Saturday, April 29, 2017

Write On!

I'm excited to say that I've been involved in something that has become much larger than anything I could have imagined. It's the Middle Mississippi chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild. I started the chapter on April 1, 2016, putting out the call to area writers to join us for an informative monthly meeting. Here we are, one year later, and we now have 30 or more writers attend our monthly meetings!

When our chapter first began, Micah Smith, a reporter with the Jackson Free Press, did an article about it.

I attended my first statewide board meeting in October with representatives from all the chapters in the state, and somehow, I walked out of the meeting having been nominated and elected as the new president of the Mississippi Writers Guild! I took over that position on April 1, when the immediate past president, G. Mark LaFrancis, handed the gavel over to me.

Passing over the gavel with G. Mark Lafrancis, outgoing president of the MWG

Our annual conference will be held in Jackson  August 25-26, and I'm looking forward to the incredible lineup of speakers that Richelle Putnam (founder of the MWG and conference chairman) has scheduled for the conference.

Two years ago in Oxford, James Meredith was awarded with the MWG's first-ever lifetime achievement award. At last year's conference in Natchez, New York best selling author
Greg Isles was presented with the award. This year, the recipient will be John Evans, owner of Lemuria Bookstore and someone who has a long history of promoting Mississippi writers.

For more information about the Mississippi Writers Guild, visit their website or Facebook page. If you're in the middle Mississippi area, we invite you to join us the first Monday from 2pm to 4pm. We have speakers monthly who talk on topics about writing, publishing, marketing, etc. For more information on meetings, visit the Middle Mississippi chapter's Facebook page.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What's Old is New Again

I love to write articles about how people live. I've written about a tree house deep in the woods, a chateau that if you didn't know better you'd think you were in the French countryside instead of rural Madison County, Mississippi, and I've written about log cabins and houseboats. I've written about ordinary homes where folks have done extraordinary things. I think it's human nature to be a bit voyeuristic. Who hasn't looked into a window at night while taking an evening stroll, hoping to catch a glimpse of what a house looks like on the inside?

One of the best ways for an organization to raise funds, and often awareness is by having a tour of homes. Some tours are at Christmas, others in the spring. There are pilgrimages in Natchez and Columbus, Mississippi each year when antebellum homes are opened to the public so folks can see what it was like to live during the days before the Civil War.

Recently, the Mississippi Heritage Trust sponsored a MOD tour, focusing on mid-century modern architecture. One of the homes is known by Jacksonians as the Weiner house, as it was designed by William B. and Samuel G. Weiner.

The home has been purchased and lovingly restored to its original 1951 style by the Busbea family. I had an opportunity to tour the home and write about it for "A Sip of Culture" in The full article, with photos, can be accessed by the link below. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed writing about it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Like Riding a Bike...

What do bicycling and writing have in common? You have to learn to do both. And when you fall, actually or metaphorically, the best thing to do is get back on the bike (or back at the keyboard) and keep writing.

I'm working on a book. It started as a book about Nicole's accident (if you're new to my blog, and don't know who Nicole is or what happened to her, you can read all about it here.) I've been working on the book off and on for five years or so. When I'm not writing, I'm going to writing workshops. Or publishing workshops. Or any other kind of workshop that will help me figure out how to write this book.

The first workshop I went to was a Creative Nonfiction Writing workshop. I learned how to write true stories that read like a novel. Bam! That's what I wanted to do. I will write all the facts, but in a style that keeps the reader engaged. Much like my writing buddy NancyKay Sullivan Wessman did with her book, Katrina, Mississippi: Voices from Ground Zero. The biggest difference in our books is that Katrina wasn't about her. She spent years interviewing upwards of 100 first responders and other "champions of the storm" to get a real-life account of the folks who had their boots on the ground before, during and after the feasting hurricane. My story, however, is about me. It's about what happened to my daughter, and as a result, what happened to me. I've learned, in the course of my workshop attending, that my book will be a memoir. It took me awhile to get to that point.

In the meantime, when possible, I try to apply my new Creative Nonfiction writing skills when I write articles. It makes it more interesting for me to write the articles, and hopefully, it's more interesting for those who read them.

