Five Questions with Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown

Married novelists Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown have spent their working lives writing and teaching side by side in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sweet Briar College, where John is the Julia Jackson Nichols Professor of English and directs the College’s Creative Writing program. Carrie now serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at nearby Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. Carrie and John have published ten books between them and raised three children on the campus at Sweet Briar. 

James River Writers recently spoke with Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown, who discussed “using what you know and where you’re from in fiction” at JRW’s Writing Show on Thursday, April 24. The couple also taught Learning to See: A Master Class for Writers in the Art and Practice of Looking on Friday, April 25.

Five Questions with Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown

Question One:

K: John, you wrote in the voice of a young girl (Meredith Eagen), a woman (Meredith’s stepmother Catherine), and a black man (Murphy Warrington) in your first novel, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, and you earned praise for creating authentic voices for these three characters. Writing in the voice of a person of another race can be risky, and you did not attempt to write Murphy’s dialogue the way a black New Orleans man of his time and class would have spoken. (more…)

Special Podcast: Plot Mechanics with Pip Ballantine
and Tee Morris

Philippa Ballantine and Tee MorrisIn a few weeks, the husband-and-wife writing team of Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine will invade Richmond and share their writing wisdom. Of course, unless you go to our Writing Show on Thursday night and their Master Class on Friday, you’ll miss it.

Pip and Tee, co-writers of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, are no strangers to Richmond or James River Writers. They also spoke at our annual conference in 2013, and anyone who attended their panels knows they’re well worth the price of admission later this month.

Bill Blume, author of Tales of a 10th Grade Vampire Hunter, moderated the dynamic steampunk duo on a panel about plot mechanics, and they had a blast. Bill will get a second crack at hosting a discussion with Pip and Tee at our Writing Show on Thursday, March 27th. They’ll be talking about the “Hybrid Author,” and how writers can combine traditional and indie publishing to improve their literary presence and income.

Still need more incentive to go? Well, fine. Here’s an audio sample of what Pip and Tee had to offer attendees at our 2013 conference. After that, go register for the March 27th Writing Show and the March 28th Master Class.


JRWC13 Speaker Preview:
How Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris Write Together

How do two people write one story? Philippa “Pip” Ballantine and Tee Morris have not only managed to write a novel together, but they’ve even successfully done it three times in their outrageously fun steampunk-spy series, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.

As we draw ever closer to their appearance at this year’s James River Writers Conference, this dynamic duo has collaborated yet again to share with our members how they write as a team.

Collaboration is nothing new and it seems to be a trend with new authors and writing groups. There are teams like Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, or the numerous pairing-up’s that Baen Books is known for that make collaborations look like a great way to create a bestselling epic. It’s also easy, right? You take the idea, split up or divvy the work, and then at the end — ba-da-bing-ba-da-boom — you have a manuscript, right?

Not by a longshot.

When authors collaborate, it’s different from team to team. What is essential in a successful collaboration is to tell a story—the same story—while remaining true to your own style. We both have unique writing styles, but we also have writing styles that are compatible with one another. It is that compatibility that led us to working together, and yeah, probably getting married.

No, we’re not suggesting you marry your writing partner or partners. We just got lucky that way.

But we digress… (more…)

Beth Phelan, Literary Agent

PHELAN-photoGetting to know the agents you pitch gives you an advantage, whether you’re adding a query to the slush pile with fingers crossed or pitching face to face at a conference like JRWC. We’re excited to announce that literary agent Beth Phelan from the Bent Agency will be joining us at this year’s James River Writer’s Conference. For those who want to know more about this agent eagerly looking for new writers, read on to see her interview with JRW Board member Kris Spisak. (more…)

JRWC13 Speaker Preview: An Interview with the Book Doctors

BookDoctors_02Maybe you’ve heard word of the Book Doctors and their Pitchapalooza. Maybe you’ve had the joy of seeing it live yourself at past James River Writers Conferences. The concept of presenting your elevator pitch to a panel of book marketing experts in front of a live audience might sound intimidating, but once you know Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, co-founders of The Book Doctors, you can see how educational and entertaining the experience can be.

