Archive for Creative Writers’ Workshop

Client Success: Kathy Florence’s Novel Combines Tragedy, Atlanta History, and Southern Voice

“One particular childhood experience with my mother fueled my inspiration for Jaybird’s Song,” shared author Kathy Wilson Florence.   “My mother’s reaction to a singular event was the moment that the extent of motherhood became clear to me.  It’s a story I’ve told many times, I was anxious to write, and it appears early in my book.”

Jaybird’s Song intertwines tales of Atlanta native Josie Flint through her teen years in the mid-1960s with her as a businesswoman, wife, and mother 35 years later around the death of her beloved grandmother, Annie Jo.  In addition to the death of her cherished father, drama of sibling and matriarchal relationships, and the coming and going of best friends, an unsolved hate crime which happened at arm’s length from her family during the Civil Rights movement becomes more personal when details of the mystery resurface.

Kathy, who grew up in north Atlanta, has enjoyed writing since a very young age.  For 16 years, she wrote a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier, and her first book, You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha, compiles her favorite columns.

“My goal for 2016 was to finish my book after 10 years. At the beginning of the year with about 55,000 words written, I joined Wayne’s Creative Writers’ Workshop.  I often submitted passages I had written years earlier to the weekly sessions, and the feedback gave me the confirmation I needed to give the story priority in my life. I would come home from each meeting jazzed to revise, and then I would either write more toward the end of the story or revisit another passage and edit. After about 5 months, I had completed my story to the point it was ready for editing.”

“I hired Wayne for a content edit on the arc of the story, as well as the direction and reveals of the plot lines. He made many great suggestions and I took them all, but the one that resonated the strongest with me was his suggestion to enhance the character of Grace, Josie’s daughter, to instill within her character the idea that the future of the family might someday be in her hands. It gives a sense of hope for the traditions and stories that are an integral part of this fictional family’s lives.”

A seasoned designer, Kathy designed the book’s interior and cover, polling Facebook friends with sample covers as part of the selection process.  Launched in February, she has sold approximately 125 copies and 100 e-books via Amazon, as well as 50 directly through appearances at Dunwoody’s Lemonade Days, various author events, and book clubs.  Her reviews remain strong and her sales consistent.

“I feel proud to have completed, released, and sold my first novel.”  Now, she’s underway on her new novel with the working title inspired by the Tarot—Temperance Reversed—a story of two women who share a huge secret that begins in the 1960s while their husbands are deployed in the Vietnam War.

Client Success: Sheryl Parbhoo’s Novel Explores Love, Family and Healing in Intercultural Relationships

“Like my book’s character Jenny, I am a woman with deep southern roots,” Sheryl said.  “Unlike Jenny, I was raised by doting parents and learned to love the quirks and traditions of southern life.”

Sheryl Parbhoo’s first novel, The Unexpected Daughter, is a contemporary story about hard choices in love, family and personal healing.  Set within intercultural relationships in the southern US, Jenny, a Caucasian, and Roshan, an Indian, embark on a love forbidden by his traditional mother Esha, entangling all three in a web of betrayal, violence, and shame as they struggle for peace with the past in the new world of the present day.

“I met my Indian husband when I was 16 and fell in love with his exotic looks, world view, and extreme devotion to his loved ones. But while love is an amazing force, we also suffered through deep cultural differences in how our marriage should look and the role that our families should have in our lives. This became the initial inspiration to write the novel, a sort of catharsis for my feelings, a way to put myself in the cultural shoes of my loved ones, and a way to share the uniqueness and beauty of love that transcends culture and race.

“Because of this, readers may think the plot is my life.  It is not. Yes, the setting is Memphis and Atlanta where I have lived, and the characters are informed by many who I have met over the years.  My knowledge of Gujarati culture, as a perpetual outsider on the fringe of family, has also informed the plot and the characters’ struggles.  However, the characters have lives of their own with no basis in my life whatsoever.”

Sheryl got the idea for the book soon after the births of her twin sons.  “I was consumed with mothering my children, ages 5, 3, and the newborns, and spent many sleepless nights rocking babies and thinking about the unique relationships in my life.  The book slowly began to grow in my mind, becoming my precious little secret for a long time before I ever began writing.”

Sheryl wrote short stories with characters similar to those in the novel.  Eventually, she crafted the opening chapter, rewriting it five times over the next six months before joining my Creative Writers Workshop at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock.

“Wayne encouraged me to give myself permission to move past the imperfections of the first chapter and grow the entire book,” she said.  “He’s uplifting and motivating with a good sense of humor, and I loved that, but during those times when I wanted to give up, he was persistent in coaching me to finish and editing my novel for publication.

