Publishing: Where Art joins Business

by Carolyn O’Neal

Writing a novel is a long, meandering journey, more akin to kayaking  unexplored waterways than jetting to a known destination. Carolyn Kayaking Writing KINGSLEY took years.

Plot and character.

Revising and editing.

Critiquing chapters with my writing groups and sifting through their suggestions.


A thoroughly enjoyable adventure from start to finish.

That was writing.

Publishing is a very different adventure.

Publishing is where art and business join …  and I knew I needed help.

Let me back up a bit.  It was clear from the first time I met Bethany Carlson that she was a rare talent.  Not only did she have the rich imagination of an author but she also had a practical head for business.  I remember one writing group meeting several years ago in which I prophetically told her she should go into publishing.  That’s why I take partial credit for the success of her company, The Artist’s Partner.

The Artist’s Partner is a coach for artists becoming entrepreneurs. We provide crowdfunding consulting, and have helped artists raise over $90,000 for their creative projects through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

We work with arts companies and non-profits, authors, musicians, filmmakers, theater production companies, crafts persons, and other artists who seek to raise funds to professionally produce and distribute their own work.


One of her first Kickstarter campaigns was for  Bob Perry’s biography Bowling for the Mob.  Not only was his Kickstarter campaign a stunning success –  complete with a professionally produced video to entice backers – but his book, now renamed Redemption Alley, How I Lived To Bowl Another Frame – was  picked up by Rodale Books!

I had seen Bethany’s work ethic and her insightfulness.  I had seen her honesty, her deep patience, and her eternal optimism.  These were the qualities I needed if I intended to go from private writer to public author.  When I felt ready to publish KINGSLEY, I contacted Bethany.

Bethany Joy Carlson

Bethany Joy Carlson

First thing she did was establish a clear timeline.

Bethany guided me through how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.  We discussed the intense prep work needed, then blocked out the time  for editing and cover design, and then we set a target date for proofing the final drafts, distributing the books to my Kickstarter backers, and finally, publication.

As I began prepping for the campaign, Bethany set up a meeting with local director Michael Duni to shoot my promotional video.

My Kickstarter campaign ran one month, raised over $5000, and presold close to 100 copies.  Even more important, the campaign spread the word and built excitement.

KINGSLEY was coming!

Bethany put me in contact with Graphic Artist Mayapriya  Long of Bookwrights  to discuss the cover.  Honestly, that may have been the best part of the entire process.  Here are a few of the iterations…

Cover design





KINGSLEY is available on

Final cover for KINGSLEY. Now available on

She contacted copy editor Betsy Ballenger for the final review and then, KINGSLEY hit the presses!

The launch party for KINGSLEY was held on November 8, 2015 at Over the Moon Bookstore.Over THe moon Logo

It was a huge success and a wonderful experience!  Here are some fun photos from the launch:




Guest Post: Writing Fuel

This post is courtesy of Phyllis A. “Maggie” Duncan, novel and short story author.

If you believe the Facebook memes about the writing life, writers are solitary creatures, shuttered in our writing caves, subsisting on caffeine, and keeping distractions to an utter minimum. To an extent, that’s true, but biological and psychological needs conspire to push us into the non-writing sunshine, where we get inspired to write again.

Maggie book1

Available on

A key aspect of inspiration for me is my participation in two writing groups.

But, you say, going to writing group meetings takes time away from writing, and what possible good are they, anyway?

My answer:  A writing group consists of people who respect each other’s work and who are interested in each member’s success. How do I know this?

I retired six years ago to write for myself rather than Uncle Sam, but, frankly, I would have been content to sit in my office and write only for myself if not for my writers groups.

When I first joined the Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group of Writers (SWAG Writers), our meetings were social gatherings only. We met in a bar—of course; we’re writers—and chatted about what kind of writing we did and what we hoped to achieve. Then, a member had a story accepted for a literary journal, and that prompted me and others to try the whole submission thing.

SWAG was the place where I shared the news of my first acceptance of a story for publication, where I could do readings in a comfortable environment and could argue the efficacy of the Oxford Comma.

Along came National Novel Writers Month and the Shenandoah Valley Wrimos, a Facebook group where we encouraged each other and lamented our lagging word counts.

