Who Needs An Editor

By Dawn Shamp, Table Rock Editor-in-Residence


Are my commas too common? Is there a cause for that clause? Are my words too wordy? Are they worthy?

There’s an editor for that.

All of us who put pen to paper or finger to keyboard need a skilled interloper to put helpful check marks, questions and ideas into our margins.

Writing is a cerebral and emotional process. It’s a public undoing of our private selves. Pride goeth into the mix, too, whether we admit it or not. Writing is personal. And it’s important.

Novel, essay, memoir, poem – we’re not committing this sweat, this effort, to language simply because we need something to line our underwear drawer or because we want to waste time on work we’ll be sending instantly to “delete.”

We want to share at least the best of our writing output, somehow. So we want it to be seamless. Unhampered by distractions in flow, syntax, spelling, style, cohesion, punctuation.

Wherever we are on the writing continuum, novice to seasoned word-slinger, we have a huge advantage if we understand two basic principles:

  1. There’s no shame in seeking help in wordsmithery;
  2. There’s no hope if we don’t.

In fact, those of us who have been in it for a decade or more have encountered more than a few writers wading in deep doo-doo because they “don’t-don’t” abide editing. We’ve been there, undone that.

Simply getting a fresh set of eyes on our manuscripts from an honest, encouraging, literate reader can often be helpful. Often. But not always. For example, most of us have had less-than-ideal experiences with amateur writing groups whose members may differ widely in talent, experience and preferences. Members’ feedback can be confusing, even maddening. Sadly, it leads some would-be writers to become so discouraged they throw in the towel.

I’ve been fortunate to experience excellent editing of my own published work. Each revelation from a deft proofreader and copyeditor makes me smile with appreciation and admiration, even as I also slap my forehead in disgust at my own stupid oversight.

Good editors have become my friends and mentors. And they’ve led me to my own career success in freelance editing.

Editing to New York publishing standards is a highly specialized trade. I spend many hours poring over a wide range of manuscripts. Sometimes I work weekends and holidays to meet deadlines. But I love it. And I’m never alone. I always have my most valued co-workers at my elbows: the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), 16th Edition and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition. They’re the bibles of the literary publishing world today. Others, too, join the fray.

Despite the countless hours I’ve spent wading through these tomes of taste, however, every new manuscript brings new challenges, surprises and style sheets.

It has helped me understand that as writers, we can’t furrow our brows over every nit that concerns picky editors. Most writers don’t need to know the frequently annoying minutiae of CMOS. That’s what editors are for. The writer’s overarching job is to spin a compelling piece of literature.

Bottom line: if we have a manuscript we plan to share with others, whether that means family and friends, self-published e-book readers or literary agents, we should take pride in it.

That means getting a tune-up from a professional editor who can share our vision while at the same time show us the typos, brainos and no-nos we’re sure to miss.

This is, after all, our progeny, and we don’t want to send it out the door trailing toilet paper from a shoe.

There’s an editor for that


To learn more about registering for the Table Rock Writers Workshop on September 8-12, 2014, click on this link:  tablerockwriters.com


Poet Phillip Shabazz to teach at Table Rock in 2014

Poet Phillip Shabazz joins us in 2014 with an inspiring class on poetry. Shabazz is a master teacher who can work with poets of all ages. He brings a world of life experiences to his own work and will help poets tap their own wellsprings.  Here is a poem from Phillip.  Please visit our website http://tablerockwriters.com to see all the offerings for this coming September 8-12, 2014 at the extraordinary Wildacres Retreat along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of North Carolina.


Wishes For You

by Phillip Shabazz

I wish you the sun and stars sparkling

above the valley of pine trees and red clay earth,

and the flurry of green hills, flashy and timeless

like the emerald points around our homeland.

I wish you the moon and midnight rain, happiness,

long life, and shiny cards for your birthday and a picture

of Rosa Parks on your T-shirt; I wish you laughing children,

not masses of them, just a couple having fun

at the swimming pool, while a repairman fixes

the broken sink or dishwasher in your future

bungalow, condo, or beach house

breezy like a sand castle built on the Carolina coast.

I wish you enough bucks to spend on a wedding dress

and enough Benjamin’s for icing on the cake.

