Tennessee Mountain Writers Newsletter

Winter 2010



Editor’s Note

At this time of year, as mall musak often includes the work of Piotr Tchaikovsky, and when advertisements for productions of his ballet, The Nutcracker, are popping everywhere, I suffer flashbacks to some of my appearances on the stage as a dancer. My biggest role in The Nutcracker, quite literally, was Mother Ginger, wearing a vast dress, covering twelve children. My husband, Stephen, constructed a crinoline made of plastic piping. It hung heavily from my shoulders by straps. I designed and sewed the orange red and cream dress, decorated with lace, based on eighteenth century styles often seen in fairytale books. 

In the cramped backstage space of Oak Ridge High School, I did my best to stay still and keep out of the way of elegant Spanish dancers, exotic Arabians and pink Flowers making entrances and exits. My nerves had simmered all day.  As the Mirlitons danced prettily across the rubber dance floor, the jitters came closer to boiling point. Could I do this? Nausea squeezed my stomach. I eased my way to the one part of the wings capable of allowing my enormous costume on and off the stage. Children dived under it, gathering unseen around my white tights-covered legs, a strange sensation that did nothing for my confidence. Just as my bubbling panic started popping, our music began and we made a steady advance into the Land of Sweets. 

Once under the lights, I felt much better. The children rolled out from under the lace flounces, twirled and skipped. I swirled my grand gown round and round, as the music gathered pace and we swept back into the wings, exhilarated. The audience had laughed when expected, with us, not at us, and applauded loudly at the end.

Writing for publication often feels, to me, like launching a performance. Just like dancers, musicians and actors, writers present themselves to an audience, and, therefore, invite applause and criticism. Those same backstage fears often rear their disagreeable heads whenever I need to start an article. If I have to conduct interviews, I delay scheduling until the last reasonable moment. If I need to conduct research, I avoid the subject until the feelings of fright I may not be able to write one more piece become so painful, I decide to throw myself into it. 

Once I do, phrases and sentences leap into my mind. I begin to see the shape of my angle. Like stepping under the stage lights, actually taking the first steps eases the sense of alarm. I toy with metaphors, check the thesaurus for word variety, like a potter with a knife to clay, I cut out the superfluous. When I’ve fashioned my clauses and paragraphs to the exact number of words required, I feel pleased and satisfied, even elated.

Then, I have one more scary moment, as my finger hovers over the “send” button in my email program. Will the editor like it? Will she laugh with me, or at me? Unlike the theater-going audience, there is rarely immediate feedback. No one cheers as I close the computer. There are no gratifying bows. Merely a feeling I have done the best I could at that moment in time, and, now it’s finished, recognizing I enjoyed it.

On the side of my refrigerator, held up by a small magnet, hangs a quote from the playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham, whose most famous novel, Of Human Bondage has been made into a movie three times, placed himself "in the very first row of the second-raters," nevertheless, he was one of the most successful and wealthiest writers of his time. His quote says, “Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.”  As writers we might hope to be at our worst in the nerve wracking moments of rehearsal, and a virtuoso when under the lights of publication, and most of all, never to be always at our best.

Margaret Pennycook  

Nota Bene or as we say in English, please note:  Some of you have difficulty reading the newsletter when it arrives in an email, cyberspace having scrambled it.  My apologies, but there is nothing I can do about it, as the only way to prevent that would be to send the newsletter as an attachment, and many people do not like receiving attachments, for various reasons.  I am keeping formatting to a minimum—no fancy fonts and so on—in the hope that less complexity will result in fewer mangled messages.



Chairman’s Message

The holidays are here, which means January Jumpstart can’t be far behind!  And in fact, it will be coming up January 14-16, 2011, again at the Magnuson Hotel in Sweetwater.  At this point we still have seats available in both the Poetry track (to be led by Steve Holt) and the Fiction track (to be led by Pamela Duncan).  But that’s changing by the day, so don’t wait until the New Year to register—plan right now to join us for a great weekend of writing and fellowship.  See registration details in the body of this newsletter.

We had a wonderfully successful Fall Workshop in October, when more than 30 people came to spend the day in the company of syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson.  Rheta’s all-day session on writing nonfiction drew great reviews.  Thanks to the Special Events Committee (Sue Richardson Orr, chair; Vicki Brumback, Joyce McDonald, and Bryan Robertson) for their hard work toward making the workshop a success.