From that group developed the year-round writers group, Shenandoah Valley Writers. We have online short story discussions, writing sprints, and other craft-related fun. Mostly, however, we celebrate each other’s writing. We share each other’s publishing successes and commiserate over rejections. Though our primary interactions are online, we have occasional in-person get-togethers to talk writing and/or eat muffins, along with consuming large amounts of that writer’s fuel, coffee.

From both of these groups I get validation as a writer, I get encouragement, and, well, I have fun with writing. In short, without my writers groups, I wouldn’t have had anything published (including two recent releases, a novella, My Noble Enemy, and a novel in stories, The Better Spy), wouldn’t have won or placed in any contests, wouldn’t have evolved as a writer. I’d still be sitting in my writing cave, writing, revising, rewriting, and being the only person in the world to read my work.

A writing group challenges you, not merely to write, but to write better, to question your own writing toward the end of making it the best it can be. If you don’t have one, find one or make one and watch your writing blossom.

©Phyllis A. Duncan:


MaggiePhyllis Anne Duncan is a retired bureaucrat with an overactive imagination–at least that’s what everyone has told her since she first started making up stories in elementary school prompted by her weekly list of spelling words.

A commercial pilot and former FAA safety official, she lives and writes historical thrillers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A graduate of Madison College (now James Madison University), she has degrees in history and political science. Her love of politics continues to this day.

Her first print collection of short stories was the 2000 paperback, Rarely Well Behaved, which, in 2012, became two separate, reissued books, Blood Vengeance and Fences. In December 2012, she published Spy Flash, a collection of espionage flash fiction stories. In 2015, a novella, My Noble Enemy, and a novel in stories, The Better Spy, were published.

Other short stories have appeared in eFiction Magazine in 2011 and 2012; in the 2013 Blue Ridge Anthology; and in the 2013 1 x 50 x 100 Anthology, a collection of 100-word flash fiction; in the 2014 Skyline Anthology. A short story, “Marakata,” submitted for WriterHouse’s 5th Anniversary Short Story Contest, won third place. Her short story “Man on Fire” was a finalist in the Press53 AWP Flash Fiction contest and later published in Prime Number Magazine. A short play, “Yo’ Momma,” won the Ampersand Arts Bar Hopping Contest and was staged in April 2014 in Staunton, VA. Her story, “Reset,” will appear in the premiere issue of Ink Ribbon Press in 2015. Two contest winning stories, “Dreamtime” and “Blood and Guts,” will appear in the 2016 edition of Skyline.

Ms. Duncan has studied writing at the Gotham Writers Workshop,, and Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. Her freelance, feature articles on life in the Shenandoah Valley appear occasionally in the Staunton News-Leader. She is a member of WriterHouse, James River Writers, Virginia Writers Club (1st Vice President), Blue Ridge Writers, Shenandoah Valley Writers, SWAG (Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group) Writers, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

When not writing, reading, or reviewing books, she takes delight in spoiling her grandchildren.


Writing blog:

Author Website:

Social Media:

Facebook Author Page:

Twitter: @unspywriter



BACCA Literary Is At It Again

BACCA Literary just can’t stop organizing these mixers for writers. This time, it’s an evening session at Downtown Charlottesville, VA’s Central Library at 201 East Market Street, one block up from the Downtown Mall. (We’ve done ’em before, at the Virginia Festival of the Book, and the Virginia Writers Club Annual Symposium.)

Free Session! Free Parking!

Local writers are welcome to attend free of charge. Parking is validated for nearby garages, too!

Here’s the flyer that Reference Librarian Hayley Tompkins just sent us. She’ll be there on Wednesday, 7 October, 2015, at 7pm, to welcome participants to our session.

BACCA Literary welcomes area writers to a mixer on Wed 7 Oct 2015 at 7pm in downtown Charlottesville, VA

BACCA Literary welcomes writers to a get-acquainted mixer on Wed 7 Oct 2015 at 7pm in downtown Charlottesville, VA. The Central Library is at 201 East Market Street.

Arrive a few minutes early to get yourself situated!

We hope to see you there.

— Bethany, Carolyn, and Anne

Guest Post: Writing Groups – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This guest post is courtesy of Belinda Miller, children’s book author.