“The biggest lesson I learned from writing the book with his guidance is that nothing of value comes without very hard work and sacrifice. When the media features successful people, all we see is them reaping the rewards but nothing of the hard work it took to get there.  Now I know what hard work is.  And whether or not my novel becomes a commercial success, I already feel successful because I completed it.  That’s huge for me.”

The Unexpected Daughter in available in paperback or e-book format.

Visit Sheryl’s blog at www.sherylparbhoo.com

Join the Creative Writers Workshop where many writers have birthed their novels, memoirs, inspirational/self-help, and children’s books.

Guest Post: The Charming Light Box and a Literary Fetus

This guest post by Creative Writer’s Workshop member Kim Chamberlain, who is steadily making excellent progress with her memoir. Kim is a music teacher, clarinetist and jazz singer with lots of great stories. Kim can be reached at chamberlaind@bellsouth.net.

My writing coach’s words from a month ago reverberate inside my head: “You have four long weeks to get a lot done.”

Now, my deadline looms at midnight. In my basement writing room, twenty-seven chapters, hiding inside 2 large binders, remind me that I’ve got Writer’s Block.

Light Box by Kim ChamberlainI can write. A lot. I can quickly churn out another chapter for my memoir, sending it on its way to Wayne’s Thursday night writers’ group.  I recall the ending of my group evaluation at our last meeting weeks ago:

“Consider choosing five chapters that anchor the plot best, and start building structure from there,” Wayne suggested.

Five. Yeah, right.

The glow from a nearby lamp radiating off the top of Wayne’s pate inspired me to ponder the reflective quality of human skin. My mind meanders down a trivial trail into a thicket of distraction.

His mouth continued to form words. “Why not start by identifying the setting, characters and theme?”

I wonder if Wayne’s crown feels silky or maybe a little bumpy. That Yul Brenner look requires a nicely shaped head like Wayne’s.

Ann, the first published author among us, chimed in. “It may be difficult to pick five, but I learned a lot by doing the same thing.”

Back from her year-long sabbatical, a time spent publishing her book, Ann has plunged into her second work while still finding the time to promote the first one. She manages to simultaneously write new material and present workshops requiring airline and hotel reservations.

Will I even get to the editing stage?

Ann flashed a wide grin. “Just spread the chapters all around on the floor like I did. You’ll figure it out.”

She had a point. I earned my Masters in Library Science in a maelstrom, broadcasting my handwritten notes, rough drafts, markers, and pens upon a wide table in the library. The debris always managed to write itself. But writing memoir was different.

I imagined a hurricane of papers scattered haphazardly on my already cluttered writing room floor. I pouted and replied, “Well, I’ve put all 27 chapters in 3-ring binders.”

Wayne’s timer trilled, and everyone folded up their notes on my work and passed them to me.

Wayne smiled, “Good work, Kim. Karen? You’re on.”

A masterful weaver of imagery, Karen often apologizes for not producing enough. Yet her book is organically forming itself.

“I didn’t get much done,“ she confessed, as I unfolded her 2000-word entry of the week and contemplated my commentary next to hot sauce stains that I’d added at lunch earlier in the day: “Brilliant as always! You’ve accomplished so much!”

Enjoying a mini-sabbatical herself, the soon-to-be online published Hana checked in through Wayne. We learned that while she drove her son to a soccer tournament, her characters frolicked in her mind, concocting the next plot twist.

Wayne wrapped it up. “See y’all next month! Do good work!”

Flanked by my fellow writers, I stumbled toward my Subaru, noticing one benevolent star at the far end of the plum-hued sky. It was a hopeful sign.

As soon as I pulled into the carport, I made a beeline for my basement writing room.

I’ll start tonight!

It wouldn’t take long for my chapters to come together and form an embryonic entity, the way primordial organs adjoin in utero. By July, there’d be a memoir, a literary fetus. At group, everyone would coo, “Look! You can see all of its parts, and there’s a cute little ending. How adorable!”

Still warm from group, I hole-punched the group’s notated papers and snapped them into Binder 2.

Better start fresh in the morning.

FullSizeRender 9That was a month ago.

I’ve gotten a lot done over break, but I haven’t touched my memoir.

First, Dave and I spent four days with our son at his future college. Exuberant student representatives plied us with window decals, plastic coffee cups, T-shirts, and brochures. Time had to be spent to sift through it all.

Next, I succumbed to my thrift store addiction. Rather than heed Wayne’s words, I made things from purchased wooden boxes, bric-a brac, knick-knacks and picture frames. Whenever I’d sit down at my writing table, my creative brain focused on crafting.

