Monthly Archives: November 2013

Small Business Saturday, My Shopping Tradition

This morning my daughter and husband arose while the sun was still asleep, while snow still blanketed the earth; they lit out for a new tradition… shopping. They hit the malls, not because the prices are slashed (they really are not), not because they have long shopping list (we don’t spend a lot during Christmas); they hit the road because the trip is “quality time.”

Insert eye roll. The dog and I have our own quality time. We call it “hold up in the warm and cozy bed.”

This year, many small-businessmen (and women) are spreading the word about Small Business Saturday. Tomorrow, small business owners are asking shoppers to step away from the malls, the chains, the big box stores and visit local, independently-owned stores. Of course this is a cause I’m happy to get behind.


This Saturday, show your local small businessman a little love.

Recently, I spoke to a group of authors and was asked, “is your book on Amazon?” Of course it is, all titles are on Amazon. However, traditionally published authors shudder at this question. Do you know that author’s receive zero money (not one red cent) from used books sold on Amazon?

Enter into this conversation a woman who said, “Oh you don’t need Amazon, I can tell you where you can find Renea’s book. It’s at Bookmiser in Roswell and The Book Exchange in Marietta.”

I stood for a moment, speechless. “I like to shop locally,” she said with a smile.

For those who insist on purchasing my books from Amazon, the following links are the only way to purchase where I will retain a portion of the sales. Paperback hereebook here. Latest release here.

So why then, would I ever send a reader to the local bookstore?

Because it is the local merchant who is the cornerstone of the community. The Indie Bookstore knows what you like to read. The local restaurant treats you like family. The boutique clothing store wants to build a community where everyone can come and shop.  Indie Bookstores are personal shoppers. Most local restaurants will cook something (off menu) just for you. Use them. But the relationship goes further than that, locally owned businesses care about you, they really do.

Here’s a revelation: Walmart doesn’t give a hang about you, neither does Amazon. But a small business in your town cares about you, the consumer. They care that your property taxes are going through the roof. A mom and pop’s sandwich store cares that you are on a limited income (because they are on a limited income also). Small businesses employ your children, they pay local taxes, they support the soccer team and hold fundraisers when someone needs a kidney transplant. And for those who think big-box retailers do the same well honey, I am not so certain about that. What I do know with certainty is that I have a relationship, a friendship, with every small businessman and woman I patronize.

They ask about my next book.

They ask about my momma, about the sick, and hungry.

They hold canned food drives.

They collect books, and coats, and toys for the needy.

They pray for me, and for my family.

They have a cake for me on my birthday. (Thank you Cat).

They make me feel like I matter, like I am more than just a number.

They want my business and they show me that I am appreciated.

Those are just a few reasons why I stayed curled up tight in the bed this morning as the beloveds pointed to vehicle toward the mall.  Join me in stepping out tomorrow and visiting a local independently-owned small business.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at

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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


Prayer Request: Aisle 12


Billy Albertson teaching students about growing their own food.

It wasn’t my usual grocery store, the one where I organize my coupons according to aisle, and can get in and out as fast as humanly possible. No. I dropped into this one because I was headed in that direction and needed to pick up a few items. I don’t like to dally at the grocery store, especially not with Thanksgiving just around the corner. I was standing on yon side of the store when an announcement came over the loudspeaker, “Billy Albertson come to the pharmacy.”

God has been doing this to me lately, dropping me in places where he can use me; like the gas station on Monday (more on that in another post), and the Christian Authors Guild on Monday night. He’s been pruning me, carving a little nick in my ear so that I will hear His call.

Knowing that there is only one Billy Albertson, and he isn’t on any medication, I drove my buggy to the non-yon side of the store eagerly anticipating one of those love-filled Farmer Billy hugs. Perhaps he was there for a flu shot, I thought. My stomach flipped and my heart hurt when Billy turned and I caught a glimpse of him.

He had aged, badly. His skin dull, lackluster. His stance, stooped over. His eyes tired.

“What in the world?” I asked while easing him toward the door. “What is going on with you?” Whatever he had, it was obvious he needed to be home.

“Doctor’s don’t know,” he pulled up his shirt sleeve revealing a puffy calamine-painted arm, “they’ve cut a hunk off’a me and sent it off.”

