Lee Martin: Teaching at Writers’ Conferences

I’ll be headed out later this week to the 2013 Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford, Mississippi. This is the third conference I’ve attended, and there was also a creative nonfiction workshop in 2007, and this is the second conference I’ve co-directed with Neil White and Susan Cushman. I’m familiar with the returning faces–Dinty W. Moore, Lee Gutkind, Michael Rosenwald, Jessica Handler–and I’ve known River Jordan, who’s new this year,  since she came to Tennessee and read from the galley of her first novel at the Barnes and Noble Writers Night prior to the Southern Festival of Books where she was to be on a panel. And Lee Martin is new this year. I haven’t met him yet, but I like what I hear.

Lee’s blog today is titled “Teaching at Writers’ Conferences” and gives a glimpse of what we can expect this weekend in Oxford. He writes:

“At the end of this week, I’ll be in Oxford, Mississippi, teaching a memoir workshop preceding the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference and then sticking around to be on a panel during the conference proper. Thus begins the season of writers’ conference teaching with other visits to Rowe, Massachusetts; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and Montpelier, Vermont, to come. I love teaching at these conferences where folks are generally passionate about their craft and eager to pick up some little tidbit to help them along their writers’ journeys. I also love meeting folks I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to know, and getting to have some small part in the work that they’re doing. If I can share what I know in a way that will be helpful, maybe I can save someone a bit of time in the development of his or her craft. By so doing, I can pay back all the wonderful teachers who did the same for me. Like the handyman character, Red Green, used to say on his television show, “Remember, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.”

I was first drawn to creative nonfiction by memoir. I was a fiction writer who decided to turn his skills with narrative into storytelling about the self. I quickly learned that I loved being able to dramatize moments from my life and arrange them in a narrative thread of cause and effect. I also loved being able to reflect upon those moments, interrogate them, use them to think more deeply about the person I was/am and the people around me. This is all to say that I’m very much looking forward to my trip to Oxford, and the conversation I’ll have about memoir with the folks in my workshop…” Read more:


It’s not too late to register! Join us for a full and inspiring weekend on the Ole Miss campus. The creative nonfiction community in the South is growing. Come join us!

2013 Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference and Workshops

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A gathering of the finest editors, agents, instructors,
and writers in the US!

cnf.lee1Lee Gutkind

May 2-5, 2013
Oxford, MS
On the Campus of the University of Mississippi

cnf.Neil and Dinty at Off SquareNeil White, Dinty W. Moore

More Information! Register Now!

Call to reserve your room at The Inn at Ole Miss
1-888-4 UM ROOM


Co-directors: Susan Cushman, Neil White, Kathy Rhodes


Lee Gutkind * Dinty W. Moore * Neil White * Virginia Morell
Mike Rosenwald * Jessica Handler * Beth Ann Fennelly * Lee Martin
Leigh Feldman * Deborah Grosvenor * Bob Guccione, Jr. * Julia Reed
Stella Connell * Jamie Brickhouse * River Jordan * More!


Go Back to the Delta

Creative Nonfiction at The Crossroads
September 21-22, 2012
Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale MS


Come to the land of the blues, hear it, experience a bit of its history, feel the mystery born out of its extremes, draw from the creative spirit so rich and full here, brought to completeness in the heat and hardness that was once…the Delta.


Coming out of Memphis, I sit in the backseat of Dad’s 1960 Ford Fairlane with the glass rolled down, leaning into the opening, arms folded on the window, chin resting on them. The hot wind hits my face and whips my hair. We have been to the zoo, then shopped a bit in Whitehaven. Mama always picks up a bag of that orange marshmallow peanut candy when we go to a five and dime. I got one of those new rubber coin ovals with a slit down its middle that opens for accepting change when you squeeze it in your palm.

All of a sudden, from the top of a shady ridge, the road goes down—straight down into unending flatness and cotton fields. The last hill always causes a stir in my soul, a thumping in my chest, a funny feeling in my stomach. It is like Almighty God started digging here and scooped out a big basin of rich land so farmers can plant cotton and kids can grow up looking at it.

