Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the 2010 Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Conference in lovely Columbus, Georgia this weekend. I loved the fact that the workshops were an hour and a half long and were small enough that everyone had a chance to get to know each other. (Plus I won a door prize of several great books!) Sarah and I arrived just in time for the reading by Jessica Handler, author of  Invisible Sisters: A Memoir.  It is such a hauntingly sad story, it made me cry! But it is also a story about her finding herself through her journaling, after becoming lost in amid illnesses, hospitals, sorrow and death.

These are the workshops I attended on Saturday:

1) Keith Badowski— “How to Get Started, How to Keep Going: Poetry Prompts, Exercises, and Springboards for Those Times When Your Muse Takes a Vacation.” Keith Badowski, “The Bearded Poet,” had to substitute at the last minute for Rick Campbell whose wife and daughter were in a wreck (they were not injured). While I did hate missing Rick, Keith conducted a great workshop and did a wonderful job of getting poetic “juices” flowing. He used words, line prompts, partners, pictures and other springboards to inspire us to write several poems during the workshop. He was also on hand to write spontaneous poems on Ron Self’s antique typewriter. Keith and Ron Self, President of the Georgia Poetry Society, co-founded Brick Road Poetry Press. Contact Keith Badowski at

2) John Travis–Publishing in Today’s World. After a brief history of printing , John led us on a trip through internet websites for writers. He also talked about the future of publishing–ebook readers and self-publishing sites. John is the editor for a very small literary press, Portals Press in New Orleans. He asked us to keep an open mind about e publishing. He said there are some writers who are marketing straight to e books and then using print on demand for those who want a print copy of their books.  For a listing of agents, see (Council of Lietary Magazines & Presses; directory) Kindle is owned by Amazon, therefore you have their free advertising for your book, whereas Nook has the same situation with Barnes and Nobles (which is up for sale). John likes for a POD (print on demand) or for ebooks. They are also owned by Amazon, again, free advertising from the #1 book prints your PDF FREE, but is permanent after you send it. You can send a photo for the cover and set your own price for the book, with a 50/50 split on profits. They also protect your work from being copied on the internet.

3) Sarah Campbell–Earn $$ Before Getting Published. This was the second of Sarah’s workshops, the first being “Photos + Stories=Winning Nonficton.” I wish I could have attended that one, but I was in the poetry workshop. I did have the good fortune of catching a ride with Sarah on her way from Jackson to Columbus, GA! Sarah Campbell is the author of the award winning children’s nonfiction book, “Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator,” and “Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.” This workshop dealt with ways to make money by speaking engagements, free lancing and teaching in schools, but it was primarily about how to incorporate your own knowledge about writing, and/or the subject matter of your work, into a classroom setting. 

Elsie Austin (veteran of the 30-Day Novel), Andy Harp, thriller author, and Scott Wilkerson, poet, also presented workshops. I wish I could have attended all of them!

Home of Carson McCullers (1917-1967)

After the workshop we had a great social at the great GA writer Carson McCullers’ home. There is a call for papers and a huge 94th birthday celebration being planned for February 17-19, 2011! Deadline for submissions: October 1, 2010.

Carson McCullers' Home

Wynne and Sarah Campbell at Carson McCullers' Home


Time Line

Jessica Handler and Sarah Campbell

Jessica Handler and Sarah Campbell


Poetry, Morality, Politics and Other News

What is the moral authority of a poet? What is the newest software for poets? Is the BAP on the up and up? Should poets have a “message?” Should poetry readings replace prayers? Who was a scandalous poet in the 20s? Here are some interesting articles concerning poetry that I came across online recently:

Poets and Moral Authority 

“Writers have no more moral authority than plumbers or butchers,” German poet H. M. Enzensberger stated at the Prague Writers’ Festival at Nová scéna.
He is also quoted in the Prague Post as later declaring that “…while in terms of literature poetry is a minority practice, a society without minority opinions and eccentrics is simply not viable. But all of this is a parochial view of poetry. Every kid out there knows 200 pop songs by heart – and that is not prose,” he said. “Even small children in kindergarten have their little verses. Poetry is an anthropological thing, like counting. We’re programmed this way.”

Why I Write: Natasha Trethewey on Poetry, History and Social Justice 

When Natasha Trethewey was asked to detail “Why I Write” to get into a graduate university program, she says her father told her to read an essay on “Why I Write” by Orwell. Orwell claimed that writing without political thought was empty, dull. She says poets always have to defend why they write, not as a judge, but an advocate. She almost didn’t get into the program because she was thought of as “too concerned with her message to write ‘real’ poetry.” She looked up “message” and it said it refers to a theme with political, social or moral importance. What’s wrong with that? She asked. Haven’t these things always been a part of poetry? I ask that, too! In this video, “Why I Write: Natasha Trethewey on Poetry, History and Social Justice” she talks about how we “write what we are given” and that includes our influence of political, racial and spiritual backgrounds.

