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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.


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

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!

Call For Submissions! We Need Your Funny Stories!

from eBaum's World

from eBaum’s World

The Athens Writers Association is pleased to announce its third collection is in the works.

We need you! We are looking for the finest FUNNY songs, poems, non-fiction essays, and short fiction. Whether your piece is just LOL funny or about making people grin and think at the same time, we’re looking for bold, polished, and wonderful pieces that bring a smile to the face and laughter to the world.

Submission Guidelines: Poets can submit 1-3 poems, and prose must be 5,000 words or less. Super-short pieces are welcome. Please send your best, most polished, completed work. Please no offensive, hateful humor that belittles anyone — be it a gender, race, identity, or even just the cashier at the checkout line. Heartfelt, more emotional pieces will be considered but please let the takeaway be a smile, not just a tear. A panel of editors will decide the winning entries.

Deadline: Midnight, March 12th, 2017. The expected publication date is late summer/early fall.

Note: There are no fees for entry. By submitting you understand that, if your piece is selected for inclusion, you will receive one copy of the Createspace-published collection for free (to be picked up at an AWA meeting). You will also have the opportunity to purchase books at the wholesale price to sell on your own and keep the profits. But the proceeds from online sales and sales by the AWA will go to support the running cost of the AWA. We very much appreciate your support!

The world need you!

Send us that piece you love and can’t stop grinning about. Make the planet a happier place!

SEND YOUR SUBMISSIONS TO: with the subject heading: AWA Book Submission

from Whisper App

from Whisper App

Know Your Local Writer: Jill Hartmann

Welcome to the second 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.


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: When I was in first grade, my elementary school held a writing contest for Grades K-2.  All of the classes were asked to respond to the following writing prompt: “What will you ask Santa Clause to bring you for Christmas this year?”  (Nowadays this subject would be taboo for a public school wide writing contest, but it was the 1970’s and it was a private school.  None of the parents complained, as far as I knew).  There were several winners chosen, enough to fill two pages in the school’s quarterly magazine.  My response was one of the winning entries.  I wrote a short paragraph asking Santa for peace and happiness for all of my friends and for my family, and for everyone in the world – and for a special best friend.  (Although I’m Jewish, we celebrated Christmas when I was very little, and I loved Santa Clause.  I think I believed he was real until I was eight or nine years old).

Artist: Elizabeth Goodrick (?)

Artist: Elizabeth Goodrick (?)

I’d have to pinpoint this accomplishment as the moment when I had the epiphany that I was a real writer and that I wanted to keep writing. I received a lot of praise for being among the published winners for that holiday writing contest.  I was six years old, and it didn’t take long for my love of writing to grow exponentially.  When I wasn’t writing stories for school, I would carry my mother’s electric typewriter into the hallway and start writing stories off the top of my head, while sitting right in the middle of the floor.  (I have no idea why I didn’t just carry the thing over to the kitchen table and sit in a chair like a regular kid, but then again, I was not a regular kid).  When I wrote in my diary every night, I usually sat on the floor, also.  What can I say, we had very soft carpet in our house when I was a child!

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

A: As a child, the books that fired up my imagination were: the Little House books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Oz books, written by L. Frank Baum, all of the books written by Judy Blume, Island of the Blue Dolphins, written by Scott O’ Dell, To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, and all of the stories from Greek and Roman mythology.  My favorite authors in my adult years, whom I’d like to emulate, are: John Steinbeck and Jane Austen. Steinbeck’s novels resonate with me because of the way he seamlessly weaves his profound messages into stories about real, everyday people.  I gravitate toward character-centered writing, which I think is Steinbeck’s signature, as well as his talent for painting vivid pictures of the places where his characters are battling inner, and outer, conflicts.  When it comes to Jane Austen’s books, I can’t say enough about how beautifully she writes: her characters, her dialogue, her descriptions, are exquisitely crafted. She has created a portrait of an English society long gone that to this day, is not only remade into films over and over again, but also has been taken on by modern day authors with sequels and other stories that recreate that status driven society of early 19th century England.  Both authors have inspired story ideas of mine, and I wish they had written and published many more books than they lived to write in their respective lifetimes.


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

A: My short story, “To Ride the Wind.”  I wrote it in 7th grade for an English class assignment (It was inspired by John Steinbeck’s novel, The Pearl, incidentally).  My English teacher encouraged me to enter my story into the middle school’s first annual creative writing contest.  My story won first place, which was one of the greatest moments of my life.  “To Ride the Wind” was published in the school newspaper that summer, which I consider to be my first real publication.  Although we all have to work hard, as writers, to develop our talent and to hone our craft, that story is a symbol of what I’m capable of, and a reminder to never give up on my writing, no matter what.

