Tennessee Mountain Writers,Inc.
Back towards the end of last century, I attended a party at a writers' conference in Hawaii. Beside the plumeria bushes, glasses chinked and colorful hors d'oeuvres were passed around the crowd. As the evening progressed, something else made it's way from one cluster of people to another, a piece of news. Diana, Princess of Wales had died after a car crash in Paris. The way this news spread fascinated me, and not long after, it inspired me to begin a novel-my fourth.
After several years of work, I entered the first chapter, along with a synopsis, to several competitions and won some prizes, including one from Tennessee Mountain Writers Writing Competition. The positive reaction encouraged me and I polished the piece until I felt it was ready for New York. I had connections in the Big Apple with agents and editors, who had read my previous efforts and declared them well written, but not commercial. They had asked me to send "the next one".
I prepared my letters to my contacts and mailed them one Friday in September. Unfortunately, that Friday was just a few days before the infamous Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. Not surprisingly, every letter received an immediate generic refusal.
Like many others, fiction seemed frivolous to me after the terrorist attacks, and I lost my interest in it for a while, but in the past year, I have decided to rework that fourth novel.
As I do so, I find myself quite glad the earlier version didn't find a publisher. I can see so many ways to improve it. I've removed huge chunks of prose, tightened the plot and tweaked the characters. I believe it is a much better novel. The people I have to thank for showing me the way are not writers, but readers.
Just months before Princess Diana died, my friend, Beth Meyer, invited me to join a book group she was starting. Through a number of changes in members, we have evolved into a close-knit group. Since 1997, we have read more than 120 books, ranging from Virginia Wolf and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to J.K Rowling and Dean Koontz. One of the group's aims is to introduce novels to members they might not otherwise encounter.
Along with tasty food, good wine and companionship, the group has brought me to many books I would never have started to read, and quite a few that if I had started, I wouldn't have finished, if I hadn't had to discuss them. These books provide the group with the best debates. When we all like a novel, we spend much less time analysing it. The dialogue stretches to "I liked it," and "So did I". We quickly move on to our other favorite topic-politics. Books some of us like and some of us don't provide more spice to the evening.
Of course, there have plenty of books I've enjoyed, but I feel I learn more from the books I like less. I see where the story has slowed too much, or taken steps that aren't credible. I've seen characters start out in promising plots, only to be disappointed by an idea falling flat. The criticism and praise of other group members is also enlightening.
I've tried to apply these lessons to my own writing, and if my novel ever does please an editor enough to publish it, my book group will be there on the acknowledgements page.
The advice often given to writers is that they should first read. So, now that the New Year has begun, and you are thinking of ways to improve your own writing, put attending Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference on your list, enter the contest, (Deadline February 1st, 2009) submit a manuscript for evaluation, and, if you don't already belong to one, join a book group. It might help you avoid the potholes on the road to great writing.
Happy New Year! Actually, our TMW Board feels as though the year is mostly gone already, since our "TMW Year" kicks off in the summer and wraps up with the annual conference. We've had two great events since the last newsletter. Sixteen people attended the Fall Workshop on humor writing in November, led by our own Judy DiGregorio. We had a great time and laughed a lot, befitting a humor-writing workshop. If you haven't yet picked up a copy of Judy's new book, Life Among the Lilliputians, I highly recommend it for chasing away the January blues. Thanks for a great workshop, Judy!
Sixteen was also the magic number for this year's January Jumpstart-a smaller-than-usual number for this event, due to illness, the economy, and the weather to our north, but an enthusiastic group. Everyone seemed to have had a great experience, whether in Cecilia Tischi's fiction track or Marianne Worthington's poetry track. Both were outstanding, and our thanks again to both Cecilia and Marianne, as well as to Sue Orr and her Special Events Committee for putting together both Jumpstart and the Fall Workshop.
That brings us (almost) to the annual conference, now just about two months away. The deadline for contest entries is February 1, so if you intended to submit something and haven't done so yet, now's the time! February 1 is also the deadline for making application to our adult scholarship program, which provides assistance with conference fees. See our website (www.tmwi.org) for more information about both the contest and the scholarship application process.