Poetry in Schools

News around the world does support the fact that there are schools who are promoting poetry in the classroom. My own school’s third graders wrote books of poetry, drew their own cover pictures, had them published and had a reading. Here are some other articles on poetry in the schools.

1. First graders in Leroy Wood Elementary School at Fairhaven write and read their poetry.  

2. Well-known Auckland poets were instrumental in a community and school poetry project involving workshops with the theme Matariki, the Maori New Year, in ten primary to secondary schools in Otahuhu, Devonport and the North Shore. 

3. Free software by Aviary has been developed that will allow children to make their poems into a multimedia composition. Professionals can also use it to edit their works.


Check out the poem in Glen Beck’s The Overton Window book trailer. It’s from The Gods of the Copybook Headings by Rudyard Kipling. Regardless of your political beliefs, I think a poem as a trailer is a cool idea. I just like the poem, which you can read in its entirety for now, anyway.

Anis Shivani Blasts BAP

Anis Shivani lets Best American Poetry editor David Lehman have it with both barrels! WOW!!

 David Lehman’s Incestuous Coterie: Why the New ‘Best American Poetry’ Sucks Even More Than Its Twenty-One Predecessors

Poetry vs. Prayers?

Jayne Buckland, the Enfield Mayor of the Enfield Council, north London, decided to open their council meetings with poetry readings in place of the usual Christian Prayer. Seven of the ten people involved in the council hold Christian beliefs. Doug Taylor stated that “Prayers for those who wish to have a few moments of quiet reflection will be held in the mayor’s parlour before council meetings.


The shocking life of diva Edna St. Vincent Millay—open marriage, bisexuality, mandated skinny dipping in her pool, alcohol during prohibition, drugs and a strict rule of “do not disturb” during her strict writing hours, or else!

Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina

I was so excited to meet Natasha Trethewey at the booksigning in Jackson, MS. I am now the proud owner of  an autographed copy of Native Guard, for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Natasha has a lovely voice that one could listen to all night, and she reads expressively by pacing the reading in accordance with the action of the words. She seems to be a very kind person who is willing to encourage and give advice to new poets such as myself. I asked her if I was correct in my approach to getting my book of poems published; if I should try to have them published individually first. She said yes, that she also has parts of her books published in magazines and journals individually. I also asked if self-publishing was a “no.” She said, no, that I could do that, too, and suggested that, otherwise, contests might be the best bet. I told her I have 15 poems published. She said, That’s enough! But I didn’t bother her with the fact that these poems do not “go” together; they are quite varied in theme. Some are fantasy, some are religious, some are about love and heartbreak. I’ll just keep on trying!

Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi and now holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University. She won the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem poetry prize for her first poetry collection, Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000), the 2008 Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for Poetry and numerous other awards. Ms. Trethewey earned a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia, an M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A in poetry from the University of Massachusetts. She was recently interviewed on NPR about her latest work, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf.

Her newest collection of poetry, Thrall, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Fall 2012. You can read some of her poems here.  You can hear her read a poem from the new book on Youtube . In her speech “Why I Write” she tells how she almost didn’t get into a MFA program because she was thought of as too concerned with a “message.” She goes on to tell how we write “what we are given,” and that includes where we came from, our background, our politics, etc… click here for more.  Click here to watch her speak on why she writes .

Grandparent’s Day is September 12


Grandparents Day will soon be here! If you still have your grandparents,you are lucky; if you don’t, I hope you have a lot of memories. A wonderful book full of poetry and prose about such memories can be read in From the Porch Swing — memories of our grandparents. This is another outstanding Silver Boomer Book that would make a great present for your grandparent(s) or to help rekindle your memories of them. I’m honored to have two poems, “Grandpa, King of Checkers” and “Where Muscadines Grow” along with a funny little story about gathering eggs at Grandma’s house, “Don’t Call Me Chicken!”  The book is on sale now through Sept. 12 for $11 plus additional offers on other books (I don’t profit).


Grandpa George Estes and Grandma Lois Estes

Grandpa Lee Huddleston and Grandma Alice Huddleston's 50th

I’m a grandma myself (Nee Nee) to a beautiful granddaughter and darling little grandson.  I often think about how my grandmothers were just about perfect! Godly, loving, selfless, generous, and caring. I don’t think there is any way I could live up to how wonderful they were! I just pray that my grands will have SOME happy memories of visiting Nee Nee’s house! And I especially hope they know how very much I love them!   

Wynne, sister Donna, cousin Daniel

My sister Donna  just recently achieved Grandmotherhood with the birth of her son and daughter-in-law’s beautiful baby girl. This is the first girl born into our family since I was born (mom and dad do have 2 adopted great-granddaughters)… The three of us girls had all boys, who in turn had boys until now. How spoiled will she be? My sister Barbra is Bee Bee, Donna is Nona and I’m Nee Nee. Well, it could be worse–dad used to call us #1, #2 and #3!