Brochures for our 23rd annual conference, scheduled for March 24-26, 2011, are now in the mail, so watch your mailbox.  When yours shows up, don’t let it get lost in the deluge of holiday mail!  (But if it does despite your best efforts, all of the information and a registration form can be found on our website, www.tmwi.org.)  REMINDER: The deadline for contest entries will be February 1, 2011.  Once again this year I’d like to thank K’Cindra Cavin for her great work on the layout and production of the brochure, as well as for her ongoing work in updating and maintaining the website.

I wish each of you and your loved ones a happy and blessed holiday season.  I hope to see you at Jumpstart next month!


Carol Grametbauer




Tennessee Mountain Writers and Tennessee Writers Alliance




What??  Again??  Yep, it’s time…  to mark your calendars for January Jumpstart XI on January 14 - 16, 2011, at the Magnuson Hotel (formerly Best Western) in Sweetwater, TN, at exit 60 off I-75. Our Fiction workshop leader will be Pam Duncan and Steve Holt will lead Poetry. Saturday sessions will run 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 and 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sunday 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Pamela Duncan was born in Asheville and raised in Black Mountain, Swannanoa and Shelby, NC, and currently lives in Cullowhee, NC, where she teaches creative writing at Western Carolina University.  She holds a BA in Journalism from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA in English/Creative Writing from North Carolina State  University in Raleigh.  Her first novel, Moon Women, was a Southeast Booksellers Association Award Finalist, and her second novel, Plant Life, won the 2003 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction.  She is the recipient of the 2007 James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South, awarded by the Fellowship of Southern Writers.  Her third novel, The Big Beautiful, was published in March 2007.  Visit her website at www.pameladuncan.com.

Steve Holt is the author of three books of poetry: Late Mowing (2000), Elegy for September (2007), and A Tone Poem of Stones (2008). A longtime employee of both the Russell (Ky) Independent Schools and Ohio University Southern, his poetry and career were featured in an episode of Kentucky Life on KET in 2007. Recipient of a Pushcart Prize nomination for poetry, as well as Ashland Oil Inc.'s Golden Apple Award f or teaching excellence, Holt has led workshops and/or given readings at such places as the Appalchian Writers Workshop, the Appalachian Writers Association, Thomas More College, Northern Kentucky University, Ohio University Southern, the University of Kentucky, East Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, and TMW’s January Jumpstart V. Poems of his were included in the University Press of Kentucky's Of Woods and Waters: An Anthology of Kentucky Outdoors Writing (2005). Holt and his wife Linda, along with theirLlhasa Apso, "Meana," live in extreme Northeastern Kentucky. 

This project is funded in part under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

           Registration fees are $100.00 for TMW or TWA members, $110.00 nonmembers.  

   Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and snacks before the morning sessions and Saturday lunch are included.

 Participants will be limited to 20 per workshop             DEADLINE for registration is Jan. 7, 2011                    


Room rates are $58.00 + tax for single/double.  Call Magnuson Hotel at 423-337-3541and mention TMW.

For additional information: please check our website: “www.tmwi.org” 

or contact: Sue Richardson Orr - email: “theorrs@usit.net

REGISTRATION FORM - print and mail in with check.


   TMW/TWA JANUARY JUMPSTART XI   Fri, Jan 14 - Sun, Jan 16, 2011


Name ___________________________              Check one: fiction __   poetry __


Street _______________________________________


City/State/zip code____________________________


Phone _______________ e-mail __________________


Please make checks to TMW:  Workshop __________

TWA membership $25.00                 TMW membership $10.00  

Total amount enclosed ________

Mail to: TMW/January Jumpstart 2011
P.O. Box 5435
Oak Ridge, TN  37831-5435                         




Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference 2011

 March 24-26, 2011

 DoubleTree Hotel

 Oak Ridge, TN

 It’s the WRITE time!



Writing contests, workshops, networking, manuscript evaluations, publishers, book signings, bookstore, vendors and more.