I wish you love from someone who really cares for you,

with soft-cheeks and a good heart; I wish you get to

see the wonders of rivers and mountains and sacred sites,

and read the inscription on Lady Liberty

which says Justice for All, and We The People;

so you can sing Stand Up For Your Rights

like you could always stand for something good.

I wish you an end to ghettos and war and kids dying

in the street and on the battlefield; I wish you live music,

house parties and concerts and fancy cars

that don’t depend on gas and oil and corporate empire.

I wish you never doubt yourself

and that your life turns out the way you want it to be

under this sky, this roof, this house and you can look back

at the world you made and smile.

Goldman’s Memoir Class is nearly full… while Bemis and Bathanti . . . Well, who could pass up those two?

Hey Table Rockers and those considering our table of rocking writers–Just a quick note to let you know that Judy Goldman’s memoir section of the 2013 Table Rock Writers’ Workshop is nearly full–only one more slot is open there.

We are still looking for more poets and more writers interested in the youth market to work with NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and with NC Piedmont Laureate John Bemis, a writer of middle grade books.  What a stellar faculty we have this year.  If you haven’t visited the website, check it out!

Also we still have spaces available in Darnell Arnoult’s unparalleled fiction workshop and Abigail DeWitt’s famous novel writing workshop where free-writing every day gets you closer to the end of your book.  Also remember that novelist and editor extraordinaire Dawn Shamp will be on site to give you a line-by-line edit of your work in progress.

All this with stunning mountain views, cool breezes, great food that’s healthy, too, and a noncompetitive, seriously helpful environment for beginners and seasoned writers.  September 9-13, 2013 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC.

Come on!  http://tablerockwriters.com.

Also, as always, we’ll have a group of talented singer/songwriters with us on the mountain for inspiration and entertainment.  167

–Georgann Eubanks, Director

Connect with your Inner Muse in North Carolina by Pat Keefe

Pat Keefe

Pat Keefe

Writers search for that perfect workshop to invoke their muse and send them into a writing frenzy.  On that journey, I followed the advice of Roberta Schultz and attended the Table Rock Writers’ Retreat near Little Switzerland, North Carolina in September 2012.

Traveling through the Blue Ridge Mountains on a rainy, windy Monday, we finally reached our destination.  The mountains were hidden under a deep misty fog, which made me think of the mystical village of Brigadoon.

Table Rock writers meet at Wildacres Retreat for five days and four nights The classes are limited to twelve people, allowing for personal attention and classmate collaboration.  Three hour writing workshops are the heart of the week-long event. Instructors and special speakers provide afternoon discussion sessions followed by “Table Rock Trivia” in which alert participants may win prizes for answering factual questions about the presentations. Wine and cheese on the terrace, overlooking the fabulous mountain view, highlight the hour before dinner. Participants sign up to share writing one evening during the week.

I spent my week freewriting with Abigail DeWitt in the novel writing class.  A veteran novelist, Abigail kept the group engaged and facilitated great sharing among class writers.  On the first day we knew it wasn’t going to be a one notebook week as we frantically filled pages writing with no electronic devices.  I learned about my novel direction, about the motivations of my characters, and about myself as a writer. It was the most unique approach to writing I ever experienced.  I’m still answering questions from that week.

In 2013, writing classes will include “The Sublime Fiction Triangle” with Darnell Arnoult, “Poetry” with Joseph Bathanti; “Writing for Children and Young Adults”with John Claude Bemis;  “Jumping In: A Guide to Writing Your Novel” with Abigail DeWitt, and “Writing Memoir and Personal Narrative” with Judy Goldman.  Registration forms are available online at http://tablerockwriters.com/trww2013.pdf

Table Rock is the best writing workshop I have ever attended.  It surpassed my expectations and provided a welcoming non-threatening writing climate.  Whether you are a veteran writer who has attended many weeks of workshops or a novice trying a retreat out for the first time, you may feel like you have stumbled on a mythical Brigadoon that you hope will never disappear from the mountain. As another 2012 participant sums up, “Best-taught, best-run, most-fun.”

