Where I’m From

I’m a novice in the world of fiction writing, but I’m a determined learner and listener. One tidbit I’ve gleaned from the accomplished is that sometimes writers set sail on their writing journeys with no compass in hand, content to dock wherever the wind should take them. Sometimes they don’t.

How about you? Do you need to know where you’re going when you write? Do you use a storyboard? A map? An index card system? Post-it Notes?

Or do you just wing it?

If you’re in need a point of destination but you still aren’t sure where your story is taking you, perhaps you should take a look at who you are and where you’re from to  know where you’re going and why you want to get there.

In 1996 I had the pleasure of hearing Tennessee’s own Poet Laureate Margaret (Maggi) Britton Vaughn read her poem “Who We Are” at our state’s bicentennial celebration in Nashville. Her words stuck with me, and for years I’ve used her poem (and poems similar in format, i.e. The Where I’m From poem) as writing prompts for me and my students.

Where are you from? Where do you want to go with your story? Why do want to go THERE?

Here’s my attempt at a Where I’m From poem. Why not take a few minutes to jot your own thoughts in your journal. You might just find a new story in you. (I used this website as a launch pad for today’s poem:  <http://www.swva.net/fred1st/wif.htm&gt;. You can tell that I didn’t stick with the format. I created my own.)

Where I’m From

I’m from strawberry patches, an old mimosa tree, and cornfields, begging us to get lost in you.

I’m from stories about my Great Uncle Joe Frank and Great Aunt Carlena.
I wish I had gotten a chance to know you.
Every time I walk through the door of that great white manor on South Ramsey
I feel like part of me has been there all along.

I’m from Denmark, Ireland, and Robertson County,
where Old Kate drops by every 107 or so years.
Am I related to you?

I’m from just around the corner from Hans Christian Anderson’s place
and some fellow Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about,
all those places,all those people my grandmother used to talk about.
Don’t know how much is true.

I’m from eating Christmas dinner in the middle of a long line of cousins on a heated tiled floor.
Save me a piece of the chocolate meringue pie, Momma Bell.

I’m from watching my cousin’s fingers glide along the neck of his magical guitar.
As a kid, I never made it that far.
I found my destiny in a cheap pawn shop six string with the action so high
that tiny fingers could barely push them down.
But, Steve, I still want to be like you.

I’m from Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. But I couldn’t stay there long.
I’m not much for music with a twang.
Give me Southern rock, just a touch of country attitude, and a whole lot of blues.

I am from a pitcher’s mound and a softball bat, playing all night till the sun comes up.

I am from a diehard love for the Red Sox and an undeniable disgust for the Yankees.
But the Lord tells me He loves them too.

I am from an imagination that dwells in the dark, places visited by Poe, Koontz, Peretti, and King.

I’m from a love for the humble, an appreciation for the confident,
and a contempt for the proud and the arrogant.
Don’t flatter me; just tell me the truth.
I value your honesty more than your praise.
I love all; I trust few.

I am from a long line of teachers and preachers, songwriters and poets, sinners and saints.
But pardon, me all you highfalutin folk, blocking my path
as I reach for the hand of my fellow traveler.
Don’t cast us to the wayside
because we don’t fit your mold of what is beautiful and godly.
Don’t you know someday you might entertain angels unaware?
Do your eyes see what Jesus sees?

I am from Jesus, and to Him is where I’m going.

Plinky 11– Eleven of My Favorite Celebrity Interviews

It’s been a little while since I’ve turned to Plinky.com for ideas. The original prompt was “List Your Top Celebrity Sightings.” Instead of resorting to one of my usual stalking stories, I’ll keep it light and fun and put on my music journalist hat. Here’s a list of my Top Eleven Interviews with Celebrities. (Yes, I am basking in the glory days.)

11. Bob Halligan, Jr. is the front man for the Celtic/Irish band Ceili Rain. I met and interviewed him several years ago. Being a long-time fan of Celtic/Irish music, I knew I was in for a treat. But when we sat down for an interview, he tormented me constantly, picking, picking, picking in a good-natured way. I laughed so hard I could barely get the questions out. My tape recorder wouldn’t work, so I had to humble myself and ask him for help. But overall, it was one of the most fun interviews I ever had. Many people might not recognize Bob Halligan’s name right off, but they may recognize the songs he’s written. His work has been recorded by KISS and Judas Priest. I met him during GMA Week.

