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Spotlight: Agile Writers

Richmond, Virginia (the RVA) may be the home to one of the best kept secrets in the writing community.  But not for long.

In August 2012, by perchance, or due to work (depends on who you ask) I moved from North Carolina into the great state of Virginia.  That alone wouldn’t be enough for news, other than I would now be subjected to a seemingly higher tax obligation.

Death and Taxes…

I love Virginia.  Always have.  Ever since the first time I stumbled upon its shores (through the airport in Richmond) back in 1994, I dreamed of coming back.  So now, thank heavens, or work if you must, I’m finally here.

As far as I can remember, I have always been a different kid, talented if you will.  Early on in my scholar years (1st grade I think) I remember my home room teacher gave me a rudimentary instrument for writing—a pencil.  Upon first contact with the apparatus, I felt its magic.  I knew I could do great thinks with it if I could only master its secrets.  I saw the world around me, and I realized this pencil would help me recreate what my eyeballs were capturing in living color.  I could bring joy to others.  Drawing was to be my passion.  Art was to be the way I would interact with the universe and leave my mark for posterity.  I would paint the world for others to see and enjoy.

I looked around for a vessel in which to pour my soul through my newfound instrument (my new connection to life) and found a sketch pad.  My luck was to be envied.  I was on a roll.  The world would behold in amazement the greatness of my artistic renditions.  I searched for a clean sheet of paper in the collection of crayon infested failures.  Aha!

I stared at the paper.  Clean, undisturbed, pristine.  The tip of the pencil was as sharp as an arrow.  The same arrow I would use to pierce the hearts of millions and keep them captive.  I was shaking with anticipation.  I was ready.

I placed the pad on the floor, and brought the carbon tipped, yellow No. 2 to its surface.  I moved my hand in order to liberate the pictures living in my head.  I moved my hand in order to draw the beauty of the world.

But words came out.

And that’s it.  Ever since I remember, I am a writer, and written I have.  From poems, to short stories, to essays, to grocery lists, to even cocktail and dinner recipes (my lemon-rubbed infused chicken is to die for).  Oh, yes, I have written.

Throughout my years I have had a lot of raw talent, but no focus.  I needed direction if I was to create the only thing I had not been able to accomplish yet, no matter how many times I tried.  There was one thing I wanted to write more than anything, but the darn thing kept eluding me no matter how much I tried.  I wanted to write a novel.

Many times I had come up with “the greatest idea” for a novel, only to fail victim to the confines of the world I’ve created, or the characters that inhabited it.  They were in control, not me, and that kept me from achieving my goal.

Enter Agile Writers.  After moving here, finding them was the best thing that could have happened to my writing career.

Agile Writers is a group of very talented and dedicated young authors.  Led by Greg Smith (who has simmered for years in the works of great storytellers like Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler) the Agile Writers Workshop promises to help writers complete the first draft of a novel in six months.  No kidding.  No bull.

Before moving to the RVA, I had a manuscript 60,000 words long.  By definition, I’ve already written a novel, in reality, I had written the ultimate mess.  Little did I know, my characters “lived” in this “novel” undeveloped and lost.  Their world was the remnants of a 4th world country (if there’s such a thing)  and the story they told was harder to follow than the Minos Labyrinth.

Upon joining Agile Writers I was given two choices 1) allow my already written story to fit in with their Agile Method or 2) start a new story from scratch.  I chose number one.  After all, I had spent years writing those 60,000 words.  I wasn’t about to throw that away.  Not only did I learn my story needed the Agile Method to become an organized and unified story, I also learned that I had to let go of a good chunk of what I had written–about a third.  I learned that less was more.

The Agile Method works.  Between the storyboarding, the chapter writing, and the critiquing, I learned not only how to write a novel, I also learned the craft of writing.  In the short time since its creation, the Agile Writers Workshop has helped numerous aspiring authors finish their first drafts, and several have already self-published novels.  Recently, two novels finished in the top 10 of the 2013 James River Writers Unpublished Novel Contest.  No small feat indeed.

As for me.  My novel “Beneath the Oak Tree,” is currently undergoing beta testing, and work on the cover is underway.  Going from 60,000 words down to 40,000 to finish at roughly 70,000 was a labor of love, sweat, and hard skin.  Oh yeah.  There’s no room for softies in the group.  Check your pride at the door.  Come to learn, and leave an author.

A novel in six months.  No kidding.  No Bull.  That’s the Agile Writers promise.


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