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Lost Things

Lost Things

I lost something. Something I dearly needed. . . my keys. Specifically, my room keys with my car keys attached.

I was key-less and 90 miles from home.

On an ordinary day I would classify these items as misplaced, something found later after a diligent search; but on Saturday they were lost.

The instructor gave an out-door classroom assignment. Since the workshop was held on a college campus, and because I wanted to collect as many experiences as possible, I wedged my car keys (key fob inside pocket) with the metal room key sticking out.

Then I was off.

Outside with pen and notebook in hand, tasked with collecting, observing —and then analyzing said observations into a story.

My novel in progress features a train and since I want to write accurately about my character’s experiences, I lit out, walking at a rapid clip.

Walking while writing.

Writing while walking.

Thinking. Listening. Observing. Writing.

I wove through the campus, through the woods, off the designated concrete path. 20170715_110450

Off the designated concrete path, I found a tree house that no one else knew about. Later, I found the tracks. I touched the tracks, laid down on the tracks, collected nails and bolts from alongside the tracks.

Then I returned, carrying said bolts and nails back to class, (mercy, they are heavy). I placed them on the table with a need to wash the rust from my hands. I reached into my pocket.

No keys.

The keys were lost.

Not missing. . . lost.

Creative minds will understand me when I say that I literally felt every drop of creativity leave my body. It slipped down my arms, cascaded from my fingertips.

Dashing to the restroom, I washed my dirty hands then whispered to the coordinator, “I lost my room key. No, not the swipe card.” I double checked my name badge where the exterior door swipe card safely remained tucked inside.  “Just the door keys.”

She called facilities and ordered a spare key.

Returning to the classroom, I wrote my observations, penned them into a story I would not share with the class. Creativity tends to take Confidence with it when it leaves. From that moment forward I focused on lost keys, especially after a pop-up storm dropped an inch of rain.

Sunday morning came, bringing with it the realization the keys were gone. I arose early, lit out again retracing my steps through the grass and gravel for the umpteenth time. With my aging car, I’d need a new key fob which would required an (expensive) call to a dealer.

Whatever, I thought, feeling lower than a whale’s belly. What-ever.

Then I began to pray.

Lord, I’m not going to pray for my keys because I know they’re gone.

I’m not going to ask you to return them, because I’ve already done my due diligence, retracing my steps, walking, looking, laying sideways in the gravel looking for something shiny. The keys are gone and I know that. So I’m moving on.

The catering van drove by, almost breakfast time. The driver smiled. I waived and continued praying, aloud.

Lord, thank you for everyone I’ve met here this weekend.

Thank you for the talented women at my table. I praise you that the agent is interested in Erika’s work and that Whitney might consider finding a place for her short story. Bless them both Lord. Bless our presenters, Jim, Bryn, Gary, Megan for their vulnerability and displays of raw emotion. Bless Christopher. Thank you for his honesty and that all the instructors were approachable and kind.

My walk, and prayers continued: Lord, bless Meg, Kate and Betsy who have labored in the sweltering heat to bring us a fantastic conference. May they be restored after the conference.

I made the loop, from beginning to end, praying out loud, walking, talking, and looking down at the grass, and the gravel, should the soggy keys magically appear.

They did not. I returned to the common area to the breakfast buffet. I placed items on the plate and settled in for another round of workshops.

Taking a seat, I began eating when Meg raised her hand and said, Renea, are these your keys?

From Meg’s beautiful hand dangled my room and car keys.

Of course they are my keys, I responded. I was just praying. I took the keys. “I’m curious, how did you get them?

“Someone found them lying in the concrete walkway,” she replied.