But there are times when the story is interesting enough. The subject matter matters, and the people I interview are passionate about what they're doing. This happened recently when I wrote a story about a cool new cycling program at Highland Elementary School in Ridgeland for the Madison County Herald.

It was an assigned story, and the initial contact was with the school's PTO, Sissy Lynn. She was pumped about the program, and she followed through right away with her promise to send me a list of contacts. She delivered alright, having already contacted each of them to let them know I'd be calling (that NEVER happens!). Each person was easy to reach (amazing, since one of them was the busy mayor of Ridgeland, Gene McGee, an avid cycler and supporter of the program). The story pretty much wrote itself, because everyone gave me such good information and quotable quotes.

That story was a exception to the norm. They don't all come together that easy. But with each story, I get back up on my bike and pedal as hard as I can to get it done. Once you learn how, they say, you never forget. With each story I write, I learn something new while reminding myself that I really can do this.

Possible new *big* project coming up soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 30, 2015


It's that time of year when it seems that everything that's anything is flavored with pumpkin spice.

I ran across this in my Facebook feed the other day and had to share:

My car's engine never smelled so good!

I remember my first pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. I'm going to venture to state that was the drink that started it all. And because it is a seasonal treat, only available in the fall, I used to feel compelled to drink as many as I could before they were gone and some winter wonderland coffee drink took its place. Now the older, wiser me knows that was a big mistake, as it was most likely the cause of my fluffy physique. Click here  for the full nutritional breakdown, including the 300+ calories and 50 grams of sugar.That's FIFTY grams of sugar...the equivolent of 10 teaspoons!

But still, I was hooked. I would buy anything flavored with pumpkin spice, and even bought Pumpkin Spice Coffee-Mate creamer for my morning brew at home.

Along the way, I began working towards a healthier me, and I backed away from all the pumpkin spice madness, for the most part. But who can't order just ONE of those delicious treats from Starbucks at least once during the fall season? Well, after reading this article by the Food Babe (my new online healthy eating guru..., that would be me. I vow to go without, and you may too, after reading the article. (Warning! You won't be happy. There. I told you.. And if you click on the link, she'll give you the same warning.)

So what does that leave a pumpkin spice loving gal like me to do?

Well, just in time came an assignment from Magnolia Magazine to write a story about beer...but not just any beer. I wrote about Southern Tier Brewery's new Pumpking Beer...just in time for Halloween! But the fun's not over once the masks are removed. This beer pairs well with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, as well as with pumpkin pie and other desserts.

Here's wishing you a Happy Fall, Y'all...with plenty of pumkin spice goodness to last you all season. I'll leave you with a couple of images...just because...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

On Being a Food Writer while Dieting

Today I wrote about "Earthquake Pancakes," an popular menu item at JC's General Store in Pocahontas, Mississippi. Pancakes as large as the dinner plate they are served on, covered in soft whipped butter and rich maple syrup.

Next I listened to an hour-long webinar on "Hidden in Plain Sight: Crafting Better Food Stories" by Nina Furtenau, a food journalism professor at the University of Missouri. The webinar was through the Association of Food Journalists. She quoted a multitude of talented food writers, all of whom wrote about (you guessed it) food.

And today, I've had two smoothies as meal replacements for both breakfast and lunch. It's part of a 30-day health challenge to both detox my liver (which must be pretty toxic, as I feel really bad today) and to jump-start more weight loss. I know it works. I've lost 30 pounds so far. But I also gained about seven or eight back from late November through early February.

It's difficult being a food writer when you can't eat the food you write about. In the case of the Earthquake pancakes, that's pretty much out of my diet forever, now that I know I have a major sensitivity to not only wheat, but to dairy as well. But on a cold winter day like today, I could eat a whole stack of them, washed down by a steaming cup of perfectly-brewed coffee topped off with the perfect amount of half-and-half (NOT the fat free variety) and a spoonful of sugar in the raw. But alas, both caffeine and sugar are taboo for the next 30 days.

