February Newsletter

The Writers’ Loft

Middle Tennessee State University


February, 2014

Below you will find information related to the program and writing in general. Please send your updates to me at theloftmtsu@gmail.com.

–Karen Alea Ford


It is the time of the year when writers apply for conferences and fellowships. Some deadlines are March 1st. If you are interested in applying for a competitive conference like Sewanee Writer’s Conference (http://sewaneewriters.org/conference) or Bread Loaf (http://www.middlebury.edu/blwc), please let me know and I’d be happy to assist with the application.–Karen


We will have a fiction module on Saturday, April 29th with Darnell Arnoult. More information to come. This will be free for alumni, faculty and current students.

“Darnell Arnoult is the writer-in-residence and co-director of the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN. She is also co-editor of the literary magazine, “Draft Horse.”  She is prize-winning author of What Travels With Us: Poems (LSU Press) and the novel Sufficient Grace (Free Press). Her shorter works have appeared in a variety of journals, including Appalachian Heritage, Asheville Poetry Review, Nantahala Review, Now and Then, Sandhills Review, Southern Cultures, Southern Exposure, and Southwest Review.

Darnell holds an MFA from University of Memphis and an MA from NC State, and is a regular faculty member of the Table Rock Writers Workshop, Tennessee Young Writers Workshop, John C. Campbell Folk School, and Learning Events.

She was the recipient of the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature, SIBA Poetry Book of the Year, Mary Frances Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters, and in 2007 was named Tennessee Writer of the Year by the Tennessee Writers Alliance.”



Bill Brown: Bill is excited about his forthcoming book and its design. Keep you fingers crossed. Since the last newsletter he has new work in Cumberland River Review, Blue Lyra Review and Still: the Journal. His poem “Poem of Questions” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and his poem “Our Death” was nominated for Best of the Net Anthology. Bill’s sonnet “Backwoods Vespers” is currently featured in the Poetry Corner of an online magazine, Sweatpants and Coffee.


Andrea Seigel: Andrea’s film, Laggies, premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Five distributers were engaged in a bidding war. AK4 bought the rights and the film will debut this summer. Tentative date is May 9th.

 Gloria Ballard, Charlotte Dixon Rains, Linda Busby Parker and Terry Price are all very active in events outside of their work in The Loft. Please go to their websites to see what they have going on—classes, trips, retreats.


Best Writing Advice You Ever Received:

*This is dedicated to our current students.

1- “Never leave any holes in your writing”~the late Albert Cason, former Business Editor at the Tennessean. He meant leave no questions in the mind of the reader and to this day I do that or TRY–even with emails!

2-“The Right to Write” by Julia Cameron. The whole book is great but I love the chapters on not letting “drama” get in your way of writing. Your drama or other people’s drama. She suggests making a list of 100 things “you, personally, love”. The author continues to recommend pulling out the list when “stress strikes” and it will bring you to a sense of well being so that you are clear to write.

I also love what is written on the back of the book “Why should we write?” It is several paragraphs long but the closing line is great advice: “we should write, above all, because we are writers, whether we call ourselves that or not.” –Patty Outlaw

The best advice I ever received was when a certain poet friend, who’d been reading some of my poems every so often for a couple of years, suggested I had enough material to put a manuscript together. The idea caught me by surprise but set me on the path to putting together my first collection and finding a home for it with a small press – as it happened, one which the same friend also suggested I try. I’ve had good experiences with acting on the unsolicited advice of other writing colleagues and mentors as well. I think the moral of the story is to trust and honor the people who know you and your work by actually trying what they suggest. They’re likely looking at your work in both a broader and more objective way than you can, plus applying their own intuition and experience, and all of that raises your chances of success.–Kory Wells

The best writing advice I have ever received was to read my work out loud to myself before doing anything else with it. I do this with everything I write or edit, whether it’s a press release for a client, a full-length feature article for a magazine or a chapter I’m editing for another author’s book. I summon up my television reporter voice (from my broadcasting days) and read to the dog. No joke. When I first heard that advice, I thought it was corny, and I simply re-read my work in my head, not out loud. But then I eventually tried it, and I was astonished how much I could improve my work after I heard it out loud. Now, this is the first piece of advice I give to any aspiring writer. –Jennifer Chesak

Everyone needs an editor. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. –Leisa Hammett

The best I ever received was this all-purpose one: Being a professional means doing the things you love to do on the days you really don’t feel like doing them. –Roy Burkhead

