It’s that time of year again. Time to make resolutions. Time to try to get back into healthy habits, whether for eating, exercising, or writing. The latter was the reason for driving to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, this past Friday, amidst weather forecasts for high winds and accompanying rains. It was time for the Tennessee Mountain Writers’ twenty-fourth annual January Jumpstart.

January Jumpstart offers two tracks, one for fiction and one for poetry. This year’s instructors were Darnell Arnoult (fiction) and Connie Jordan Green (poetry). I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Darnell numerous times through her Mining the Motherlode workshops online via Zoom, but had never had the pleasure of working with Connie. Being newly-come-again to poetry, though, and knowing of her legendary status as a teacher and mentor in regional circles, I couldn’t wait to sign up for Connie’s class. I didn’t leave Oak Ridge disappointed, either.

Over the course of one and a half days, we worked on eight poems together as a class and brought home one specific prompt, plus dozens of other ideas to explore in the future through the prompts we used in class. We learned about some closed forms and explored ars poeticas. We talked about the importance of concrete images (an area in which I still often struggle). We also talked about odes and triptychs (don’t get me started on how horribly that one went for me), and discussed the essential art of metaphors in good writing. We also had a great prompt where we picked a first line from another poet and used that as our jumping-off place for our own poem — I used the line “The talkative guest has gone,” by Jane Kenyon and wrote a poem to Connie Green about myself; I haven’t sent it to her yet, but I’ll get around to it (I hope it makes her chuckle). We examined verbs and nouns in a couple of poems, too, which really opened my eyes about ways to strengthen my own work — strong verbs and concrete nouns really do matter.

Being in the company of so many other writers all weekend was the real treat, though. I think that’s where we learn and grow the most — through the fellowship and camaraderie, through the sharing of ideas and words. I want to thank Tennessee Mountain Writers for yet another amazing event. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.

More writing events coming up on the horizon. Savannah Sipple has some Saturday workshops that begin this coming Saturday. Information is available on her website, Diane Zinna is offering her amazing February Publishing class again, too — details are available on her website, And Tennessee Mountain Writers’ Annual Conference is coming up April 4-6 in Oak Ridge, TN — more details are available via their website, (my friends Sharon Shadrick, Sharon Waters, and I will be presenting a program on “Confronting Impostor Syndrome for Writers”).

Also, thanks to Sharon Shadrick for allowing me to use one of her pics from our Friday night dinner at the Comfort Inn at January Jumpstart. (I took no pictures at all; shame on me!)