The Scorched Report – September 1, 2018

From The Sisters of the Scorched Soles

Committed to our writing. Keeping our feet to the fire!

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Our August long distance meeting was very productive.

Although none of us could figure out SKYPE, we managed to put together a conference call and get some work done.

 

Jill at her home office.

   Jill’s short stories centered on the five senses are coming along. Contemporary, thoughtful, and full of all the “sensual-ness” you would expect from stories about the five senses! We reviewed Summer of Love, Spec House, and A Normal Thing. After critique and discussion, Jill was off to her next assignment…a finished draft of the other two senses to be explored. We have sight, smell, and touch. Next is hearing and taste. I’m hoping Jill will let us preview a few excerpts here as she submits the stories to magazines and literary journals.

 

 

 

 

 

Neda on sight at a model home.

Neda has her novel manuscript with an editor and is itching to get on to another writing project while she waits for the results. Flash fiction is the thought, and with Neda’s bountiful file of story ideas and drafts, she has the makings of some great short pieces to submit online and in journals. She’s doing research on places to publish flash fiction. If anyone has suggestions, leave a comment here or connect with Neda on Facebook.  I’ll post our finding in a future report.

 

 

 

 

Ginger lounging with snacks.

Look for Ginger’s post White Pants Rule coming this Tuesday. Have you stashed yours away until next summer? Or, do you subscribe to the “wear white whenever” philosophy? Opinions abound on this topic!

The Book Club Profile project for Alleghany News has four participants so far. A visit to the Olde Beau Book Club on Friday was a delight! They reviewed Amor Towle’s Gentlemen in Moscow, complete with photos and props to follow the story line. It really brought the story to life! Questionnaires are being sent to participating clubs, with the guarantee of a variety of results that demonstrate the variety of readers we have in Alleghany County.

 

A Weekend With the Sisters – Ready to Begin Again

As the Sisters of the Scorched Soles complete their first working weekend, goals have been established and assignments made. Permission to nag has been given and each sister has a timeline for our projects.

Neda has her historical novel about Frederick Stowe. Jill has her series of short stories about the five senses. I have this blog.

Let the writerly activity begin!

Establishing our roles in the Scorched Sisterhood: Neda, the nurturer and provider of food and comfort. Jill, the practical, logical, techie youngest sister. Ginger, the cheerleader and lifter of spirits.

 

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Ready to Begin Again

I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I reached the bottom of the mountain. How much I needed the comfort of my sisters and the ease of mutual analysis and shared opinion that comes through extended time with close friends!

There is the point at which you can say almost anything, be yourself, unvarnished. It came easy with my St. Joe friends. We had years of history and shared experiences. There was no BS because everyone knew the best and worst already. Nothing to hide.

My first two days were spent stripping the built-up varnish of daily life to let the natural wood  of my being breath for a while. I became a spiritual nudist, floating along on a cloud of joy, easily moving toward a positive and enriching purpose.

How fortunate we are to have found each other and to be at this point in our lives where vision can become clear and action can be taken.

 

 

 

 

 

My Last Dip In The Jury Pool

I was actually looking forward to jury duty! It’s been a busy few weeks and I was hoping to get a bit of diversion, maybe even some allowable judging of my fellow man.

The process was fascinating. Hearing the explanation of why we were there, watching the line as people waited to ask the judge for a deferment to a later date. This was her first trip to Alleghany. She was very attentive. Listened carefully to each plea to be excused. But, you could read her lips between the sweet smile. Nice try, but not enough of a reason to get you off. Back into the jury pool. It was people watching at its finest.

I heard names I recognized. Now they had faces. I saw faces I recognized. Now they had names. There were even a few who I knew by name and face, only to find out that name was not their legal name…which I could understand, since I was the Ginger Collins who answered to Barbara Anne when they called the roll.

It wasn’t an episode of Law & Order, but it was a genuine cast of characters who had me jotting down details to enrich my character descriptions in future stories. There were a few rugged individuals. Leather-tan faces, backs hunched over, a slight limp in the walk. I cast them as outlaws or eccentric millionaires. There were women with classic features, looking like they had finished the dishes and removed their apron just in time to get to the courthouse. Of course, there were a few bad fashion choices. There always are. But my favorite of the day was the man whose face was the rural version of British royalty.  The jug ears, the prominent nose. To my eyes he could have been a cousin to Prince Charles who somehow ended up in the North Carolina mountains. I spun a yarn around that visual for a good ten minutes!

Then it was over! After all the prep and procedure, we were released. This means I will never find out what those three men in the blue suits at the front table were talking about. Maybe that’s my next story!

The Sisters of the Scorched Soles

Bound together by a promise to keep each other writing.

We’ve set our goals and made the commitment.

We are putting our feet to the fire.

