December Newsletter

Happy Holidays to The Entire Writer’s Loft Family!


The Writer’s Loft at MTSU is a non-degree, low-residency creative writing program that matches professionals with writers. It is for beginning writers as well as MFA graduates. More information is at


Below you will find information related to the program and writing in general. Please send your updates to me at –Karen Alea Ford


1) To promote our commitment to the craft of writing, The Writer’s Loft is offering a workshop on Saturday, Jan. 25th from 10-3 with lunch provided. It will be at Peck Hall at MTSU.
Instructions will be sent out to participants. If you have not attended a workshop in the past, the group (made up of other participants and 1 or 2 leaders) reads everyone’s work ahead of time, marking notes on each one. Then, during the workshop, each student will have his/her work commented on by the group and leaders. The learning curve in workshops is very high!
This is FREE to students and alumni.
I will hold spaces for students, however, please inform me ASAP if you CANNOT attend.
Alumni will register by turning in their work to be workshopped by January 3rd. Only those who do so will be able to come to the event.
For poetry, there will be 15 total spots. Fiction/non=12 spots. If all current students attend, there will be 13 poetry spots and 5 fiction/non-fiction available. If spots do not fill, we’ll open to MTSU students and the public. If it fills fast, we might consider letting it be larger.
For poetry, we will have Marcus Jackson. For fiction and non-fiction, we will have a team of Jennifer Kates and myself, Karen Alea Ford. Bios are below.
Poetry–submit 1-2 poems.
Fic/Non-fic–10-12 double-spaced (12 pt. font) pages of the beginning of a work or story. NO explanations of work (where the novel is going, etc.) will be excepted. This is an exercise in understanding what is on the page is all that matters. Work must not be previously published, but it must be something you are willing to receive critique on.
 I hope to see many of you there!
 I can’t hold spots (except for current students), so get your work in as early as you can. “Polished but not perfect” is a good guideline.

Marcus Jackson was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. After earning his BA at the University of Toledo, he continued his poetry studies in NYU’s graduate creative writing program and as a Cavem Canem fellow. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Harvard Review, and The Cincinnati Review, among many other publications. His chapbook, Rundown, was published by Aureole Press in 2009. His debut full-length collection of poems, entitled Neighborhood Register, was released in 2011. Marcus lives with his wife in Nashville and teaches at Middle Tennessee State University.

Jennifer Wachtel Kates is a Tennessee native who earned her M.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers and her Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University.  She teaches fiction writing at Middle Tennessee State University, where she has taught in the English department for the past sixteen years.  Her short stories have appeared in The Southwestern Review and GSU Review, where her story “Egg and Spoon” earned the short fiction award.  She is the recipient of the Allen Tate Creative Writing Award, and serves as faculty advisor for Collage and Future Authors of America as well as two other student organizations.  She is a volunteer and advocate for Autism Speaks Tennessee, for which she earned the MTSU Faculty Outstanding Public Service Award.  She lives in Murfreesboro with her three sons.

Karen Alea Ford has her MFA from Bennington College and is an alumna of Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her short stories have been published in various magazines including Eureka, Stickman Review, Riverwalk Journal and the anthology, Catch Fire in the Treetops. Her short story “The Next Guy” won The Nashville Scene fiction contest judged by Ann Patchett, which led to a guest column in the publication. She has written non-fiction for Images Magazine, Jacksonville Magazine, Catholic Journal and, somehow, Auto Restorer. She teaches English as an adjunct at Middle Tennessee State University where she is also the director of The Writer’s Loft–a non-degree, creative writing program. She will  be a Fellow at Virginia Center for Creative Arts in Spring 2014.

For more info, email me at I will be letting the public know by the end of this week, so get your writing in.

