Meet the Members: JoDee Neathery

“Writers’ League gives authors the ability to grow as artists and individuals…”

— JoDee Neathery

A member of the Writers’ League since 2016, JoDee currently lives in Mabank, Texas. 

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

JoDee Neathery: Literary Fiction

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

JN: Pat Conroy. You have always said that four of the most powerful words in the English language are “tell me a story,” and you’ve given us many classics to enjoy. Do you have a favorite and if so, why?  

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

JN: Beach Music because the words are magical and allow you to read the same beautiful sentence a hundred times and never tire of it.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

JN: There are many people and organizations that advertise their commitment to authors but few are as informative, supportive, and encouraging. Writers’ League gives authors the ability to grow as artists and individuals…like a 1400 member extended family.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

JN: I have fulfilled a life-long dream of writing a novel and I thought that would be enough — it’s not. It’s evidently addictive once it gets in your blood. At my “young” age, I don’t imagine a career is on the horizon, but I’m going to write as long as I can still construct a sentence and who knows where that might take me. I’m currently engrossed in writing another novel, A Kind of Hush, and it excites me everyday to create something I love to do. One of my characters, a little four-year-old boy, came to me in the middle of the night and I knew he had to be in whatever I wrote next. I’m pretty sure he will be in my will! 

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

JN: I loved Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird!

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

JN: I’m a living testament that if you are not blessed with the perfect resume for anything you pursue, you should always strive to be the person you wanted to be before someone told you who you should be. My “author pedigree” is on display in what I write, not on a diploma that hangs on the wall. I was told I was not “college material” but I always knew there was something deep inside that would eventually surface and it did. I’m very proud to have my name on the spine of a book and I hope my story will help others who might doubt their abilities.

Thank you, JoDee!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

A couple of years ago, I was talking with the famous East Texas crime novelist Joe Lansdale about genre and the way it sticks to writers. He has always avoided being pigeonholed and told me, “I write the genre of Joe Lansdale.” The same is true for the author Gabino Iglesias, whose work is so astonishingly fresh and new that he’s coined a term for it–“barrio noir”–and everyone has said, “Yep, that’s exactly what it is.” The opening chapter of his new novel, Coyote Songs, is perfect: creepy, off-kilter tone; charged sentences, and a moment that literally made me gasp in shock.
Iglesias starts with something familiar and then veers off in unexpected directions. This scene, with a man teaching his son how to fish, sounds like it could be a setup for a Rio Bravo Old Man and the Sea:
“Así you’re gonna be ready for anything, entiendes? El pez caimán es inteligente…very smart. That’s why we have to hide the hook. Fishing is lying, and lying to a smart fish is almost impossible. We also have to see him before he sees us. He stays in the water, unmoving, like a log. Igualito que los caimánes. Sometimes you don’t see it until it’s too late. Most fish are stupid, but not this one. When you go fishing for pez caimán…you have to think of it as going to war with a man, not a fish.”
Just a hint: Iglesias uses this scene to take the reader places Hemingway never imagined.

Catherine Gregoire, Administrative Assistant 

Black Light: Stories by Kimberly King Parsons

Just as the title entails, Parsons puts her characters under a black light so the reader can see what is so often left in the dark–things that are all too real and frightening to explore. When a writer takes such risks, it’s helplessly enthralling. And there’s much to be said of her prose: harrowing, ethereal, gives you the good kind of shivers because you feel that as she’s dissecting her characters’ souls she is, in turn, dissecting your own.


Meet the Members: Joanne Easley

“I have attended several Texas Writes sessions and each time have come away feeling inspired and ready to write. “

— Joanne Easley  

A member of the Writers’ League since January, Joanne currently lives in Medina. 

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Joanne Easley: Accessible Literary Fiction. 

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

JE: Stephen King. I’d ask him about his nightmares. 

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

JEThe Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

JE: I have attended several Texas Writes sessions and each time have come away feeling inspired and ready to write.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

JE: I’ve written fiction off and on for years. Now it’s my full-time job. In addition to my upcoming novel, I have two others in first draft and am jump-starting a third with NANOWRIMO. 

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

JE: Yonderings by Ben H. English, a personal account of the life and people of the Big Bend.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

JE: My debut novel, Sweet Jane, is set for release on March 19, 2020 from Black Rose Writing.  My book was a 2019 Faulkner/Wisdom Writing Competition Finalist. A brief synopsis: By age six, Jane, a lonely and precocious child, knows vodka makes Mama mean. After years of dodging her drunken mama, Jane runs away at sixteen—during the Summer of Love. Despite seventeen years of keeping secrets while searching for love in dysfunctional relationships, Jane looks good on paper: married, graduate school, coin-carrying member of AA. But her carefully constructed life is crumbling. Returning for Mama’s funeral catapults her back to the events that made her the woman she is.

