Archive for Writer’s Story

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: Eileen Cooley Guides Widows Through Relational Stress From Personal Experience

“After becoming a widow, I would come home from a social encounter or event feeling upset.  I found writing about these stressful experiences helped me manage them,” shared Eileen Cooley when discussing her personal essays.  “As I experienced social awkwardness, I realized that most of the other books on widowhood had failed to address these interpersonal stressors.”  A dozen essays in, she contacted me with the idea for the book.

Four years later, Newly Widowed, Now Socially Awkward: Facing Interpersonal Challenges After Loss includes 45 essays.  Utilizing her experience as both a widow and a licensed psychologist for over 25 years, each essay includes a subjective, first-person account of Eileen’s emotional response to a situation followed by her objective guidance in “What I Can Do For Myself.”

Divided into three sections which reflect changing needs and issues from the initial months through the first years, the book’s essays focus on specific topics.  For example, she found herself upset with others who offered “words of wisdom,” compared their prior losses to her own, and assumed she’d be back on her feet after a year.  She was also upset with herself for seeking too much sympathy, asking for help too often, and sharing the worst side of herself with friends.

“At first I thought my audience was focused solely on new widows.  However, based on the positive reactions I received from non-widows, I believe my audience is broader.  I now see the book as relevant to people experiencing any significant loss and to the folks who support them in their grief.”

The first in this expanded category was me.  I lost both my mother and brother back-to-back at the end of 2012 not long before Eileen and I began our work.  I found the essays’ guidance helped me understand my social discomfort at funerals and to other interactions beyond them.  When my father passed in 2015, I discovered I was more prepared to simultaneously handle my own grief as well as relate to the interactions with other mourners and supporters.  And in attending later funerals, Eileen’s advice to simply be present, and not feel forced to say something to those who suffered the loss, but, proved golden.

Having worked together in 2011 on Eileen’s first book, Why Do My Feet Say YES While My Head Says NO?, a children’s book published by Headline Books, we had an established rapport to build upon.  We easily communicated about the emotionality and gravity of the subject matter while keeping an eye on the audience experience.

“Wayne was my biggest encourager,” Eileen shared.  “Persistence is the key, and working with Wayne as a writing coach and editor helped me with feedback, direction, and commitment.”

Now as Eileen faces accolades and feedback, she is discovering a new awkwardness.  “It’s a little embarrassing to have some people read my book as it is very personal.  A few people have apologized for not being more sensitive to me after hearing my reactions to being newly widowed.”

Still, having the book published and out in the world is a big lift.  “It feels really great to complete a project.  Doing a project for myself that might be helpful to someone else is particularly satisfying.”

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.

Client Success: Lynne Barfield Byrd’s memoir “The Sweetness and The Pits”

Lynne.Barfield.Byrd.The.Sweetness.And.The.Pits_Front“Well, I am a bucket-list kind of girl,” said Lynne Barfield Byrd, 76, who with motivation of said list has earned three advanced degrees including a Masters in Historic Preservation, ran the Peachtree Road Race at age 67, performed in stage musicals, and traveled to England, France and Italy. “Writing my memoir was on my bucket list to complete by September of 2015, and by golly, I did it! I feel wonderful!”

The Sweetness and The Pits: Remembrances of a Georgia Peach chronicles her life through childhood, careers, and relationships with family, friends and community in her native Atlanta. Lynne has lived in Morningside, Virginia Highlands, Sandy Springs, and Doraville before making Dunwoody her home for the last 43 years. After graduating from Grady High, she attended the University of Georgia, Georgia Perimeter College, and Georgia State University.

On Saturday, October 10 from 2-4pm, Lynne will sign books at the Cheek-Spruill House a.k.a. the Dunwoody Farmhouse located at 5455 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, one of the three Dunwoody homes she has placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Her life has had peachy parts, but also some that were the pits. “My first attempt at writing a short memoir left out all of the unpleasant things. I left out a lot! I was surprised at how emotional it was to go back and feel the joy and the sorrow, and actually put it on paper, knowing that I will allow it to be read by strangers.”

After completing a solid draft, Lynne began to work with me after our meeting at the Writer’s Forum at the Dunwoody/Dekalb Library.

“Wayne explained the entire process, and I knew what to expect,” Lynne shared. “He made sure that as he edited, my voice in the book remained clear. Though this and publication, even when discussing thoughts on what might be hurtful to someone when they read my book, Wayne kept the process fun.”

The book has already garnered sales and great word-of-mouth from those in her community circles. It has also spawned new relationships. Lynne.Barfield.Byrd.Author“Yes, it’s like when you are having surgery—all of a sudden every other person has had, or is having, the same! People who want to write are drawn to me because I tried it. I have connected with another first-time author and a would-be first time author, and I can pick their brains and they can pick mine.”

Her best advice is simple: “Enjoy yourself and write, write, write. Maybe it will be a hit, maybe it won’t, but you won’t know unless you write.”

A few days before publication, Lynne was back in the classroom expanding her knowledge and skill with creative writing. This Georgia Peach is proud of her accomplishment, but will continue to add new goals to her bucket list and be motivated to learn and express.