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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.

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steveinaspeedo.tumblr.com

AWA at ‘Lickskillet’!

We had a great time, met friends old and new, and sold a few books.  Check out the pics below!

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Katherine Cerulean’s ‘dream board’, our drawing for a gift certificate, a red dalek in the donation box, a Philips ‘Hue’ light, and — of course — chocolate.

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So many beautiful books!

Dac Crossley at his booth.

Dac Crossley at his booth.

The Tuesday Writing / Critique Group debuting their newest book 'Tuesday's Tales'

The Tuesday Writing / Critique Group debuting their newest book ‘Tuesday’s Tales’.

Daniel Galt at his booth

Daniel Galt at his booth.

Sara Winick Herrington at her BEE-you-ti-ful table

Sara Winick Herrington at her BEE-you-ti-ful table.

Sara Winick Herrington at her table with Phyl Campbell, Katherine Cerulean, and Amanda McMurtrey.

Sara Winick Herrington at her table with Phyl Campbell, Katherine Cerulean, and Amanda McMurtrey.

Come See Us at Lickskillet 2016!

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Baby table! Our first little setup at Lickskillet 2013 — this year it will be much bigger.

The Athens Writers Association hasn’t done many public events this year (we’ve all been busy writing!) but even introverts like a moment or two in the spotlight so…  We will have an official table at the Lickskillet festival at Lyndon House in downtown Athens, GA.  This event is FREE.  We will have books for sell by Katherine Cerulean, Jennifer Innes, Elsa Russo, Rob White, Phyl Campbell, AWA collections, and more!

There will also be several OTHER booths run by AWA members —

  • Par Ramsey will be debuting the newest book from the AWA offshoot, the Tuesday Writing / Critique Group, at the festival
  • Daniel Galt has a Halloween-themed, spook-tac-u-lar new kids book as well as his earlier books and beautiful photography prints for sale
  • New member Sara Winick Herrington is selling her just released book Bee Happy 
  • And others!

Our table will also offer free handouts about both writing and living your dreams that have been gathered from the best of our classes.  AWA founding members will be staffing the booth all day and will be happy to answer any questions they can about the AWA, self-publishing, and writing in general.  Katherine Cerulean will be giving free life-coaching sessions at the booth, and we’ll be having a free drawing for 15 pages of professional editing from Jonni Anderson.  PLUS chocolate!

Come join in the fun!  It’s also not too late to get your book added to our booth — contact Katherinecerulean@gmail.com if you’re interested.

October 22, 2016 

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 Rain or Shine; Free Admission

Lyndon House Arts Center, 293 Hoyt Street, Athens

About Lickskillet

The Lickskillet Artists Market and Festival is a FREE Community Event hosted by the Lyndon House Arts Foundation. Currently in its seventh year, Lickskillet has become one of Athens’ most unique and exciting events, drawing over 1200 attendees from a ten county region. The Lickskillet Artists Market and Festival showcases the talents of over 100 local artists and musicians and offers a full range of activities for everyone.

Event Highlights

  • Athens area artists displaying and selling paintings, photos, prints, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, glasswork, woodwork and sculpture
  • Musical performances by well-known local talent including The Heap, Monsoon, The Lucky Jones, Norma Rae, Clay Leverett, Dixieland 5, Qamar Tribal Odyssey dancers, Larry Forte, and David Court
  • Self-guided tours of the historic Lyndon-Ware House
  • Children’s activities, including:  chalk art, giant bubbles, face painting, portrait gallery, cardboard village, building and design projects with Home Depot volunteers
  • Local food trucks and vendors: Taza Mediterranean, The Savory Spoon, DaMunchiezz, Nedza’s Waffles

About the Lyndon House Arts Foundation

The Lyndon House Arts Foundation, Inc (LHAF) was created to advance the arts and support the development and operation of the Lyndon House Arts Center. This is accomplished through a coalition of artists, businesses, local schools, government and the community at-large.

In addition to sponsorship of special events such as Lickskillet, LHAF offers several membership levels and the opportunity to contribute to an endowment fund named after co-founder Ronnie Lukasiewicz. LHAF is a 501 (c)(3) organization and contributions are tax deductible.  More information can be found on the Foundation website: LyndonHouseArtsFoundation.com.