No one, except a fellow writer, understands the laments or the excitement a writer experiences when you are writing. There is a commonality, a bind, a coming together of an art form that is almost spiritual.

The third book in the Middle Grade Phillip's Quest series will be released this November

The third book in Belinda Miller’s Middle Grade Phillip’s Quest series will be released in November

After a twenty year plus career is the finance industry, and a medically forced retirement in 1998, I found myself, in 2013, at age 63, writing and publishing the Middle Grade series Phillip’s Quest and Children’s series The Ragwort Chronicles. At first, I was a little freaked out. Like any fledgling author, I wondered, besides whether I was good enough, what the heck do I do now? I had written technical manuals, which were always for “in-house” use, but these books were going to be published — I hoped. Well, it is now 2015, and my fifth book is ready to be released. Amazing — huh? Surreal to me. It took hours and hours of work, and hours and hours of help, and hours and hours of my husband’s patience. One thing that helped me immensely, was a local writing group whose members shared and compared their skills and experiences. A handful of us formed a strong, like-minded bond, some with more and some with less experience, but all with the same goal — to perfect their art. To learn and share things like technique, websites, books and contacts that are not found in a text or course on writing. And, as one becomes more confident and successful with their writing, through the group, one has the opportunity to expand and market oneself — brand oneself as an author. As I was able to do.

With much sadness I resigned in August from this local writing group that I had helped to gain a strong community presence. This handful of hard-working and now successful writers took part in various library and arts’ council events; held signings on First Fridays [in Manassas, VA]; donated books to First Book and various veterans’ organizations; conducted workshops for young writers, and most recently, joined with Manassas City officials and the Public Library Foundation to build and dedicate little free libraries throughout the City and [Prince William] County. We did it through persistence and perseverance. It was a tough decision to leave because of these three reasons: 1) I loved the people that were at the core of the group, 2) I learned a tremendous amount from these people, things that would take months or years, if I would have had to learn on my own, 3) the camaraderie of like-minds is invaluable.

I resigned because like many groups that are formed, they explode in size — this one started in 2011 with four people, and last week, it boasted some 250+ members. How did that happen, you ask — the explosion? It happens easily when there are no clear-cut guidelines for allowing people join. People were welcome from all over, (instead of a geographic area for which the group was designated), and who knew who they were or if they’ve ever written more than a sentence. So: know your members.

But most of all, as it grew the mission became blurred. Yes, there are bylaws, but they were not enforced. If you’re joining a group, and you can’t get answers about mission or financials, don’t join. If there are no scheduled meetings, or meetings that are put off, and off, and off — don’t join.

I will miss the group as it was. The beauty of a well-run, organized, cohesive group of like minds, is that you share ideas and experiences that you cannot share with anyone who does not write! It doesn’t matter whether it is prose or poetry, or what the genre is, there is a commonality, a bind, a coming together of an art form that is almost spiritual. No one, except a fellow writer, understands the laments or the excitement a writer experiences when you are writing — a poem, a short-story, a novella, a novel! No one understands the angst you go through to have your story published. No one, except another writer! Will I join another group? Already have. Many are the same people who were part of the group before, but this time, we are more knowledgable, older, and much, much wiser.

Belindbelinda headshota Miller is a former language arts teacher who applies her love of literature and the arts when writing Middle Grade series Phillip’s Quest and Children’s series The Ragwort Chronicles.  After living in Colorado and Wyoming, this ex- New Yorker makes her home in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, Gary, and her cats, Sambucca and Skye.

Getting Your Book (Cover) On 21st Century TV

How do you get from only an idea for a book cover, to one that was recently requested for use on the set of Grace and Frankie, a popular new Netflix TV series?

This happened to Sue Mangum and me for our book, Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self, which just celebrated its 2nd birthday. We found that like good writing, creating an attention-getting cover is a process that unfolds over time. It helped that Sue knew the artist she wanted to work with: artist Amy Michelle, based in Atlanta. She also knew she wanted an image of a heart being sewn up.

