As I touted the Southeastern Writers Association annual workshop (June 16-20 on St. Simons Island, Georgia) to a fellow writer recently, he interrupted me by saying he thought it “presumptuous” to assume that a professional author could “teach” writing to someone.

That took me aback, but in way, I suppose he was correct.  I’ve listened to enough writers over the years to know that no single author has all the answers.  In the end, each of us who has become professionally published has learned the craft by “putting our butt in a chair and fingers on a keyboard”—to repeat what one of our 2017 workshop instructors, Debra Dixon, has often said.  Writing, for most of us, is a trade learned by doing.  And doing and doing.


ss-161008-matthew-path-destruction-mbe-1146p_402276f383eddbfd2046e4afe8a2df5a-nbcnews-ux-1024-900As disruptive as Hurricane Matthew was for St. Simons Island, Georgia, my favorite spot on the Atlantic Coast, it was not a worst-case, Eyewall-type scenario.

Matthew, most importantly (and obviously) was not a Category 5 monster.  But there was also a bit of luck that factored into things not being worse: the hurricane jogged slightly to the right, farther away from the coast, as it churned past St. Simons and Brunswick.  It also swirled by the island near low tide, substantially mitigating the effects of storm surge flooding.  Once past the Golden Isles, Matthew jiggyed back toward South Carolina.  So, yes, there was a smidgen of luck that hovered over SSI.


Eyewall-cvrOf the four novels I’ve had published so far, my first, Eyewall, remains by far the best seller.  That’s been a little difficult for me to come to grips with, since I don’t think the book necessarily reflects my best writing.  It’s not that it’s bad writing—or it would never have sold as many copies as it has—it’s just that I like to think I grow (get better) as a writer with each new effort.


Eyewall-cvrThe Atlantic hurricane season is off to a stumbling start this year and doesn’t seem destined to become much better . . . or worse, depending on your viewpoint.  So far, only three relatively flabby (but soggy) tropical storms have popped up, Ana, Bill, and Claudette.

The Pacific basins, in contrast, have been spitting out hurricanes and typhoons like a toddler hurling his creamed spinach.

So what’s going on?  El Niño!  Yes, our favorite scapegoat for absolutely everything has returned.  (Well, maybe we can’t blame Donald Trump on it.)


images-1There is an abundance of guidance available–books, blogs, hand-outs–that illuminate the steps or “rules” to becoming a successful writer.  Be warned, however, as NYT Best-Selling Author Steve Berry says, “The first rule is, there are no rules.”

Similarly, there’s a plethora of material out there for novice writers, whether wannabe novelists or nonfiction authors, that expound upon the snares hidden along the path to publication.  That is, the mistakes that can be made.

But there is one mistake that beginning writers make I think is key.  I know, because I made it.


It wasn’t an easy decision for me.

I had to burn a week’s vacation and shell out several hundred bucks just to mingle for five days with 75 people I’d never met before. While I’m not shy, I’m not by nature exceptionally outgoing. Thus, having to hang out with a bunch of folks I didn’t know was well outside my comfort zone.

Not only that. This was to be at a writing conference. The people there would be–GULP–real writers. I knew for certain I’d be exposed as the Great Pretender, a shameless charlatan. My work would be sliced and diced. I’d become the laughing stock of St. Simons Island.


I’ve just returned from the annual Southeastern Writers Workshop on St. Simons Island, Georgia. It—-and this is according to others, not just me—-is one of the greatest bargains in Writerdom.

It’s a four-day affair in a beautiful subtropical setting, a causeway’s drive from the mainland. What makes the conference unique is that its faculty is embedded with the students. To say it another way, the instructors, some with highly recognizable names in the field of literature, are not averse to breaking bread with we lesser lights in the province. We chat like old friends over meals, in hallways, over coffee, during a stroll across the campus.


Tropical storms and hurricanes don’t often threaten the Georgia coast. Just recently, however, pre-season Tropical Storm Alberto did some saber rattling along the Georgia and Carolina shores. Admittedly, it was more of a cardboard saber than a real sword, but at least the action lured The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore to Charleston.

Now—-and remember, it’s still May and the Atlantic Hurricane season hasn’t even celebrated Opening Day—-the weather models are pretty much unanimous in suggesting yet another tropical or subtropical storm will make an appearance off the Southeast Coast within the next couple of days.


So far this hurricane season, it’s been wimpy-time in the Atlantic. Eight tropical cyclones have spun up counting what is currently Tropical Depression #8, but not one has had enough oomph to become a full-blown hurricane. (Number eight won’t make it, either.)

Does the augur well for the remainder of the season?

I wouldn’t count on it. Climatologically speaking, we’re now in the hurricane red zone. By that I mean, we’ve entered the seasonal lair of the monsters. A quick analysis of the 20 most intense hurricanes to slam the U.S. since 1851 shows that all but two sliced ashore between mid-August and the last week of September.