Sunday, September 4, 2011


Dear Friends,

I am back from the quietly glittered wedding of my brother.

On the day of the wedding, after eating a steak and farm fresh eggs for breakfast (compliments to my Mom), I reflected on how my family tree had zealously grown into its own woods of pine, oaks, maple, and fruit trees.

Yes, in the words of Robert Frost, my family had become "lovely, dark, and deep."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bell, Light, Organ, and Action

Graduating as a Graduate: How to put it in words?

There is something distinctly different about graduating at Converse College. Yet, something even more distinct about graduating with a class of creative writing students. Not just any students, the first graduating class of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree at Converse College.

If my memory serves me right, there was the ringing bell in Wilson Hall...the warm South Carolina sun at 10:00 AM in the morning. The nervous and excited chatter between the students (especially our MFAers). I didn't ask for permission ahead of time to write about the ones that were present, so I won't mention their names. But, I mention their personas kindly. Also, I don't want to shun the ones that weren't present in body, because this is a low-residency program. Some students travel far to attend this MFA program. They were present in our minds--even the ones that are graduating generations to come in the low-residency MFA program. I hope your moment is yours.

Back to my memory, inside Twichell Auditorium, family and friends sat while an organ played. It had an old-world feel to it. (I recall the sound fondly). So, the combination of bell, light, and organ put me in the state of mind of arrival. As a sidenote, it was a pleasure to sit in between the two other nonfiction ladies.

When it was my turn to walk the stage, I looked out at the crowd--taking in the moment. It was my moment of action and arrival, of beginning and ending. (I paused for photos.)

I shook the President of the college's hand and took my turn being hooded. I left the stage a Converse College graduate that would "make things happen."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Black Book

It's official, I have my bound MFA Creative Thesis in hand. (Well, not actually in my hands at this moment, because I am typing.) But true, so true. I am an official graduate of a Master's program with a completed thesis. Boy, does it feel good--knowing that I wrote all of those words, created sentences, and followed through with organization. Yes, I am having a moment. I birthed a book!

To celebrate such an accomplishment, how about some inspiration from Mark Twain? I know I can't get enough of his spunk.

"The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart and not to be mentioned with commoner things...king by grace of God over all the fruits of the earth...It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took...we know because she repented." -from Puddn'head Wilson

In reflection of being a steamboat pilot Twain wrote, "In that brief, sharp schooling I got personally and familiarly acquainted with all the different types of human nature that are to be found in fiction, biography, or history. When I find a well drawn character in fiction or biography, I generally take a warm personal interest in him, for the reason that I have known him before--met him on the river." - from Life on the Mississippi

My favorite quote by Twain I found taped to the outside of a professor's door. It read, "Cauliflower is just cabbage with a degree."

What a great perspective! I may be cauliflower, but in the garden of life I still am a cabbage--bound creative thesis and all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bacon and an MFA Residency

Well, my dear blog followers, my graduating residency happened within a splatter of bacon grease. It was a literary feast. Poets and prose writers visited and read from their works. The graduating class presented strong lectures on topics such as gender, race, spirituality, and the very essence of writing. Each student's creative thesis reading brought the audience closer...

Beyond the literary feast, there was the actual food at the residency. Every morning fresh fruit and a varied warm option such as freshly baked biscuits were eagerly welcomed by my growling stomach. Dessert did not disappoint either. I enjoyed the delicious strawberry rhubarb and sweet pecan pie. Also, my favorite sandwich from the residency was a toasted grilled cheese with crispy bacon and a fresh slice of tomato. Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.

So what now? What happens after the residency?

Today...within an hour I heard "Sweet Home Alabama" on my car's radio twice. This led my memory to the last night of my graduating residency at Converse College for the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program. I remember being in a circle with fellow students and faculty dancing to this song: "Sweet Home Alabama" It brought us, southern, northern, western, midwestern born Americans together. Throughout the program we shared writing. Sometimes, we shared dance. The last night we shared "Sweet Home Alabama."


All I know is that I am fond of my American writers. My late night fountain dipping, wine sipping, and honest writing friends.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Splendor at the Garden

It must be the season of spring that pulls me to the outside, beyond the limits of my writing office and my computer with my creative thesis on it. I will blame it on the beautiful weather that entices me to garden, planting rows of Margold, Better Boy, and Roma tomatoes. Not to mention, the Yukon Gold potatoes, Bush beans, green peppers, and carrots.