 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy, and, Farming Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches by Mercer University Press. She is currently working on her novel, Outbound Train,  set in her hometown of Bryson City

 

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The Displaced of #Gatlinburg Give Thanks

The Displaced of #Gatlinburg Give Thanks

First a note to the newcomers: If it’s your first time to this blog, let me catch those up who might believe that “Dolly has taken care of everyone,” and therefore everything is rosy for Gatlinburg folk; please let me assure you we have a long way to go. I personally applied for benefits on behalf of a number of people displaced (because when you are displaced your computer is also turned into ashes). While Dolly’s efforts have been very generous, the program was not designed to help anyone who sub-leased. Meaning, if your name was on a lease you receive a thousand dollars a month, but if I lived with you in the basement and sub-leased from you. . . if I even paid half the rent, I’d receive zero from Dolly’s Foundation. We’d both be homeless, only you would have cash in your pocket, I wouldn’t. Does that help clarify how people fall in the cracks? Hopefully, this explanation will eliminate confusion. Complicating the matter: because a large number of apartments (which I call “worker housing) were destroyed in the fire, compounded with the high cost of living in a tourist town, there were a number of people who were in a sub-lease situations. Additionally, re-building of apartments hasn’t yet begun. Long-term housing is still a problem.

Now for an update:

If you have followed my blog the past month you know that before Christmas, I launched a “Christmas Card” campaign for those displaced by the #ChimneyTops2 Fire in #Gatlinburg. I refuse to call these folk “victims.” These people are displaced. Homeless. Jobless. Scared folk. They are hard-working folk.  Americans, scratching, clawing, hoping to make it through another day.

They are just like us, only everything they own is now a pile of ashes.

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#Gatlinburg Taken Christmas Day Photo Credit: Renea Winchester

I never really know what will happen after The Good Lord places ideas such as the Christmas Card mailing on my heart. I just pray and hope for the best. Several of my friends, blog readers, and Facebook acquaintances were eager to send cards. Once provided with contact information, they went to work and I trusted The Good Lord to do the rest. By way of example, several people who worked at one particular restaurant lost everything. No job. No home. They needed a little cheer.

They needed hugs too, but the best I can do is a little encouragement via the postal service.

But you. Yes you. If you sent a card, a message, a little money tucked inside, you were the blessing.

Today I’d like to share that your cards were received. Your cards have heaped a whole lot of blessing on folk . . .  people who are hurting. People who had given up.

People who needed hugs.

Trust me when I say, hugs can arrive in a tiny envelope.

I’ve received text messages and emails, all saying how touched and humbled they are that YOU would reach out; that YOU would take time to write.

Some had given up. One woman had surgery and lost her home while in the hospital. Your card let her know there are good people in the world.

And here’s the deal, most of y’all did this anonymously. No return address. Just a little bit of money. A little bit of love. A little bit of hope. Y’all are sneaky like that and I love a sneaky love-giver. Yes sir. I sure do. God bless the love-giving sneaks. God bless the love-givers who couldn’t send money. God bless-the love-givers who included a return address. Many people told me they have sent thank you cards.

The recipients cried. I’m crying now typing this. I just can’t process all of this love. I don’t what to do when God answers prayers like this, when God uses me . . . the LEAST of these. I am so humbled that anyone reads my words and then helps someone else. All I can say is every bit of honor and glory goes to The Father. He created this compassionate heart of mine. He knows how much I cry over this type of loss. And he sent you, to me.

Let’s give Him some praise!

During my mother’s agonizing cancer battle, she clung to the promise of “beauty from ashes.” I never really understood her dedication to these versus. I share portions here:

Isaiah 61:1-3King James Version (KJV)

61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings . . . To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

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#GatlinburgAshes 12/25/2016 Credit: Renea Winchester

I don’t know about you, but these versus are too deep for my delicate heart. Joy in mourning? Beauty from ashes? How is this possible Lord? I’ve been thinking about beauty from ashes. I have stood in the ashes of Gatlinburg. I have looked at them carefully. Touched them. Ashes disintegrate you know. Ashes are flakes of powder. The wind carries them, scatters them beyond our reach.

Using plain mountain talk, I must say, “You can’t make nothing from ashes.”

Even when I spread ashes on my garden the wind takes charge and deposits them wherever it wants.

But when you added compassion, when you (dear reader) placed a stamp on a sealed envelope you helped the Spirit of The Good Lord turn the Gatlinburg ashes into a thing of beauty. You are how God creates beauty from ashes.

