The Value of a Top-Notch Writing Workshop

nimrod writers workshop
Each summer for more than ten years, I’ve attended Nimrod Hall summer writing workshops. Unfortunately, I cannot attend this year. But you could! There are still a few spaces left.

 

Why am I recommending Nimrod? You could see my blogs from years past. But here is a brief overview.

 

Excellent writing teachers. I’ve worked with all of the Writers in Residence—Cathy Hankla, Charlotte Morgan, and Sheri Reynolds—and they are all great. Published writers all, they give informed comments in one-on-one conferences and lead productive group critiques. And every one of them goes above and beyond the scheduled hours.

 

sheri reynolds
Sheri Reynolds [Source: Nimrod Hall]
Valuable writing colleagues. Attendees are a combination of returnees and newbies. Maybe it’s self-selection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere of collegiality, but everyone wants everyone else to succeed—no back-biting, no competition. All accept the responsibility to read and critique the work of others in their group. They are honest, telling what is strong and what needs work, always delivered respectively.

 

Protected writing time. No meals. No laundry. No childcare. Every morning and as many afternoons as you want can be devoted to your own writing projects.

 

Leisure options. There are several walking trails, swimming, tubing on the Cowpasture River, just to mention a few. Personally, I love going to the nearby Jefferson Pools, where the women’s (and men’s) baths allow me to relax in the historic waters—bathing-suit optional!

 

Great food. Prepared fresh, creative and tasty, and vegetarian is always an option. Meals are served family style, and seating is fluid. Over meals, one can get to know people not in one’s own writing group.

 

Wonderful conversation. Some of this happens over meals, but also at evening readings, while relaxing on porches, etc. I have never met a boring writer!

 

Lasting friendships. I am in touch with Nimrod colleagues all across the country, especially within Virginia. It’s an enduring network.

 

A productive week. I’ve polished short works for submission and edited sections of novels while at Nimrod. The energy is contagious.

 

A bargain price for so many benefits, room and board, for a week. I cannot recommend it too highly!
 
nimrod writers workshop

Celebrating Independent Bookstores

logans bookstore
[Source: Textbooks.com]

The last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day, which made me think of such bookstores I have known and loved. The first was during my college years in Athens, Ohio. Logan’s was way more than a bookstore. One could buy Ohio University memorabilia and textbooks, of course, but also everything from greeting cards to Vanity Fair underwear!

st lawrence university bookstore
[Source: School Designs]
My next bookstore love was during my years in Canton, New York. It, too, sold more than SLU textbooks and related items. My cookbook collection started there. Everything from candles to pottery was at hand, as well as the work of local writers and artists. When it moved into what was once a hockey arena, the expanded space allowed for a coffee bar and comfortable seats scattered about.

 

Both of these bookstores are located in small towns with no easy access to larger cities, and so they took on the character of general stores of old.

 

Indie bookstores in cities are typically more focused on books and closely related items, such as journals, bookmarks, etc. And sometimes they have a specific mission. For example, Politics and Prose spotlights political and social issues in the books it caries and in the speakers it features.

 

I tend to seek out independent bookstores wherever I spend a lot of time. The Tattered Cover in Denver is an old, multi-story bookstore carrying books for all ages and interests. One can easily spend hours browsing books, magazines, and newspapers. The space is charming, with sunken reading pits, elevated areas, and appealing woodwork. And people ready and willing to help one.

 

fountain bookstore richmond
[Source: Turnberry Press]
The Fountain Bookstore on East Cary Street, in Richmond, is much more intimate than the Tattered Cover, but Kelly Justice is a treasure. She owns and operates the store and often features book signings and talks by local writers. Do stop in!

 

Other independent bookstores in the Richmond area include Chop Suey Books, bbgb Tales for Kids, Book People, Stories, and RED Books.

 

Independent bookstores are more than just stores; they’re community centers run by passionate readers. They are as good as secondhand bookstores in offering the possibility of serendipitous finds. In addition, they support the local economy through job creation and tax dollars. So buy local!

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different: authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff. Check out what’s happening in your area!

celebrating independent bookstores

In a world of tweets and on-line searches, bookstores are not dying out.  They continue to grow and expand and enrich the lives of readers and communities. So prepare to party down tomorrow!

