The 7th Council for the Written Word Spring Fiction Workshop is now one for the history books. Lingering, however, are a few memories and tidbits that I hope to hold onto. First of all, the image in my mind of the venue — the Westview Clubhouse — it was beautiful … something out of a Southern movie … tall, expansive, white, with columns and gardens and oak floors that look ancient, but they’re not. Our workshop was held in Townsend Hall, upstairs. Secondly, it did my heart good to see Bill Peach carrying out the trash afterward and Jim Taulman vacuuming the burgundy carpet in that huge room. Once again, Susie Dunham made magic with two 8-foot tables; she filled them with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, trail mix, and a silver platter of red and green grapes … and also a mix of Gerbera daisies. Currie Powers, Susan Lentz, and I waved our wands to put the other details in place, and Laurie Kay made name tags that matched the cover of our speaker’s book — Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore.
Some words of wisdom for writers from Susan:
You must spend TIME IN THE CHAIR. When you spend time there, the story takes you over and fills your head. Maybe you’ll write, maybe you’ll just think. Doesn’t matter. Spend time in the chair.
Susan’s journalism experience helped her to tell a story in a tight space, to know the importance of word choice, to use words that pull the reader in quickly, to know the importance of editing.
Write … edit, edit, edit … then it begins to sing.
First impressions matter, matter, matter. The first sentence should captivate the reader.
Think about how you can paint your story for the reader.
Four dozen writers. A speaker with a heart for her art. A good workshop.
Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, shared her writing and publishing experience with local writers gathered at Barnes & Noble Wednesday night. I’d just finished her novel about Catherine Grace, whose only objective was to turn 18 and leave the small town of Ringgold, Georgia, where her daddy was a preacher and her mama had drowned years earlier. “Every Saturday afternoon, she sits at the Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and plotting her getaway to Atlanta.”
The book is written much like a memoir, which was good for me, as that’s what I’m working on in my personal writing. One of the book’s layers deals with small town/small church people and issues, which was also good for me, as that brings reminiscences of my novel in progress…before I set it aside briefly to write creative nonfiction. Church members are good folks, but they tend to be gossipy and judgmental. And preachers are just regular people and face the same problems and struggles as those on the church rolls, and sometimes they are wrong in their actions and choices.
And then there’s Gloria Jean. You’ll have to read the book to get the full picture of this wonderfully complex character. “One Fourth of July, she stuck real-live lightning bugs inside her hair and then covered it all with netting. Her head glowed like some kind of fancy firecracker till all the lightning bugs choked on her hairspray and died. She paid [sister] Martha Ann and me fifty cents apiece to pick all those poor little bugs from her hair. Nope, nothing about Gloria Jean was ever simple or plain.” Now, is that memorable, or what?
As Lee Smith — who happened to be Susan’s seventh grade English teacher — says in her cover rave: “This is an unusually engaging novel by a very fine writer who knows exactly what she’s doing.”