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: In the past seven years, my focus has been on writing memoirs.  I also continue to write poetry, which I have always gravitated toward as a means of expressing my personal thoughts and emotions about life.  Writing memoirs is challenging in that it requires a high degree of vulnerability and also enough emotional distance to imagine what audiences will be able to identify with when reading about my life story.  I’ve spent a lot of time editing and revising my memoirs, as well as reading others’ published memoirs, to guide me in creating books that read like a fictional character-driven novel, even though the stories are non-fiction.


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: I attended the USC Film School Graduate Screenwriting Program in the 1990’s, which was eye opening as far as how the television and film industry works.  Before then, I took playwriting classes in college.  I have not attended formal writing conferences, yet.  I have taken advantage of as many of the Athens Writers Association’s workshops as I’ve been able to attend in the past 3+ years, and the members of my critique group have made the most significant difference in my becoming a better writer.  They have been my best writing teachers these past 3 years, hands down.  I have learned so much from everything they’ve taught me.

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: Currently, I work as a freelance copyeditor – I proofread, copy edit and revise both non-fiction and fiction manuscripts, and in some cases, Power Point and website copy.  I’ve written articles for publication in the Congregation Children of Israel Temple Times monthly newsletter.  I continue to apply for other freelance writing jobs.  In addition to articles I’ve published in the Temple Times, my work has appeared in three publications in the past three years: Writers After Dark, The Journey Home and Slackpole (the annual holiday issue of Flagpole Magazine).


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

A: I’m not sure if this is unique, but I work on writing multiple pieces simultaneously and divide my writing time among those projects.  It is harder for me to write at home than in a coffee house, but I’m working on spending more time writing at my house (while my dogs lay peacefully at my feet).  I work best with a “soundtrack,” which varies, depending on my mood. I tend to listen to a bundle of albums I associate with a particular writing or editing project.  It doesn’t work for me to write in a doctor’s waiting room, or on an airplane, though I have managed to write at a table at the car dealership for several hours, so I’m getting better at writing in less-than-ideal surroundings.  I keep a notebook in my purse at all times so that I can write ideas as they come to me throughout the day.  I used to always write by hand, and nowadays, I usually write on my laptop.  I’ve been thinking of writing shorter pieces by hand in the future because I had a great experience recently when I did that – it was like finding a long lost old friend.


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

A: Not editing as I go while I’m writing my first draft.  I still have trouble just free flow writing without going back and rereading and rewriting as I go along.  It slows me down, a lot.  Breaking this habit is a work in progress.

Q: What are you currently writing?

A: My primary current writing project is a memoir about a tragic life-changing event that occurred in 1992, which resulted in a complex life-changing endeavor of mine over the next three months. Events that occurred during that time in my life substantially shaped the rest of my adult life, for the better, in my opinion. My hope is that this story of my journey from heartbreak and grief to activism and healing will inspire others to triumph in the wake of their own tragedies.

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

A: I meet people all the time who tell me about how they are “just dabbling” in writing, whether it be a short story or poetry or a novel, and I always encourage them to not sell themselves short as writers.  Everyone has to start at the beginning and many people who are prolific writers start late in life, not realizing how much talent they’ve always had.  It’s never too late so I say, don’t underestimate yourself and just be willing to learn and get feedback from other writers whom you trust.  Keep writing, don’t give up and join our group. We’re a great source of peer support and encouragement – I know for a fact that it has made a significant difference for many of our members.

Q: How has being a writer changed your life?

A: The real question is how has being a writer not changed my life!  I have believed for a long time, since I won that first contest in 7th grade, that writing is what I was born to do.  I gave it up for 15 years and took the safe route in life, becoming a teacher and then working in administration at a major university.  My dog, Toby Hartmann, inadvertently led me back to writing, and moving to Athens gave me the opportunity to spend the time writing Toby’s story that I used to spend at my brick and mortar job in San Diego, California.  It’s hard to explain how being a writer has changed me except to say that now I remember who I am – not to use a cliché, but it’s true that, “I once was lost, and now I’m found.” I know that this is my purpose in life.  I cannot feel fulfilled if I cannot write – it is what I need to do for myself.  I can no longer imagine not being a writer.  It is scary to open myself up to my readers, but it’s worth it to me to share my voice with the rest of the world.


AWA at ‘Lickskillet’!

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


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.


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!


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 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:

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.