Whew. Let me cry some more. If you have ever felt insignificant, let me say you are not. You. Yes you, are a blessing to someone and here is the cool part, you blessed someone you didn’t even know! You have created something beautiful from the most horrible experience.

You are love in action and I am honored to know you.

For those who perhaps didn’t have the opportunity to send cards but would like to do at your convenience please leave a comment and I will provide you with addresses.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

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One Daughter’s Devotion

One Daughter’s Devotion

It takes a right smart bit of wood to keep Farmer Billy warm all winter long. I noticed that Billy’s supply had dipped dangerously low, and with another cold front coming I worried he might run out. Since I’ve been banned from the fireplace after a dreadful critter incident, I have plenty of wood at my house, which was why I loaded my truck and headed to Hardscrabble Road.

Pulling into the drive I noticed a man walking across the driveway. There is always someone there but this time I thought, that looks like Kelle’s dad.

Low and behold it was.

I adore her dad. He reminds me of my own: weathered skin, calloused hands, blue collar, and the ability to fix anything. I see goodness in him. Something I can’t really explain, but there’s something about him that makes me wanna squeeze him.

So I did.

When he wrapped his arms around me, Poppa Jones couldn’t have known how badly I needed a hug, or that I had spent the previous day weeping, my heart breaking with grief that was so heavy I could barely breathe. It was the three month anniversary of Mom’s death. One minute you’re working, the next you’re wailing and wondering what in the world is the matter . . . then you look at the calendar and you know.

Those who have experienced loss understand.

Those who haven’t, will. One day you will.

This is why hugs are important, why people matter. Everyone. Every. Single. One of us is going through something. More hugs my friends. More hugs.

But I digress, back to Billy’s.

Billy wrapped his hands around a wheelbarrow just as another visitor pulled in. She approached and said, “I asked the lady on Facebook if I could stop by and she said yes.”

Peeking around Billy, I said, “Here I am. Welcome.”

More hugs.

More smiles and love to bind my heart.

The lady (I’ll call her Daughter) guided her mother behind the house and to the gate that keeps the goats where they belong. Her mother has dementia, she explained.

I nodded. While I didn’t understand the journey she was on, the transition from Daughter to caregiver is difficult.

Billy nodded too. He understands more about “that awful sickness” than most.

Visitors are common at Billy’s. Kids. Grandkids. Scout Troops. Preschoolers, even infants visit Billy’s place, but I have never witnessed an outing like this.

The rooster, Johnny Cash, stood on tiptoes and crowed loud. He annoyed me. He isn’t usually vocal but baby making season is just around the corner and he’s got to show the girls who is boss. I grabbed a bucket and pinched mustard green tops so that our guests could feed the chickens and goats.

“Mom and I have an outing every Wednesday,” Daughter said while placing her hand inside the bucket and retrieving a clump of greens. “Here Momma, want to feed the chickens?”

A nod.

A smile.

You had to be there. I promise, at that moment the sun literally shone brighter. I stepped back and watched. The love between them pricked my fragile heart. Both smiled, eyes sparkling. I even took a picture for them. I’m big on pictures. When it is all said and done, a photograph can be your most prized possession. Your memory may fail, but the image remains. Remember that when someone wants to take your picture.

There was something in the beauty of a Mother’s wrinkled delicate hand reaching for her daughter that I cannot forget. When Mother reached for Daughter, I fought tears, willed them to return deep into the well from which they began.

I can’t recall a single time when my own mother reached for me. Not as a child, teenager, or an adult. Surely she held my hand, perhaps to walk me safely across the street. My mother battled cancer for over a decade and even though she may have been so brave that she didn’t need a hand to hold, I did.

When I replay the image of these two hands, of the tender caresses, the light touch on a mother’s shoulder, a caress on her back, I pray that God will please – when the sorrow of this world has passed- please, let my mother reach for me the way I witnessed today.

