Category Archives: Independent Bookstores

Circle City Books Mural in Downtown PBO

New Circle City Books Mural in PittsboroCircle City Books has arrived! And it is announcing its presence with a spectacular new mural in downtown Pittsboro.

A great place to wander and get in loads of trouble–the store has an incredible selection of high quality gently used books–and a few new ones! I was honored to be included in Georgann Eubanks’ recent presentation on her “Literary Trails of North Carolina” series, where we talked about the work of Chatham authors Nancy Peacock, Duncan Murrell, Doris Betts, Lawrence Naumoff, Virginia Boyd, Michael Parker, and others. I got to talk about “literary houses, hippies, and chicken trucks in Chatham” — with nods to “Shade Tree House,” which inspired the opening lines of my story collection ACCIDENTAL BIRDS OF THE CAROLINAS; the Alston Plantation, which inspired Nancy Peacock’s tales of black and white family connections in HOME ACROSS THE ROAD; Lawrence Naumoff’s old farmhouse in SILK HOPE; and Doris Betts’ chicken truck crash scene in SOULS RAISED FROM THE DEAD.

After the talk, Georgann got to see her book on the wall mural! Mine was included a few weeks later, and there are more to come. It’s a pleasure to be in such good company, but then you always are with North Carolina writers.

Circle City Books Mural

Circle City Books Mural

May I suggest a “mini retreat” for writers, especially the cash-strapped (probably all of us except Stephen King). Bring your writers group to Circle City Books, spend an hour or so stacking up some favorites at discount prices, then go outside and have your picture taken with the enormous book of a favorite NC author! Post it on your Facebook page!

Then–go have lunch with writer friends. when you’re done celebrating the rollicking side of the writer’s life, go find yourself some quiet place to read that stack. Reveiw your favorite writers on Good Reads and other blogs. Study, then write.

Who knows? The mural may have to go around the block by the time it’s done.

 

 

Kitchen Table Writers Read at McIntyre’s

We’ve been talking about it for more than two years. First we thought we might read at the General Store Cafe. Then we thought Davenport and Winkleperry. Then, we thought, why not McIntyre’s Books, where the writers read?

Peter Mock checked the schedule. There was a Sunday afternoon open. Most writers could come. So we did it! Our first Kitchen Table Writers Recital with Reception. Parents and friends, professional writers, teachers, and fans of all kinds came to listen. We had been writing and revising for months — some of us for years. We had some good stuff to read, and the audience was riveted.

Some days a teacher gets to just sit back and enjoy. Today was one of those days!

Directions: Open one eye

Rise. Walk to the kitchen. Stumble to the table. Pick up a pen. Pre-dawn settles on the page and makes its own illumination.

This blog is a place to gather my thoughts about the writing discipline, provide a gathering place for writers in my workshops and a showcase for occasional short pieces, a place to talk about books and recommended reading, a record of the ordinary life of a writer who loves to teach. I’m about to  publish a new book, so my adventures and travels will find a place here.

An amazing thing happened to me last summer. A cutback at work and looming bills forced me to get creative. How to bring in income in a way that supports my writing life, and allows me to stay in my community? I decided to start teaching my Kitchen Table Workshops again, something I’d loved in the past. In 2003, I’d created my first Kitchen Table Workshops by inviting writers into my home to write and review manuscripts –  bribing them with the promise of big pots of soup for lunch. Making soup is one way I nurture myself, and I knew that writers need nurture. And truthfully, I wasn’t sure if anyone would keep coming unless I fed them! I needn’t have worried.

It was an amazing experience—I found that I loved how this created an “instant writing community” that nurtured  both my student writers and me.  I had to shut them down to focus on a book tour, but I’ve always wanted to get back to it. This time my house was under construction, and I needed other places to teach. I started scouting my neighborhood.

General Store Cafe

My local café offered the first workshop location: The General Store Café, the place where all the hipsters meet, and my “office in town” when I’m doing community organizing, fundraising, or event planning. I love this place!

I scouted the rooms, found a quiet corner with good light in the section that’s closed in the morning. This is important because we have a confidentiality rule. I wanted writers to feel safe to go deep and share personal stories or wildly imaginative fiction.

NC Arts Incubator Performance Stage

Other workshops started up in short order in Siler City at the NC Arts Incubator

We gather in a room used for life drawing classes, Wednesday mornings at 10 am.  In November, we had a “salon” gathering with visual artists and students from the class reading their work and talking about process.

McIntyre's Books Fireplace Room

And at McIntyre’s Fine Books in Fearrington Village, Keebe Fitch and Pete Mock graciously allow us to use the large table in the reading room.  Thursday afternoons, 1:30 pm. See a cool story about this place in Our State magazine.

Workshop writers came out of the blue – only one had been to my workshops before – they were friends who’d always wanted to write, retirees who’d been writing for years, college professors, closet novelists, former journalists and  teachers, a practicing Santa, and some brave souls who wanted to try writing for the first time. All had extraordinary stories to tell.

All summer I found myself rising early, piling up books and my teaching easel, reviewing my notes on student writing, and scouting books for new pieces of writing to invoke the muse. Then trundling it all to the car and heading out for the workshop space.

It’s one of the most exciting jobs I’ve ever had.

I use the timed writing method, usually providing a piece of writing by a poet, essayist, or novelist to prime the pump. Sometimes I provide the first sentence. Sometimes a structure. Sometimes just an idea. Then I set a timer and say Go. Amazingly, people write. And write. And when it’s over, they put down their pens and read to each other.

General Store Writers

I wish I could tell you what it’s like to hear a group of incredibly diverse writers open their brains and hearts to each other for an hour and a half. We’ve heard Depression-era stories, growing up stories, work stories, buddy stories, smoking and drinking stories, love stories, grandmother stories, stories of loss, stories that made us collapse in laughter, stories that brought us to tears. What gifts!

Over the weeks and months, the writing began to break open like eggs, spilling out to make extraordinary omelets, soufflés, layer cakes, confections, confessions, and fabrications. Some writers began to think about how they could write a book, or improve a manuscript already under way.

Some of us talked about  even want to write a book together: The Ten Dollar Wedding Dress: A Guide for Anti-Bridezilla, Bohemian, Broke, and Good-Hearted Lovers. Turns out a bunch of us had weddings like that!

This blog is partly in honor of you, my writers, and I hope you will honor this blog by allowing me to post your work from time to time.