Write Your Life: Memoir and Memoir-based Fiction

write life memoir based fiction vivian lawry

Exciting news! I will be leading a class at Agile Writers, called Write Your Life: Memoir and Memoir-based Fiction. Anyone interested in writing about their life events is welcome to join. You can be any age, at any writing level; however, we will not be writing novels or poetry, so if those are your interests, try one of the other great classes Agile Writers has to offer!

The class will run for six weeks, April 23 to June 4, from 5-7 p.m. By the end of the six-week class, you can expect to have five short pieces ready to develop, one of which has been revised based on class critique. Each assignment will be crafted for this specific class. All members of the class will be expected to write for each class (up to 3 typewritten pages, double spaced) and to participate in the critiques. All assignments will be handed out the first day, so missing one class won’t put people off-track.

Date and time: 

Sun, April 23, 2017 to Sun, June 4, 2017

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Location: 

Agile Writers Offices

221 Ruthers Road #204

Richmond, VA 23235

Price: $180

Tickets available here!

Murder and Mayhem, Clover Hill Library Style

murder mayhem clover hill library style
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, but a week ago tonight was perfect for murder. For the second year, Sisters in Crime/Central Virginia worked with Clover Hill Library for their Friends of the Library fundraiser, Murder at the Library.

 

murder mayhem clover hill library style sleuth's notebook
I can’t rave too much about this event. It was very well organized. For one thing, they provided a sleuth’s notebook that included photos and thumbnail sketches of the potential suspects. In addition, it contained the program, author photos, and bios.

 

The skit ended with the discovery of the body.

 

Then attendees mingled with the suspects, asking questions, gathering more info. Here you see me taking with the Branch Manager who had “borrowed” money from library funds to pay for her expensive red scarf. This would be the same scarf found near the body.

 

murder mayhem clover hill library style
Then there were the lecherous president of the Friends of the Library rejected by the victim and the library gossip who knew the victim since college and held a grudge.
 murder mayhem clover hill library style suspects

This famous children’s singer  was the victim’s lover and an all around not-so-nice guy. Jeanette was grumpy because she hated change, and expected to get her old job back now that the librarian who had replaced her was dead.

And let’s not forget those not pictured! Pokemon Go Guy, two boozing mom’s on Xanax and wine, the singer’s sister, and Detective Nancy Drew who called on those present to help find the person who had motive, means, and opportunity.

 

Votes were cast by tossing legos into the labeled bin of the suspect one favored, and reasons were given for the suspicions. I’m proud to say, I was right! (And no, I won’t name the killer.)

murder at the library clover hill

Several of the authors presented a discussion of the sub-genre’s of mysteries: Mary Miley, Maggie King, Heather Weidner, Tina Glasneck, Fiona Quinn, and LynDee Walker. Rosemary Shomaker and I facilitated the sleuthing.
Besides the pleasure of all the murder and mayhem, a ticket to this event allowed attendees to have heavy hors d’ oeuvres, beer, wine, and soft drinks. Watch for notices of the event next year and to be sure you don’t miss it, get your tickets early! 

 

murder at the library clover hill

Festival of the Written Word

—a great event for readers and writers!
 
festival of the written word 2016
 
As many of you know, I was again on the program at Midlothian Library’s Festival of the Written Word. This was the second annual, and it seems to just get better and better.

 

meeting room events festivalwrittenword
I was pleased to moderate and participate in the panel “I Couldn’t Put It Down: Creating Page-Turning Tension and Action.”

 

vivian lawry heather weidner doug jones festivalwrittenword
I was joined by Sister in Crime Heather Weidner and award winning playwright and local teacher Doug Jones. We had a great audience, attentive and involved, asking lots of good questions. The panel preceding us in that space, “Small Press and Indie Publishing,” must have been a great success too, given that they stayed in place till the last possible minute! This panel included Stacy Hawkins Adams, Sisters in Crime Tina Glasneck and Heather Weidner, and writing colleague Guy Terrell.

 

guy terrell vivian lawry festivalwrittenword
This may be reminiscent of a wedding portrait, but notice the books we are holding. Guy is a poet as well as co-author (with Jack Trammell) of The Fourth Branch of Government: We the People, an impassioned presentation discussion of the need for and ways to bring individuals’ voices back into the political process.

