TMW Newsletter - January 2013


Here we are, yet again, wondering where the last year went.  Most of you will be able to recall when the nineties were the distant future, when we would have bases on the moon and drive hover cars.  Now, they are receding faster than they came.

Twenty-five years can flash by. Back in 1988, if you had a mobile phone, you probably had large arm muscles from lugging it around, and it certainly couldn’t access the internet. You might have had a Commadore, an early Apple or IBM computer in your home, but by today’s standards they were clunky and quite narrow in capabilities. It almost certainly belonged to someone who understood the complexities of programming. If you attended the first Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference, in 1989, you wouldn’t see people typing notes on their iPads or hear a request for ringtones to be switched off.

Pat Hope was one of the msot important of those who helped bring that first conference into being.  I asked her to remember how that came about.  She recalls those days.

Beginning the Tennessee Mountain Writers' Conference - by Pat Hope

“I guess you could say the seed for TMW was planted back in 1985, after our critique group, the East Tennessee Writers, spent a decade traveling the roads of Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi looking for writing inspiration wherever we could find it. In 1985, to celebrate our group’s 10th anniversary, we invited everyone we knew in the writing community to come and celebrate with us, here in East Tennessee. After a reception, a day of workshops and a banquet, we felt pretty good about our ability to bring writers together. But it would take four more years to develop a full-fledged writing conference.

I may have come up with the idea of calling it the Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference (because of location not type of writing and because we wanted to hold it in Oak Ridge) but I had lots of help. Hayden Evans of Clinton, who recently had begun his own writing career after retiring from the army and from banking, helped coordinate and fund the first year. Hayden and I had a writing business called Creative Writing Services and Publishing Company. We did all the flyers, brochures, programs, phone calls, etc. from our offices.

Hayden called on both corporate and small businesses and asked for donations. Carol Grametbauer, current Chairman of the TMW Board, was an executive at Lockheed Martin then and very generous in approving funds for TMW that first year as well as continued giving through the years. Amy Jones Swinge, director of media affairs and spokeswoman for Boeing Oak Ridge, provided generous funding for the first TMW and the donations continued as long as Boeing was located in Oak Ridge. The Whittle Corporation of Knoxville made a large donation for that first year, which was a key in the conference's success. The funds from Whittle were earmarked for our Writer of the Year. Donations were received from many other companies and numerous individuals including the late Barbara and Jose Flores who generously supported the conference then. Hayden and I promoted TMW at various chamber of commerce functions including Oak Ridge, Anderson County, Roane County, and the Knoxville Chamber.

Even that wasn’t enough to do that first conference the first-class way we envisioned it and, we knew, we would need a big name draw, a “Who’s Who” from the writing world. Long before that moment though, we began gathering names of workshop leaders and writers from all over the Southeast. We drew from every teacher/speaker we had heard in our travels.

When I say we, I do mean we. Hayden and I began pulling a steering committee together by asking area writers, like the members of my group, to help and help they did. Members Jo Stafford (and Denise Stafford later), Connie Green, Sue Hudson, Joy Margrave, Joan Wallace, Dorothy Senn, June Boone, Dorothy Henry, Liquita Addington, and Patricia Boatner were all a part of that first year anniversary weekend. Several of them gladly offered their help for the full-blown conference I had committed us to and I will be forever grateful for their guidance and friendship. We spent countless hours in meetings, on the phone, selecting menus, arranging for pickup from airports, even arranging a hospitality suite.

There were registration tables to worry about and a bookstore, we called The Writer’s Block, nametags, t-shirts, door prizes, a reception, lunches, workshop introductions, contest entries to judge and sort through, high school student entries, special guest speakers, an awards banquet complete with reception and music. There were countless details to attend to, but it went off with very few glitches. We drew in workshop leaders from our outer circle of writer friends, like wonderful children’s writers Lou Kassem and Doris Gove, sweethearts of romance Nelle McFather and Becky Lee Weyrich, publisher Phyllis Tickle, poet Maryilou Awiakta, fiction writer Bob Middlemiss, poet Eddie Francisco, future novelist Mary Kay Remich, News Sentinel columnist and state historian Wilma Dykeman. In fact no one we knew was safe from being asked to contribute. Most of them wound up teaching workshops or serving on our board or both. Many of them did it for little pay and some even contributed their honorarium back to the conference.

So, who did we get for our “star” that first year? I enlisted good friend John Rice Irwin of the Museum of Appalachia to help me talk to Alex Haley, a new neighbor of his. One day my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Hello, Pat, this is Alex Haley.”

Despite my nervousness, he put me at ease. He was so gracious and accepting of my invitation to be part of that first year’s program. When I asked him what he would charge and told him we could only afford a token honorarium, he shrugged it off as if the money didn’t matter. He was a wonderful speaker and he stayed with us until every last participant copy of Roots was autographed. He would be the first of many great guests the conference would have over the years, even though when the air had cleared and the dust had settled after 1989, we all looked at each other and asked, “What do we do now?”

The Steering Committee and later the Board kept coming up with good ideas. We had a governor and a mayor declare Tennessee Writers Week, we became part of the Dogwood Arts Festival, and we began to get the word out that this was the place to be. Teachers liked our structure better than some of the professional conferences they attended and said so on countless evaluation forms.