Lyndon House

Lyndon House

About the Lyndon House Arts Center

The Lyndon House Arts Center (LHAC) is a community visual arts complex serving Athens-Clarke County and neighboring areas. The two-story late Greek revival structure incorporates the Ware-Lyndon House (c. 1856), gallery spaces, art studios, meeting rooms, a research library, event spaces, and festival grounds. Activities of the LHAC are designed to encourage creativity and provide area citizens with a positive experience in the visual arts.

Come Learn to Make an Ebook on 3/18 at the Athens Regional Library!

from blog.udemy.com

Have you ever wanted to see your book listed on Amazon.com?  Do you dream of sharing your story with people around the world?  Are you unsure about all the packages, services, and editors that can cost thousands of dollars to prepare your manuscript and upload it for you?  Have you ever wondered if you could do it yourself?

Come learn the basics from AWA founder Katherine Cerulean, get the answers you need, and prepare to be ‘published author’!

Full details —

How To Make An Ebook

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    5:00 PM

  • Athens-Clarke County Library

    2025 Baxter Street, Athens, GA (edit map)

  • An ebook is an easy and low cost way to share your writing with the world.  You can sell it on Amazon, Barns & Noble, and other places.

    Whether you want to share Grandma’s childhood memories with your family or become a bestselling author, putting out an ebook out is a wonderful way to achive your dream.

    Come learn from Athens Writers Association founder Katherine Cerulean how to pick the right length for your ebook, whether your should hire an editor or full package service, creating a cover, and how to publish new editions.

    Bonus: learn to turn your ebook into a Createspace paperback.

    Come with questions and leave with a new skill set!

    Free, with handouts.

    We’ll be in multi purpose room C (I believe), which is down at the end of the first hallway on the left.

    NOTE: Food and drinks are prohibited in this multi purpose room; the exception is water, which is allowed.

Upward and Onward

From Katherine Cerulean, founder:

Hi kids,

I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate the past and look forward to the future.  2014 has been a crazy (and busy) year for a lot of us in the AWA and often those adventures pulled us away from the group as a whole but even as exciting new projects and journeys appear on the horizon, I feel the AWA growing bigger and more close-knit than ever before.

We had some wonderful events this year — our first contact with a Georgia Hall of Fame writer (thank you Philip Lee Williams!), our first show at Cine in downtown Athens, our second book collection (edited by the talented [and patient] Jennifer Innes), participated in a poetry reading at Founders Memorial Garden at UGA, and have had many great classes, workshops, and meetings.  We’ve met new friends and discovered beautiful new things about the established ones.  I feel lucky every day for every one of you that have come into my life.

Found on anauthenticlife.tumblr.com

Found on anauthenticlife.tumblr.com

So where does the future lie?  As ever, hidden by mists and clouds, beyond the horizon but before us, along unused trails that your feet somehow already know and your heart sings as you travel down.  In the next month, we’ll be getting together to see what new, exciting places YOU want the AWA to go in 2015, but for me I just want more — more great experiences with you all, more opportunities to read your undeniable great words, and more chances to teach and be taught.  Because at the end of the day, I want us to become so great, our work so polished, and our ideas so exciting that we become a beckon of what a group of writers can do when brought together by fellowship and yes, by love.

And on that note, I leave you with the reason I wrote this whole post, my Christmas gift to you.  I want to share with you the song (that I’ve never told any of you about) but I consider my anthem for the AWA, a song that I’ve listened to coming to and going from many events with you guys, official and unofficial.  I tried to make a video collage and it went hilariously wrong, but that’s probably for the best, because I couldn’t show (or list here) all of you, and you all are part of this adventure.

You truly start the spark in my bonfire heart.

 

Come to the Lick Skillet Festival!

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Our 2013 table — come see all our new books!

Lick Skillet Festival

Come browse all sorts of beautiful local arts and crafts.  Visit the Athens Writers Association’s table to see all our new books — including the hot-off-the-presses ‘The Journey Home‘, our second book collection!  And of course talk to our wonderful published authors and ask us any questions you can think of about writing.  We’re looking forward to seeing you.