2) EVERYONE INVITED. Sent in By The Writer’s Loft founder, Roy Burkhead:

Hemingway drinking

Issue 4 (the Journalism Issue) of 2nd & Church will launch at January’s installment of Literary Libations (on Twitter #LitLib) in Nashville onJanuary 23, 2014.  Literary Libations meets the 4th Thursday of each month from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Union Station Hotel’s Prime 108 bar, under the portrait of Jack Nicholson. No invitation needed. Please feel free to join this gathering of writers, journalists, poets, agents, publicists, book sellers, publishers, creatives, librarians, book readers, and lovers of the written word! The issue features our friend, the late John Egerton, who wrote or edited nearly two dozen non-fiction books and one contemporary fable, as well as contributed scores of articles to newspapers and magazines.


Bill Brown–“My new publisher has a Photographer in Taos looking for a cover photo for my 2014 book and she is sending the text soon to the design person. I’ll keep you posted. New work accepted in Cumberland River Review. My “Poem of Questions”  has been nominated for a Pushcart.”

Jennifer Chesak–“I was recently commissioned to produce the content for a smartphone app that essentially teaches poetry 101. It’s an interesting project because I have to teach the material with video and sound, rather than in just a talking-head format. I’m enjoying the process of delving into teaching with multimedia. My broadcast television background and video editing skills are certainly coming into play here. I’m creating the app for an online-course developer, not a college or university.”

Jeff Hardin–“I’ve had poems accepted recently by The Southern Review, Potomac Review, and Lake Effect.  My collection of sonnets, Restoring the Narrative, just received the Donald Justice Poetry Prize and will appear in 2015.  Also, a collection of my “five-liners,” loosely based on the form of tanka, will be published by Red Hydra Press in 2014 in a letterpress, limited edition (less than 100 copies). ”

Linda Busby Parker–“Since last reporting in I have been granted two weeks at the Wolff Cottage, the Center for Writing Arts in Fairhope, Alabama.  I will be using this quiet time to put the final edits on a mainstream novel titled Oliver’s Song.  The cottage is a sweet little place behind the new Fairhope Public Library.  If you haven’t been there, Fairhope is one of the most beautiful little cities in the entire country, and very much a writers’ community.

On December 5th, I gave a presentation on conflict and tension in fiction for the Mobile Writers Guild.  That meeting was at the Mobile’s West Regional Public Library.  The Guild is an active community of writers located on the Gulf Coast.

I have been re-reading Fierce, a memoir by Barbara Robinette Moss, and a biography about Eva Tanguay, a 1930s vaudeville performer.  In addition, I’ve been re-reading various short stories, including “Tiny Feasts” by Chris Adrian and “The Ceiling” by Kevin Brockmeier.  These are two of the most elegantly constructed short stores ever written!  Both take metaphors and extend them, and extend them, and extend them some more.  Also, have been spending a little time with Vladimir Nabokov—I take Nabokov in small doses, very small.”

Andrea Siegel–Sundance Film Festival announced that it will be debuting Andrea’s film “Laggies” at the festival in January.


Tiana Clark–“The Raven Chronicles (, a literary journal out of Seattle,  nominated my poem “The Ayes Have It,” in their Vol. 19 Race – Under Our Skin issue for a Pushcart Prize! yippee! ( Very honored and brought a huge smile to my face:)

Amanda Moon–“In August I moved with my family to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been working on my novel, Home, since the beginning of 2012. I have had three agents give me really good feedback and have just finished what I hope will be the final draft incorporating that feedback. It’s in editing now and I’ll be doing another round of submissions to agents at the beginning of the year.

I will be self-publishing Your Pilates Life, a guide to incorporating Pilates principles into everyday life, at the beginning of the year. I actually drafted this before my time in the Loft, but over the last few years have slowly been making updates. I no longer teach Pilates, so I was hesitant to put it out at all, but recently re-read it and feel like it has value and I want to get it out.

I am drafting a story that weaves together the real-life theft of The Ruby Slippers (from the Wizard of Oz) and Hurricane Katrina, which happened on back-to-back nights in 2005. I plan to have that finished and self-published in time to launch at the Judy Garland Festival in June where they will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of movie.

Also, I just found out yesterday that I have been accepted into the Creative Writing MFA at Hamline University starting Spring 2014. I am ecstatic.