The participants were special and supportive, coming back year after year giving us great comments and great suggestions and loving the camaraderie. Success stories included a six-figure advance for a book, and untold dozens of published books, articles, poems, children’s stories, even songs and plays. Hundreds more have won our contest prizes. If it could be written, it was, and that, after all, is the measure of our success.”

Connie Green agreed with Pat’s recollections, but said, “All I can add is that from the beginning I warned her repeatedly that doing a conference would be an immense amount of work. I was right. Fortunately, in believing all the hard work would be worthwhile, she was right also.”

Pat responded, “That's the only piece of advice she ever gave me I didn't listen to. :)”

I’m sure those of us who have received so much advice, support and friendship through TMWC are glad Pat didn’t listen to Connie, and thank all those who made the past 24 conferences possible and those who are preparing for the 25th. The deadline for the conference contest is February 1st, 2013, so put the finishing touches to those entries and send them in, along with your registration for the conference.

~Margaret Pennycook


By the time you all see this message, 2013 will be under way—and to get our writing year properly, well, jumpstarted, we’ll kick it off with January Jumpstart XIII on January 11-13 at the Magnuson Hotel in Sweetwater. TMW board member Darnell Arnoult, Writer-in-Residence and assistant professor of English at Lincoln Memorial University, will lead our fiction track; poetry will be led by Bill Brown, author of three chapbooks and five collections of poetry. These are two outstanding presenters, and I hope you’re planning to join us!

By now you should have received the brochure for our 25th annual conference—scheduled for April 4-6 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Oak Ridge–––which was mailed in early December. If you didn’t get one, or have misplaced yours, the information and a registration form are also on our website, We hope to have a great turnout for our 25th, when we’ll have our usual strong slate of presenters and a few anniversary surprises as well. (NOTE: We’ve very recently been informed that Amy Greene will not be able to participate as our General Session speaker after all. Abigail DeWitt, our fiction presenter, has graciously agreed to lead the General Session, and perhaps Amy will be able to join us in 2014.)

As I read through Pat Hope’s comments for this newsletter about the beginnings of the conference, I was struck by what a huge debt we owe Pat, Hayden Evans, and all the folks who worked so hard back in the ‘80s to lay the foundations for what has become a successful annual event. Almost a quarter-century later, we’re still following the blueprint they laid out in those early days. (Don’t mess with success, right?)

A couple of deadlines are coming up. Don’t forget that the deadline for contest entries is February 1; see the conference registration form for entry rules and submission guidelines. February 1 is also the deadline for applying for one of our Don Scalf Scholarship Program conference scholarships: we have funds available to support a limited number of these scholarships, which are based on financial need and interest in writing and typically cover full conference attendance. Email for more information or to apply.

I wish each of you a happy and prosperous 2013. We’ll look for you at Jumpstart and at the conference!

~Carol Grametbauer

 UPCOMING TMW EVENTS  (Information and registration for all TMW events can be found by clicking on the EVENTS tab)

TMW 25th Annual Writers' Conference
April 4-6, 2013
DoubleTree Hotel
Oak Ridge, TN

Judy Goldman, writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, will be our nonfiction presenter and banquet speaker. Our other principal presenters will include Abigail DeWitt, fiction and general session speaker; Connie Jordan Green, poetry; George Ella Lyon, writing for young people; Judith Geary, editing/publishing, and Amy Greene, general session. Our specialty sessions will include storytelling, Finn Bille, Christian publishing, Ami McConnell, and graphic novels, Bobby Nash. Sandra Plant will present two special sessions: one on writing groups and networking, and another on writing for newspapers.

Student and adult competitions will be held in association with the conference. Prizes will be awarded at the conference banquet. Deadline for both competitions is February 1, 2013.


Information for Sue Orr’s Writing Events, including Darnell Arnoult’s Extended Novel Course, Connie Green’s “Poetry 104,” and Bill Brown’s poetry workshop with prompts for writing, can be found here:


TMWC Chairman Carol Grametbauer reports, “My poem "Chiaroscuro," forthcoming in Potomac Review's Fall 2012 issue, will also appear in the premiere issue of The Cabinet, a themed anthology to be published by the editors of Potomac Review in January.

Connie Green had a poem published in the October issue of Still.

Humorist Judy DiGregorio won third place for Playwriting for her ten-minute comedy, LET THERE BE LIGHT, in the Knoxville Writers' Guild annual writing contest. Judy recently spoke at Y -12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge, WDVX-FM Tennessee Shines Radio, UT Torch Club, St. James Episcopal Church Spring Tea and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. -- Judy DiGregorio, humor writer "Jest Judy," CD of humorous stories "Memories of a Loose Woman" "Life Among the Lilliputians"

Mike Cates, a frequent attendee of TMWC, sent this: “Greetings, fellow writers, Just a quick note to announce the publication of my new book The Asteroid (by M R Cates, ISBN-10: 1467953024) that is available on Amazon, Amazon Europe, and the Kindle store. If you have any hankering for reading fiction from one of your Southern Mountain colleagues, please give it a look. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please let me know. Publicity ideas would be especially welcome. Phone: 865-223-3653”

     Mike, sending TMW your information is a good way to publicize your work. Hope to hear from more of you with books, poems or articles to publicize, not mention any other writing successes. Just send them to me at