Spring! The flowers are blooming, and the trees have budded. It is high allergy season, and my eyes and nose are feeling it. Know what else Spring is? It’s time for lots of writing contest deadlines, conferences, and retreats. While I could live without the fine layer of yellow film on Bruce (that’s what I named the new Hyundai Santa Fe) or blowing in the breeze on the lovely Springtime air, I do love this time of year for all of those reasons!


The final weekend of February into the first of April, I attended the annual Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference in Oak Ridge, TN. As always, the Board did a fantastic job putting together another top-notch conference. I met several new people and caught up with numerous old friends. I’ve gone to this conference as often as I could since 2012, when I took second place in Nonfiction with “Learning to Drive,” about Papaw Little teaching me to drive in his old Ford pickup in my stepfather’s hayfield. In the years between, I have been abundantly blessed to place in several of their contests, including 1st and 3rd in this year’s Humor category with “Too Much Trouble” (1st) and “Nice” (like the place, not the adjective, 3rd). There are now six first-place plaques from TMWI hanging in my office from that the eleven years I’ve been affiliated with the group, and one Sue Ellen Hudson Excellence in Writing Trophy on top of my bookshelf, which makes me proud every time I see it, for my Humor piece “Buddy,” in 2019. The speakers this year were wonderful, as always. I came home with some good ideas and a couple of promising starts, including the beginning of what might become a longer piece about a young man named Humphrey Jackson and a trailer fire. Many thanks to the amazing Pamela Duncan for sharing her 15-Sentence Prompt to get me going on that. I was totally floored – we all know that I don’t write fiction, but there I was, building a character and tearing down his world as fast as I set it up on paper. (As a side note, I added two more pages to this piece last week during my stay at Denton Loving’s The Orchard Keeper, while in the 7:00 a.m. Prompt Group that I make it to sometimes on Zoom. It went over really well when I shared it with them.)


The same weekend as the TMWI Conference, Oak Ridge’s Grace Writers contest winners were announced. I earned an Honorable Mention in Nonfiction there for a piece that I’ve been editing and revising since last Fall. I’m withholding the title for now as it is still making the rounds at another contest, and I don’t want to mess up anything. I hope to start submitting it for publication to some journals and magazines in the next week or two. Denton and a few others have taken a lot of time to help me try to craft this piece as near perfect as I can get it before sending it out with faith and hope. Maybe there will be more good news about it as the year goes on.


I took another class with Diane Zinna a few weeks ago, this one a one-week class about writing about grief. For the first time ever, I was able to put down on paper the story about seeing my Granny Vance in a dream before she died. I’ve now submitted this piece to two very different places for possible publication and am just waiting to hear back from either of them at this point. I also wrote a little bout Mom’s death – it will be five years next week, which blows my mind that time has passed that quickly. The other piece that came from the class was one about my brilliant little Sophie Britannia’s life and death. All three were wonderful to get out. Hopefully there will be places to see them published so others can read them, too.


Darnell Arnoult is back to Mining the Motherlode with new dates announced for each month this year. I’m always excited about Darnell’s classes. This month, I got a really nice piece about purple that I want to work on and polish in hopes of getting it published somewhere. Another potential piece from the MTM session this month deals with A stranger I once sat across from on an airplane who had the word “WANDERLUST” tattooed on her ankle, but was obviously terrified of flying, which I found highly ironic. I’d like to work with that prompt more to finish it up and hope to do so in the near future.


This past week, Easter Sunday through Friday, April 14, I got to spend a week back at The Orchard Keeper. I wrote twenty-two new pages on my memoir, so it is now up to 124 pages overall. I’m still trying to write stories from Rome and the UK, then there will be some segments about the song from which I take the lyric that is the title for the book, how the fandom has changed for me, losing my dear Duranie friend Brandi, and the upcoming concert I’m going to in September at which Tommy Brewster will be present, too – and how he was the closest thing we had to John Taylor in Tazewell when I was growing up and how cool it will be to be at the same show he is at because of that. I may also write about Andy Taylor, the original guitarist for the band, having stage 4 prostate cancer, how it makes me look at all the members differently, how human I truly realize they are now. So, there’s progress being made, but still lots to be wrapped up. Then I’ll be looking for readers who will be honest with me about what needs to stay, to go, to be changed, etc. I still hope to finish writing it by the end of this year, as this August/September marks ten years since the trip to the UK/Europe took place. 


This coming week, I’ll be driving to West Virginia for a few days of writing/retreating with the ladies from our 7:00 a.m. Prompt Group on Zoom. I’m looking forward to that for lots of reasons. First of all, it’s somewhere I’ve never been to, and I think it sounds like a great setting to get some work done on the book. Secondly, I’ve gotten to know these ladies some through the Zooms, but there’s never anything like being in the same room with people. Including the two facilitators, I think that there will be about ten of us. It will be at Chief Logan State Park with Intensive Genre Workshops (IGW). The itinerary includes various prompts and writing games, a Micro Memoir Workshop, other awesome things like Taco & Baked Potato Bar on Thursday night, Italian and Fondue on Friday night, and a Cookout with Ice Cream Sundae Bar/S’Mores on Saturday night. All of the above sounds splendiferous to me! Sharon and Sharon from Denton’s class at Table Rock last year will be there, and I’m especially excited about that. Sharon S. may even be riding from Bristol onward in Bruce with me. (The two Sharons and I are all signed up to take Denton’s Editing With an Eye Toward Publication Class at Table Rock at the end of this Summer, too! I can’t wait!)


So, break out the Mucinex, the Robitussin, and the Puffs Plus, too. It’s Spring. But I’m ready for the excitement and challenges. It’s a new year with new opportunities and new expectations for me. Not just in writing (but more on that next month). I’m 28 submissions in for the year, so far, with 3 accepted/placed in contests, 9 rejections, and 16 pieces still out there making the rounds and being looked over carefully, fingers crossed. Seize the opportunities that present themselves to you, too, wherever you are!