The last thing I wanted to share is the upcoming launch of NoiseTrade Books. My husband has worked on the music side of NoiseTrade for several years (if you like free music, definitely check it out) and they are now expanding into books. I’ve attached their promo deck, but the basic rundown is that the author puts up free content (it could be a short story, back catalog, whatever ) and they capture the email and zip code of the person who downloads it, building their email list, platform, etc., and giving them the ability to do targeted marketing.”

A Writing Teacher Gets Schooled in NaNoWriMo

By Karen Alea Ford


            Some people put out their holiday decorations in November. Men participate in No Shave November to raise awareness for cancer. Runners burst onto the roads for 5ks. I decided to do something much more challenging, yet decidedly less physically active. I wrote a novel. Well, I wrote part of one.

        NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started very small in 1999—just 21 people trying to tackle the task. Now, they span the world, had more than 300,000 people sign up this year at, and have a fully stocked online store that sells notebooks, mugs, tee shirts and posters. Local chapters are run by volunteers that set up “write-ins” at coffee shops and eateries. Out of the people who took the pledge to get up to 50,000 words on paper in a month, a tad over 40,000 aspiring novelists became “winners.” Winning comes with a digital banner that goes over your name on the website, some discounts from writing software and self-publishing companies, and the self-satisfaction of writing more than your friends did. It has become an event that not only promotes writing, but also has developed a cult following.

            Selling tee-shirts and having published paranormal romance authors give pep talks, it became apparent to me that these writers were some of the same people you see at ComicCon and Renaissance festivals. Their online profiles show them wearing Viking hats and growing twirly mustaches. Their screen names refer to obscure sci-fi series that I’ve never read or seen. I have always seen people like this as the fringe of the writing community, but being from a literary writing background, this month-long adventure made me wonder if maybe I’m the fringe.

I’d heard about NaNoWriMo for years. It was spoken about with aloofness, as if anyone could or would write over a thousand words a day. How absurd (stupid Stephen King). And with Donna Tartt’s ten-year-in-the-making tome just arriving on shelves, the new trend (in the last two weeks) is to preach that quality only comes with long stretches of time—a decade being the new preference.

Since I direct a non-degree creative writing program for people with real life jobs, I am in a position to motivate writers. I, with my fancy MFA, have recently been schooled in the truth that many non-degreed writers surpass the elite when it comes to work that has truth and bone in it. So I decided to try NaNoWriMo. What’s a month? If I tried to think what I accomplished in October, nothing came up. But I do know October went by just as fast as the others in my 46 years of life, so I might as well tackle a novel for November.

For years I’ve dabbled in different routines, rituals and bribes to get things on the page. I preach inspiration isn’t necessary for writing, but I’ve been known to reward myself with chocolate as if I was a toddler. Taking note that all THE authors struggled with similar feelings (“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”—Joseph Heller) did not ease my plight but offered me yet another excuse. “Look, I’m just like Heller!”

So I ducked into the trade paperback back ally of quantified, hastily done writing of NaNoWriMo, and I realized…I get quite ecstatic seeing numbers add up. I sold a lot of candy bars in seventh grade just to watch the test tube shaped graph get colored in until we reached the school goal. I can’t add on my own, nor subtract, or, lord god, do percentages, but I can watch numbers count down and increase in front of me. That was the instant drug to this experiment. Each day, when you finish your day’s work, you type in the number of words you wrote. Or, like I did, you paste your copy into a field on the NaNoWriMo site that counts it for you. No work is saved on the site. You do it in your own word processing program. When you make your goal of 1,667 words for that day, a bar turns blue. Why does this delight me? Maybe because there is no one else, although I have the most supportive family and friends, who cares about the number of my words. Nor do they turn a different color when I reach it. To bring the pressure, there is also a place that shows how many words you have left to reach the month’s goal of 50,000 words and how many days are left to git-r-dun. I felt somewhat like a heroine in a movie that must diffuse a bomb as numbers blink red.

