it’s made me a more understanding person.

The other change has been because of the people I have connected with. I’ve been involved with writer’s groups in two different states, and off and on, and received comments on my work from complete strangers around the world. Those interactions have been amazing. The people that have allowed me to exchange ideas with them, supported me, and allowed me to support them are the best. I’m a much better (and happier) person because of the people writing has put me in touch with.


Join ‘Indie Author Day’ at the Athens-Clarke County Library

from OnlineAthens

from OnlineAthens

The ACC Library is presenting an Indie Author Fair that will be held on Saturday, February 18, 2017, from 11 AM to 3 PM. One table will be provided to each author. You will be permitted to sell your books, and the Library will provide seating and snacks. Following the marketplace, you are invited to attend an author symposium.

This is an amazing FREE opportunity to get your name out there, interact with the public, and meet like-minded writers.

The deadline to reserve your table is February 10, 2017.

Full details here.

UPDATE: Here’s some pics of the successful event!

An overview of the event (while standing on a chair!)

An overview of the event (while standing on a chair!)



The Tuesday Writing Critique Group


The AWA table

The AWA table


AWA founder Katherine Cerluean's table (who couldn't stop talking about her new orange tablecloths ;-)

AWA founder Katherine Cerulean’s table (who couldn’t stop talking about her new orange tablecloth 😉

It was a lot of fun and hopefully the library will do it again!