Indie 500 flash fiction contest!

In case you hadn’t heard, Mountain Xpress has brought back its Indie 500 flash fiction contest. Submissions are open through Tuesday, May 31. For details and to enter a 500 word story, click here or scroll down.

HOUSE FP FictionContest

All writers are invited to submit a Western North Carolina-set story of up to 500 words. Prizes include $50 plus publication for 1st place and publication plus bragging rights for two runners up.

The final judges are Katey Schultz and Jake Bible. Continue reading

How to Talk to Rockstars turns 1!

Time flies. This time just a year ago How to Talk to Rockstars was making its debut.


Celebratory cookies were eaten, wine was imbibed, books were signed, and a tour was launched. I’m so glad that I got to share the journey with all of you and, since we can’t get together for an anniversary cupcake, I’ve decided to hold a giveaway.

All you need to do to win a copy of How to Talk to Rockstars is name your favorite rockstar, either in the comments field of this blogpost or on my Facebook page.

Two winners will be selected at random on Monday, May 30.

“How to Talk to Rockstars” reviewed in WNC Magazine

I’m so thrilled that WNC Magazine featured a review of How to Talk to Rockstars in its July/August issue. And even better, it’s on the page beside four Asheville album reviews. Perfect.

Whirlwind New York trip in photos

A song is a very short story

Creativity is endlessly enthralling. And frustrating. And difficult to quantify. And that’s why I think it’s worth looking to the many artistic genres outside of writing for ideas on how to become a better novelist. I recently attended a songwriters panel discussion and took away from excellent quotes to serve as inspiration.

Originally published at

CaroMia Tiller performing with Goldie & the Screamers.

CaroMia Tiller performing with Goldie & the Screamers.

Asheville Music Professionals teamed up with the Grammy-affiliated Recording Academy for a panel discussion on songwriting, followed by a songwriters-in-the-round performance.

The dual events, held at The Altamont Theatre on Monday, June 22, featured songwriters Gretchen Peters (a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee; has written for Etta James and Bonnie Raitt among others), Tift Merritt (a North Carolina native and Grammy nominee for country album of the year), Jim Lauderdale (has recorded 26 albums and won two Grammys), Dave Berg (named Billboard country songwriter of the year, has written for Keith Urban, Blake Shelton and others) and Erika Wollam Nichols, general manager of The Bluebird Café in Nashville. Local recording artist and three-time Grammy-winner Steven Heller moderated.

The panelists shared their thoughts on process, inspiration and craft and took questions from the audience as well as answering previously-submitted queries. From humorous to inspired, here are some highlights:

On when to write

Gretchen Peters: I try to avoid writing. Writing is more difficult for writers than for other people.

Jim Lauderdale: Morning writing is good when I’m co-writing, but I like to write alone at night.

Dave Berg: The older I get, the less I get up [when an idea comes to me in bed] to write it down. Sometimes I decide I need sleep more than this idea.

Jim Lauderdale: I have to plan writing trips or clear the day. Otherwise the day is gone and I haven’t had time to write anything.

A full house at The Atlamont Theatre for the songwriters panel.

A full house at The Atlamont Theatre for the songwriters panel.

On writing while on tour

Dave Berg: I don’t travel much. I always dreamed of making it as a songwriter so that I can never leave my house.

Tift Merritt: I’ve always found that when I’m touring, I only write really bad things. … I love having a writing routine. I always have a notebook and write down prompts or conversations I hear.

Gretchen Peters: Touring is all about putting out energy. Writing is about getting quiet. … I think of myself as a magpie — I find shiny things and bring them back to the nest. When I find time, I go on a binge of finishing.

On tradition versus innovation

Tift Merritt: There’s a tradition of songwriting and a love of that tradition that you’re carrying on. There are artists who come along and explode their form, but I’ve never felt like that was my job.

Dave Berg: When you can say more with less, it’s a lot harder, but it’s more satisfying.

On editing

Gretchen Peters: Record what you’ve written and get as far away from it as you can. What helps me to rewrite is to listen back.

Tift Merritt: To me, [editing] is a conversation with myself, and not letting myself off the hook.

On testing new material in front of an audience

Gretchen Peters: I’m OK with judging if I’ve done a good job with the recording, but what happens when you get out into the world is almost a continuation of the writing process. It’s a continuation of the life of the song.

Tift Merritt: [Playing live] is the real test. It’s easy to be in your self-contained I-think-that-works world.

Jim Lauderdale: It’s fun to have a song you’ve almost finished, to try it out. You can tell [as you’re playing it] whether it’s working or not.

On influences

Tift Merritt: I always looked up to Eudora Welty. Her fiction is so potent and she lived such a unique life.