Patricia Keefe, MAE, is a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow who attended Table Rock in 2012 as part of a writing project.  Her work has been published in the Indiana English Journal. Pat has written the Just for Kids column in The Shoals News for over two decades. She writes Flash Fiction every Saturday with the 24 Exposure online writing group and reads stories in the “Keep Hearing Voices” show on Crescent Hill Radio in Louisville. As a National Writing Project Teaching Consultant, she participates in the Indiana University Southeast Writer’s Project with Dr. Kevin S. Bailey in New Albany, Indiana.

Children’s Writing Added to Table Rock Workshop: Piedmont Laureate John Claude Bemis Will Teach

An inspiring presenter and award-winning children’s book writer, John Claude Bemis has agreed to teach in 2013 at the Table Rock Writers Workshop.  ImageBemis was also recently named  the 2013 Piedmont Laureate.  His first novel in the Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Nine Pound Hammer, won the AAUW North Carolina Award for Juvenile Literature, was nominated for the North Carolina Children’s Book Award, and was selected as a New York Public Library Best Children’s Book for Reading and Sharing. John’s trilogy continues with The Wolf Tree and The White City and has been described as “original and fresh” and “a unique way of creating fantasy.” His latest novel The Prince Who Fell from the Sky was an Amazon Best Book of the Month.  John is represented by Adams Literary, and his novels are published by Random House.

Former student Bradley Scheel says, “John is the rare artist who is so passionate about the craft that he is willing to share everything he has on the subject freely and without reserve. Every moment was fun, every class inspirational. No time will be more wisely spent.”

John’s section of the five-day, Table Rock workshop will be an opportunity for aspiring and seasoned children’s book writers to gather in an intimate and inspiring setting to deepen your writing craft.  (The focus will be on longer manuscripts for middle grade or young adult readers, not picture books.) Come with a willingness to engage in rich conversations, to participate in fun activities that will expand your skills and imagination, and a desire to take your writing to the next level. You will leave with new insights into character, plot, scene, and setting, creative new exercises for developing wildly original ideas, and an entirely new vision for how to improve your story. Be sure to bring your current work-in-process, since there will be dedicated time each day to write in the magical setting of the North Carolina mountains.


For more information on the Table Rock Writers Workshop, held September 9-13, 2013 at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, please visit http://tablerockwriters.com.  Classes are small, register early.  All meals and accommodations are included.

Taking Directions. Making Directions.

by Tony Tallent


We must spend about half our time taking directions and the other half making our own. This is what I have come to realize.  For the more advanced, this proportion may likely sway more toward the latter part. Still, for most of

us who love the strands of words put together that make sentences and the strands of sentences that are strung together to make a scene and then a story—the story we are working earnestly on—yes, we want directions.

The ‘most of us’ mentioned here are writers. Writers want direction. Writers seek direction. We get easily trapped in the triangulation of our imaginations, our overflowing words and our firm desire for a system of writing.  We read about the processes of other successful writers and try to apply them to our own developing processes. We are awed and inspired, but not always authentically activated. With ripe fingers on the keyboard or pens on paper we try earnestly to follow the directions laid out in the book. It works—sometimes. Yet mostly we are left sitting with a blank page or screen and trying desperately to meet the vision and direction of the writer we admire. We are able to string some words together before closing the notebook or clicking SAVE. The stories are still churning in our heads as we dream into the night and then wake into our regular lives.

Something more real must break our regular lives, we think.

What if we came face-to-face with other writers and were able to gain insight and direction from established authors and writers across the spectrum?  Those types of opportunities exist. Many of them are high-profile and high-judgment—exactly what will send many new writers running back to their blank pages.

I was one of those writers who ran back to the blank page. The blank page didn’t t give me directions.  I wrote constantly, though inconsistently and without direction. I had written and produced a somewhat successful theatre piece a few years ago, though I didn’t have a writing community to help keep me going.  I was one of those lost writers.

I moved from North Carolina to Colorado and then back to the Carolinas. I experienced life in a way I’d never dreamed, being so attached to the Carolinas.

When I returned to my home in the Carolinas I knew it was time to get more prompt and conscious about my writing.  I found my way back to the Table Rock Writers’ Workshop.  I had attended many writing  workshops, though this one had the most impact.

