TMW Newsletter - March 2013


Most of us know the old violinist joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall?  The answer being, of course, practice, practice, practice.  We are familiar with the notion that musicians must engage with daily exercises to keep up a high standard of ability.  We know that professional ballet dancers take class, before rehearsals.  They don’t just show up for a quick pas de deux in Swan Lake.  Spring Training is an acknowledged part of the baseball season.  Athletes of all kinds spend much of their time away from the sites of their triumphs, and disasters, honing their skills with bats, rackets, clubs, balls of all shapes and sizes, or simply their own muscles, for the moments when it means the difference between winning or losing in front of thousands on court or field.

What do writers do to prepare for the big moments of setting down ideas in words?  Do they need to do anything? Flex the finger muscles for five minutes per day, perhaps, to ready them for their preferred writing instrument, a pen, a typewriter or, mostly, a computer keyboard? Make a few cups of coffee, so it will be an instinctive action, when the need arises? Read a few pages of a dictionary, or thesaurus, to broaden the vocabulary?

Reading is certainly a vital tool for a writer.  A daily dose of poetry or prose can provide inspiration, as well as remind how to make a piece sing as if it were in the opera house, or the Grand Ole Opry, rather than the shower.  

Writers can read about writing. A quick glance at confirms there is no dearth of material on the subject.  Whether it be Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing (10th Anniversary Edition), or William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, (30th Anniversary Edition), there is surely an advice book for everyone.

There’s also the Interwebby Thing, to put it technically.   Online tutorials of all sorts are available, from coaching an author into producing a chapter per week, to editing resources of all kind. Though, as with so many things, they need to be approached with a sense of “Buyer Beware!” 

Most of these aids to writing can be done in pajamas, without leaving the comfort of home.  For interaction with flesh and blood workshop leaders, Learning Events, founded by TMW board member Sue Richardson Orr, could be just the thing.  This year, as well as the Extended Novel Series, with Darnell Arnoult, there will be poetry sessions under the auspices of Connie Green and Bill Brown.  For more information about these programs, go to

A broader experience can be found attending conferences.  They can provide different boosts to writers, whether they are beginners, just learning the ropes, or old hands, who might need a little adjustment to the rigging, to set their writing sails billowing in the wind. 

During the past 24 Tennessee Mountain Writers conferences, thousands of people have participated in poetry workshops and joined in group poetry writing; listened to renowned authors suggest how to write a memoir or a novel; heard how use library or internet resources and how to approach an agent or an editor.  Many conference goers have received encouragement and advice during evaluation sessions.  Some have gone home clutching prizes from the competition, others with the name and address of a valuable connection.  They have mingled with fellow writers, and rubbed shoulders with those who have achieved publishing success. Most have found their writing skills sharpened, whether they have returned to produce a private family history, or publish with a mass market or literary company.  Others may be filled with a fresh sense of direction. 

You may well be one of these people I describe.  I do hope that if you haven’t made your plans to join us for our 25th Annual Conference, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, in Oak Ridge, 4th-6th April 2013, think about doing it now. There is still time, whether you want to hear just one speaker, or attend every possible session, from the opening reception to the conference banquet.  Even walk-ins are accepted. The list of speakers is provided below and more information about them and registration can be found at the website,

I hope to meet as many of you as possible, while we tune up our writing muscles, and look forward to adding your latest writing success to our Member News.

~Margaret Pennycook


Our 2013 conference, “Celebrating 25 Years,” is right around the corner!  We have a great event planned, with a couple of anniversary treats plus some old friends returning to join us, and are looking forward to kicking things off at the opening reception, April 4.  Even though the reduced-rate early registration deadline has passed, if you haven’t already registered it’s not too late to do so. All the details plus the registration form are on our website,

PLEASE NOTE one important change to our program. We very recently learned that our Nonfiction presenter and banquet speaker, Judy Goldman, is going to be unable to participate in the conference. Our banquet speaker will instead be essayist and poet Dana Wildsmith. Wildsmith, who was recently selected as the finalist for the 47th Georgia Author of the Year Award for Essay, will also lead our Friday Nonfiction workshop. The Saturday Nonfiction workshop will be led by Darnell Arnoult, Writer-in-Residence at Lincoln Memorial University. We’re extremely grateful to both these outstanding writers for their willingness to step in at the eleventh hour to help make the conference a success.

We had a great January Jumpstart this year, with Bill Brown leading the poetry track and Darnell leading the fiction track.  Thanks go, as always, to Special Events Chair Sue Orr and her committee—Vicki Brumback, Joyce McDonald, and Ron Lands—for their work in keeping things running smoothly.  Next year our Jumpstart fiction leader will be novelist JT Ellison; poetry will be led by Jane Hicks. Jumpstart XIV is set for January 10-12, 2014. For the first time in at least ten years we won’t be able to hold the event at the Magnuson Hotel, due to remodeling there that will eliminate one of our meeting rooms; we’ll let you know our new location later in the year.

For our Fall Workshop this year—scheduled for November 9 at the United Way offices in Oak Ridge—Cookeville writer Jennie Ivey will present a session on how to profit from writing. Jennie did a special session on Column Writing at our 2010 conference that was a great hit, so here’s another chance to learn from this personable presenter. Registration forms for both the Fall Workshop and for Jumpstart XIII will be included in your conference registration packets.

I look forward to seeing you at the conference!

~ Carol Grametbauer


Banquet speaker: Dana Wildsmith; nonfiction Friday: Dana Wildsmith; nonfiction Saturday: Darnell Arnoult.

Our other principal presenters will include Abigail DeWitt, fiction and general session speaker; Connie Jordan Green, poetry; George Ella Lyon, writing for young people; and Judith Geary, editing/publishing.  Our specialty sessions will include storytelling, Finn Bille, Christian publishing, Ami McConnell, and graphic novels, Bobby Nash.  Sandra Plant will present a special session on writing groups and networking, and another on writing for newspapers.

Competition prizes presented at the banquet.

See you there!