Here’s a quick update of writing activities since last month’s blogs.

Upcoming Events:
— TMW Conference, April 4-6. I’m co-presenting a panel discussion on Confronting Imposter Syndrome with two of my amazing writer friends, Sharon Shadrick and Sharon Waters. It has been several years since I have presented at a conference, so I’m equal parts excited and nervous about this presentation. Mostly, though, I’m humbled and appreciative that the fine folks at Tennessee Mountain Writers had faith in our proposal and gave us the green light to speak. Praying for good things with the presentation, attendance, etc.

Ongoing Projects
— Short Story Collection – I feel like it will never be finished, even though it was supposed to be ready by April. Which means that it’s definitely not going to be finished by April. I’m still trying to complete writing one major story and edit several more. All I will say at this point is that it has been far more difficult than I imagined it would be when I started last September.
— 24 Tales – This is a follow-up anthology to the 23 Tales in which my “West Virginia Turnpike Hitchhiker” story appeared last Fall. I submitted two pieces again this year and Terry Shaw, one of the editors, let me know his preference, as well as sending his suggested edits. Right now, there’s about as much red ink on it from those edits as there is black ink from what I wrote (not quite, but it feels that way at the moment). Terry is a great editor, though, and I trust his judgment. A lot of the problem is structure/organization. This year’s submission involves genealogy, and you know I can’t tell those stories in a straightforward manner. Only, I have to figure out a way to do so. The average reader can’t follow the trail of John Hashes, nor do they want to!
— I’ve submitted 77 times so far in 2024, mostly to poetry competitions. Thus far, I have received 27 Rejections and 2 Acceptances. Not the record I had hoped for, but with most of it being state poetry competitions, it’s about what I expected. Hopefully April will bring better news.

— I won a local contest through the Appalachian Authors Guild for free membership in 2024 with my short story, “Smoke and Mirrors” last month. It’s a YA fantasy piece I wrote two or three years ago I’ve always been quite fond of, but just never found a publication home for. I think it will be published on the AAG site somewhere at some point now.
— Today, it was formally announced that I received Honorable Mention in the North Carolina Poetry Society Pinesong Awards’ Bruce Lader Witness Award Contest for my poem, “Knowing How to Lose.” The poem was inspired by Ann Pancake’s novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been.

As usual, I’ve been busy taking classes and checking out programs via Zoom.
— Conclusion of Publishing Class with Diane Zinna – We finished the February Publishing Class with more great editors from lit magazines, including Ekphrastic Review (Lorette Luzajic), Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine (Tommy Dean), Aromatica Poetica (Leona Godin), The Rumpus (Annalies Zijderveld), Eat Darling Eat (Aimee Lee Ball), and a few others (I missed the last few days because we were getting ready for the 80s Cruise). It was another solid month of exposure to editors and lit mags, completely worth the money spent on the class, great exposure to new resources and old friends.
— On February 25, I attended a Zoom reading/interview with Paul Crenshaw, author of Melt With Me: Coming of Age and Other ‘80s Perils. The Zoom was sponsored by Hippocampus lit magazine (one of my dream publications). Crenshaw has created a collection of essays about growing up in the 80s and all the things we were afraid of culturally – there were so many. I haven’t read his book yet, but I do currently have it checked out from Northeast State Community College on Inter-Library Loan – it’s next on my to-be-read list. Hearing him read from it, though, and field questions from some of the Hippocampus staff and audience members, was a true delight. He’s incredibly gifted and I’m really looking forward to reading the book.
— On March 10, I took another class taught by Diane Zinna, Punctuation & Grammar for Writers. I’ve noticed in my edits, I make a lot of comma mistakes I didn’t used to make. I seem to be getting sloppier in my middle-aged writing. I thought this class might be helpful. In two hours of instruction, we covered ten common grammar and punctuation problems for writers. It was a good refresher class. She even tackled the ominous lay vs lie, two words I just try to avoid altogether in my writing because I get it all mixed up. Of the ten tips, five dealt with commas. There were also semicolons and other tricky bits thrown in, too. Diane has even sent out a “quizlet” to each participant to fill out and send back to her to see if there are things we still need help with – that’s the kind of amazing instruction and follow-up you get when you take a class with her. And that’s why I continue to take classes with her. (Much like Darnell Arnoult, Diane Zinna makes sure you’ve gotten your money’s worth when you engage with her on an educational level. These ladies are at the top of their creative games and truly give to the participants in their classes/sessions. I can’t say enough great things about either of them!)

What I’m Up to Next
— On Sunday afternoon, I leave for a few days at Denton Loving’s The Orchard Keeper writing residence. I really need to get my focus back and hope to find the energy and serenity that seems to surround TOK. I’m looking forward to having dinner one evening with Denton and my buddy Daniel Ray, too. Here’s hoping for great things next week and getting back on track to numerous things that desperately need to get done in my writing life!

What’s in My Reading Stack
— Melt With Me: Coming of Age and Other ‘80s Perils (Paul Crenshaw)
— The Intimacy of Spoons (Jim Minick)
— Who You Grow Into (Amy Le Ann Richardson)
— Everywhere the Undrowned: A Memoir of Survival and Imagination (Stephanie Clare Smith)