 

As you might have guessed, the program was designed to appeal to a broad range of topics and ages. There were four Sisters in Crime on the program.

 

sisters in crime festivalwrittenword
Besides the panels mentioned above, they discussed “Crime and the Paranormal in Your Writing.”

 

Another panel discussion focused on “The Practical Realities of Writing for a Living.” There were writing workshops for kids, teens, and adults, ranging from poetry to memoir.

 

There were also readings for kids AND “Walk-In Writing Activities and Crafts.” People could gather for some shared NaNoWriMo writing time…

 

nanowrimo festivalwrittenword
…or pick up a writing prompt—or several—for later plotting.

 

There was food available and live music by local author Brant Huddleston on guitar.

 

And of course books! There were book sales and signings by authors on the program, as well as books sales to benefit the Friends of the Library.

 

fall festival cookbooks festivalwrittenword
Energy was high! There was a lot of chat time, including a Local Writers Meet and Greet. Two of the most interesting people I met were a woman newly arrived in Richmond, Amber Williams, and her son Kai. Here’s a picture of them holding her book, which he illustrated. Watch for them in the future!
cookbook festivalwrittenword
Bottom line: This annual event, free and open to the public, has something for everyone! Watch for it next November. And in the meantime, check out other public libraries for fun, interesting, thought-provoking events.

 

midlothian library festivalwrittenword

A Time to Read

james river writers conference 2016
The annual James River Writers Conference was held last weekend. It is predominantly geared to writers, with lots of sessions on the craft and business of writing. But it also celebrates good writing—which is another way of saying, it celebrates good reading!

 

This year’s book contest was for the Best Self-Published Novel. No doubt the winner, Heaven Will Protect The Working Girl by Jo Allison, is a great read. It’s the third in a series of mysteries set in turn-of-the-century St. Louis. But don’t overlook the two finalists, Geoff Camphire and Bonnie Stanard.

 

james river writers 2016 best self published novel contest
Each year, JRW also includes an opportunity to attend the Library of Virginia’s Literary Awards Luncheon. This year’s Life-Time Achievement Award went to Nikki Giovanni.

 

nikki giovanni
She is a poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. And, BTW, she’s also a very lively and humorous speaker! She’s won numerous other awards, and her publications are too many to mention here, but go online and be impressed—and maybe inspired to pick up one of her books!

 

Or perhaps you will be taken by the work of one of their Literary Awards Finalists in Poetry: Jon Pineda (winner), Joshua Poteat, and Claudia Emerson.

 

james river writers 2016 shann palmer poetry contest
JRW also recognizes poetry. Check out this year’s winner (Zoe) and finalists of the Shann Palmer Poetry award.

 

Rita Dove said, “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” Perhaps it’s time to see for yourself.

 

If, in spite of it all, you aren’t drawn to poetry, the Library of Virginia also makes annual awards in fiction and non-fiction. This year’s Library Award in Fiction was won by Robert Goolrick for his novel The Fall of Princes. Other finalists were Leslie Pietrzyk and Sara Taylor. Goolrick was interviewed for JRW attendees Saturday afternoon. Although he attended Johns Hopkins University, he was born in Virginia and lives here now.

 

robert goolrick fall of princes
[Photo credit: Algonquin Books]
His novels include  A Reliable Wife, Heading Out of Wonderful, and The End of the World as We Know It—plus several others.
Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green
[Photo credit: HarperCollins Publishers]
The Library Awards Finalists in Non-Fiction were Bert Ashe, Mary Sarah Bilder, and Kristen Green. Bilder’s book was Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention; Ashe’s book was Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles. Green won for Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County
 
bert ashe library of virginia
Ashe spoke at two JRW sessions: “Writing What You Know: Turning Your Personal Experiences into Sellable Books” and “Powerful Articles” were very well-received. (Other panelists were Kurt P. Behm and Jessica Lahey.) He also joined Phaedra Hise and Jason Tessuro for the “What’s Your Story?” presentation on how to make a story that entices readers beyond our own limited sphere of influence.

 

So pick up a good memoir or two—or three or four! It’s always a good day to read.

 

UPDATE: This post was corrected to acknowledge Kristen Green won the 2016 Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Festival of the Written Word and Some Exciting News!