Standing in the goat pasture, with Johnny Cash crowing beside me, I wanted that kind of mother, one of gentle caresses and bright shiny smiles. I also want to be the mother who reaches for her daughter, always reaches, never stops.

I needed that kind of mother, have craved that kind of mother my entire life.

That is the mother I mourn when I grieve.

“This is a lot better than our trips to TJ Maxx isn’t it Mom?” Daughter said.

“Mmm. Yes.”

Placing another bucket of greens between them I said, “I think you should do this every Wednesday for as long as you want.”

More smiles.

Even a nod.

Wouldn’t weekly trips to Billy’s be lovely? That is the magic one finds at Farmer Billy’s place, where you enter as a stranger and leave as family. This, my friends, is why I encourage you to reach out to your own Billy Albertson. They are everywhere. My purpose was to deliver firewood so that Billy would be warm during the cold snap. Instead, it was I who received the comfort.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all

 

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Dace Sheffield, My Darling Friend

I first met Dace Sheffield when I decided to give this writing career a go. I joined the Atlanta Writers Club, printed copies of my work, and then slipped into the critique group meeting. I quickly learned that the group was filled with talented-and passionate-authors. Each author took turns reading their work and then listened to group feedback. I waited for Dace to read her work aloud as required; she didn’t.

Dace Sheffield wasn’t a writer, she was a reader.

She was the strongest reader I have ever known.

I believe that she was also, perhaps, the most valuable member of our critique group. She sat beside her husband, John, whom I’ve enjoyed knowing for several years. John has written screenplays, textbooks, a memoir, and undoubtedly the best work of science fiction I have ever had the privilege of reading. Dace, because of her keen eye and even keener ear, sat patiently listening to John read and then bravely offered suggestions. (It is a brave spouse who offers suggestions publicly). She waited as each member read their work.

She waited while members group pointed out minor corrections, and then she would utter a single word, or phrase for us ponder. Saying: “On page three you might want to reconsider. . . “ Pages fluttered. Eyes shifted to the paper. Fingers found her suggestion. And we groaned. There it was, the obvious mistake, glaring back at a room full of authors.

I loved that about her. How she waited, testing the real authors of the group just to see if we found simple mistakes. Oftentimes we did not.

Dace Sheffield completed our critique group. While the authors accepted feedback from each other, they always always lingered for a moment, with hands still on their manuscript, holding their allotted time for another moment, as they looked to Dace for confirmation that she hadn’t anything to add.

She caught the simple things like they’re and their; but also more complicated problems that authors muddle through like flow, plot, and believable characters. She adored Southern fiction. She adored good writing and she helped every single member become stronger. She nudged. She believed. She encouraged.

Dace, with her husband, John, at the launch of my first book, In the Garden with Billy

Dace, with her husband, John, at the launch of my first book, In the Garden with Billy

Her opinion carried weight with me. When I began working on my novel I asked if she would consider reading a chapter and offering feedback. Her feedback was valuable because she wasn’t tainted by the editor’s eye authors acquire. I trusted her opinion.When she and I sat down to review a section she had blocked in pencil I couldn’t read her notes “Dace, what is this notation? I asked, “I can’t quite make out the writing.”

She smiled and said, “That word is slangy. I want you to write more slangy. I just love what Pearlene says. She is so out of control. I never know what is going to come out of her mouth, but she needs to be more slangy.”

I laughed. Dace, my dear friend had just spoken a sentence that was oh so . . . shall I say, unlike Dace.

I immediately set out to write that particular character “more slangy.”

Dace was more than a reader, she was passionate about literacy. She taught English as a second language for many years, meeting people at the public library even when she required a wheelchair. She touched more lives-no, she changed more lives from her wheelchair than I ever will. She had every excuse to take it easy but she pushed on, teaching, doing, being a blessing to people who miss her.

I never saw her without a book in her arms.

She shared her book list with group members who wanted to read everything she read. Years ago, I recall her suggesting Gone Girl. “The book is brilliantly written. The characters are flawed with irredeemable actions. They so flawed that you love to hate them. The book is delicious. I love it ! If you want to write a strong character, you need to study that book.” Once I read Gone Girl I agreed.