I don’t remember much direct, soulful advice from anyone that would fit on a bumper sticker. I did have some individuals who lived advice for me. A former editor at the Daily News Journal named Jerry kindly looked over the feeble attempts of myself as a young college student trying to write. I still have his emails. I think he sent my first article back about 5 times with corrections, but neither would he let me quit. To his credit it was about a sensitive political issue which he could have dismissed very easily. After I rewrote the piece that many times, he said something matter-of-factly like, “See? You did it. It makes sense now. Thanks.” In calmly helping me “try to make sense” he reminded of the reason why one writes–to communicate, to understand the facts as best you can, and engage with others. –Laura Beth Payne

If it doesn’t hurt, you aren’t doing it right. –David Harris

Concentrate on the story first. Then edit. –Diana Revell

 “Get down on the blanket…”~ Darnell Arnoult. Which I translate as plopping myself right smack in the middle of the scene and looking around…what do I see, smell, hear…. –Debbie McClannahan

Being a serious writer is a job, not a lifestyle. Treat it like a job. Show up everyday and do your work. –Lou Mindar

Had a poetry teacher once declare a 10 year moratorium on end rhyme for each student in the class (there were about 12 of us). I may have broken that rule a time or two thousand. I suppose my point is that sometimes the best advice is that which you consciously choose to act against or in spite of. –JR Robles

Richard Bausch said this in a workshop once, just threw it out there. He said, “You can fix ‘it’ with one line.” He meant when you are revising, you come across something that doesn’t fit and you think, “OMG, how am I going to explain this?!”  A lot of time you can do it with one line. Presto. Done.

Cary Holliday said, “Pay attention to whose heart is hurting the most.”

And then, there is everything Darnell Arnoult ever said. Especially about not worrying about going in a linear direction. Write what comes to you, what has energy at the moment you are working. –Patti Meredith

I think it was Sherman Alexie who said that beginning poets should read 20 poems for everyone they write. I still do and I’ve published many collections. Next: Even if you are a free-verse poet, write in form on occasion–it will sharpen your syntax and diction, as well as help determine fresh subjects. –Bill Brown

Alice Mattison told me that for every rule in writing, the exact opposite can also be true. This has proven itself time and time again regarding: write what you know, engage the senses, use correct grammar, be in a writing group, let readers identify with your antagonist, etc.

Also, the one I go back to often: Richard Bausch making me cry with saying, “Your doubt IS your talent.” Takes a few hours/years to get it, but it means doubt comes from reading enough good writing that you know how much your own writing falls short. The doubt is where the talent lies, because it means you have the awareness of the difficulty. Plus, it puts you in company with every great writer out there. –Karen Alea Ford


Gloria Ballard




Ashley Loar


Jeff Hardin


Leisa Hammett


Jennifer Chesak




Michael Potts

Author’s Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Potts/e/B006EC8XKW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/potts-end-of-summer?keyword=potts+end+of+summer&store=allproducts

Charlotte Dixon Rains


Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor


Emily Davidson Nemoy


Kory Wells




Candace White



Alabama Writers Conclave Call for Submissions 2014 Contest


Submissions are now open for the Alabama Writers Conclave 2014 competition. Awards of $100, $75, $50 and $25 will be awarded for the first through fourth place in the following categories (maximum word count is listed for each category):

–First Novel Chapters (1,500 wds.)
–Short Story (1,500 wds.)
–Flash Fiction (500 wds)
–Juvenile Fiction (1,500 wds)
–Creative Nonfiction (1,500 wds)
–Poetry (1,000 wds. may include more than one poem, but total word count may not exceed 1,000 wds.)

Author name should not appear on the submission nor should any contact information. The submission should include only a title, category, and word count. Submission title, name and contact information should, however, be included on a separate page. Submission deadline is April 30, 2014 (postmark date). Entry fee in each category is $5 for members of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave and $8 for nonmembers. (Checks should be made to the Alabama Writers’ Conclave and should accompany submissions.) Submissions should be sent to the contest chair: Dr. Linda Busby Parker, Department of English, University of South Alabama, 307 N. University Blvd., Mobile, Alabama 36688-0002. Include an SASE if you would like a list of the winners. Awards will be presented at the annual convention in Fairhope, Alabama July 11-13. Entries must be original and previously unpublished. Submissions from AWC voting Board Members are not eligible. Multiple entries are accepted, but only one prize per person is awarded in each category.

See the Alabama Writers Conclave website for details about the conference and for information on the contest judges.



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