Here’s the first try, from early April, 2013: painting by Amy MichelleSue and I were both excited about the potential, but we felt the last word in the title, “Believe” was too separate, making the title look at first glance like “Braver Than You.” Sue requested a change, and by the end of May, we were pleased as pink lemonade with this: painting by Amy Michelle, May 2013In the meantime, I was taking an eBook DIY class with Bethany Carlson of The Artist’s Partner I learned about the importance of bold colors, readable fonts, and having a cover pop out even as a thumbnail-sized image. For a class assignment, I mocked something up, and chose the red, white, and grey colors from Amy Michelle’s work. Those colors echo the themes of grief and romance from our book.

If we had offered a teaser free e-download, we could have used this…
cover draft by C E Cameron…but we decided to just go forward and publish the book on Aug. 10, 2013.

The last step for the official cover was deciding about the font for the subtitle and author names. Sue and I emailed back and forth, and considered several options including the infamous Comic Sans, which some design enthusiasts actually want to ban.

We eventually decided on Calibri, a font that is now Microsoft Word’s default for new documents. Why? Because it works. Combined with the emotive, hand-lettering of our book’s main title, the Calibri choice was simple, modern, and professional.

Here’s the final cover…

final cover, copyright Sue Mangum and C E Cameron

…And here’s where the work paid off: A month ago, I received a request through our self-publisher (Amazon’s CreateSpace), from Act One Script Clearance. Script clearance is necessary whenever a production team creates a set, using books, posters, or other products that are copyrighted. Act One staff were seeking books that looked like plausible reading for the characters played by Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda on Grace and Frankie. In the show, these women are left by their husbands, when the husbands decide they are gay and fall in love with each other.

When I asked how they found our book, I learned that the production team searched Amazon for books their characters might be reading during a time of great turmoil. And while I’m sure our book’s title was key in the search, an attractive cover didn’t hurt. In fact, the cover was the main copyrighted work requested for use in the show. The production team sought permission to show it throughout the season, on bookshelves or coffee tables. It is now a part of this season’s permanent set.

Hollywood, here we come!

Claire Cameron is an educational psychologist at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), and aspiring science writer. Her dream is to write about human development, health, and science in a way that everyone will want to read.

Navigating Your Writing Life: Balancing Craft and Business

In August, 2015, the Virginia Writers 

Who is BACCA Literary?

Local writing group BACCA Literary knows from experience: Writers benefit from a small group of similar-minded folk. Yet finding a group that works is a challenge. On August 1st, BACCA Literary will guide Navigating Your Writing Life: Balancing Craft and Business Symposium-goers in a fun and educational, hands-on mixer that will break the ice and start the process of building a writing community.

  Bethany Joy Carlson is a screenwriter and owner of The Artist’s Partner, a business consulting firm for entrepreneurial authors, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists. She is a founding member of BACCA Literary and Vice President of WriterHouse. Her eclectic career includes teaching math at the Renaissance School and casting for film and television with arvold. She is originally from Seattle, WA but has loved calling Charlottesville home since 2010.


AM Carley  AM (Anne) Carley has published nonfiction articles on arts, education, technology, and social policy, and is currently writing the fictional story of a Midwestern journalist named Andie Jordan. A founding member of BACCA Literary, Anne is an editor and book developer. Her company, Chenille Books, helps nonfiction authors complete and polish their books, including The Art of the Q, by Charlie Van Hecke, Sassy Salad Secrets by Bobbie Jo Lieberman and Kenny Weber, Making It Up As You Go by Isabel McNeill Carley, Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir by Zack Bonnie, and Records to the Rescue! By Christine Ballard.

  Carolyn O’Neal is a passionate environmentalist and a daring storyteller. Her first novel, KINGSLEY, is a creative and intriguing eco-fiction to be published in November 2015. Her short story, SILENT GRACE, won 2nd prize in The Hook’s prestigious 2013 short story contest, judged by bestselling author John Grisham. Carolyn is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and is active in the Oyster Shell Recycling Program. She is a founding member of BACCA Literary. Carolyn was born three blocks from the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, VA. She now lives in Charlottesville.


C. E. (Claire) Cameron is a writer and educational psychologist. Her academic scholarship examines how children learn and develop. Her fiction and non-fiction further explores how we change throughout life by revealing individual stories of transformation.  Claire E. Cameron will begin a position in Fall 2015 as Associate Professor in the Learning and Instruction department at the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education. Her primary research examines foundational cognitive skills (e.g., self-control) in early childhood and how teachers can better organize classroom environments for learning. She is also a non-fiction writer who seeks to understand how researchers can effectively communicate, both within academia and to the public. She edited Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self (The Last Play, 2013), by Sue Mangum. Claire is a founding member of BACCA Literary.