The conference begins with a reception on Thursday evening and ends with the awards banquet on Saturday evening, with Susan Gregg Gilmore as the speaker.  In between, sessions will be led by the following: Darnell Arnoult , Fiction & General Session Speaker, Jim Minick, Nonfiction, Bill Brown, Poetry, Evelyn Coleman, Writing for Young People, Chris Roerden, Editing. Special Sessions: Kevin Watson, Building an Internet Presence, Beverly Connor, Internet Research, Lisa Soland,  Playwriting, Gloria Ballard, Travel Writing, Judy DiGregorio, Jim Johnston & Paul Jones, From Book to CD.

The Writing Contest has five categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Inspirational and Children’s Literature (written FOR children) 

Entry Fees: No fee for fully registered conference participants for first entry in each category; $10 per entry for additional entries.  Part-time participants or non-registered entrant; $15 per entry. 

Entry Deadline: Entries must be postmarked by February 1st, 2011.

Mail entries with conference registration, or under separate cover to Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc., P.O. Box 5435, Oak Ridge, TN 37830-5435.  Make checks payable to

Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc.

For full details about the conference, speakers and schedule, for complete contest rules and registration forms, visit www.tmwi.org.




Learning Events presents

Darnell Arnoult’s Extended Novel Course


A Novel Process: Six Weekends to a First Draft

Okay, that title is a little misleading!  Learning Events, in conjunction with novelist, poet, and long-time writing coach and instructor Darnell Arnoult, has put together an 18-month course based on the Arnoult Method and her Sublime Fiction Triangle.  The course is made up of six two day weekend workshops spread out over 18 months. Each workshop will focus on key steps from character development to scene construction to divining a plot, a structure, and identifying themes organically present in the characters’ experience. Each workshop will be hands on. Participants will receive method materials, instruction, and will also be asked to write and read and perform creative and evaluative assignments regarding their work and the writing process.  Each weekend, participants will be sent home with assignments and resources to use between workshops to take the manuscript from inception to a finished draft.  The instructor will be available for encouragement and questions in the interim.  Manuscript critique will be confined to discussion of process and discovery on the part of the writer and the limited laboratory and workshop readings during the six weekends. The instructor will not read manuscripts as part of the course. The goal is for participants to have a completed “learning draft” or first draft by the end of 18 months, or be well on the way to such a draft. However, reaching this goal will be dependent on the students’ attendance at the workshops coupled with their follow through in the intervening weeks! Students will not be allowed to come into the course series after the first weekend, so we ask that those participants who wish to give this method a go make an informal but genuine commitment to the course for the long haul for their benefit and that of the other participants. The course is limited to 14 participants. It’s like signing on for a cruise around the Cape of Good Hope.  You won’t reach home if you get off early!

Darnell Arnoult is the author of the award-winning poetry collection What Travels With Us, published by LSU Press, and Sufficient Grace, a novel published in hardcover and paperback by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  Sufficient Grace is also available in unabridged audio from Recorded Books. Her short works have appeared in a variety of literary journals. She has been teaching writing for over 18 years at workshops and conferences including the Duke Writers Workshop and Duke Short Course Program.  She teaches workshops and coaches students from all over the Southeast.  Many students have written novel drafts based on her process, and some have gone on to attend the prestigious Sewanee Writers Workshop, been accepted to MFA programs, and began careers as published writers. 

Each workshop listed below will be conducted with the three legs of the Sublime Fiction Triangle in mind: character, action, language.

Weekend #1: WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE? This weekend we use photographs and questions as well as some short assignments to develop characters and get at their experience.  Participants learn how to build a character from scratch or take a real person across the bridge to fictional character.  Participants come to a better understanding of the artist’s need to collect and to contain for later use, how to manipulate real events to shape art, how to give away pieces of experience and observation to generate a new world, and the use of “quick writes” to find the path to a larger story.  We also cover the concept of writing toward a novel or story under the rubric of a “learning draft” and the role research plays in this process.

Weekend #2: WHERE THE HECK ARE WE? This weekend is a level two character development workshop, with the focus on characters and place, characters and community, and what impact place has on character and story.  As we come to further understand our characters and discover new ones, we also define the space the character moves out from and the environment of the possible story. We examine the roll of dialogue and setting as a means to create an illusion of existence—verisimilitude.