No one can make you more conscious of what it feels to be a writer than Abigail Dewitt. I stepped into her class and was both challenged and charmed by her structure and insight. Abigail perks you up (even on an extremely mist-covered day on the mountain) and insists that your free-writing is your insight to a full novel. She is brilliant. She listens to every word that is spoken and gives feedback to every class member. She is not one of those austere, removed instructors. When Abigail Dewitt comments on your writing—whether it be free-wheeling or close to heart, she will inspire action and direction.

With Abigail’s inspiration I have finished six full notebooks of writing in the five months since my Table Rock classes with her, working  toward a finished novel manuscript.

Now that is direction.

Writers need direction and distance to create their own way. The Table Rock Writers’ Workshop offers a perfect blend for writers—a setting that is so beautiful that you’ll want to write about it and a structure that will make you want to talk about it. Table Rock Writers’ will help you make your own direction to start (or finish) your writing project.

Here’s to getting direct.  –Tony Tallent

Tony Tallent is the Director of Literacy and Learning at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. He wrote and produced RAMBLE MOUNTAIN, an Appalachian drama in story and music. Tony writes stories and articles about libraries and speaks nationally about storytelling and the importance of libraries. He is currently working on completing a novel set in North Carolina.

Registration is now open.  Please read all of the pages of our website carefully to help make your decision about which instructor is right for you.  Every instructor will be available for conversations at mealtimes and you’ll have a chance to hear from the faculty in afternoon presentations about craft, in addition to the three-hour small group sessions in the mornings.  Please consider joining our community of serious writers. 

North Carolina Poet Laureate will teach at Table Rock in 2013

bathanti_jospehLast September when we were gathered for our last evening on the mountain at the Table Rock Writers Workshop, we knew that our dear friend and colleague Joseph Bathanti was just that minute being celebrated in Raleigh by the North Carolina Arts Council. Joseph had just been selected from the very wide and deep field of talented North Carolina poets to serve as our state’s poet laureate. Joseph is now touring the state giving readings, teaching workshops in places where poetry may not be the norm, and generally bearing his gregarious self with equal measures of humility and humor.  In short, Joseph is doing what he’s always been doing since moving to North Carolina as a VISTA volunteer in 1976.

Joseph’s poetry is musical and sublime, whether he is writing about the remnants of the Confederacy that haunt Anson County or the dangers of house hunting on high cliffs in a western North Carolina winter. Joseph’s blue-collar-Pittsburgh roots inform his vision and the sharp turns of his lines.  He is our Philip Levine (the U.S. Poet Laureate for 2011-2012).  Like Levine, Bathanti often writes about the world of physical labor, whether it is a memory of his father’s daily pilgrimage to the steel mills or his wife’s work in bearing two remarkable sons–Jacob and Beckett–who are now making their way in the world with considerable gifts and grace as a result of their joyous upbringing.

Joan Bathanti, Joseph’s life partner, born and raised in Georgia, was also a VISTA volunteer, and North Carolina was their matchmaker. That must be why Joseph has worked so hard to reward every borough and backwood in these 100 counties with a word picture.  When I was compiling the Literary Trails of North Carolina series for UNC Press, Joseph was the go-to poet.  He had a poem about most everywhere.  He had already discovered that cemetery near the South Carolina border that requires a spooky hike through pine barrens to visit the graves of those rugged early settlers who harvested tar here in the 1700s. Joseph had already observed and written about  dock workers unloading  boats at Wanchese, simultaneously musing at the numbing challenges that must have worn down  the Lost Colony. His poems are by turns tender and terrifying, always asking hard questions, always wondering at the foibles of humans and angels.

As if his poetry were not enough, Joseph has also written novels and story collections that benefit mightily from his poet’s ear and eye. But finally it is the bond of friendship, his role as a masterbuilder of our North Carolina literary family, that is the measure of Joseph Bathanti.  That is  why I could shoot him an e-mail in the midst of his busiest year as our state’s new poet laureate and within an hour he would answer, saying yes to teaching for us this fall at Table Rock.

–Georgann Eubanks, Table Rock Writers Workshop

Please visit our website and consider joining us this year, September 9-13, 2013 for the Table Rock Writers Workshop.