The 2015 Symposium will be held at the Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center, Piedmont Virginia Community College, 501 College Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22902  Learn More and Sign Up HERE


orange arrow

  And watch for news about BACCA Literary events at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library!

Write at the Library! An Interview with Hayley Tompkins


Photo of Hayley Tompkins

Hayley Tompkins, Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Reference Librarian

Hayley Tompkins is a Reference Librarian at the Central branch of Central Virginia’s public library system, the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. She sat down with me to discuss the free writing opportunities offered at the library.

Their critique group operates under different circumstances than BACCA’s, and, as with our interview with Elizabeth SaFleur, proves again that there’s no single correct way to conduct a critique group.

Describe the writing opportunities that the library offers. I understand you host both creative writing groups and critique groups.

The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library offers a lot of activities for writers of all ages. Last year I began a Creative Writing Group at the Central Library in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, which meets the third Wednesday of each month at 6pm. It’s a great group. Adults can come and stretch their creativity with writing prompts and activities that I provide each month, and we dedicate swatches of time to writing. After each prompt, you can opt to share it in a non-judgmental environment. It’s been a lot of fun.

Our Writing Critique group grew out of that – as a way for writers to come together and get feedback on previously written work. That group now meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at 6pm. Just recently the Northside Library’s Reference Librarian Abby Cox has also started a Creative Writing program on the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm. That means that collectively, the Library offers a free writing program for writers in the Charlottesville area every week.

Every week, the Library offers a free writing program for writers in the Charlottesville area.

And for younger writers, there are teen groups: Crozet Library has Musings – a writing group for teens that has been meeting for several years. I started a Creative Writing group at the Gordon Avenue Library in 2012, and that has continued as well – it’s now called the Teen Writer’s Guild and it meets monthly on Thursdays in the summer. Teen and children’s events on writing and cartooning have also been offered as one-time workshops.

Are there other activities for writers at the library?

In addition to writing groups, Central Library also hosts a Regional Author Series in the Spring and Fall. Published authors come to the Library to discuss their books and writing and it’s a great opportunity for writers to talk with authors about writing tips and their experiences with publishing. We have had some great local authors, most recently Corban Addison (A Walk Across the Sun) and mystery author Andy Straka (Frank Pavlicek series).

I decided that I could better reach people who weren’t already using the Library as a place to write by creating a group on

How did you go about telling people about the JMRL creative writing group and the critique group? How did people find out about it?

At first, we started with flyers up around the Library and on the Downtown Mall. I decided that I could better reach people who weren’t already using the Library as a place to write by creating a group on – an online community that connects people with groups through common interests. Now there are 115 people in the Meetup group, from all different backgrounds, although we haven’t had more than 18 in any one writing session. Some are professional writers, some are just beginning. All levels are welcome, and it’s really helped us diversify the types of people who come to the meetings. You can find that group online.

What do you write? How long have you been doing it, and how did you begin?

Fluvanna County High School Logo

Fluvanna County High School – Go Team!

I don’t have just one thing that I write. I have been writing pretty sporadically since elementary school, but a creative writing class at Fluvanna County High School really sparked my interest (thanks, Mrs. Calhoun!). I wanted to bring that same love to teens at the Gordon Avenue Library when I did teen library programming, and when I started doing adult programming at Central Library, I knew that I wanted to create the same space for adults who wanted to find and keep up with their own writing voices.

How many of you are in the creative writing group? Has the membership stayed the same, or do people come and go? How long have you been together?

It varies each month. The most we have had is eighteen. The fewest we have had was two! We have several members that come regularly, and a lot that come and go. I started this group in July 2014, and it’s been meeting monthly since then.

In the critique group, what are the ground rules? Do you have guidelines, or have you collectively found your way with these matters? Do you write up formal critiques, or is it more conversational?

In the Writing Critique Group, everyone brings in a short sample of his/her work – usually two pages or less. You give a copy of your writing to everyone, and then read it aloud, and the group discusses it. You get feedback on the piece – how it conveyed to the audience, what worked, and what could use improvements. You give similar feedback to others during their turn. There aren’t specific guidelines about how to critique, or how to structure comments. It’s a relatively small group – with the highest attendance being six people. They are informal and conversational – but very constructive.