On November 5th, I will be one of the featured writers at this year’s Festival of the Written Word, hosted by the Chesterfield County Public Library.

festival of the written word 2016

Festival of the Written Word has something for the reader and writer in you! Embrace your creativity and immerse yourself in literacy, ideas and imagination. The 2016 Festival of the Written Word will include live readings, workshops, panel discussions with local authors and food. It’s an activity that the whole family can enjoy.

I was involved with the festival last year, speaking on a panel about romance and mystery. I’m excited to hear the other panelists and the featured speaker, Kristen Green, this year!

In addition to the events listed on the flyer above, the festival will include readings by various authors, workshops for writers of all ages, panel discussions with local authors (including me!), and, of course, delicious food provided by Firehouse Subs.

It’s a great idea for readers (and writers!) to take advantage of such festivals and literary events at their local libraries. They are typically free and open to the public!

Other featured authors include:

Stacy Hawkins Adams
Jean Anderson
Nancy Wright Beasley
Bill Blume
Tina Glasneck
Kristen Green (Featured Presenter)
Valley Haggard
Ann Marie Halstead
Lorraine Heath
Doug Jones
Pamela Kinney
Lana Krumwiede
Vivian Lawry
Cathy Maxwell
Fiona Quinn
Steven Smith
Guy Terrell
Heather Weidner

For more information and a detailed schedule, check out the festival’s website. Hope to see you there!

(Also coming up is the CCPL’s “Murder at the Library” event!)


In other news, I recently wrote an article for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. They have a weekly column entitled “In My Shoes.” I wrote an article, “Repair or redecorate after breast cancer?,” about the process following radiation, multiple surgeries, and a “persistent non-healing wound” after my breast cancer diagnosis. Check it out!

Wrapping Up Nimrod, 2016

 Energy is always high when I arrive at Nimrod on Sunday: getting settled, reuniting with friends, meeting the new writers, and getting the schedule for the week ahead.

 I was in Square House again this year, my favorite room!  It’s downstairs, dim, and I know where my things will fit and how many extension cords I’ll need.

 

Monday through Thursday at Nimrod is intense: focused writing, talk with fellow writers—who often ask how your work is going, which certainly reinforces that focus and productivity are expected and rewarded—reading every day for workshop, sharing opinions with other readers, then listening to the 8:00 readers after dinner…

 

All of this happening across varied genres leaves me feeling worn. I suspect others do as well.
flowers nimrod hall
So an open day on Friday was cherished! I walked in sunshine for the first time.

 

imaginative writing janet burroway
Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway
It’s also a chance to tie things up. I (finally) turned to to the reference Cathy Hankla had given me on Monday! Unfortunately, I could not send off “Repair or Redecorate?” because my computer went all wonky. The touch-pad didn’t control the cursor. Damn! But at least it’s ready to go. I started packing to leave on Saturday.

 

Thurday's readers at nimrod hall: Kristy Bell, Ruth Gallogly, Kit Wellford, Jane Shepherd, Judy Bice
Thurday’s readers L-R: Kristy Bell, Ruth Gallogly, Kit Wellford, Jane Shepherd, Judy Bice
I got a photo of Thursday’s readers on Friday evening, in the course of a most entertaining variety show! This was new to my years at Nimrod. Kristy Bell did an incredible job as MC! We had multiple readings of poetry, fiction, memoir, and all the other genre’s represented here, up and down the emotional spectrum. But we also had musical interludes!

 

Terry Dolson accompanied Judy Bice, Amelia Williams, and Sheri Reynolds while the rest of us joined in as well as we could on such classics as “Country Road” and “Bobbie McGee.” I’m here to tell you, Sheri Williams does a mean Janis Joplin!

 

Most year I’ve gone to the Jefferson Baths. This year, I mourn missing it. But several of us had accepted a neighbor’s invitation for drinks and a visit to the champion sycamore tree: 10 feet across, 33 feet around. It was good viewing and very good scotch!
Every year we take a group picture. This one came was Saturday morning, just after breakfast.

 

nimrod hall summer arts program 2016
L-R, kneeling: Foust, Kristy Bell, Nancy Hurrelbrinck,Jennifer Dickinson, Judy Bice, Ruth Gallogly; L-R standing, Terry Dolson, Jane Shepherd, Kit Wellfod, Charlotte Morgan, Cathy Hankla, me, Sheri Reynolds, Molly Todd, David Cooper, Betsy Arnett, Amelia Williams, Frances Burch.
Unfortunately, several people left on Friday. Oh, sigh. Maybe next year!