Dialing Daughter Number One I said, “Your father is ill. What is going on?”

I learned that Billy’s doctor-an incredible, and very competent and compassionate man- had spent two hours examining Billy, then sent him straight to the hospital earlier in the week for a variety of tests. Billy does not have shingles. Billy is home and for the family, neighbors, and concerned friends who may be reading this, we also need prayers for rest. According to all reports, no one really knows what is going on. This is a random ailment. All I know is that Billy is ill and he is not himself, and that we must wait for the biopsy results. Billy’s doctor is on this like a chicken on a June-bug, but the Great Physician is ultimately in charge.

Chicken Man and Friends: Mr. Coleman and Mr. Albertson

Chicken Man and Friends: Mr. Coleman and Mr. Albertson on Book Launch Day

“You read in the Bible where Job took pieces of broken pots and scraped his skin,” Billy said. “I am in such agony I could scrap myself clean to the bone.”

Sounds like Chicken Pox doesn’t it? It also sounds like Shingles. Right now I do not know, neither do the doctors.

What I do know is that God put me in the grocery store, the one I never visit so I could be placed in Billy’s path; so I could ask you to pray. Even though the biopsy is marked STAT, the doctor doesn’t anticipate receiving the results until Friday. Would you join me in praying that the results come sooner? Would you ask that the doctor know how to treat Billy’s condition?

And would you please pray for healing?

Blessings to you!

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at


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Wrestling: Round One

Doesn’t if often feel like we are in an exhausting wrestling match? We wrestle coats on our children and scoot them off to the bus stop. We wrestle with our bank account, stretching it as far as our meager balance will allow. We wrestle with our loved ones, who are often the source of our greatest heartache. We wrestle with the voices inside our heads, asking what path should we take? Or sometimes, how do I get out of this terrible situation. 

Lately, Dear Ones, I have been wrestling with God.

My battle is emotional, one that I will not share because it is close to my heart. I will, however, give you a few key words.





Each word triggers something deep inside of me. My mother has bravely battled cancer for many years and it is her ultimate wrestling match that triggers a host of emotions. More than my struggles to raise a teenager; more painful that my concerns about money, and angst as I try to write fifty thousand words in my novel by November 30. I am wrestling with things I cannot control.

Don’t we all?

This week, I mentioned to a friend that “God is preparing me for something I am not yet ready to be prepared for. I am wresting with God.”

See that woman with her fingers in her ears, the one who refuses to listen . . . that is me. wrestling

But God allows wrestling matches. There’s even a story in the bible about Jacob wrestling with a man (who turns out to be God)

. In this story the man wrestled until daybreak and when the man saw that he could not overpower Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that the hip was wrenched.”(Genesis 32:24).



Each Friday my dear friend Kelle hosts a prayer group at her home from 11:45 until 12:15. Here are the rules:

  • Show up
  • No prayer requests
  • Plug into God for 30 minutes through prayer
  • Say Amen and go home

Now before y’all laugh, let me say this group of ladies are the most powerful Godly women I have ever met. As Kelle reminds us, “We need more of Him. Not more of our circumstances.” Kelle reads a scripture, or something that has been laid on her heart. We pray. We hug. We go home.


It’s 11:30 and I’ve been in my writing closet since 9:30. I’m kicking it this Friday, a rarity as Friday’s are mainly devoted to cleaning, laundry, and avoiding the novel in progress like the plague. As I pause from writing, I notice the time, roll my eyes and say in my heart, Ugh. Gotta go pray.

Did you pick up on that? Today. At 11:30, prayer was a burden.

Immediately I said (out loud), “God, look at me. What in the world is wrong with me . . . feeling like it’s a burden to pray. I don’t know what in the world you are going to do with me. Forgive me.

At Kelle’s, the living room is packed. She never knows who is going to show up, it’s a drop-in kind of gig. Some days it is two people. Some days, like today, the room can barely contain us. Kelle’s mom is here, a prayer warrior that lets her daughter lead, but holds onto my hand and pours every bit of anointing she can into my weary-from-wrestlin’ body. I had told Kelle’s mom about my wrestling, about my mom struggles, about knowing that one day I will be forced to prepare for that which I am not yet ready to prepare for.