Don't let this blank page stare you down. Join a writer group!

Don’t let this blank page stare you down. Join a writer group!

Linda Kobert is a fellow writer from the Creative Writing Group, and she helped set this Writing Critique, and attends regularly. She’s got great advice, so if you are new to the group, she’s good at helping you understand what to look for in the piece, and what kinds of comments to make. I wasn’t able to attend for the first few months, and I was really nervous – I’ve never really had peer feedback on my creative pieces. This was very new territory for me, but all of the feedback really helped me see my work in a new light, see some great things about it, and also what could get better, and where to focus my energy. I left feeling exhilarated and ready to get back to writing.

Is someone the leader, or is it more collaborative?

With the Creative Writing Group, I organize it and create a handout for it. I introduce writing prompts or activities (all loosely structured so that if someone wants to go in a different direction, then that’s great too), and keep us on track so we get the most out of the time that we have. For our July 15th session, Linda Kobert will be leading a special memoir-writing workshop. I like to introduce various styles of writing, and since Linda has had experience with memoir-writing, she was the perfect candidate to tackle this. I would definitely consider other people who were interested in taking the lead. The Writing Critique is very peer-oriented, but Linda Kobert set it up initially, and is a good go-to person for questions about the Critique sessions.

Life does get very hectic, and it’s nice to know that this block of time each month is carved out specifically for this, and it forces me to just do it.

Have you developed friendships with members of your group, or is it important to you to maintain a separation from the rest of your life?

I do consider myself to be friends with these writers, although since the Library is also my place of work, I think sometimes it takes a while for the worlds to mesh.

How has being in your writer group changed your writing? Your attitude about writing? Your identity as a writer and your plans for the future as a writer?

Being in a writer group has dramatically improved my writing – it’s more inspired, more deliberate, and knowing that other people will be reading it really encourages me to do better than I do on my own if I’m not sure it will ever be seen. My attitude is also a lot better – I’m much more confident and excited about my writing. Life does get very hectic, and it’s nice to know that this block of time each month is carved out specifically for this, and it forces me to just do it.

Do you have recommendations for other writers?

Just keep doing it! Use the Library and its resources to help you – we have a group for you, and books to keep you inspired. We also have quiet spaces for you if you need a space to write without the distractions of your own home.

If you could change anything about your writer group as it is now, what would you change?

I would love to have more consistency in the numbers of writers each month! It’s hard to do some of the more fun activities with just a handful, and I love new blood, so I’d really like to encourage new writers who want a dedicated group to come out.

We also have quiet spaces for you at the Library, if you need a space to write without the distractions of your own home.

What are the next steps for you in your writing career?

NaNoWriMo CrestWell, I am a Librarian full-time, so writing is a lovely diversion for me. But, for my next trick, I am definitely going to do NaNoWriMo in November. I started last year and didn’t finish, so I think that’s my next step. I also have a lot of pieces of stories – mostly things that started here at our Creative Writing Group, and I would like to bring those to more fully-realized works.

How do people find your creative writing group? Are you accepting new members? When and where do you meet?

We are always accepting new members! Find us by stopping by the Central Library on the third Wednesdays of the month at 6pm, or find individual events at our Meetup page. If you have any questions, you can reach me, Hayley, at the Central Library at 979.7151 x4. We typically meet in the Madison Room at the Central Library.

What about the critique group? Can new writers join? If so, what are the steps, and the schedule and location of meetings?

Again, yes! New members always welcome. Find individual dates listed at Meetup, and more details are posted there as well. All you need to bring is an already-written piece, a pen, and yourself. We’ll make copies for you at the Reference level of the Central Library just before the meeting if you need. The Writing Critique generally meets on second and fourth Tuesdays at 6pm at the Central Library.

Thanks so much, Hayley, for taking the time to tell us about what the library offers local writers. Like you, BACCA loves to encourage writers to get in touch. Anything else before we close?

Nope! I think that about covers it – thank you so much for interviewing me and helping me get the word out about how the Library can help writers in our area!