In the garden, I push my gloved hand into the soil, making space for the vegetable plants. Then, after placing each plant in the soil, I scoot the topsoil over to cover the block of black soil with little white balls attached to the roots. Its alive! I say to myself as I watch my plant stand in the soil. It is surrounded by the other plants. That garden is my creative thesis.

Will the garden stand the elements?

I tap my finger on the soil. I fertilized and tilled this soil. It is mine. I wrote and edited the essays. They are mine.

The garden has been given all the care it could possibly need to flourish. Yes, my creative thesis the subjective time capsule that it is, has also been cared for throughout these two years of the low-residency MFA Creative Writing program at Converse College.

In the presence of the garden plants, I remember my Grandpa's garden that thrived every year. I recall the way the sweet corn grew high and how the green beans brought a bountiful crop. I smile to myself, knowing that given the right conditions anything can and will flourish.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Interview: A Director's Take on the 6th Annual Macon Film Festival

I am always interested in what is going on in film. When I heard a fellow student in the Converse College low-residency MFA program directed independent films, I was instantly curious and decided to inquire for an interview.

Introduction to Interviewee:

Kasey Ray-Stokes is the Director of Development for JamesWorks Entertainment. According to the company's website, they produce "socially-conscious films." I interviewed Kasey about her attendance and involvement with the 6th Annual Macon Film Festival (February 17-20, 2011).


1. What is the Macon Film Festival?
The Macon Film Festival is an international festival in its sixth year, and despite its young age, it is really getting a lot of buzz in the industry. They show over 100 films in four days in several locations around Macon, GA. We, at JamesWorks Entertainment, have attended the festival three years in a row, and this year we had three films accepted into the festival (a personal record for us and for that festival). 

2. Describe your personal experience with the festival:
I serve as JamesWorks Entertainment's Director of Development, and make up 1/3 of the company, along with my business partners James Kicklighter and Mark Ezra Stokes. The three of us go to festivals primarily to give our films an audience and hopefully snag a distribution deal, but -- just as importantly -- we go to connect with other filmmakers, as well as other people in the industry, to make connections and look for future collaborations on upcoming projects.  

3. What is your favorite facet of the festival?
It's hard to say, but I suppose my favorite facet of the Macon Film Festival is the fact that we feel so at home there. We recently shot a short film, Followed (a socially-conscious zombie movie), in Macon this past December, and it felt really good to go there and reconnect with our Macon friends and business partners. We couldn't go to lunch without about 10 people walking by and pulling up a chair to talk, or walk down the street without recognizing a ton of people. Also, the film commission board have to be the nicest bunch of people I have ever met. They hooked us up with a ton of press, and we really feel supported by them. It's a love-love relationship.

4. What do you think about the genre of independent film?  Recently, has it changed?
It's clear that independent filmmaking is booming right now. I believe the reason is because the cost of decent film equipment is dropping, and more people can now go out and shoot a movie without a huge budget. We saw one film at this festival that cost $10 to make. That's amazing. If you've got a compelling story and a crew that knows what they are doing, you can make a quality movie without a Hollywood studio, and have a bat's chance of making money on it, too. 

5. What are the pros and cons of directing such films?
The pros of choosing to be an independent filmmaker are really endless. You have complete creative control of your story, you can work with whomever you choose, you can promote it in new and innovative ways, and you can tell your story, your way. The only real con to this method, I suppose, would be money. You have to really hustle in this industry to raise the funds for your project, and you don't get paid the salary that you would on a Hollywood production. However, for me at least, I will be a fan and champion of the independent film industry for as long as I can swing it.

6. Any advice for script writers and/or independent film producers interested in this genre?
My advice for script writers would be to attend and promote film festivals in your area, or those that you can get to so that you can make the connections you need to get someone to look at your script. Most production companies, like mine, do not accept unsolicited scripts (for legal reasons), so it's best you make face-to-face contact with filmmakers. My advice for people looking to be an independent film producer would be to check out our website! We would love to talk to you about producing our next film! There are some great tax incentives happening in Georgia right now, so now's the time to get your feet wet. Funding independent film is truly rewarding, and what other investment promises a guarantee of 30%? None.

If you would like to write to Kasey, you can reach her through her blog No More Hydrangeas.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Time Management At Its Best: "The Pickle Jar Theory" by Sandy Klim

In the November-December 2010 issue of Going Places: The Magazine for Today's Traveler, there is an article called "The Pickle Jar Theory" by Sandy Klim. Since I try to balance my time in between all the different "hats" I wear, I pulled the magazine closer to learn how to balance those "hats."