Dace knew good-writing.

I am honored to have known her. This Saturday, the Roswell chapter of the Atlanta Writers Club will say goodbye to our friend Dace Sheffield. She was a person content to be behind the scenes working to make us better authors. She believed in me. She encouraged. She pointed out my flaws and I loved her for it. She played a valuable part in my writing and I will miss her.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
 

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My newest friend, Olivia debelle Byrd

My newest friend, Olivia debelle Byrd

Sometimes life throws you a curveball and sometimes the ball hits you smack-dab in the heart.

Such was the case a few weeks ago during the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance annual conference. SIBA is one of those groups that get behind an author and her story. They cheer, celebrate, encourage. Wanda and a host of talented staff and board members love books, love authors, and readers; even more exciting, they love connecting all three. So it was with much excitement that I loaded up some pickled okra freshly prepared by yours truly and pointed the car toward Norfolk VA for a weekend of meeting booksellers, bloggers, and fellow authors.

However, life, and her unpredictability had other plans.

For the record it takes a lot to draw me away from an event. I’m a people person. I don’t cancel events, ever. I do what I say when I say and I had spent the better part of a week pouring a whole lot of love into tiny jars. Going to SIBA was my opportunity to make my people proud. Put me in a room full of people and I’ll wear myself out trying to meet and greet everyone I can. I blame the Winchester genes. We like people . . . want to get to know folk, pull them into our large family.

However when one gets heart-sinking news, one must change plans.

Texting the staff of Mercer University Press, I tearfully expressed my regret while hoping and praying that they would understand. They had paid for my place at the SIBA table, a spot that would be empty as copies of my book Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches waited for me, the author who would never arrive.

I cried.

I cried a lot.

Cried because of the bad news, because I let my publisher down, because I wanted, needed this opportunity to meet booksellers from across the South. I cried because I had put a lot of pressure on myself to make Farming ten times more successful than my first book, In the Garden.

Honesty. That’s what y’all get in my posts. Nothing but honesty.

But life, and God, had other plans.

By the end of the day I was weary. I had fretted until my head hurt, until stomach acid burned the back of my throat. Then I received a text from Mercer saying, “Don’t worry, Olivia debelle Byrd  is at SIBA talking to booksellers about Farming. Who is Oliva debelle Byrd you ask? A stranger. She had never met me, hadn’t read a single word of my book, nor I of hers.

In other words, Oliva didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat.

But there she was, doing something that I daresay no one else would have done, she was talking about my book, and, her book. Want to know more about her? Read this link. She’s a pretty classy Southern lady. att

Pause for a moment and think about this gift, this remarkable gift that Olivia bestowed upon me. For there is no greater gift than your time. So today, I am giving away a copy of Save My Place, Olivia’s latest book. I figured that the best way to say “Thank You” is to via my blog, and, throw in a copy of her book to you, my readers.

I am grateful, very grateful to Miss Olivia.

Here’s how this spur-of-the-moment contest works. Leave a COMMENT here, on my blog. I ask you to leave a comment here versus on Facebook because more people will see it here. Tell me what you think about Miss Olivia’s kindness, or let’s dig deeper shall we? Have you ever reached out to a random stranger? Share you story, so that others will be blessed.

And Miss Olivia, if you’re reading this post, I am in your debt.

I will award the book to a random reader on October 22nd. The winner must provide their mailing address (which will not be shared).

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna SandwichesMountain 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.  Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

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Everyone Needs a Friend Like Carmen:

I first met Carmen at a writing conference in the North Georgia Mountains. We balanced writing pads on our laps, perched pens in midair waiting to document any nugget of information the authors on the panel offered. Carmen and I are purists. We rolled our eyes when the people seated around us opened electronic devices. Their tap, tap, tapping irritated, but didn’t distract us. We wrote faster, harder, louder…capturing every important drop of wisdom. Terry Kay, beloved Georgia Author, was on the panel, his velvety voice full of encouragement and experience. We swooned, we soaked in his words, we left energized and excited about writing.