— AM Carley writes fiction and nonfiction, and is a founding member of BACCA. Her company, Chenille Books, helps nonfiction authors develop their books.

Things I’ve Learned About Writing From Teaching Math

“Who would like to show their process on the board?”

joke This is a question I ask many times a week. I teach Algebra and Precalculus at Renaissance School. I love it.

One of the challenges I have teaching at a school like Renaissance, which is for high aptitude students in Arts, Humanities, and Sciences, is that some of my students have almost a spooky natural facility with math – but many of the artists, actors, humanitarians, photographers, and musicians have developed something close to a phobia of it by the time they’ve gotten to high school. Since math is a required subject for graduation no matter the track of their studies, one way or another, we’ve got to make it to the end of the year.

My main goal is for every student to finish the class with confidence. They don’t need to be a wiz; I just want them to be able to tell themselves, “I can do this.”

paranormaldistributionSo I focus on process, not outcomes. Getting the right answer the fastest doesn’t accrue any brownie points in my class. Instead, I encourage students to come up to the board and show their thought process. Like I often say, “There’s more than one path from here to the MudHouse.” And I often add, while they’re nervously approaching the board for the first time, “We’re all on the same team. We’ve got your back. Let’s get through this problem together.”

So, it was a HUGE thrill about two months into the school year when one of my most math-phobic students said, “Ms. Carlson, can I show my process on the board for problem 37? I’m getting stuck and I don’t know what to do next.” Yes. Yes you can.

find_x_lolNow that the school year is coming to a close, I’ve almost worked myself out of a job. The students work together in groups. The quick ones race ahead, learn the new formulas, and teach them to their peers. Everyone is going to be wrapping up the year with confidence. With a process for solving problems.

Which, finally, brings me back to what teaching math has taught me about writing. I’m not sure I appreciated it fully in the beginning, but one of the things that has made BACCA a great writing group for the last four years is the feeling that we’re all on the same team. We’re not competing with one another; we have different skills and aptitudes; we work together to give candid feedback and solve problems. We, too, focus on process, not outcomes. Naturally, we all harbor dreams of seeing this or that work published. But our esteem in the eyes of each other is based in the work we do in the small ways each month, not the grand finale.

Writing may be a solitary exercise, but improving as a writer is a team effort. Just like math.

Bethany Joy Carlson is a founding member of BACCA, a WriterHouse Board Member, and owner of The Artist’s Partner.

Submission Services from a Writer’s POV, Part 2

This post is Part 2 of 2 about my experiences working with Writer’s Relief, an agency that helps authors find agents and outlets for their work. In December, I had just submitted materials about my work and myself, so that Writer’s Relief could draft a query letter and send me a list of agents who might be interested. This post continues the Q&A format I used in Part 1.

1. What happened after you submitted your materials?

After signing up on Dec. 16, two different Writer’s Relief staff contacted me on Dec. 23 and Jan. 7. One asked for my publication credits, and the other sent this intriguing question:

How close to your life is the book? You’ve called it a memoir – does that mean that you’ve just changed names and some minor details. This will determine how we target your book. Is it based very loosely on your life? Could it be called a novel? Please advise.

I responded:

All events in the book happened, to me, as they are described, in the timeline described. I agree with your wording: only names and minor details (such as identifying locations and personal information) have been changed. And obviously I’ve put it into third person, which I think I noted in my submission materials was due to the sensitive nature of the health details–easier to read and write this way. It is definitely not a novel.

This level of detail told me they were looking very carefully for the agents who would be interested in my book, which I describe as a health mystery memoir.

2. What did you think of their query letter? And the list of agents?

On Jan. 13, I received their draft query letter. I was impressed. Though I had done my best with my own query letter to sell the big picture, Writer’s Relief zoomed out even more. They also sent me a PDF document of various resources for authors, which included a rationale for their approach in writing query letters. Their goal is understated professionalism. No clichés, nothing over the top. Let the work sell itself. Their opening paragraph reflected that:

Please consider my book Pretty On The Inside: A True Story of Transformation, an autobiographical account of my experiences dealing with a chronic, disfiguring skin condition. Due to the personal nature of the story, I’ve written in the third person and names have been changed.

3. Did you like the list of agents?

hidden entrance to a stone building

ooooh – mysterious …..

