Some of the reading I did in my free time at Wildacres included two books by workshop participants and two by faculty members.
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss introduces Sadie Blue with this first sentence: "I struggle to my feet, straighten my back, lift my chin, and he hits me again. Set in Appalachia (in the county next to my own,) the novels chronicles Sadie's struggle in an abusive relationship and is told, not only from her point of view but from many others -- all sharply delineated charcters. Creek has garnered many well-deserved accolades since it was published last year. Read it for the strong female characters and the satisfying ending.
Amy Willoughby Burle's The Lemonade Year is the story of Nina, who has a bad habit of making lemons out of lemonade. She also talks to an invisible chorus of Facebook friends who LIKE or comment or her various actions. Her marriage is failing, her sister Lola (my favorite character)has a brain injury that makes her memory unreliable, her brother Ray is an unhappy enigma, and there's a secret that needs to be addressed. And there's a younger man . . . This is a good read -- a feel-good novel about second chances and redemption.
Lee Zacharias leads a non-fiction workshop at Wildacres and The Only Sounds We Make -- a collection of essays -- has caused me to revise my opinion (based on some tedious reading in high school) of the essay form. Lee addresses
various subjects -- photography, the Grand Canyon, buzzards, the nature of light, and other diverse topics, all the while interweaving personal matters -- her father's suicide, her difficult mother -- to form a sort of memoir told slantwise.
The writing is crystalline clear and intensely beautiful . And though I finished the book a week ago, I want to read it again.
Tommy Hays leads a novel workshop at Wildacres and is also the director of the Great Smokies Writing Program. I've read and talked about some of his other novels (What I Came to Tell You, The Pleasure Was Mine) but was interested to see what his first effort was like. Sam's Crossing, which came out in 1992, is the story of a young unmarried couple in Atlanta. She wants a baby; he can't make up his mind. Missed opportunities, an alluring redhead who keeps turning up unexpectedly, and a near tragedy eventually bring matters to a head. Tommy's gentle humor and easy writing style make this one a pleasure to read.
That was the week that was. About a hundred writers convene on the mountain for a week of workshops, music, partying, and quite a lot of silliness.
There are student readings and faculty readings, a costume night (the theme was Outer Space and I went as a Hitchhiker as in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was a great costume for someone who's resistant to dressing up -- I carried my Kindle with the words DON'T PANIC in large friendly letters on the cover and also a towel "one of the most massively useful' things a galactic hitchhiker can carry. ) And on the last night is the legendary Gong Show -- extreme silliness.
There were nine in my novel workshop and all of them were great at critique. Each participant's 4,500 words got thoroughly examined and we all learned from one another. The students caught lots of things that I had missed and by the end of the week, everyone had not only revisions to consider but a lot of things to think about concerning the direction of their work.
It's a grueling (wink) schedule. Five class meetings (half a day) and the rest of the time free to audit other classes, write, play music, wander around taking pictures of flowers, nap, or practice for the Gong Show.
I admit to some naps. I also read a lot and will report on my reading in another post. Three walks a day helped offset the three meals that someone else cooked.
And best of all, I wrote. One very short piece about a place we lived in Florida, most of a piece about my accident two years ago, and something that may be the beginning of a novel tentatively titled THE SPARROW WITCH, set in Appalachia in the present day and the Twenties..
Wildacres Writers Workshop was recently listed by The National Geographic as one of a hundred places that will change your life. Students come from all over -- as far away as California, Hawaii, and, this year, even Australia.
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I'm the author of The Elizabeth Goodweather Full Circle Farm Appalachian Mysteries from Bantam Dell. The series includes SIGNS IN THE BLOOD (LA MONTAGNE DES SECRETS in France), ART'S BLOOD, (LE SECRET DES APPALACHES in France,) OLD WOUNDS,IN A DARK SEASON (Anthony Nominee, Best PBO), and UNDER THE SKIN. There's also THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS (a spinoff/standalone)chronicling the unexpected life story of Miss Birdie, one of Elizabeth's neighbors.
Currently I have just completed a historical novel, dealing with a massacre in my county during the Civil War.
I came to this weird business late (my first novel was published in 2005) and am still trying to figure it out.
As my novels are set in a place much like my real life home, I thought I'd use this blog to share pictures of our farm and county. I've been blogging for nearly nine years now, on an almost daily basis, and the topics have ranged from writing, chickens, food, books, quilts, flora and fauna of all sorts, to the occasional tiny rant. There's no plan, but there are lots of pictures.
There's more information about me and my books on my web site: http://vickilanemysteries.com/