Alexis opened with a reading from Streams In the Desert. Here is an excerpt: God allowed the crisis in Jacob’s life to totally surround him until he ultimately came to the point of making an earnest and humble appeal to God Himself. That night, he wrestled with God and literally came to the place where he could take hold of Him as never before . . .

Non-believers may roll their eyes, but I certainly didn’t.

Don’t mistake me. I am not saying that God allowed my mother to suffer with ovarian cancer so he could put me in my place or punish any of us. I am saying that the emotional turmoil I have felt this week has placed me in the ring with God.

It’s me and God, in my crying closet.

It’s me, and God.

Not me and my best-friends. Not me and my daughter. Not me and my husband. Not me and my pastor. It is me, and God.

Just like it’s Mom and God.

Just like it’s you and God.

And as the ladies prayed, they didn’t pray for prosperity. Didn’t pray for grace, or mercy. We PRAISED. Praised Him for who He is. Then, we prayed for Him. More of Him. That we would sit still in our crying closet. That we would let go. That we would cry uncle and reach out for more of him.

Because in the scripture, God didn’t pin Jacob to the mat and cram anything down his throat. He could have, but he didn’t. God allows us to wrestle with him, and today I find great joy in a God that would care enough about me to hang onto me even when I want to run into my crying closet and hold up there all by my lonesome. God knows what I need and it is more of him!

Leaving the prayer group, my thoughts were Oh, how the world is so broken! People of the world are wrestling. I would much rather wrestle with God than the world. God will not twist my arm until I cry uncle. He will not break me. Instead, he will reach out and wretch my heart. He will fill my heart with Him.

That dear ones, is what I want for each of you today.

God has a heart for the broken. When our hearts are broken, he hurts too.

He has a heart for you.

For your circumstance.

For your burden.

For your fear.

But most of all, he has a heart for you.

Whether in the crying closet, or the wrestling mat, it’s you and God.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at




Posted by on November 15, 2013 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


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Day Five: On Being Thankful

I really don’t need the month of November to nudge me into feeling thankful. I am a cancer survivor, descended from two cancer warriors, thankfulness flows in my imperfect blood. I gladly joined Shellie Tomlinson when she asked me to participate in the 30 day Ambassadors For Life Campaign. Before you get bleary-eyed this cause is a simple one. Water.

There are folk in this world who need water.

Shellie wants to raise money to build two wells and thanks to the generosity of many, she is on her way. Please consider donating $ 10.00 today at this link:

Yesterday, I had a pregnant pause about want versus need. I was sitting in the orthodontist’s office with my daughter, and before you fire up an email to me about the expense of vanity braces let me say that my daughter’s lower teeth were so crooked that (by age eleven) the pressure had caused her gums to recede. My option was braces now, or gum replacement later. I chose the braces.001

While waiting, I sifted through my pile of coupons. I am no coupon queen, but I do try to save every single dime I can, especially since the release of my third book is another year away and money is tight. (See above reference to braces).

Enter into the waiting room two women. These women travel a lot, and they are repainting the kitchen of a Florida home a lovely shade of white. One of them also needs a flu shot. They were loud talkers. While they both flipped through a single magazine one of the ladies stopped on a handbag she was interested in. “Oh, I couldn’t pay $ 600.00 for a purse,” the other woman said.

“I’ve got one just like it, only a different color. And, the purse isn’t $ 600.00. That’s the price for the wallet.”

Glancing down at my coupons, I couldn’t help but pause. Process. Wonder what makes people want to place that kind of money (their money) into the hand of another. Really. I do not understand. If I had six-hundred extra dollars I wouldn’t buy a new purse (or wallet).  I don’t want to come off as judgmental, but there are a lot of hurting people in this world. There are over 50 homeless kids in my daughter’s school. For those kids, six hundred dollars can put a roof over their heads.

waterforlifeSo as I glanced back at my clipped coupons I had a gigantic thankful moment. I am thankful that I can see the hurting and the hungry, and those who are literally, dying because of unsanitary water. Today I ask you, please, if you are financially able, make a ten-dollar donation to the Ambassadors For Life program. If you are considering purchasing a six-hundred-dollar wallet, would you consider donating instead to the Ambassadors program? I believe that donating to this cause will bring you more satisfaction in your heart than carrying around a purse.