10. Toby Mac. I was working on a cover story for Release magazine about artists who formed their own indie record companies. Naturally, I had to interview Toby about Gotee Records. I’ve seen him numerous times, but we talked for just a few minutes via the phone. He caught him at the airport just before he left for London. The whole interview experience was a rush. Loved it.

9. Phil Keaggy. So how often does one get to sit down and chat with such an amazing guitar player. Wow. God sure blessed me with the opportunity. And Phil blessed me with his latest CD. (Trivia tidbit—There was rumor that Jimi Hendrix referred to Phil Keaggy as the greatest guitarist ever. But there’s no real evidence to prove that. But still…cool. Check out Snopes.com for more info.)

8. Sherri Shepherd. Sherri Shepherd is hilarious both on the screen and off. I didn’t get a chance to talk with her in person, but we talked over the phone. She was quite candid about the heartbreaks and obstacles she had encountered in her life, but she gave credit to God to overcoming them. She was also quite humble and reminded me that even during the hard times laughter is good medicine.

7. Randy Travis. I interviewed Randy over the phone. He is one of the nicest, most humble people I’ve ever had the pleasure to talk to. We talked about his wild days and his run-ins with the law—actually the outrunning the law. He was a bad boy, but God turned him around.

6. Charlie Daniels. Charlie Daniels is a man with fire and spunk. We talked via the phone, and he was not one bit afraid to voice his opinions about the politics of the day. Wow. He didn’t hold anything back. I admire a person who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and who is willing to stand for his convictions.

5. Gordon Kennedy. I was writing a story about a new project by Gordon Kennedy, Phil Maderia, Billy Sprague, and Wayne Kirkpatrick (Coming from Somewhere Else), so I had the chance to interview all four. My interview with Gordon was a phoner, but how often does a person get to talk to a person who wrote a Grammy song for Eric Clapton? Star struck I was.

4. Smokey Robinson. What a sweet, sweet person whose life has been transformed through his Christian faith. Every time I see him on TV (as I did tonight on American Idol), I think, “Wow. I talked to a legend. God is so good.”

3. Steven Curtis Chapman. I’ve interviewed Steven on multiple occasions, but my favorite experience was being invited to a private listening party for his release of Speechless. I remember white candles on black tablecloths. The first time I met him, Steven asked my son Josh who his favorite singer was. Correct answer? Steven Curtis Chapman. What did Josh say? Michael W. Smith.

2. Wayne Kirkpatrick. Nobody writes songs like Wayne Kirpatrick. The first time I talked with him was in a suite at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville during GMA. I was in awe. He has penned numerous songs for Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and more recently Little Big Town. If you want to impress me, write a song, a song that can “change the world.” Yeah, he wrote Eric Clapton’s hit with Gordon Kennedy and Tommie Sims. I’ve seen Wayne play more times than I can count. He’s also one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard. He sings and plays with passion. He speaks the truth, and he changes hearts. (And I hope to catch him, Gordon, and Phil during Tin Pan South if my life allows.)

1. Michael W. Smith. Yes, it could be said that I have come close to stalking Mr. Smith a few times. But he is one of my all-time favorite singers. The first time I met him a friend of mine’s mom was doing an interview with him for her TV station in Illinois. She invited me to come along. I was in awe. I had never met a celebrity before. Michael’s publicist gave me a copy of his press kit. I was blown away to find a tear sheet of MY review of his latest album. I felt like a real journalist then. I have accidently hung up on Michael during a phone interview, and I stuttered and babbled in front of him when I went to his album release party at Legends. But he appears to be a merciful, forgiving man. I have also not been jailed.

Shameless reminiscing tonight, folks. No bragging. I just needed some happy thoughts. God allows me to be the vessel to tell other peoples’ stories from time to time. He could have chosen someone else, but he chose me. I’ve had hundreds of interviews, and each one is a special gift. God delivers a special message to me with each one. These are just a few, but I’m just as thankful for one as I am the other.

