Category Archives: Writing

Visiting Buford’s Massacre Battleground

Buford Massacre Site

When I first signed up for Nicole’s Sleepaway Writing Camp in Waxhaw, I knew I had to find Buford’s Massacre Battlefield. In Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, I wrote about this Revolutionary War battlefield in South Carolina where the Patriots were massacred by a British Regiment led by Banaster Tarleton.

But the battlefield isn’t a national park unit or a state historic site – hard to tell who protects it – so I never felt the need to search it out.

When I drove to the writing retreat, I stopped at the Museum of the Waxhaws and asked where the battlefield was. The first woman I spoke to didn’t have a clue and she had to bring out the historian. It turned out that the museum had a big display on Buford’s Massacre. Here’s the story:

Lt. Col. Banaster Tarleton on the British side meets Col. Abraham Buford with the Southern Continental Army on May 29, 1780. The American Patriots were badly beaten. But the legend is that Tarleton continued to slaughter the Americans after they surrendered.  This infuriated the Americans who came out in greater numbers for the Battle of Kings Mountain.

The site isn’t as obscure as I thought since my iPhone map app could find it. It’s south of Buford, SC on US 522. A field with a large sign, several monuments and plaques and a couple of graves. But one monument got my attention and was worth the search.

This monument was first erected on June 2, 1860.

Now why did the good people of Lancaster County wait so long to erect a revolutionary war monument? This was part of a movement to remember the revolutionary war just as the potential of a Civil War was heating up. I have seen similar monuments at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park. The message was

If we could unite to beat the British, why can’t this country stay together now?

 

Writing Sleepaway Camp with Nicole

I first met Nicole Ayers of Ayers Edits when I was looking for an editor for Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South. Through a series of happy events, she was recommended as a good editor. She was – and is.

This past weekend, Nicole offered a writing retreat/workshop, which she called Sleepaway Camp to distinguish it from the one day or shorter workshops she holds. It was held at a B&B in Waxhaw, NC. I was intrigued. It fit into my schedule and I signed up.

“Come prepared with questions, a project, ideas…”, she said.

Writing retreat

The other two writers were also nonfiction writers in the midst of major writing projects. Marni writes about intuitive healing and Mica deals with children with educational challenges.

Me?? I wanted to see if I could make some headway with my research on Camino pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Could I write a few hundred words about a fictional character walking the Camino de Santiago in the Middle Ages? Could I do it without being paralyzed by extensive research?

Friday afternoon, we gathered in the huge house and got our individual writing corners. I spread out on the dining room table. We all signed up with our one-to-one hour with Nicole. What luxury to be able to bounce ideas off a knowledgeable editor for an hour! I spent some time writing down my questions and ideas.

“Set a goal for the weekend,” Nicole advised. So I wrote;

To write about a Middle Age pilgrim without doing much research and without worrying about how elementary it was or full of holes.

I started my story but had trouble from the beginning. I decided that this pilgrim was going to be a woman in her late thirties to mid-forty. But what time period in the Middle Ages? The tenth century was very different from the fifteenth century.

And where would she live? Where would she start her journey from? These questions bothered me more than her motivation or how she was going to find a group to walk with.

I looked at pictures of female pilgrims on the web. Yes, here we had access to our iPhones and the  Internet at this retreat, not always the best idea. I could see their costume but not their shoes. I’m pretty sure they didn’t wear hiking boots. How much research did I need to do? How much research was I willing to do?

I got the bolt of lightning that you’ve already figured out. I didn’t need to read academic treatises. I could focus on novels set in the Middle Ages. Let’s see how this works. I wonder how long it would have taken me to figure this out if I wasn’t at a retreat, thinking about my writing a hundred per cent of the time.

Nicole led two discussions: Writing Personal Essays and Tips on Writing, Editing, Publishing and Marketing. We shared tips and ideas which I find so motivating since writing is a solitary occupation.

Nicole prepared lovely lunches and dinners and we all seemed to dig in for our own breakfasts. Mica and I took a couple of hours off yesterday afternoon to walk on the Carolina Thread Trail. Otherwise it was writing and discussing writing. As we hit snags, we put questions up on a board. These were our meal time conversations.

Was it worth the time and money? Yes. I feel I have a direction now. No guarantee that the direction will get me to the writing I think I want to do but it’s a direction. And, as an extra bonus, the Waxhaw B&B was close to a historic place I’ve been meaning to visit. Stay tuned.

Flat Iron Writers Room in Asheville

There’s a new writing center in Asheville. Actually, it’s probably the only writing center in an actual building in Asheville. Check out the Flatiron Writers Room in West Asheville. The business is owned by two writers, Maggie Marshall, a former actress and screen writer, now a realtor and writer and Heather Newton, a lawyer and fiction writer. Quite the dynamic duos.

Heather and Maggie

Yesterday, I went to its first major event: a Pop-Up Writing Retreat.

Thirteen writers of all persuasions met in the beautiful space off Haywood Rd.

The writing center consists of several rooms which had obviously been an apartment in its previous life. Some people chose the comfortable couches and soft chairs as their writing space. Others, me included, wanted the dining room table with its straight-back chairs.

Heather Newton, author of Under The Mercy Tree, was the writing coach for the day.

After the usual meet-and-greet with coffee in hand, Heather set us a writing prompt. I think of prompts like stretching before exercising. It allows you to put pen to paper or hands on a keyboard without too much thinking.

Heather asked us to write the ten minutes on “a story about your name”. This was going to be easy for me.

I was named after Danielle Darrieux, a famous French actress that my mother admired… Then I went on to explain how my name turned to Danny.

I’ve only seen Darrieux in one recent movie, 8 Women. Every time this question comes up, I check if Darrieux is still alive. Yep, still breathing at 99 years old.

We shared our writing, then found our way to our writing spot. This was silent time: no talking, no internet, no phone. You were supposed to come prepared to work on your own writing – now write.

Some participants were trying to get some distance from their family and find some quiet time. But most probably had a good set-up. Now why would I need a special place to write when I have a great writing space at home, with all the tea I can drink?

It’s the lack of distractions. For some, it might be food and household chores. For me, it’s the time-wasting attraction of the internet. I do too much research, look up too many facts when I should let the writing flow from my fingers. I hope to bring some of that discipline  to my home writing space.

Lunch was at the restaurant next door where we had plenty of time to share our writing goals. Then back to our corners.

Each one of us had scheduled a 20-minute one-to-one meeting with Heather, our writing coach for the day. Heather had parked herself at a coffee shop a block down, away from the quiet of the writing center.

In St. Jean Pied de Port

This was your time to use her as a sounding board on whatever writing problem you wanted to work out. Character? Point of view? Plot? Outline? I talked to Heather about my very nebulous plans to write about my Camino journeys, both past and future.

We even got a goodies bag, which included a book of short pieces from the Flat Iron Writers of Asheville, entitled Irons in the Fire.

The pop-up writing retreat was a success in my book, even if I don’t write another book – hah, hah, hah. It showed me again (and again) that if I can focus, I can turn out original material. Once that’s done, it’s just editing. I can do that.

Check out their other events and literary calendars – all coming. It’s going to be a fun place for Western North Carolina writers and readers.