Renea Winchester is a descendant of the Ridley’s and the Winchester’s of Rabun County, Georgia. She is the author of Mountain Memories, a collection of stories about her Southern People. Her first book, In The Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love and Tomatoes, earned her two prestigious nominations: Georgia Author of the year and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance book of the year. In 2012, the Atlanta Pen Women named her Author of the year. Mercer University Press will release: Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches in 2014.



Posted by on November 5, 2013 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


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It’s NaNoWriMo Time…Again

It’s NaNoWriMo Time, Again

For many folk, November means time to dust off the holiday decorations, plan elaborate meals with family, and search their closet for the pants with elastic waistbands. But for authors, November means National Write a Novel in a Month, which in the beginning was called NaNo. During the month of November a lot of Twitter users will see a lot of entries about #NaNoWrimo

Yes. I am serious. Write a novel … in thirty days.

Image by Frankie Rose

Image by Frankie Rose

It is world-wide knowledge that those who assemble words are different than workers with regular working hours. Authors are cut from cloth most people wouldn’t wear on a double-dare. We write thoughts on napkins, on our hands, on our jeans. We interrupt people to send ourselves messages. We have sticky notes and notebooks filled with thoughts that –at the time they were written- were pure genus. Some of us drink, a lot. Some smoke, a lot. Some cuss, a lot. Some write at night, or at three am. We are non-conformists; 9 to 5 doesn’t work for us, although we would love for readers to buy our books so we could, at least, enjoy a nice dinner every once and a while. We tell ourselves that we write for our readers, but we authors are also known for fibbing. It is called fiction.

That is why when November rolls around NaNoWriMo writers loose their ever-lovin’ minds and commit to writing not only a novel in thirty days, but a novel that consists of 50,000 words. Or as my critique group leader optimistically wrote, “Renea, that’s only 1,667 words a day.”

Pass the Tylenol; my head already hurts.

So yesterday on NaNo eve, I thought I would do a bit of office purging. The ability to see wood grain on my desk does inspire me to at least think about writing. The rest of the day I flipped back and forty from Facebook, to email, to Twitter, reading all the NaNoWriMo chatter.

This year I thought I would give the buddy system a go. In the past I’ve had a canine assistant, but she isn’t much on encouragement other than the occasional tail thump. For participants needing human interaction, create an account on the NaNoWriMo website then pick buddies that will help you during this crazy- time. For newbies please know that the purpose of NaNoWriMo isn’t to talk about your novel, November is time to put fingers to keys. Come December first you will NOT have a finished manuscript. And, for the love of humanity, please do not think your finished product is ready for publication on December first. What you will have, should you place 50,000 words in your computer’s memory, is the satisfaction that you accomplished your goal. Publication comes later; much, much later.

Some hard-core veterans began outlining their work early. Those authors will go off the grid in November. You won’t find them wasting time on Facebook, or Tweeting anything other than their incredible word count. The procrastinator in me hates those writers. They’ve been tweeting for days about their outline all why my heart beats fast in my chest.

I can’t outline; it cramps my style. I’d much rather spend NaNo eve thinking about all Halloween candy I’m going to steal from my daughter. And November is the worst possible time to embark on 50,000 words. Why not January? In January, we’re avoiding the holiday bills and would rather do anything than exercise those holiday meals off our frame. And, in January we have thirty one days.

Oh sugar, may you bring energy, and words !

Oh sugar, may you bring energy, and words !

Trust me. Authors need every day they can get.

Still, as my critique partner cheerfully asked me to join her on this journey I remember the thought, the whisper, the idea of my first novel. As I unwrap a piece of Halloween candy I ponder that perhaps November is the best time to write. I’ve got enough candy to keep me hopped up on sugar for at least fourteen days. Now all I need is the muse and I’m good to go.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author whose recent release, Mountain Memories, is available webversionfinalcoverinthegardenwithbillyhere. Please buy her book before she runs out of Halloween candy and falls short of her writing goal.

In 2014, Mercer University will release Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, the second book about Farmer Billy Albertson.


Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Advice for Authors


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