The Sisters – L-R : Jill Evans, Neda Gayle, Ginger Collins

People who are meant to be together find each other. The story behind the formation of our trio in 2010, proves it. That story later. Now I will just introduce us as three women in a critique group…very individual… yet alike in as many ways as we are different. From the beginning we truly enjoyed the style, substance, and subject matter of each other’s stories and worked together to get the words polished, submitted, and published.  This always made for long confabs, always over food, with lots of conversation on a variety of topics. But, it always came back to writing and the journey to publication. When I lived in Atlanta, our critique group sessions consisted of long and lavish lunches at Neda’s, followed by the reading of our latest pages. It was an entire literary afternoon. It was glorious.

 

The fateful trip to New York City in January, 2011. It didn’t get above 15 degrees during our entire visit.

In January, 2011, our trio traveled to New York City for a Writers Digest Conference. Our novel manuscripts had received rave reviews from what we considered to be discerning readers and we were confident agents would find our stories appealing. Our elevator speeches were flawless, our leave-behind material was impressive.  We were ready for success. It didn’t come. There were requests for 50 pages here and there, and a couple agents asked for full manuscripts. But nothing came of it. Nothing.

It was a level of disappointment that hit all three of us equally. We were experienced business women. Business analysis, marketing, advertising, and media…among many other things. When you put it all together, we were pretty smart chicks!  How could we be rejected? We were in agreement, never had we put that much time and effort into something and not come out winners.

After a period of mourning for my dream of being a novelist, I settled into mountain life in Alleghany County. I boxed up the writing, even gave some books away. I turned my back on creative writing and went back to the familiar of marketing materials, print ads, and press releases.

Jill started a photography business in addition to her active website business. Neda went from high-end retail to a new life in real estate. We connected when possible on my quick trips to town. Always lots of laughs and marvelous tales of our most recent adventures. We were busy with our new projects and it was clear that writing had fallen to the wayside for all of us.

Now we’re back. Energized, refocused on our writing goals, and taking the next steps. This blog post is my first step. Journaling our adventures, sharing what we learn, and finding the joy in writing that once kept us so inspired and motivated.

Once a week. That’s my posting promise. Here goes!

Soft, Round, Curly Words

When Ron Houchin met with our writers in April he stressed the fact that even though we may have our favorite place to write, with the atmosphere, music, silence, candle, cushion that gets us “in the writing mood,” we need to be comfortable writing anywhere, because if that’s where the spirit moves us towards a thought or idea or reflection, we should not wait to capture it on paper. Let those words fly onto the page, red hot, fresh out of the oven.

As I sit in the Alleghany Library I’m putting that advice into practice. I’m writing off the top of my red head as I decompress from one meeting and prepare for the next. Later this afternoon I’ll lead the monthly meeting of Alleghany Writers. Days aren’t usually this jammed and I’ve been working hard to unjam even more, but sometimes the personal, home, and community interests converge in a perfect storm that requires seamless preparation, full attention, and a professional manner. All the things that spell out work instead of play.

So, even though I am drawn toward creating a copy draft for a Horizon Bistro brochure, I feel compelled to write some words that are soft and round and curly before I start writing something as pointed and sharp as a promo piece for catering and carry out.

My first thought is to finish the piece I started early in the week for our monthly prompt exercise. It’s a picture prompt, and the challenge is to describe the setting.  The look, the feel, the abstract, the concrete. All of it.

I got a good start and knew the finish. What I didn’t have was a middle. When I started working on the middle the word count grew and the story took off into its own novel! I was going for a cute little vignette with an ending twist. What I got was a rambling beginning going nowhere.

Guess I’ll dig into the ramblings and carve out 500 words that describe the setting….an outdoor summer wedding. I’m envisioning the love story you see on the Hallmark movies. She’s the rich girl. Privileged. Not yet spoiled, but on her way there. He’s the hardworking guy who works on the family property. A “hand,” who has a special connection with her horses. Each sees the potential in the other. The photo shows the final scene, their wedding day.

I’m off to write some soft, round, and curly words………………………………….

Should I publish the final draft??

 

Chance Meeting Brings Friendship…and More!

Often you meet a person and don’t realize the impact they can have on your life.

I wrote the opening to this interview on May 6, the day after our Writers At The Bistro event at Horizon Bistro in Sparta. It was a short review of “From Lemons to Lemonade,” presented by NYTimes and USA Today best selling author, SE ‘Susan’ Smith.
As it states in the interview, the circumstances surrounding our first meeting make a great opening introduction. The audience got a good laugh at the telling. As I look back on the impact and potential for Alleghany Writers and our local writing scene, it is a prime example of “fate plays a hand.
Spending time with Susan since the event has been personally inspiring. This woman loves, loves, loves writing stories, and she has a keen sense for marketing that has taken her to the top of her category in the publishing world. Hearing her share the journey has me taking a closer look at how I spend my time. It has prompted me to refocus on the things I really love to do. I really love to write!  And it’s time to get out those notebooks with all the story ideas and get to writing. With the Alleghany Writers creative writing group up and running, I can shift more time from the organizing.  Or, as Susan put it, focus on “be-ing” instead of “do-ing.” Writing is hard work, but it’s joyful work, and I’m in need of some joy. Look for a more regular posting schedule in the future!