So as I look out my window at the freakish sleet storm that followed yesterday's 80-degree temp, I will drink a hot cup of detox tea and perhaps nibble on a small handful of raw almonds.

No one said this would be easy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Word Blender

I came up with the name of this blog one night when I was thinking about what I do. I really do take a bunch of words, mix them up, and pour them out on the page as a way of telling the stories I love to learn about. While they're not always food related, many of my stories are about places to eat, certain kinds of foods and their background, and where the food comes from. Which is a good thing, because I like food.

I renewed my membership to the Association of Food Journalists and the Southern Foodways Alliance this week. I had the honor of attending the Southern Foodways Symposium in Jackson last summer, followed by the Association of Food Journalist Conference in Memphis last fall. I learned so much at both of those events, especially the telling of the "back story" behind our food. I want to know, now more than ever, where my food comes from. Who raises or grows it? 



Which brings me to a story I really enjoyed writing, because I really liked the people. Van Killen raises the prettiest produce ever on his Two Dogs Farm in Flora. It's next to Leigh Bailey's lettuce growing extravaganza, Salad Days...the most incredibleand futuristic growing set-up I've ever seen. 

Here's the article as it appeared in the summer 2014 issue of the 'sip magazine: (this may be hard to read, so you can always go find it on their The article is on page 28.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Special Thanks

When Nicole was in elementary school we had a bit of a problem, because when the teacher put her name on the board, she was excited. Only, having your name on the board meant you were in trouble, usually for talking in class. For her, it was the same as having her name on the marquee of a Broadway theatre!

I recently had my name in print when my writing friend, Bill Torgerson, mentioned me in the acknowledgements in his newest novel, The Coach's Wife

I met Bill at the Pulpwood Queen (the largest meeting and discussing book club in the world) Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas a few years ago. I loved Bill's book, Love on the Big Screen. So when he wrote The Coach's Wife, I had the honor of reading the manuscript. I did a line edit of the book, and made some reader comments. That was pretty gutsy of me, as Bill is an associate professor at St. John's University in New York City.

Here's what they say about Bill on the University's website:

Associate Professor
Institute for Core Studies
MFA in Creative Writing, Georgia College and State University
Bill Torgerson’s teaching emphasizes the power of choice for the students about what they write, an active learning environment, and the value of writing within a community for an audience of one’s peers. Because so much of today’s reading, writing, and thinking happens in conjunctions with the screens of devices, the notion of what it means to be digitally literate is explored. Professor Torgerson is a writer and filmmaker who earned an M.F.A. in creative writing focusing on fiction from Georgia College and State University. He is the author of three books, all published by Cherokee McGhee Press: the 80’s music and movies themed Love on the Big Screen, the Midwestern Gothic novel-in-stories Horseshoe, and a forthcoming novel The Coach’s Wife. Bill’s work has appeared in numerous literary and scholarly journals including College Composition and Communication, the Journal of Teaching Writing, and Anamesa. As a filmmaker, Bill has directed two documentaries. "For the Love of Books" focuses on a Texas-based book club whose members call themselves The Pulpwood Queens. “The Mushroom Hunter” is a tale of friends who have hunted morel mushrooms together for over fifty years, and “The Brothers in Pursuit” is a narrative short about a group of college students who come together to support one another in their search for God, knowledge, compassion, and the company of a good woman. Bill also serves as the Director of Creative Writing for the Rhode Island International Film Festival. For those who’d like to be in touch with Bill about the teaching of writing, he can be reached @BillTorg on Twitter or via his website at

It is a fun read, and I felt honored to see the manuscript before it was published. So imagine my surprise last week when I got a package in the mail from Bill. Inside was a copy of the newly published book with a nice note telling me to be sure to read the acknowledgements. First of all, it was exciting to see Pat Conroy's blurb on the cover. PAT CONROY. 

And then, there it was. My name. Inside his book!

Ok, so you have to strain your neck to see it, or turn your computer sideways. Trust's there. 
"A special thanks to Pulpwood Queen Susan Marquez, who helped this writing teacher weed out some of his errors." 

You're welcome, Bill. Thank you! (Perhaps you're not a D.A. after all!)