Sweet Jane is now available for pre-order here. Use the promo code PREORDER2019 to receive a 15% discount.

Thank you, Joanne!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

What We’re Reading Now:

Becka Oliver, Executive Director  

This Is My Body by Cameron Dezen Hammon

This Is My Body is an honest and compelling memoir, an exploration of the author’s evolving faith coupled with a candid look at her marriage as she and her husband find themselves growing apart. Cameron is an accomplished musician and songwriter and it shows in her lyrical prose. I was lucky enough to meet her at last month’s Texas Book Festival and can confirm that she’s the real deal: open and thoughtful with some great insights – on faith, on feminism, on love – to share.

 


Michael Noll, Program Director  

Watershed by Mark Barr

As a first-time congressman, a young LBJ made rural electrification his top priority. He’d grown up without electricity and knew that going from electrified Austin to the dark Hill Country was like traveling to another country and another time. In his debut novel Watershed, Mark Barr plays up the drama caused by the changes that electricity brought. If your house had lights, if your kitchen had an electric stove and refrigerator–if, in other words, your entire world order was upended by a transformation nearly as drastic as moving from The Flintstones to The Jetsons–what would you do? In this passage, one of the main characters, a young mother named Claire whose husband has given her a venereal disease, begins to get a taste for what other transformations might be possible.

Her anger ran like a strong, black current. It puzzled her how easily love rolled over to become something darker, colder. And beyond the sting was the surprise at how easily it all fell away. Everything that she’d worked toward since she was a girl, finding a man to marry, starting a family, making a home, Travis had soiled with his betrayal, leaving her life split open along the seam that had joined her to him. Her sudden freedom was bewildering and a shock, but pleasing as well, though she couldn’t quite put a name to the sensation. She knew she’d have to go back to him, for the children’s sake, if not her own. But not yet. Let him stew a while more. Let him drive that car around alone for all the town to see. She knew there’d be gossip, but she was beyond caring about that now.


Samantha Babiak, Member Services Manager 

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones

This memoir is a must-read for absolutely everyone. Its visceral, lyrical prose grabs you from the first sentence to the last. Jones weaves his coming (out) of age story with short vignettes that paint a vivid and honest portrait of what it is like to grow up as a gay, Black man in the South.

Jones is a master storyteller. There is so much to learn about craft in terms of narrative structure, language and the possibilities of memoir, but also about trauma, childhood, and family dynamics. I cried, laughed, gasped, and ached reading this. At once healing and heartbreaking, How We Fight For Our Lives is one of my favorite books of the year and I can guarantee, it will be one of yours too.


Meet the Members: Ed Fischer

“The WLT has great online classes, informative newsletters and support/coaching for new writers.”

— Ed Fischer 

A member of the Writers’ League since October, Ed has lived most of his life in the state of confusion. He currently lives in Dallas. 

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Ed Fischer: I’m new to creative writing. I’m writing creative non-fiction/memoir now. 

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

EF: I’m not sure what they drink in South Africa but I’d love to have a drink with Nelson Mandela. WLT can bring him back, right! 

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

EF: Either an Idiot’s Guide to Climbing Palm Trees or The Book of Joy by Douglas Abrams with the Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

EF: The WLT has great online classes, informative newsletters and support/coaching for new writers, even folks from the state of confusion.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

EF: No Joke. I think it will get me killed. I actually hope it will…just not too soon… since it will mean I’m having a positive impact.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

EF: I’m a fan of Longmire and Ain’t Nobody, Nobody by Heather Harper Ellett more than matches Longmire.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion! 

EF: I want to use my first book (working title: Walking for Water, Fleeing for Our Lives) as a platform to help impoverished Guatemalans in Guatemala as well as the refugees coming to the US. I expect to continue writing about Guatemalans telling their stories and pushing for policy changes with a heart and sense of responsibility for what “we” have created. My character arc shows a crazy Eddie Fischer chasing attention and adrenaline rushes before and after turning my life around.  Instead of bar room brawls and one nighters; I lived among the poor in a shantytown and then the Mayan highlands, walked from Guatemala to Philadelphia raising $350,000 for water systems, was chased through the streets of Guatemala at gun point, landed on a death squad hit list, was taken out to an isolated spot on the Mexican airport to be executed, studied to be a Catholic priest and continue to stand up to injustices and rigged economic and political systems. Oh, yes. I made a whole slew on dumb decisions too.