Klim wrote, "There are thousands of plans, programs, techniques and tips for time management, and yet it remains one of the most elusive components of our daily lives. The Pickle Jar Theory helps you visualize your priorities, as well as the amount and size of tasks that can be done realistically on a given day."

Basically, the Pickle Jar Theory works with four steps. Klim organized the list nicely in the article. She wrote, "To plan your day, imagine a large empty pickle jar." Then,

1. Add three or four large rocks to the jar.
2. Add a small handful of pebbles to the jar.
3. Add a handful of sand.
4. Fill the rest of the jar with water.

Why these steps? And, why in this order?

Klim wrote, "If you were to put the water and sand in first, and then your pebbles, very few of the large rocks would fit."

I understand, when planning my day, I need to determine my priorities. The three or four rocks represent objects that are "high priority." The last element, the water, represents "family and personal time"--even though it is the last element, it is still a priority and a large one at that. My jar needs balance. It cannot have large rocks and no water, likewise water with no rocks.

How do I not become overwhelmed with organizing my Pickle Jar? At night, I will go to bed without thinking about rocks, pebbles, and sand that didn't fit. From my pillow, I'll be comforted with the thought that the water will automatically be in my Pickle Jar.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tryon Daily Bulletin and Converse College

Hello All,
The Tryon Daily Bulletin, aka The World's Smallest Daily Newspaper, has posted the "Letter to the Editor" I wrote to the community of Tryon, North Carolina. The letter is about the experience I had while residing in Tryon, NC for the Converse College low-residency MFA program. If you are interested in reading the letter, you can find it at under the OPINION section with the title "Tryon Perfect Experience."

*Kate, thanks for the recommendation.

Monday, January 17, 2011

To Compose in Words: An MFA

Much like the conductor lifts his hands towards an orchestra, the director of the low-residency MFA program at Converse College, lifts his hands towards the writers-in-progress. Rick Mulkey a practicing poet, husband, and father is the man behind the program. His right-hand is Melody Boland, a knowledgeable asset for students, faculty, and staff. She keeps the program personal; which is priceless in a low-residency program.

Who are the Faculty?
They are strong writers, readers, and teachers. Just what an MFA student needs, knowledgeable guidance and mentorship.

Who are the students?
We, because I am one, are writers-in-progress. Some are promising poets, fiction gurus, and some are creators of creative nonfiction.

There is a way to do it better--find it. - Thomas Edison

If you are a writer-in-progress, and want more, more than just words on a page. If you want a life-changing experience--as I can attest to. Look into the low-residency MFA program at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC at and ask for Melody.

Deadline for Applications: Feb 15, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Tryon Horse

In Tryon, North Carolina a horse symbolizes the town. I found the image of this white horse with black spots and a red halter almost everywhere I went during my MFA residency. It was present on liquor store flyers, brochures on sites to visit, and as a statue downtown--not far from the Nina Simone Plaza. While I immersed myself in all things literary, I discovered this Tryon Horse aka Morris with a hat size of 21 following me to Elmo's (home to a tasty rueben sandwich), then by NaNa's kitchen--where I devoured homemade green beans with boneless fried chicken. So, I asked myself, why the horse?

I opened the brochure entitled "Historic Downtown Tryon Walking Tour.". Inside, I plunged into the history of Tryon--the town known as "Nearly Perfect. Always Tryon." Morris, the first horse, "was built as an advertisement for the 1928 Harmon Field horse show. Drawn by Eleanor Vance, it was built by 17-year old student and master-builder, Meredith Lankford. Secretly called "Eleanor" by Lankford and his buddies to honor their teacher..." Eventually the name of the horse changed to Morris. Today, he presides downtown over all of Tryon.

I asked myself: Is there more to this story? Is there more to the image of a horse? What does this have to do with the people?

Historically, Tryon, North Carolina became a location of great interest for three reasons. First, for resorts, to offer horse rides and hiking on Hogback Mountain. Second, for health reasons, because of the tuberculosis scare occurring during the 1880s. Tryon offered mild winters and cool summers. Third, agriculture promises of orchards and vineyards enticed many.

I know I will go back. I will eat at Elmo's and NaNa's Kitchen. The haunting melody of Nina Simone will hover by my ear. I will gaze at Morris--the town guardian. I will feel nearly perfect.