Congratulations Herb Crowder for winning the Starbucks card. (You should receive it soon.) I’m sorry for the delay in posting. Due to the death in my family, I have not been able to work with the blog for a short while. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for my mother and my family. She is resting now. Please remember my father in your prayers.

Full moon crazy

Full moon tonight. The crazies come out.

I’m not sure what that means, but I think I like it. It’s been a long winter full of trouble, and I’m ready for the thaw. I need more crazy, the good crazy, the kind of crazy that brings out the kind of harmless mischief that ignites my creative spirit.

Writers thrive on crazy. Crazy schedules. Crazy thoughts. Crazy characters. And drama. Of course, it’s easy to deal with the drama when you can close the laptop and take a break. And the crazy characters? We can make ‘em do whatever we want. (Don’t you wish we had the power in real life? Maybe some of us do; maybe some of us don’t. Who pulls the puppet strings in your life? Just a side thought.)

Creative people need crazy.

Take American Idol for example. In my opinion, producers can thank Steven Tyler for breathing new life to a dying show. He adds just the right amount of crazy. He is a connoisseur of crazy. Steven refers to it as “goop,” the “stuff you get when you’re creative to get the job done.” But he’s right. James Durbin and Casey Abrams bring the crazy to every performance, and that’s why they make their fans go crazy.

All right, naysayers, chastising me for speaking so lightly about such a serious topic. I hear you. “How dare she be so flippant about the full moon? Hasn’t she heard that more accidents, more murders, and more crime occur during the full moon phase?”

Scientists tell us the moon has an effect on the oceans’ tides, and the Average Joe makes the assumption that if the moon has an effect on the large bodies of water, it probably affects small bodies too. We humans consist primarily of water—about 80%, right? Crazy thought, isn’t it?

I believe people do act a little more strangely during a full moon, maybe even a little meaner. But authorities haven’t agreed whether there is any scientific proof that the lunar phase has any real effect on a person’s emotions. Of course, the debate has gone on for years. Where do you think we get the words lunatic and looney? Full moon crazy.

Pagans have their own beliefs, but I am steadfast Christian. I don’t think full moon crazy stems from religion or science. I think we writers are responsible.

No, there’s not much scientific proof that weird things happen during a full moon, just writer conjecture. Songwriters, screenwriters, novelists, and journalists, we all perpetuate the myth. Thank you, Stephenie Myer for tweeking the moon myth with New Moon. And Warren Zevon, you incited terror in the heart of a teenage girl who listened to your vinyl 45 almost every night, worrying about poor Jim getting his lungs ripped out and feeling sorry for the “little old lady [that] got mutilated last night.”

Full moon crazy. Makes me want to take my new green journal to a picnic bench in the park and write tonight.

By the way, tonight’s full moon is what is referred to as a “super full moon” or a “perigee moon,” noted for its rare size and beauty. The last time we had one of these was back in 1993. Even if you’re more the analytical type with little time for my creative tom foolery, you should take time to see the show God’s putting on tonight. You’ll want to get there just after sunset for the best seats.

And by the way…..


I need a little crazy, so in the words of Steven Tyler, give me the “goop.” What’s your best full moon crazy story? What are you going to do tonight? If you’re reading this after March 19, you can tell me what you did. Or just tell me your best full moon myth or trivia. I don’t care. I just need some full moon crazy. I need you.

I’ll randomly pick a comment and treat the writer to a cup of coffee. Don’t worry if you’re across the world. I’ll send you a Starbucks card. (Deadline is midnight, Monday, March 21.)

Congratulations Herb Crowder for winning the Starbucks card. (You should receive it soon.) I’m sorry for the delay in posting. Due to the death in my family, I have not been able to work with the blog for a short while. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for my mother and my family. She is resting now. Please remember my father in your prayers.

Polyrhythmic ramblings


I love that word. I can’t do what the definition suggests, at least not musically, but I like the idea.

Polyrhythm refers to multiple beats or two or more independent rhythms sounding at one time.

I’m not a math person (though I went to a few math contests and took a few courses until I surrendered and they carried me out of analytical geometry on a stretcher.) But the more I get into looking at the creative side of math, the more appreciative I am of the discipline. Kudos to our math teachers. I think your love for numbers is much like the English teacher’s love for words.