Thank you, Ed!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

Ain’t Nobody Nobody by Heather Harper Ellett

As someone who grew up on a farm outside a small town, I can be awfully critical of novels set in such places. So many of them miss what I feel to be essential aspects of rural people: their incredible weirdness, their acceptance of details that are common to their world but that seem exotic to many people in cities, and their sense of humor. But Heather Harper Ellett’s country crime novel Ain’t Nobody Nobody gets all three right. In this passage, a disgraced former sheriff tries to investigate a dead body by calling a woman from his former office. But, she won’t give him any information:

“I cain’t! I just cain’t! You know that, and we haven’t spoken in…well, I don’t appreciate you putting me in this position.”

     “What, the new sheriff gonna get mad at you? I hear he runs a tight ship. He off the ventilator yet?”
     “It’s not a ventilator!” Gabby said. “It’s an oxygen tank, and his mind is sharp as a tack.”
     “He’s eight-four.”
     “He’s a veteran!”
     “Union or Confederacy?”
     “W-W-2! We should be honored that he agreed to serve this community! And in his golden years!” She composed herself. “Just six months more and he’ll be the oldest living sheriff in Texas history. Right here in Pine County. Now that is an honor. You don’t go and tell me that ain’t an honor.”

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow 

Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren

The ambition, the angst, the daring, the hi-jinx, the insecurity, the impulsiveness, the drugs, the sex-it’s all there and jumps off the page in Holly George-Warren’s, “Janis.” This biography speaks truth to hype and gives readers a new, or revised, look at America’s-and certainly Texas’-first female rock star, Janis Joplin. From birth to her ridiculously young death, the story of how this quirky, overly bright, artistic soul blossomed into a larger than life legend grabs you as urgently as her mind-bowing voice once did. Remember? Listening to Joplin’s screaming blues felt like being smashed by a train and enjoying every minute of it. George-Warren’s painstaking portrayal of the young rebel who flaunted bigotry to explore the worlds of the blues greats she emulated and then ignored misogyny and sexism to rise to the top, is a must read for anyone who’s had dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues and knows only a Janis  song can cure them.


Catherine Gregoire, Administrative Assistant 

Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

Nothing encourages a writer like a book that makes writing sound like the most magical, worthy, and noble act of creation. Mosley blends enchanting metaphors with straightforward instruction to emulate the writing process. Not many guide books on writing have left me entranced by the voice while also learning practical tools and tips like Mosley’s has.

Evan Parks, Project Specialist 

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

Dear Sweet Pea, Julie Murphy’s newest book and her first foray into middle grade, is a wonderful story full of life and heart about a young girl attempting to navigate the shifting relationships between herself and her friends as they prepare to graduate from 7th grade as well as handling her parent’s recent divorce. Murphy describes the complexities of human relationships and life in a way that’s full of hope and empathy. I heartily recommend it to anyone that has ever felt insecure about their bodies, about their relationships, or their place in the world. By that, I mean everyone.

Meet the Members: C.M. Mayo

“It’s very encouraging that there are so many writers in Texas, and so many opportunities to learn from one another.”

— C.M. Mayo

A member of the Writers’ League since September, C.M. is between a lot of places right now but her forwarding service is in Wichita Falls, TX.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

C.M. Mayo: Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. 

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

CMM: Edith Wharton. I’d ask her about her dogs. 

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

CMM: Tolstoy’s War and Peace. That would do for about a month. That’s my max for deserted islands.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

CMM: That I wish I lived in Austin! But seriously, it’s very encouraging that there are so many writers in Texas, and so many opportunities to learn from one another.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

CMM: I’m going deep into questions about Texas in the book I’ve been working on for a while, tentatively titled World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas. I see myself finishing it, then moving on to complete a collection of essays, many of them about Mexico and the US-Mexico borderlands–– a part of the world that has absorbed me for many years, in fact, most of my books to date. For me, writing is at once a journey towards understanding and play, pure play. Any day I can get some writing done is a very good day. 

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

CMM: I found Ty Cashion’s Lone Star Mind: Reimagining Texas History, at once fascinating, thought-provoking, and mega-crunchy––and by the way, it combines well, like a good wine with a good cheese, with Lawrence Wright’s God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion! 

CMM: My latest book, Meteor, won the Gival Press Award for Poetry. My blog, Madam Mayo, www.madam-mayo.com posts every Monday, the second Monday of every month being dedicated to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. And I invite you to listen in anytime at www.cmmayo.com/marfa to the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project, with 20 of 24 projected podcasts to date.

Thank you, C.M.!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!