Time passed with little interaction. Carmen became like many other people, mere acquaintances who you only met at mutual author events; much like Amber Nagle, who was also at the same writing conference. Since I hadn’t invested time into my friendship with Carmen, I had no way of knowing that she is not only an aspiring author, she is an avid reader.

By that I mean she is well read. Very well read. She suggests books that I can not read. My brain is too busy, too undeveloped, too stressed . . . too . . . something; most times I can’t swim on the deep end of her literary pool, but merely wave and long to, one day, doggy paddle over to her side.

Carmen is one of the main reasons I am a successful author. Now she’s going to argue and I bet that we’re going to have a “discussion” over this post. I’ll tell you this much for true, she’d never take a sliver of credit for helping me, but credit is what she deserves. I don’t know what possessed her to march into The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia, haven’t a clue what made her whisper to the owner, Cat Blanco, any inkling that my book was worthy to be read, but I’m sure glad she did.

While I’m proud of my first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes, I know my place in the literary pool and it is carrying towels to others. If you haven’t read In the Garden with Billy, it is a work of non-fiction (impossible to sell in this world of fiction lovers); and, the book is about a local celebrity farmer (which makes it difficult to sell outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t write about the Kardashians). But Carmen read something she liked and so she did what all good readers do, she made a personal recommendation, an unsolicited recommendation that I only learned about years later.

Many people see my interactions on Facebook and think that Cat Blanco and I are life-long friends. In fact, I’ve only known her for a short time. During that time I have tried to give readers my personal recommendations, and tell Cat about authors who have written fantastic stories like Ann Hite, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Julie Cantrell, and Karen Spears Zacharias. Do any of those authors owe their success to me? Nope. They are already veterans. I am the newbie. Carmen didn’t have to breathe a word, didn’t receive anything by saying a peep about my work; but I’m glad she did. She’s told other people about my book. Lots of people. I want to be more like her.

Me, Billy & Carmen at Yawn's in Canton, GA

Me, Billy & Carmen at Yawn’s in Canton, GA

Most of you wouldn’t know about me without her. She set in motion something that surprises me even today. Her referral helped put my book on the map.

How can one ever say Thank You for that?

Since that time I have purposed to encourage authors, some I know, some I may never personally meet. I’ve started releasing quarterly newsletters where I suggest four books. My last list of suggestions can be found here. Authors have started asking me to review their books, Tweet about them, write blog posts, and I will consider it, if-and only if-I like what I read. Carmen and I agree that good books deserve to be read, talked about, and shared.

In my next book, Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches which Mercer University Press will release in a few months, I stumbled with a section of the manuscript. I asked Carmen, “What do you think? I want to be respectful, want to get this part right.” Then Carmen did what she does so well. She listened. Saying nothing, it was the act of listening, of letting me talk, and then process, and then wait while the muse wrestled me to the ground that bonded Carmen and I even closer. When I shared my newer version she said, “See.”

And I did see. I saw a beautiful friendship that had formed over the years. This particular section has evolved into one of my most favorite parts of the book. Carmen deserves the credit for that (she won’t take it, but I’ll give it to her regardless).

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Carmen reading her Keepsake Story. I am so proud!

Tonight Carmen joined Amber Nagle in Cartersville where both read from the book, Project Keepsake. Family obligations kept me from Amber and Carmen’s special night. When I close my eyes I hear Carmen’s voice, thick with pride, perhaps even shaking a bit with emotion as she read about the keepsake that is precious to her. Friends, if you have ever kept a keepsake displayed on your shelf, or had a friend like Carmen who you carry in your heart; you simply must buy this book. Here are two links to do just that.

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There is still time to order your copy today !