Hmm. If I remove the glass from that picture frame and put it inside that wooden box, I could make a nifty case for my clarinet reeds.

The hours ebbed into lost time, yielding unique folk-art masterpieces and charming light boxes.  My writing room is ablaze.

I did work on my memoir just a bit. One day I cleared a place at my long folding table, and I skimmed a few chapters from Volume 1. Jotting down the main characters, setting, plot, and themes onto index cards, I realized that some of my work belonged in the “reject” folder.

The next day, I slammed volume 2 onto the table with a thud. I froze. I fell asleep.

Hours dribbled into days until I had less than 72 hours left.

Volume 2 just sat there—a Stonehenge monolith—impenetrable, looming and impossible. Rather than turn to another craft project for diversion, I realized that worry and grief work just as well.  I was seriously nutting up.

Last Friday evening with three days left on the break, my husband and son found me plopped on the couch, as intractable as my binders.The Chamberlains, photo by Tom Marnell

“Do you want to come with us to a show in Marietta?”

“You guys go and have a good time. I’m going to work on my writing.”

I listened to the truck pull out of the driveway and reached for my son’s gaming remote. I turned on the TV and scrolled down to You Tube.

In the search bar, I typed in “The Illuminati and UFOs.”

Five more minutes and I’ll go down to the basement.

I scuttled deeper into the sofa.

Wow, I didn’t know that ex-Presidents are working for some new world order!

The television droned on. I dozed off then jolted awake to fuzzy images of naked billionaires sacrificing goats at secret rituals deep in the California woods.

Goosebumps erupted on my arms as a male voice warned, “Wake up, people! The signs are all around us!”

The weekend vanished with only hours left.

I heard Wayne’s voice in my head, “You have four weeks…”

Forget about the chapters. Write. Just Write.

That’s what I did.

Now at the deadline’s midnight hour, I finished this and emailed it to the group. On Thursday, they’ll tell me they still have faith in me. Then on Friday, I’ll fling twenty-seven chapters onto my writing room floor and see what happens.

Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of Kim and David Chamberlain.  Photo of the Chamberlains by Tom Marnell, mineeyeshavescene.com.

Client Success: Author Ann J. Temkin Blends Christianity, Judaism & Memoir

Ann.Temkin.Sandstorm.final“My inspiration for this book is both my love of God and my own long, winding spiritual journey,” said Ann J. Temkin, author of the newly released Sight In The Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine.

A self-described half-breed—the child of a Jewish father and Protestant Mother—Ann expressed her need to bridge her Jewishness and Jesus’ Jewishness. “Even though the historical context on place and spiritual heritage is acquired from research, it’s also in my bones and has a universal aspect,” Ann said.

An ordained protestant minister who is both a former Catholic nun and licensed therapist, Ann’s book brings Jesus and his companions to life within the rich context of turbulent 1st century Palestine. The political, socio-economic, and religious conditions of the Jewish people living under Roman rule provide moving and meaningful insight into Jesus, his life, and his teachings. Stories from the author’s life are intertwined as the combination proclaims a message transcending time and place about human struggle against oppression and a path to liberation. Sight In The Sandstorm illustrates the power of an extravagantly loving God, a God on the loose in the whole world then and now.

“While conducting research on 1st century Palestine during the last 10 years, I kept being told I should write a book. I was also told the same thing about writing a memoir.” Eventually, Ann felt she needed to honor her research and explore the Jesus story, but she wanted to write a book both accessible and relevant for general audiences of any spiritual background as well as those with none.

She joined my Creative Writers Workshop and shared her written stories with other members from a variety of backgrounds with positive results. She dabbled in memoir, too, also positive. Then, she took the challenge to see how the two could mirror one another in a broadly reflective way, and she began to play with braiding stories together.

Ann.TemkinThis came easily or Ann. “Integrating aspects of theology, various spiritual and life perspectives…well, I do that all the time. It’s central to who I am, as is passing it on for others to consider.” She achieved her goal of showing how Jesus has been influential through reflection and affected her life as both a Christian and a Jew. This illustration is offered to readers to apply to their lives to whatever degree.

“I love writing,” Ann explained. Though she has published in academic journals and written professionally, writing a popular book was a new mountain to climb. After a year in the writing group and a year of personal coaching through revision, final edit and production, Ann said with a confident smile, “That tape used to run in my head a lot, the one that snipes ‘Who do you think you are?’ Now I have the answer.”

Sight In The Sandstorm: Jesus In His World and Mine by Ann J. Temkin is available in Paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.