Anyway, I am a writer, not a mathematician, but I’m also a fledgling guitar player. Sometimes the wires get crossed in my brain, and I think…differently. I have a “mash up” of my passions, and the result is a blog like this.

For me, creating a polyrhythm on guitar is difficult. But it sounds great. Beautiful. The two rhythms add texture to the song, make it more interesting, and communicate a deeper message, perhaps even on a subconscious level. (Research has shown that listening to music affects blood pressure, emotions, creativity, etc. Look it up. It’s fascinating to discover the creativity God has woven in math through patterns and equations.)

But anyway…on to my analogy and the new phrase I’ve coined. Polyrhythmic writing.

Actually there’s nothing new about it at all. (But if you ever hear that phrase again, tell them I thunk it up. I Googled it and found no reference to what I’m talking about.) Writers have added layers to their writing since the beginning. We comprehend on deeper levels that we realize.

 Jesus spoke in parables.

Shakespeare was the master of penning puns. (Another little nifty thing Shakespeare does in his writing is to switch from verse to prose. When? Why? Usually when the commoners spoke, Shakespeare wrote their words in prose. He save the more eloquent verse for his heroes.)

Edgar Allan Poe created his tour de force, “The Bells,” by layering alliteration, onomatopoeia, and tempo over metaphor and message.

I love writing. I love the rhythm of life that echoes through the words of a poem, a short story, a novel, and the lyrics of a song. But what I really love is polyrhythm in writing—the beautiful creation that occurs when a writer creates two or more distinct rhythms in one piece of writing.

I don’t think most writers set out to do it. I think it just happens. Kind of serendipitiously. God inspired, God driven, God designed. Perhaps.

I’ve heard writers say that after they’ve gone back later to re-read something they had written, only to discover a hidden message or a metaphor that had slipped in. Cool, isn’t it. I think so.

I do a lot of celebrity interviews. What makes my writing a little different is that I weave their story around the theme. It’s as if there are two stories, two rhythms, happening at once.

When I read a novel or watch my favorite show, I’m hooked by realistic characters with whom I can identify. I’ll keep reading if the plot is intriguing. But my overall reading experience can be compared to the way I might enjoy a meal—eating a Raider Rib in my high school cafeteria as opposed to sitting at the Blues City Café on Beale Street, listening to authentic blues and kissing my fingers after downing a half rack of real ribs.

You know what I’m talking about.

When writers play with their words, create texture, layer it with metaphors, or spice it up with subtext—just the right amount of each, too much overwhelms—then the reader can savor all the flavors, not wash it down with a carton of milk that’s pushing the date that’s stamped on the outside. There’s more going on that one simple beat. The mind picks up on the underlying rhythm.

Ever watch Castle? I love the twinkle in his eye when he delivers his one liners that are layered with double meaning. Two messages. Two rhythms occurring at the same time. Adds flavor. Yum.

I’m not sure how I got here–howI jumped from polyrhythms in music to polyrhythmic writing.

It wall started when I was trying to find the words to a song I wanted to write. When I can’t put my feelings into words, I usually put them into song. But I can’t always find the words. Especially if the feelings run too deep. In the words of Sugarland, they’re like “melodies stuck up in [my] head.” (I kind of dig that reggae-rap thing Jennifer Nettles does—kind of catchy.)

The next thing  I knew I was thinking about math. Then I was thinking about polyrhythms. Then I found myself on the Internet, Googling polyrhythms. And then I found Steve Vai’s article.

You remember Steve Vai, right? He’s the great guitar player who was in the 1986 Crossroads movie with Ralph Macchio. He was the devil’s guitar player.

Thinking about the movie made me think about the great blues player Robert Johnson. As the story goes, he made a deal with the devil at the crossroads.

And when I thought about the devil at the crossroads, I thought about teaching English to my eleventh grade students last year. We were studying “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving. I wanted to relate the story to something they could understand. I had a guitar player in my class, so I cpmpared the story to the movie Crossroads. “Scratch” was the name of the devil both in the story and the movie. We also compared the story to Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

And thinking about school made me think about what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with a guitar plugged into an amp waiting for me to pick it up and practice again. But the song that I can’t write keeps tugging at my heart. Arggg!