Author Website; online distributor

About Renea: 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 September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. Friend her on Facebook here. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Advice for Authors, Book Reviews

 

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A New Routine

During the past two weeks I’ve taken steps, tiny toddles which moved me as a person, and an author. It began when a blanket of cold air and puffy clouds blocked the sun and Old Man Winter blew out a frosty breath. I have been, downtrodden. I’ve never experienced SAD before, the winter ailment that changes happy people into someone who doesn’t want to get out of the bed. But this year, I am SAD. I could feel the difference in myself, in my body and worse, in spirit. There has been a heaviness wrapped around my body, constricting the person I am like a turtleneck sweater that’s two sizes two small.

As most of you know, I am an author. This life isn’t one of glamour and fame; it is filled with hours, and hours, and hours of solitude, worry and fret.  For a people person such as myself, solitude is a recipe for disaster. People persons who prefer hugs really shouldn’t do this writing thing; it is far too painful. I am working on my first novel and this work-in-progress has been locked down tight. Unmoving. Frozen like I-285 during last week’s snowstorm.  My next book is coming out this October, but my first novel really, really needs to be complete before then. That is why two weeks ago I started making steps toward the person I think I’m supposed to be.

My house is a dark monstrosity, shaded by hundreds of beautiful trees that I adore in the summer, but in winter, block the sun. But like a lizard, I determined to seek the sun, and doing so meant leaving the house with my work in progress tucked inside my bag. I set up my office in a local coffee shop. Literally: tea goes here . . . pencil, highlighter, eraser and paperclips there . . . work in progress, front and center where it belongs. writingroomSunshine drove out the chill and being surrounded by chatter energized me. On days when I didn’t really want to leave the house, I hold up in my writing room, which is nothing more than a sunny window in our bathroom. Yes, the bathroom.

I have also placed myself on a strict schedule which hasn’t been easy. Limiting Facebook has been necessary. There’s too much negativity and right now it sticks to me like a static-covered sock. As an example when I asked for prayer for a family who had just suffered a tremendous loss due to suicide, three people started blaming the family for the suicide. Compassion, it seems, is as scarce as the sun this winter. My new regimen: Facebook in the morning, then once more before dinner, and then I am unplugged. Nothing electronic after 6 pm, not even email.

Tuesdays are devoted to Bible study. I admire women of faith. Strong women who are ready to grab your hand and pray, who have an encouraging scripture during times of trouble. I have wanted the knowledge of Godly women, and then one day it occurred to me, BOOM, that type of knowledge doesn’t happen by osmosis. I must study the word. I guess you could say I am seeking the Son and the sun.

By 9:30 each morning I’m either in the coffee shop, or my writing room at home. Soaking up the sun and writing – by hand – as fast as I can, except when I’m seeking the Son.

Part of my discouragement came in December. In November of 2013, I accepted the NaNo challenge to write 40,000 words during the month of November. I don’t know why I did this to myself, I can’t write 40K words in 30 days. I am a mother, a wife, a ball-thrower for our Labradoodle. Each day NaNo writers enter a word count reporting how many words they have written that day (notice the last word in that sentence . . . day). The goal is to motivate yourself and others, and know how you are progressing. The problem is that there are always, ALWAYS, people who by day two say they have written 10K words and by day four, they’re posting 30K. Going from zero to 30K in three days is not physically possible. At minimum, one must eat, and use the bathroom. Let me call that behavior what it is: lying, cheating and wrong. Even I can tell when someone is taking their old work in progress and plugging the numbers into the counter. That type of behavior, like negative Facebook posts, discourages. I finished NaNo with roughly 28,000 NEW words with a personal goal of finishing my manuscript by January.

That did not happened.

But this week I pushed past 40,000 words. These were my words. I own them. I wrote every single word and they’re not half bad. I have studied books on scene, plot, character development. I didn’t copy someone’s ideas, they came from inside of me. I found a sunny spot, poured a cup of tea and invited my characters to join me. They told me their stories. I listened. For that I am incredibly grateful, and while I am no braggart, I am also a tiny bit proud. If you are an author, step away from the nonsense and the desire to be like someone else or write like someone else tells you. Find a routine that works for you and your characters. Be yourself. Only you can pen the story inside of you. Write your words and then be proud of that accomplishment. If you have a routine that works, please share.

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 www.reneawinchester.com 

 

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