Recently, local author and JRW board member Erica Orloff had the chance to chat with Arielle and David. Here’s a sneak peak of their conversation:

Question 1: For newbie conference attendees, what do you think should be the “plan of attack” when attending a writing conference?

The primary reason to come to JRW is to learn and to connect with other writers, not to self-promote. A lot of people come to do the latter and they turn their fellow attendees and agents/editors off. That said, come with your pitch for your book down pat (both a one sentence and one minute version) so that if you’re asked about it, you are comfortable talking about it. Talk to as many people as you can. If you get some time with a professional, ask them about themselves and what advice they have. If you sign up for one-on-one sessions, make sure to do your research beforehand. For one, you want to be sure you’ve signed up with someone who represents books like yours. And two, it’s nice to show an agent you’ve done your homework. (more…)

Twitter Chat with Jennifer Miller on Wednesday, July 10, at noon

JenniferMillerPlease join James River Writers on Wednesday, July 10th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET to participate in a Twitter chat with Jennifer Miller, author of the award-winning Year of the Gadfly, about all things writing related.

Here is how it will work:

1. You will need a Twitter account to talk with Jennifer during the Twitter chat.

2. Follow James River Writers (@JamesRvrWriters) and Jennifer Miller (@PROPJEN) before the Twitter chat so that you don’t miss anything

3. Log into Twitter a few minutes before the chat. Enter #JRWC13 in the search box. (more…)

The Lowdown on the Arts & Culture Xpo, Saturday June 29, 2013

I’ll admit, it took me a while to cotton on to the whole concept of the Arts and Culture Xpo. They give you money? For free? And it’s yours to give to whatever nonprofit you choose, including JRW? Why, sign me up!


The Xpo is an annual event presented by CultureWorks, a consortium whose sole purpose is to promote cultural and artistic endeavors in the Richmond area. The Xpo, held this year at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on June 29th, spotlighted the region’s many nonprofit arts and culture organizations. Over 100 local groups were represented, including not only the James River Writers, but Henley Street Theatre, Gallery5, the Library of Virginia, Richmond Shakespeare, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Conciliation Project, Podium Foundation, and many, many, many more. Patrons (technical term: “Cultural Shareholders”) were given bank envelopes with “Xpo Bucks” and encouraged to browse the booths, checking out the variety of artistic and cultural endeavors available in Richmond, and supporting the organizations that caught their fancies. Ninety (“real”) cents out of every $1 Xpo Buck went directly to the nonprofit at the end of the day. Some booths displayed their creative wares and services; others snared visitors’ eyes and Xpo Bucks by offering something in exchange: t-shirts, CDs, raffle tickets.

At the JRW table, it was custom-written haiku and zombie stories.


Executive Director Katharine Herndon and Program Director Sheila Sheppard Lovelady manned the booth, churning out zombie gore and poetry while chatting with visitors and fans. Youth Advisory Board member Annesha Sengupta was also there to lend a hand for much of the day, and poets Shann Palmer and I stopped by to write a few haiku on our way to the stage. (more…)

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

dawnsearlylight by steampunk authors Tee Morris and Pip BallantineKathleen Sams Flippen, Writer/Owner of Spaces by KSF, interviews Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, Steampunk proponents and authors of Phoenix Rising, The Janus Affair, and Dawn’s Early Light. Featured speakers at the James River Writers 2013 Annual Conference, the husband and wife team talk goggles and airships, social media and networking, how to juggle creation and marketing, and how to rise and stay afloat in the ever-changing world of the written word.




Twitter Chat with Virginia Pye on Friday, June 21

River of Dust CoverPlease join James River Writers on Friday, June 21st from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET to participate in a Twitter chat with Virginia Pye, author of the debut novel River of Dust, about all things writing related.

Virginia Pye’s debut novel, River of Dust, is an Indie Next Pick for May, 2013. She has a recent essay inThe Rumpus, one forthcoming in The New York Times Opinionator blog and was interviewed at The Nervous Breakdown and The Huffington Post. Her award-winning short stories have been published in numerous literary magazines. Virginia holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and The University of Pennsylvania. She was a past three term chair of James River Writers.Visit 

Here is how the Twitter chat will work:  (more…)