We're all looking forward to this year's conference, and I hope you are too! Ronda Rich, syndicated columnist and author of What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), will be our Non-Fiction leader and banquet speaker, backed up by the strong headliner team of Beverly Connor, Fiction; Cathy Smith Bowers, Poetry; Lynn Berry, Writing for Young People; and Chris Roerden, Editing. Special Sessions will be presented by David Brill on Freelance Writing; Lynn Cardwell, Small Press Publishing; Keith McDaniel, Screenwriting; and Kelley Walli, Photojournalism. You should have received your brochure and registration form in the mail in December; if you didn't get one, check the web site.
I hate to end this message on a down note, but for those who don't already know this, I'm sad to report that our dear friend Pat Boatner passed away in November following a stroke. Many of you will recall that Pat-a long-time TMW member, past board member, and a presenter at the first conference in 1989-presented the Sue Ellen Hudson Award at last year's conference. Pat's passing leaves a hole in our TMW ranks and in our hearts. The TMW Board has voted to rename our first-place fiction award the Pat Boatner Award for Fiction in her memory.
We were also greatly saddened to learn of the recent death of Ruth Smalley January 19. Ruth was a long-time member of the TMW Board who resigned two years ago for health reasons. She was a member of our Program Committee for many years, and served TMW in many other capacities. Ruth was a dear friend, a hard-working board member, and a gifted writer. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this sad time. The link to her obituary in The Oak Ridger can be found below.
I hope this new year brings each of you good health, happiness, and renewed determination to write. See you at the conference!
February 1 2009
See the website for rules.
TMW Board Member Connie Green will present a poetry reading at the University of Tennessee, Monday, Feb. 23rd, at 7 p.m. in the Hodges Library Auditorium. All are welcome to attend.
TMW member, Jane Flanagan, has published "A Dance with the Spirit." She calls it "a fond and off-beat look at humans coping with being human and other not very deep philosophical issues." If you would like a copy, you can contact her at 483-3214 or send an email to email@example.com. The cost is $15, with proceeds to be donated to the Linda Kraeger Memorial Fund. Linda died in the shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in July. Jane plans to attend this year's conference and her book will be available in the conference bookstore.
Regular TMW contest winner, Elsie Knoke, says she won two awards in the most recent Grandmother Earth and Life Press competition. "One was a third place award for prose and the other a first place award for humor, both for the same piece, entitled 'The Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe.' It will be published in their journal."
Congratulations to all. If you have any writing news you'd like to share in the newsletter, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tennessee Mountain Writers 21st Annual Conference.
Get On Your Writing Track
April 2--4 2009
DoubleTree Hotel - Oak Ridge, Tennessee
6pm---Reception with heavy hors d'oeuvres, followed by Hospitality Suite.
(Sessions run simultaneously.)
9:00am-10:15am---Poetry: Cathy Smith Bowers & Screenwriting:
10:30am---Writing for Young People & Internet Research: Beverly
1:00pm-2:15pmŠFiction Part 1:Beverly Connor & Photo Journalism:
Kelly Scott Walli
2:30pm-3:45pm---Nonfiction: Ronda Rich & Small Press Publishing
4:00pm-5:15pm---Editing: Chris Roerden
5:30pmŠReadings: 2008 Winners
8:00pm---Panel: Session Leaders
8:00am-8: 15am---Annual Business Meeting
8:30am-9:45am---Writing for Young People: Lynne Berry & Editing:
10:00am: Fiction Part 2: Beverly Connor & Freelance Writing: David
12:30pm-1:45pm: Poetry: Cathy Smith Bowers & Nonfiction: Ronda
2:00pm-3:15pm---General Session: Cathy Smith Bowers
7:00pm---Awards Banquet-Speaker: Ronda Rich
Followed by Hospitality Suite.
February 1, 2009---Contest entries
February 1, 2009---Scholarship applications
March 1, 2009---manuscript evaluation entries
March 6, 2009---Hotel conference rate ends
March 26, 2009---Early registration ends