My month was worth more than any other month in my literary life thus far. Perhaps the first reason is that I didn’t take it too seriously. Unlike the instructions on the website, I didn’t use the previous month to plot and take notes on characters. In fact, the idea to participate struck me on the night of October 31st. Turning over in my head what to write about, I came to the conclusion that this would not be a novel, but a series of notes for a future novel. I’m aware Water for Elephants and The Night Circus were just two of the esteemed books that came out of NaNoWriMo, but I wasn’t going to give myself that kind of pressure. Instead of seeing October as a month of planning, I’d use the actual novel writing month for that. This “novel” would be treated as mere notes for a future project. And if I could pick a topic, it’d be something that I’d thought about for years. It’s not a shock that writers obsess over strange things. Mine is Pitcairn Island. However, anything could do—a fascinating disease, an alternate world, a sticky divorce or a church of snake handlers.

Next was to decide how to write it, what form it would take. Writing in first person narrative (writing as if I am the girl who grew up on Pitcairn Island) prevented me from getting stuck like I have when writing from different third person points of view. No wondering who should talk next, have I spent enough time with that character, or worrying that I hadn’t taken enough time to develop someone. What I learned is that first person allows you not to worry about the traffic-jammed criss-crossing streets of a difficult plot. You get to drive straight, smoothly on a country road. The events that my character encountered were the rolling hills, and I didn’t have to worry about subplot and an intersecting climax like one has to in some of the other forms. My only task was to think, “what next?” And because I told it chronologically, and had a fascinating setting with a history (the island is made up of the descendants of the mutiny of the HMS Bounty), it felt more like painting than plodding. First person narrative with no pressure of writing an actual novel meant I sat, typed, and finished each day in less than an hour. Less than an episode of The Voice. Plus, I could make a character look like Adam Levine if I felt like it.

For me, it is part of a greater journey to shake off my formal writing training. Not to disrespect it, but to remember why I got into writing in the first place and to remind myself that the majority of readers want entertainment. Frankly, I want entertainment. Writing something of importance has held me back for far too long. That month was probably the best thing to teach me about certain aspects of writing, but more importantly, de-program me from the mindset I had adopted over the years. The task is fast, limited and quantified—all the things I believed were literary sins. And yes, now December, I’m a tad down. There’s no countdown clock or bar that glows blue when I’ve reached my daily goal. But now I am waist deep in this alternate life I can’t wait getting back to. I’m more than 50,000 words deep into a young woman who I want to know what happens to.

Will you ever see it on the shelves? I could care less. I’m a winner.


Recent Conference and Author Readings

For this of us in Middle Tennessee, there has been a boom in literary events. Between the Nashville Library, Humanities Tennessee and Parnassus bookstore, there is something nearly every week. Below is a clickable list of upcoming events. Please send in your review of a reading if you attend.

Parnassus Book store–

Salon 615–


Gloria Ballard

Ashley Loar

Jeff Hardin

Leisa Hammett

Jennifer Chesak

Michael Potts
Author’s Amazon Page:
Barnes & Noble:

Charlotte Dixon Rains

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

Emily Davidson Nemoy

Kory Wells

Candace White


*Sent to us via–

“My column is smaller – 250 words – and will include a reminder of the Emerging Southern Writers’ contest deadline, which is Jan. 3. I mention this because you may know a writer or two with unpublished fiction or poems stashed somewhere who may wish to enter the contest, or would like to attend the Southern Writers Symposium here at Methodist University, which also sponsors the contest. Eligibility includes authors or poets writing about the South, or who are Southerners. Your state’s poet laureate, Margaret B. Vaughn, attended several years ago, and took part in some way, although I did not get to hear her speak.
In case you know someone who might be interested, here are the details:
*2013 Southern Literary Contest

The club is honored to announce that we will again sponsor a literary contest.  This year we are accepting entries from North & South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. There will be three (3) categories:  Short Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry.  While we are calling it a Southern contest it is not limited to southern themes.  Submission dates are October 1 through December 31.  Winners will be announced in March (2014) and invited to read their work at our 2014 Spring Literary Event.  Please see our event page for contest rules and entry guidelines.