On Jan. 16, my personalized list of agencies and specific agents arrived, also in a PDF. The $250 fee covered 25 agents + query, but the list contained 29 names and email addresses, plus the materials I should submit to each party. What amazed me most was the fantastic fit of the agents to my work. I had no idea there were people who were seeking to represent “non-fiction efforts in health and wellness, relationships, popular culture, women’s issues, lifestyle, sports, and music.” Except for sports, my book has all those elements. Neat-o!

Many agents wanted an excerpt from the first part of the book, though this varied from as little as 5 pages to as many as 50. Most wanted the first 1-3 chapters. Writer’s Relief instructed me to query immediately (within 3 days), though this turned out to be a challenge given the particulars of each agency’s query preferences. As of today (April 15), I’ve managed to send 16 out of 29 queries. Shh, don’t tell Writer’s Relief!

4. What happened after you received the list of agents?

What happened next is I’m waiting and trying to find the time to finish querying. Of 16 queries already sent, I received two personalized notes from agents who expressed enthusiasm for the project but are just too busy (or not enthusiastic enough), but who encouraged me to keep going. Totally worth it. Thank you Janet Reid (who also writes a funny and sharp take-your-medicine blog for writers) and Molly Friedrich.

5. Can you recommend Writer’s Relief?

Yes. One could say that I can’t know for sure, until I find an agent. But honestly, the structured process of prepping my materials for a professional set of eyes, the long list of agents that assured me there is a place for my story, and the supportive personal notes from two agents have already made the sometimes confusing journey from query to publishing easier.

Claire Cameron is an educational psychologist and aspiring science writer. Her dream is to write about human development, health, and science in a way that everyone will want to read.


Creativity within Constraints

Bethany, Anne, and Carolyn.... 3/4th of BACCA Literary. Sadly, Claire couldn't make it this year.

Bethany, Anne, and Carolyn…. 3/4th of BACCA Literary. Sadly, Claire couldn’t make it this year.

What a wonderful way to welcome spring!  “Creativity within Constraints” was the theme of our Publishing Day: Meet (or Create) Your own Writing Group presentation on March 21st… and it was FUN!

After introductions, Anne stepped the audience through a hilarious fill-in-the-blanks word game!

A writer group is a partnership between CARS and MOUSTACHES that is designed to help BEAUTIFUL writers reach his or her PUPPY.

It is a step-by-LOLLIPOP process that creates clarity and PINETREE-filled moments.

Here are some of the mental, emotional, and IRRITATING benefits of writer groups:

  • Discovering your inner OVEN and allowing it to play.
  • Celebrating a transformative MEZZO SOPRANO experience.
  • Learning the art of HYPERVENTILATING.
  • Learning how to change CURIOUS thinking.
  • Learning how to express yourself HALTINGLY.


The relationship between a writer and their writer group transforms BUZZARDS and enhances the members’ VOLUMES.

True, it takes a commitment of time, and LEPRECHAUN, and BELLYBUTTON. And the writer group doesn’t always turn into friendship — it turns into something more powerful and AROMATIC.

A writer group is a great way to meet WEASELS and learn more about yourself, your DAY, and your WOODPECKERS.

After the laughter died down, Bethany hosted a mixer where attendees could meet each other and take the first steps to a creating a new writing group.

Writers meeting Writers at the Meet (or Create) Your own Writing Group event

Writers meeting Writers at the Meet (or Create) Your own Writing Group event

We’d handed a questionnaire to each participant at the beginning of the event to help shy writers break the ice  I joined in and met writers from all over the world.

I met new writers tiptoeing  into the writing group process and long-time pros who’d just moved to Charlottesville and wanted to make contacts.

Question asked at the end of the event included

How does an existing writing group select a new member?

Where can I meet other writers?

Bethany telling a writer  where to find other writers

Bethany telling a writer where to find other writers

Anne and Bethany did a bang-up job giving thoughtful and meaningful answers.

The only thing more fun than our 2015 Festival of the Book event was planning it!

The members of BACCA Literary

Carolyn O’Neal, AM Carley, Bethany Joy Carlson, Claire Elizabeth Cameron planning BACCA LIterary’s 2015 VaBook session.

Hope to see you next year at the 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book!