 

By 10:00 Saturday morning, Frances Burch and I were on the road. We followed our usual routine: we stopped in Crozet, Virginia for shopping at Over the Moon Bookstore and lunch at Crozet Pizza. For the first time ever, we had their specialty pizza that is a white base, topped with herbs, summer squash, and peanuts! It was excellent.

 

I was home by 3:00, but Nimrod lingers. There’s always a long re-entry time!

 


Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

Writers at Nimrod, 2016

What a week it’s been! Where to begin? Well, I guess with this message:

Begin Anywhere Nimrod Hall
“Begin Anywere.” -John Cage
So, how about walking through a typical day? As you know, I’m fond of before-breakfast walks—usually damp and misty. But glories abound, from wildlife and flowers along the way, to the little graveyard up the hill, to the Cowpasture River down the hill.

People gather to await the breakfast bell, still slightly groggy. But after a coffee infusion and a more-than-ample breakfast, we are hyped for the sacred writing time, which lasts till 1:00 lunch.
This year I finished and revised a 6K word short story mystery AND submitted it! So thanks to my fearless leader Cathy Hankla and my workshop/critique group members for comments and suggestions.
One of Cathy’s great strengths as a teacher is that she always seems to come up with targeted reading for specific writers. This year she brought Imaginative Writing for me. It contains “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, a wonderful example of showing an incident from the POV of a hired worker. But of course, Cathy is incredibly talented herself.
I tend to be a cave-dweller, so while others hike, run, do yoga, or go tubing on the river, I keep writing. And everyone understands.

Happy half-hour was typically celebrated with our workshop group, followed by dinner during which we dispersed among the other writers present. Then we adjourn to the renovated Rec Hall for 8:00 readings. On Sunday night, Cathy Hankla and Sheri Reynolds read and Charlotte Morgan gave us our marching orders about the week’s structure.

David Cooper and I read the first night. I read 600 words on “Repair or Redecorate?” which I hope you’ll have an opportunity to read in the Richmond Times-Dispatch sometime soon. David is a “retired” man of the cloth and counselor who bicycles, does yoga, and seemed perfectly comfortable surrounded by all these writer women!

Tuesday night’s readings were by Frances Burch, Jennifer Dickinson, Nancy Hurrelbrinck, and Molly Todd.
Frances Burch Jennifer Dickinson Nancy Hurrelbrinck Molly Todd Nimrod Hall
Wednesday night we had Betsy Arnett, Foust, Amelia Williams, Heath Lee, and Terry Dolson.
Betsy Arnett Foust Amelia Williams Heath Lee Terry Dolson Nimrod Hall
Thursday night it was Judy Bice, Jane Shepard, Ruth Gallogly, and Kristy Bell—and I didn’t get a picture! Maybe I can rectify that later.

This diverse group of writers includes poets, fiction writers, memoirists, inspirational writers, historians—you name it. Several are from the Richmond area, and therefore likely to be available for local readings, signings, etc. Besides me, Elizabeth Smart, Frances Burch, Judy Bice, Molly Todd, Kristy Bell, Terry Dolson, David Cooper, Foust, and Suzanne Munson fall into this category. But we also had writers from Roanoke, Boyce, and Afton, Virginia (Heath Lee, Betsy Arnett, and Amelia Williams, respectively), and two from Charleston, WV (Jane Shepherd and Kit Wellford). And then there were the outliers, Ruth Gallogly (Brooklyn, NY) and Denny Stein (Freemont, CA).

These are wonderful, interesting, dear people. What are the chances that I’ll see them again before next year?

One reason I love Nimrod is that I never know what I’ll come across. It might be riders from Vinyard Farms next door. These are Amber and Frankie—the horses, not the riders.

Amber and Frankie horses Vinyard Farms
It might be fellow walkers…
…or it might be an abandoned barn and gas pump. It’s always something!

Barn Nimrod hall
And it’s always great company, great energy, and unstinting support! We don’t leave till tomorrow, but I’m missing it already! Stay tuned next week for a final wrap-up.
Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life.