*Call to Christian Poets: In Touch Magazine

In Touch magazine  is the monthly publication of In Touch Ministries (www.intouch. org), which is the teaching ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley. A hybrid of devotional and lifestyle content—blending storytelling, cultural observation, and theological reflection—our magazine exists to help readers lead more thoughtful, faithful, beautiful lives.

We’re looking for poems that explore the complexities of the Christian faith in accessible but graceful ways. We tend to select works that rely upon strong imagery and maintain a devotional outlook without sermonizing.

Some details about submissions:
Submit as many poems as you like, at anytime, to
Simultaneous submissions are okay, so long as you notify us if anything submitted has been accepted elsewhere.
We pay $5 per line.
Submissions will appear in print and online in our new digital edition (coming in 2014).
You will receive hard copies of the issues in which your poems appear.

*Little Patuxent Review is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and artwork for the Summer 2014 Open issue, co-edited by Laura Shovan and Steven Leyva. The Open issue is LPR’s first unthemed issue, so write with abandon, occupy your imagination, and send LPR your best writing. The poet Bei Dao wrote, “Freedom is nothing but the distance / between the hunter and the hunted.” LPR’s Open issue provides the freedom; tell us what passions, obsessions, and themes you are hunting, or are hunting you.

You may submit one fiction piece of up to 5000 words, one non-fiction piece of up to 3500 words, or a maximum of three poems.
Full submission guidelines are at:
Reading period: December 2013 to March 1, 2014.
Laura Shovan
Little Patuxent Review
6012 Jamina Downs
Columbia, MD 21045

*The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop invites writers of all stripes (Poets! Fictioneers! Memoirists! Journalists! Essayists! Dramatists! Genre-benders! ) to submit to CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing. Writers are invited to submit their personal aesthetic philosophies and manifestos for the anthology, writing exercises and prompts that have helped to kick-start their imagination, and short essays on the art of writing, reading, and being creative. Please send us a brief (7 pages max) submission in one of the following categories:
I. Credos:

Writing manifestos, rules to live by, artist creeds, hand-written notes to self, aphorisms earned, and personal philosophies on what makes good writing work and why. If you have ever typed or scrawled out a manifesto, we would like to see it. Feel free to send us manifestos for creative writing that you have drawn up for yourself or for your writing group. We accept typed written credos, hand-written lists, and even collages that demonstrate your aesthetic philosophy.
II. Writing Exercises:

We would like you to send us writing exercises, prompts, or any practices that have helped energize and motivate your creative writing practice. Is there a daily ritual you do to kickstart your imagination? Are there writing exercises and prompts that you keep on going back to or to use in class with your students? We are interested in your favorite writing exercises. Please send us original writing exercises or prompts, or please write to us about how your favorite published writing exercises work.
III. Essays on Writing Advice:

We are looking for essays that describe the writing process, essays on creative arts communities, salon culture, and advice on creative writing. What has helped you sustain and catalyze your writing career? What has inspired you, from reading the works of your favorite authors, experimenting with new forms, finding communities of writers, experience with social media and writing, etc.? We welcome any essays on creative writing between 5-7 pages.
Please also include: A brief biography of 200 words or less.
SUBMISSIONS PERIOD: October 15, 2013 – January 15, 2014
SUBMIT AT: cww.submittable. com

Follow us on Twitter @CamWritersWkshp
Facebook: https://www. facebook. com/cambridgewritersworkshop

*Call for Submissions

The Survivor’sReview is a not-for-profit online journal encouraging the creativeexpression of cancer survivors. Our goal is to publish stories, essays, and poems that are powerful, poignant, and unflinchingly honest.

Each issue features approximately 12 to 15pieces contributed by survivors and caregivers like you – along with aninspiring column by a guest contributor with expertise in the field of writingand healing.
If you haven’t visited our site, please do so at:
Also, if you have written a piece that has the potential to touch another’ s soul, please consider submitting your work to us. Our guidelines and submission procedure can be accessed at: php Those submitting by December 20, 2013 will be considered for our 2014 winter issue.
We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Please contact us directly at:

We hope to hear from you!

Editorial Team, http://www.survivor

Question:Who is a cancer survivor?
Answer:Anyone living with a history of cancer from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.



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