Weekend #3: WARNING! SCENE STORM APPROACHING!  This weekend we will hammer home the philosophies already articulated in previous workshops in this series: 1) You must write badly to write well. 2) The value of and commitment to short assignments and ugly first drafts (paraphrased from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) is crucial. 3) Writing is an act of faith.  4) No part of this process is a waste of time, whether it ends up in your book or not.

Weekend #4: CORRAL CRITICAL MASS (OR MESS)!  This weekend will be about evaluating your collected scenes and the tools related to this process.  Using a mapping system to identify and organize elements within the body of the work to-date, we look for the best possible plot points, structures, and themes organically present in the work. We employ a piece of the method to identify scene purpose, value, and strength. We explore possible revelations and epiphanies. Whose story is it, really?  Who should tell it, or how should it be told? Why is it important? Why does the story need to be told now?  Why do the characters do what they do? We identify holes that need filling and fat and suckers that need to be cut away. In essence, we will be searching for the beating heart of a book in a partially written, very rough semblance of a novel manuscript. At this point we will also discuss the individual writers’ needs regarding linier and global mapping.

Weekend #5: SUPER CHARGE YOUR MUSCLE CAR.      This weekend’s focus is revision at a deep level. This is not correction, but rather it is further development, deeper writing, layering of experience, adding new elements to take the work to a richer place. We are not looking under the hood to repair so much as to increase power and performance of character, action, language, plot, structure, voice, story, beginnings, endings, middles and so on.

Weekend #6: CIRCLE UP IN THE LOCKER ROOM.  This weekend focuses on what is required of a writer who wants to be published, on what to do now that you have a novel draft, or are close to a novel draft.  What does it mean to say you are a writer? What place does publication have in the life of a writer, if any? What is the role of rejection and revision for the writer who wants to be published? How must a writer think of revision and multiple revisions? How do you get helpful feedback? When do you know it’s time to try for a public life for your work? What is a synopsis?  How should it appear on the page? What should a cover letter say?  How do you find an agent or an editor/publisher? What is the agent’s role?  Why do you need one? What can you do to collect a few planks for your platform? How does publication affect your work?  How can you best approach working with an editor who has paid you for your book and now wants you to change it?  How will the possible market place affect your book and your life as a writer—or just your life in general?  What does it mean to be a writer as opposed to an “author”? What is a writing life, really? What happens if this novel doesn’t get an agent or doesn’t get published? What happens if it does get published but doesn’t sell? In this final workshop, we talk about what to embrace, what to steer clear of, what to let roll off your back, and how to happily let an advanced manuscript do its job while you get back to yours.




April 30 – May 1, 2011        Weekend #1: WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?

Aug 27 – 28, 2011                Weekend #2: WHERE THE HECK ARE WE?

Nov 19 – 20, 2011                Weekend #3: WARNING! SCENE STORM APPROACHING! 

Feb 25 – 26, 2012                Weekend #4: CORRAL CRITICAL MASS (OR MESS)!        

May 19 – 20, 2012               Weekend #5: SUPER CHARGE YOUR MUSCLE CAR.

Aug 25 – 26, 2012                Weekend #6: CIRCLE UP IN THE LOCKER ROOM. 

The cost of the workshop will be $225.00 per weekend due two weeks before each workshop. All workshops will be held in the former Orr Mountain Winery building between Sweetwater and Madisonville, Tenn.  Sessions will run 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 – 3:30 Sunday, Eastern Time.  Morning snacks, coffee, hot tea, etc., will be available.  We will break for lunch from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 – 12:30 Sunday.  Soft drinks, water and lunch will be provided both days.  Saturday night dinner will be on your own, with a suggested restaurant of the day for those who want to eat with group members. 

The Magnuson Hotel, exit 60 off I-75, is offering a special rate of $58.00 per night for 1 – 2 people for course participants.  Extra people are $8.00 each.  Rooms at the Magnuson are equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, and wireless internet.  There is an indoor pool, a hot tub, free breakfast bar and free dinner buffet.  Mention Learning Events/Sue Richardson Orr when making reservations. Phone number is 423-337-3541.

Attendees will be asked to purchase The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction. 

Learning Events will work to have copies available for purchase at the first session if participants need them.

