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About five years ago I gathered notes, digital bookmarks, and some of my successful query letters and developed a ‘Freelance Writing 101’ class. It’s changed form a few times over the years…Freelance Journalism, Write for Magazines, etc. And depending on the venue and fee, I’ll either include a dozen or a half dozen of my query letters. I only hold the class once per year here in the Triangle area, but in a few months I will launch a teleseminar version of it for the first time! (Registration will be offered to my newsletter subscribers first, so sign up if that interests you.)

This past weekend I held the latest version of Write for Magazines. In addition to query letters I also provided a take-home template for everyone to write their own query letters, tapped databases during class to provide market/editor/submission guidelines, and I offered a query letter critique.

Another thing that was different about this class was the venue. I had hoped to use the same space I did last year, a conference room in a business center right in the heart of town just three miles from my home. Then I learned the room wasn’t available so I was in a bit of scramble to find a comparably priced meeting space in the same vicinity. Instead, I reserved an adorable historic spot just eight miles from my home: The Bynum Front Porch.

bynum front porch

bynum front porch

Inside Bynum Front Porch.

The Bynum Front Porch used to be Bynum’s general store and has since turned into a community gathering space. Music acts perform a few times per month during the warmer times of the year, bluegrass pickers meet, and anyone who lives in Bynum can come to the space to play board games, read books, swap movies, grab a soda from the fridge, or make a hot cocoa. (Drinks $1 each on the honor system.) There’s an indoor stage and an outdoor stage.

writing workshop Pittsboro

A few writers and myself after the recent workshop in Bynum.

Bynum is a proud little former mill town within the bounds of Pittsboro, just north of downtown and south of Fearrington Village. (If you are unfamiliar with the area, this is all about 20 minutes south of Chapel Hill.) It’s also home to the infamous chainsaw-toting folk artist Clyde Jones, the maker of Clyde’s Critters. Clyde’s Critters are charming sculptures of animals that Clyde now donates for charitable purposes. Most homes in Bynum come with their own critter, and according to conversations with locals, the critters must remain with the home with each generation of new owners.

Clyde’s home is a popular spot for those on road trips, or even locals who would like to see something unique. Clyde welcomes the public to walk around his yard where flocks and herds of critters are on display.

People tell me he’s a private guy and I didn’t know what he looked like. Just before class started, a man rode up to the building on a lawnmower. He walked in and asked for change of a dollar so that he could use the vending machine. Although I don’t carry cash on me, I have plenty of coins, so I passed along four quarters. He grabbed a soda and settled back on his lawnmower and drove off.

After class I Googled Clyde Jones and discovered several profiles, and pictures, and that he rides his lawnmower around town because he doesn’t have a driver license.

One thing I’ll miss when I launch the Freelance Journalism 101 teleseminar is the possibility of a random quirky interaction like this!

For those in the North Carolina area, (and those elsewhere who are up for traveling here) myself and folk artist Barbara Hengstenberg (check out WildesArt) host a one-day retreat for artists and writers at the Bynum Front Porch on Saturday, June 4. More details and registration posted at the end of this week.