Life can be complicated. Underlying sadness topped with happiness here and there. Dreams mingled with reality. Yearning competing with responsibility. All of it wrapped in joy, though the joy may be tangled and hard to find at times.

Life is complicated. It doesn’t always make sense. But there is a rhythm to it, even if one beat is stacked atop another.

I guess that’s what makes life interesting.

Creative Escapes — McCreary’s

McCreary's in Franklin, Tennessee

Every since I was a little kid, St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s not so much what I do on the day. It’s more like the dream of what can be done. Maybe I just hope I’ll find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or maybe the leprechaun will grant me my wishes. I’ll never stop dreaming.

Actually, I don’t have to look far if I’m looking for a real treasure. I’ve found a jewel of an eatery in downtown historic Franklin, my favorite place to escape. McCreary’s Pub is a family-friendly restaurant that serves patrons a variety of traditional Irish fare plus a broad choice of traditional American foods.

Okay, so I couldn't resist a nibble before I snapped the picture.

My favorite is the fish and chips. The portions are hearty, and the taste is delectable. The cod fillets are deep fried to a golden brown and come with chips, a.k.a homestyle fries. In most restaurants I skip the tartar sauce to save calories, but I try a little when I’m at McCreary’s. However, my favorite condiment is the malt vinegar.

Other selections include Shepherd’s Pie, the Dublin Pot Pie, and the Whiskey Salmon. I haven’t broken from my routine yet, but I’m determined to try at least one of these dishes.

The portions are plentiful, but if you’re really hungry, you’ll be tempted to try the appetizers. My favorite is the Wings of Donegal. My younger son isn’t particularly a fan of wings, but he really likes these. They’re served with creamy bleu cheese and celery, and they’re delicious.

If you’re really adventurous, you might try the bangers and mash, which, translated, refers to chicken sausage stuffed with asiago cheese and spinach, served with mash potatoes, homemade Irish soda bread, and spicy mustard.

I like the wings!

I’m such a night owl that I do well to make it to Franklin for lunch. However, McCreary’s now serves breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. Irish omelettes, bangers, and bread pudding French toast are just a few items on the menu. And fish. I’ve never head fish for breakfast, but if I can eat artichokes for breakfast—as I did in Indianapolis at the ACFW conference, I can certainly try fish.

While the food is great, it’s the atmosphere that brings me back to McCreary’s. This is truly a locally owned Mom and Pop style store that makes customers feel like family.

The first thing patrons will notice after stepping into the little restaurant is words of St. Patrick stenciled literally all around the walls. The words “Christ above me” make it clear the owners aren’t ashamed of their beliefs.

People of all ages are welcome. However, you should know that McCreary’s is a pub, and like other fine restaurants, beer and other adult beverages are on the menu.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner,  you might consider making McCreary’s your St. Patty’s Day destination. They’re open until midnight with plenty of St. Patrick’s Day swag to give away. Families with young children would probably find the early evening hours or lunchtime more suitable. The later hours are better suited for adults.

On Friday and Saturday nights and on St. Patrick’s Day, patrons can hear live Celtic music. Ever heard of a bodhran? Neither had I until one my musically talented friends introduced me. If you catch the Celtic music, you may hear a bodhran, as well as a fiddle, a tin whistle, a guitar, or a mandolin. You might even be invited to dance a little jig.

As I’ve mentioned before, historic Franklin is my favorite creative escape. But McCreary’s was a serendipitous discovery. I’m a fan of coffee houses, and my favorite of all favorites used to be a little place called Jammin’ Java in Franklin. I used to catch my favorite Christian bands there before they became so popular.  Unfortunately, Jammin’ Java is no longer open.

I happened to be chatting with one of the artists during GMA Week in Nashville, and I told him my lifelong dream was to own a coffee house / music venue like Jammin’ Java. Little did I know that he was personal friends with the man who owned Jammin’ Java. (He happened to work within the Christian music industry.) The artist gave the owner a call, and within minutes he met with us and filled me in on the details of starting my own venue—a dream I still hold onto today.