  ** Please e-mail Sue at theorrs@usit.net or call 423-420-1152 if you want to register. **

               Workshop group is limited to 16.




REGISTRATION FORM for Extended Novel Workshop 6 week-end series

Cost $225.00 per week-end                                    Date/dates paid for ________________ 

Name_____________________________           e-mail _________________________ 

Address___________________________          phone __________________________

            ____________________________           cell phone _______________________

Check to Sue Richardson Orr enclosed for _____________ 

Mail to:

Sue Richardson Orr                         

359 Pumpkin Hollow Rd

Madisonville, TN 37354





Learning Events presents

Darnell Arnoult’s Memoir THREE Workshop Series 

“Taking Measure: A Course in Memoir”


What is memory?  How many stories does it take to tell a life?  Who wants to hear it?  In four weekend sessions over twelve months, participants will explore the possibilities and limitations of memory, the exponential power of deliberate recall and the variety of forms memoir may take.


July 23 – 24, 2011   Weekend #1

Oct 29 – 30, 2011    Weekend #2

Jan 28 – 29, 2012     Weekend #3

April 28 – 29, 2012   Weekend#4


The cost of the workshop will be $225.00 per weekend, due two weeks before each workshop. All workshops will be held in the former Orr Mountain Winery building between Sweetwater and Madisonville, Tenn.  Sessions will run 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 – 3:30 Sunday.  Morning snacks, coffee, hot tea, soft drinks, water and lunch will be provided both days.  Lunch will be from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 – 12:30 Sunday.   Saturday night dinner will be on your own, with a suggested restaurant of the day for those who want to eat with group members. 

The Magnuson Hotel, exit 60 off I-75, is offering a special rate of $58.00 per night for 1 – 2 people for course participants.  Extra people are $8.00 each.  Rooms at the Magnuson are equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, and wireless internet.  There is an indoor pool, a hot tub, free dinner buffet and free breakfast bar.  Mention Learning Events/Sue Richardson Orr when making reservations. Phone number is 423-337-3541.

  ** Please e-mail Sue Richardson Orr at “theorrs@usit.net” or call 423-420-1152 if you need more information or want to register. **      

        Workshop group is limited to 16.



REGISTRATION FORM for Memoir THREE Workshop Series

Cost $225.00 per week-end                                    Date/dates paid for _______________

Name_____________________________           e-mail __________________________

Address___________________________          phone __________________________

             ____________________________          cell phone _______________________

Check to Sue Richardson Orr enclosed for _____________

Mail to: Sue Richardson Orr                        

 359 Pumpkin Hollow Rd

 Madisonville, TN 37354                 





TMW has learned that Ruth Ann Maddux's husband, C.J. died of cancer on 7th December, 2010.  Ruth Ann has been a long serving board member of TMW.  We send condolences to Ruth Ann and her family 

Congratulations are in order for several members:

Christy Tillery French's latest release in the Bodyguard series, The Bodyguard and the Snitch, has been named finalist in the 2011 EPIC eBook Awards Competition, in the Mystery,Suspense and/or Adventure Romance Category. The winner will be announced at EPIC's conference in Williamsburg, VA March 10-13, 2011. Christy was listed in the recently released book 50 Great Writers You Should be Reading and the featured author in the October 2010 issue of All About Women magazine. For more information about Christy and her works: http://christytilleryfrench.com. Her books are available at bookstores and online book sales sites.

Connie Green’s latest poetry chapbook Regret Comes to Tea is available for purchase through www.finishinglinepress.com.  The books are expected to ship in mid- to late-January.  Connie also has several poems in The Southern Poetry Anthology: Contemporary Appalachian Poets, which has just been released.

Jane Sasser has a poem published in the winter issue of Appalachian Heritage.  She won "best of the best" in the Kentucky State Poetry Society poetry contests.

Beverly Connor’s latest novel, One Grave Less, has just been published. It received a four and a half star, top pick, gold medal review in RT Reviews Magazine and was nominated for a reviewers choice award in mystery and suspense from the same magazine.

If you have any news you’d like to share with TMW members, please send it to me, Margaret Pennycook, at mspenners@mac.com.

Best Wishes to all at this festive time of year.