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May 6, 2018

It was through a cosmic set of occurrences that I came to know author S.E. ‘Susan’ Smith and became immersed in conversation at her home on an afternoon in March. She shared the story of how she became an author and rose in popularity to become a multiple New York Times and USA TODAY best selling author. It was an inspiration…as a writer with a goal to be published, but also as a woman who has been at that place, the moment you make the decision to take control of your success and become the mistress of your own destiny.

A prolific writer with a mind for marketing. Susan has developed new markets with stories for teens and children, expanding the brand with plush animals, coloring books, tote bags, and other items.

Susan appeared May 5, on the Horizon Bistro stage in downtown Sparta to an enthusiastic crowd of readers and writers.  She brought her story of turning life “From Lemons to Lemonade.” She talked of the challenges, her inspirations, and gave us a look at the many ways readers help build the characters and story lines. As an example of her faithful fan base, there were readers who drove from northern Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma to see their favorite author and hear about the new stories she has coming in the next few months.

Thanks to Chef Garrison Wagoner, owner of the Horizon Bistro, for giving Alleghany Writers a spot on the Bistro stage. Susan’s appearance premiered First Saturday performances of Writers On The Bistro Stage. Check the Alleghany Writers Facebook page for our upcoming schedule.

While Susan takes time to speak with attendees, a group of her faithful fans distribute books and other cool “swag.” Susan admits to loving the goodies and makes sure there are lots of fun items to hand out at book signings.

Here is my interview with Susan, printed in the Alleghany News on April 25.

My adventure started with Cynthia Grant. Since she was home recuperating after foot surgery, I delivered promotional posters and handouts to her house for an upcoming Alleghany Writers event at the Library. As people came by to visit, Cynthia handed out the information. Surprisingly effective!
Cynthia gave handouts to Julia Simmons. Julia went for coffee at Sparky’s and heard two women talk about their recent move to Alleghany. She heard one woman say she was a writer. Julia approached, introduced herself as a friend of the Alleghany Writers creative writing group, and offered one of the handouts she picked up from Cynthia.
That person was SE ‘Susan’ Smith. Julia got her card, dropped it off with me on the way home, and I sent Susan an email that evening as an introduction to our group and to Alleghany County in general. There was a reply in my inbox the next morning, and by the afternoon I was sitting with Susan, her sister Linda, and Sirah the pup, overlooking a scenic view of Low Gap, and talking about writing. I doubt that a character from the worlds of S.E. Smith could have orchestrated a more serendipitous event!
As a fellow writer I understood her enthusiasm about getting stories out of her imagination and down on paper. Susan is immersed in her characters and their stories.… so are her readers!  The sheer number of published books and their popularity show her ability to engage readers in the worlds she creates. But, as I sit next to this very pleasant woman, dressed down for an afternoon of writing, and not appearing anything like someone who has been named multiple times to the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author lists, my first question begins with the word “how.”  How did it all happen?
About her start in writing, Susan says, “The school district I worked for was reorganizing. I had been with them for 15 years as both a teacher and as tech support staff. One day they tell us ‘everyone is gone, you have to reapply.’

“I was rehired, but developed this rebellious mood of wanting to escape the ‘real’ world for a while. So I started to read. I soon found there were few stories with females who were strong, fragile, brave, scared, namely a woman who was real to me. And, I wanted to read about an alpha guy who was strong, vulnerable, willing to learn, and who wasn’t afraid to admit he was in love, even if he wasn’t sure what to do about it!”

Susan found the heroes and heroines in books couldn’t match the ones she created in her own imagination. “I thought about all the stories in my head and decided I could always write them down for my own pleasure.”

Her sister Linda encouraged Susan to send her stories to a publisher. She did, but received the, “thanks, but no thanks” response that often nips the budding novelist. Not Susan. She kept writing, just to see where the characters would go. The stories collected into a growing pile.

Eventually her sister encouraged Susan to publish so she could share the stories with friends. She was still working her full-time job, a job which now included eight schools, not just one.

“I took my courage and started researching. I found out about Kindle Direct Publishing, learned to do the covers, and late on a Sunday night, I hit the SEND button to publish the books I had written.”

Along with positive feedback came sales, and the book sales grew to the award-winning popularity she has today. It confirmed what Susan knew in her heart. There were people out there who wanted the same reading experience. Now the publishing world of S. E. Smith spans the genres of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary stories. They combine action, adventure, and romance with the themes of family, friendship and true love.  Her audience is world-wide, including adults, young, adults, and children.
How did Susan Smith get to Sparta? It’s another version of the story we know well. Looking for a mountain home to get away from Florida summers. Went from county to county. Nothing fit the bill. Their realtor told them about a home in Alleghany County. That home didn’t suit, but when they followed a “by owner” sign up the road, there it was. The home, the property, the view. Everything they wanted. Now Susan and her family are Alleghany homeowners and look forward to being part of our community.