Turns out the former owner of Jammin’ Java was the proud owner of a new Irish pub called McCreary’s. I had to go check it out. And I keep on going back today.

Even though Franklin is a good hour, hour and a half, away from my little town, the trip is well worth the time and gas money. On the way there I get lost in the beautiful roadside scenery, and after my meal, I always take a stroll through the town and visit some of the shops. My favorite is Philanthropy, a unique boutique, specializing in clothing, jewelry, and gift products with “purpose, passion, and style.”

I’ll have to save this review for another blog, but trust me, if you like fashion with an artistic flair, this is the store for you. More importantly, Philanthropy donates a portion of every sale to charity. Currently, Philanthropy is raising $35,000 to build two wells for the people of a village in Southern Sudan. Philanthropy also raised $30,000 for the Hands and Feet Project, started by the band Audio Adrenaline.

If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, take a trip to McCreary’s. The employees are always willing to go the extra mile to make the customers feel welcome. (For St. Patrick’s Day, they always add a little green food coloring to my son’s Sprite just to make it more festive.) And if you have room, take me. I’ll never pass up an opportunity to enjoy this creative escape.

If you hold a four-leaf shamrock in your left hand at dawn on St. Patrick’s Day, you get what you want very much but haven’t wished for.  ~  Patricia Lynch

Living on The Edge

On Monday, March 7, I boarded a school bus with 18 teenagers, and we traveled to the Tennessee High School Press Association annual awards program in Nashville, Tennessee, to await our verdict. Did the tears, the late nights, the fights, the stress, the frustration, the dedication—did the love pay off?

When Dr. Jimmy McCollum announced The Edge newspaper as the Best Overall Newspaper in the state, an All-Tennessee newspaper, we had our answer. YES!

Whether you’ve been following my blog for several months or a few days, you’ve probably discovered that when it comes to the truth, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I weave my feelings between the lines of my poetry and my prose. I write with passion from my heart because I can’t not write that way.

I am who I am.

And once again, I can’t hold back. If it weren’t for The Edge newspaper  staff, I never would have found my courage to write a novel.

People say the first novel is for yourself. Chances aren’t necessarily favorable that it’ll ever be published. Why? Because the writer is still learning, still riding the wave of passion that fuels the dream. Experienced writers, published writers, tell us newbies that it takes, maybe, five manuscripts before the writer is “ready” for the market.

I don’t know if and when The Edge will sell. I don’t know if an agent or an editor will buy my dream. What I do know is I know that “feeling” I get when I write with fire. Something good happens. I write it real. I write it true. I carried that “feeling” through every moment of writing The Edge.

Emily Dickinson once wrote a poem that began with this line: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

Her wording is thought provoking, intriguing, but unlike Emily I can’t tell it slant—not when it comes to telling the story of The Edge journalists.  I have to tell it the way it is, the way I see it every day. To tell it slant would be to tell the story of strangers, not the young people who have molded my life.

My book is all fiction, and every word of it is true. The names have changed to protect the innocent, and the events may not have happened the way they’re written. But it’s true.

People say truth is stranger than fiction. And a novel must be believable “to sell.” I don’t know if anyone else will “get it,” but maybe this book isn’t for just anyone. Maybe it’s just for those kids who seek the adrenaline rush of a deadline, the thrill of adventure, the heart tickle that comes when the words come together just right, and the pride of seeing your first byline.

Even if The Edge isn’t a smash success, maybe someday, one of my kids will stumble upon my manuscript and remember those days, that day when the words that he or she wrote made a real difference in someone else’s life.

They’ve made a difference in mine.

Congratulations Edge staff.


A good reporter always remembers her shades. Incognito is the word.

Caffeine and deadlines go hand in hand.

A fedora boosts one's creativity.

If anyone asks, just say you're from Memphis.

Mexican food is an instant cure for writer's block.

Sometimes you just don't ask why.

Wear your heart on your sleeve, your name on your back.

Don't be afraid to put on your game face.

Don't be afraid to challenge one another.

Love what you do and the people you work with.

And what does the Lord require of you?

Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.