The Delta begins here. It is bordered on the east by the Yazoo, born of the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha near Greenwood, and on the west by the Old Man River, who “must know somethin, but he don’t say nothin, he jes keeps rollin along.”

Highway 61 cuts through the Delta—two lanes, straight-as-an-arrow, with just enough room for two cars to pass, one going south, one going north. The whole earth outside my window is cotton. Row after row, pressed against the road, running out to the end of the sky. Nothing but cotton as far as I can see. I smell the dirt, I smell the green, I feel the hum of growing things. I think it is mine, all mine—I was born of it, steeped in it. When it is cotton pickin time, I know that God is on his throne and all is right with the world.

Weatherbeaten cypress shotgun shacks sit just off the highway, squeezed in between crop rows, careful not to take too much space away from the cotton. The houses are one-room wide, two, maybe three rooms long, with tar paper to cover cracks in the boards. If we don’t go too fast, I can see straight through the front door and out the back. Every house has a front porch with an old ripped-up couch on it where people sit stirring a breeze with cardboard funeral home fans. Every porch has a galvanized tin tub hanging by the front door for taking a bath in, and every yard has a pump for water and an outhouse in the back. The yards are broom-swept, baked hard, and full of children rolling old tires or bouncing balls or watching cars go by. I see skinny dogs with their ribs showing and stacks of firewood and pink rose vines winding around wire fences and yellow cannas coming out of old tractor tires splashed with white paint. I see drooping clotheslines with big-cupped bras and blue work denims.

On down Highway 61 fieldhands chop cotton. They wear overalls or ankle-length skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and big straw hats or bandanas wrapped around their heads, with nary an inch of skin showing. I wonder why they are dressed like this when it is hot as an oven outside. Mama says it is to protect them from the sun. They move forward and backward from the waist up, in unison, sticking hoes to the ground, chanting words to old spirituals, made-up words, field hollers. One lead voice sounds stronger than the others, all singing in rhythm with their hoeing, landing hard on the word that comes as the tool strikes the earth. Mournful lamentations spring from those souls trapped in an endless cycle of hard work and no way out. Stuck here, they toil from “can see till caint see,” choppin cotton, to bring cash to the pockets of wealthy planters. …


Come to the Delta sharpen your writing tools, let the spirit of this place strike your soul, work, write, read, listen, in the heat draw from the riches of this place, tap the creative spring here.

Email me: kathyrhodes at turnstylewriters dot com

Showcasing Creative Nonfiction

Since last spring I’ve been teaching classes weekly at the Williamson Parks & Recreation Center. And loving it! WPRC offers a variety of classes — from zumba to oil painting to watercolor to Mexican cooking to belly dancing to western line dancing to repairing drywall to Spanish to creative writing. Creative writing is ME…that is, unless I’m ever brave enough to give belly dancing a go.

I teach “Writing My Real Life Stories” every Wednesday and have had some unique and fascinating tales, and their writers, come through my door. These people just have to tell their stories, and it is my job to help them do it better.

I’m thrilled to have finally made the rec center’s display case! The tools of writing — laptop, paper, pencil — and glimpses of memories — old snapshots — and the products of writing — framed stories/pictures and books — are displayed in the lighted case in the facility’s foyer. (There’s even a picture of me with my old high school boyfriend building a snowman in the Delta, where it never snows!)

In class, not only do we talk about the creative process and the art of remembering true experiences, we discuss the techniques of writing good creative nonfiction. We have classes of craft: how to write in scenes — showing and telling, how to develop character through action and dialogue, and how to employ specific and concrete details and write description.

Hands-on experience, too. We write a real story during the course of the classes.

The next session is March 9, 16, 23, and 30, from 10 – 11 Wednesday mornings. Learn more on the TurnStyle website.

Come join us and learn to tell your real life story in an artful and compelling way!

Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference

Creative Nonfiction writers!

Click below for the registration form for the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference November 11-14, 2010 in Oxford, Mississippi. Mail your registration form and payment today! And secure a room at the Inn at Ole Miss — rooms are going fast!


Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference

Yes, it has a brand new name! Instead of Mid-South, this big gathering of creative nonfiction writers from all over the country will honor the town that is making it all possible! A town rich in writing tradition. Oxford, Mississippi.

Neil White, Kathy Rhodes, Susan Cushman

Neil White of Oxford, Susan Cushman of Memphis, and I (Kathy Rhodes of Franklin TN) met yesterday at Neil’s beautiful office at Nautilus Publishing in the Plein Air development of the artsy community of Taylor, south of Oxford, near Thacker Mountain, to plan, to develop a schedule, to determine our guest speakers.

Charming Artsy Downtown Taylor — the famous grocery and art galleries

Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference
November 11-14, 2010
Ole Miss Campus, Oxford MS

The conference will begin Thursday afternoon with a 4-hour class on creating scenes in creative nonfiction, taught by Neil White. Then Thursday night there’s the Thacker Mountain radio show. All day Friday, there will be four different manuscript workshops, led by Dinty W. Moore, Kristen Iverson, Neil White, and one other, TBA later. Saturday — Lee Gutkind will teach from 8-12, and in the afternoon, there will be a panel of 6 agents, editors, and publicists on the realities of publishing, moderated by Dinty W. Moore. Then, one-on-ones with the agents and editors! Sunday morning, there will be two panels: Writers Off the Page (markets for CNF) and Writers On the Page (the craft of CNF). A detailed schedule with costs for each day is forthcoming. But for the whole conference, the cost is $350 — and there’s an earlybird special of $325 for those who wish to sign up now! Checks can be mailed to Oxford CNF Conference, PO Box 40, Taylor MS 38673. (A website with PayPal is being set up for those who wish to pay by plastic.)

Confirmed staff to-date: Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, David Magee, Kristen Iverson, Neil White, Stella Connell, and Jeff Kleinman, with 6 others in the wings but not quite yet confirmed.

Conference Co-directors Neil White, Kathy Rhodes, Susan Cushman

Watch for more details and for a new Facebook fan page and in the meantime, if you have questions, please email me! For now, mark your calendar if you have not done so and consider reserving your spot early! Space is limited in some of the classes.

Neil, Susan, and I had a great planning session, lunch at Emileigh’s (thanks, Neil!), and then browsed at the Tin Pan Alley antique shop, where Susan and I shared a fun moment on a swinging bed. Yes, a swinging day bed! How I would love to have that on my porch! (How I would love to have a porch!) Alice who owns the shop wants to attend our conference and write her real life stories — and how we hope she will!

We hope you will sign up, too! I am so pleased and excited about our lineup and look forward to sharing ALL the details with you!

Creative Nonfiction Classes

The days are ticking down, and in 17 of them, I will begin teaching classes at the Franklin Rec Center on Hillsboro Road. I will soon be counting the minutes! I have wanted to do this for a long time at this particular venue, but never had the opportunity or the time to pursue it. Well, baby, I do now!

The classes are meant for ANYONE who wants to write their real life stories — for the writer who wants to learn the basics of the genre of creative nonfiction and how to write it better … for the mother or grandmother/father or grandfather who wishes to write down and preserve their personal or family stories … for the person who has an idea to pursue or an adventure to tell about. Funny stories, poignant stories, tender stories. Real life stories.

Creative nonfiction is the telling of true stories in an artful and compelling way. Sessions will offer not only the fun of recalling and reliving memories, but also solid instruction and hands-on experience — from that scary first blank page to a completed story.

It’s for writers. It’s for those who are not necessarily writers and who are a little bit intimidated by that empty sheet of white paper with thin blue lines on it.

“Writing My Real Life Stories” is a 3-session course — May 5, May 12, and May 26 — from 10 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. — at the Franklin Recreation Complex at 1120 Hillsboro Road. The cost is $48. To register, call 790-5719, Ext. 10.

Telling stories comes naturally. When we tell our stories, we are remembering, reviewing, reliving, and reflecting back like silver mirrors. We are doing something important. We are leaving a legacy.

Nothing lasts forever until it is written down.

Come, Nashville area folks! Join us! And spread the word.