Appreciations of Vicki Lane

by The Great Smokies Writing Program Community

The class I took with Vicki was completely enjoyable and an incredible learning experience. She was kind, straightforward, and clear with her critiques and recognition. I'd already been a long-time fan, but my admiration grew during and following the class I took. Enjoy your retirement from teaching, Vicki! I'll never tire of your novels…perhaps there's another in that brilliant brain of yours!

Dear Vicki, Thank you for your wisdom and experience. My books are so much better because you. You are a blessing to everyone who knows you.

I only knew Vicki from reading alongside her at GSWP faculty readings, and she and I were slated to work at a festival together but the pandemic nixed that. She always seemed like a lovely person, warm and caring. I read one of her novels when I first came to WNC and loved it. I wish her all the best.

I remember Vicki Lane as being SO openminded and full of encouragement. Vicki taught me to be un-embarrassed about anything at all in writing. She would use all the sex-words as if they were nouns (which they often were) just as normal as a fruit or a vegetable, and that was liberating! I loved her wry sense of humor, her steadfast farm-woman approach, even when the horses in my book had “unusual names,” as she called them (I didn't think they were, but she had a different approach to the naming of animals). What a treasure. I am lucky to have been in her classes and to have received the benefit of her considerable knowledge. Best wishes always to Vicki Lane!

Vicki has helped me with my writing for many years through Great Smokies. From informing me that I was using the word "auspicious" wrong to helping me pair down my over-zealous descriptions, she has been a source of inspiration and good judgment for my writing process. I'll miss her teaching at Great Smokies!

Vicki, you created a wonderfully welcoming and safe space to explore my writing in the company of other nontraditional learners. Your feedback was always honest, encouraging and instructive. Thank you for your dedication to the craft and all of us!

I remember witnessing at Malaprop's Vicki reading a hilarious short story she wrote, and it was then that I knew I had to take one of her GSWP classes. I'm so glad I did. Her insights were valuable, and her class a motley crew of amazing, eclectic personalities and talent. I’m a better writer for it. Happy retirement, Vicki!

Congratulations to Vicki on her well-deserved “retirement.” I took four Great Smokies workshop classes from her starting in 2015. She ran a wonderful class—not that easy to do. Her insistence that all participants start with positive comments insured that no one got pummeled during the review process. When it was time to discuss what didn't work, Vicki always kept that portion of the discussion equally civilized. On the other hand, Vicki's own review of our submissions could be tough and very valuable. Her editing contributions to my book, Baseline Road, due to be published by Artemesia Publishing in January, 2023, were invaluable. Thanks Vicki!

The right word, the right comma, the right stuff. Details matter and so does Vicki, who catches everything with precision and a generous heart, the perfect combo for an editor/ teacher. What a joy to learn from her.

Without Vicki’s help, my first book would still be a dust-covered draft and the second would never have seen the light of day. I discovered Vicki through her Elizabeth Goodweather series. She was the obvious choice when I took my first Great Smokies class, an experience that kick started the polishing of this naïve and novice writer. That first book was eventually completed with encouragement from Vicki. It hit the market eight years ago. My second story started with high hopes. Not long into another of Vicki’s classes, I found myself good and thoroughly stuck on coming up with a plot that didn’t keep falling down dead. Vicki suggested adding a subplot. “Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s interesting.” Following her suggestion, I generated a couple of half-hearted subplots before coming up with one that sizzled. More classes with Vicki, more polishing and this one is now close to finished. With perseverance and a bit of luck, it will be in print in the next year or so. Thank you, Vicki! If you read my upcoming book, I hope you will see the great benefit your wisdom, experience and guidance have provided me.

A good fifteen years ago, before I’d ever met her, I heard Vicki on WCQS being interviewed about one of her Elizabeth Goodweather mystery novels set in Madison County. Fascinated, I turned up the radio. I was struck by her tone, her intelligence, her good humor and her forthrightness. I contacted her, told her I directed the Great Smokies Writing Program and asked if we could meet, which we did and after no more than half an hour I asked if she’d be interested in teaching for the program. The rest is history. I don’t think I’ve ever hired anyone that fast, but I had an intuition about Vicki that she’d make a wonderful creative writing teacher. I have to say I was not disappointed nor were any of the many, many grateful students who took her classes. Vicki became a mainstay in the program, a beloved and sought-after teacher. She had a reputation for not mincing words, for helping writers face what needed to be faced and to recognize and explore the greater possibilities in their work. She paid painstakingly close attention to her students’ manuscripts and put countless hours into giving them detailed feedback. I was always hearing from students how much they’d learned with her. I still do. As a colleague and as a friend, I could not be more grateful for all Vicki has done for the writers of Western North Carolina and for me.

Tommy Hays is the former (and first) Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program.

Thank you Vicki Lane for taking the time to give thorough and insightful reviews of our work, sharing straightforward and practical advice and for your positive words of encouragement—your teaching has made a difference.

I met Vicki when I enrolled in her Writing a Mystery class in the summer of 2007 through the Great Smokies Writing Program. Not only was it fun, I had the chance to meet other writers in the area and was really impressed with how Vicki ran the class. I still remember her words regarding critique: "Play Nice." She encouraged all of us at the start by saying “If I can do it, you can do it.” I also learned from the other students, some of whom I've met again in other writing workshops. I love all her Elizabeth Goodweather mysteries. She showed us how to use dialogue and how important accurate setting was and how to meld the main plot with a subplot set in a different time. She was generous to share her personal experiences in starting to write, finding an editor and finding a publisher. Lastly I've enjoyed her blog. Thank you, Vicki and have a wonderful retirement. We will miss you!

My writing friends and I met in one of Vicki's classes years ago, and we still meet monthly. We owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for teaching us, inspiring us, and giving us the idea of a "writers group," now consisting of Jane Howard, Mary Alice Ramsey, and me. [See Home Page photo.]

We were originally five members and called ourselves the "Tomato Biscuit 5," an inside joke of sorts that came from Vicki's class when we were discussing southern culture—a big part of Mary Alice's book. Some in our group had never heard of tomato biscuits (myself included!), so for one of the classes, Mary Alice brought a batch of them for the entire class.

Along the way two of our members dropped off, due to busy lives and other needs/priorities. But three of us have continued to meet (we managed to continue this during the years of the pandemic thanks to Zoom). Now—all these years later—two of the three, Mary Alice and Jane, have completed the books they started in Vicki's class.

We are very grateful to Vicki for the idea to continue meeting after the semester ended. The connections we made in her class have developed into friendships that continue to encourage and inspire us!

Vicki, I've taken three courses with you over the years at GSWP and must say that you stand out for me as a model of no-fuss high competence. I’ve loved your books, the way you run your classrooms, your insights and recommendations, your blogs and photography online. Many thanks for all of it and may you long continue to brighten our lives.

Please see Home Page, this issue, for words about Vicki from Elizabeth.

Vicki, I am so grateful for your clear, grounded presence and discerning feedback. Your feedback to me during the 40 Pages revision course gave me new entry points into my draft that I hadn't considered before and challenged me to clarify and curate plot points. I loved the attention you spent with each piece and the way you created an environment of mutual respect for all of us. Thank you so much for the gift of your insights, and for this and the many other courses you have taught!

I have Vicki to thank for introducing me to one of the most important questions a writer needs to ask: Who is going to read this? Years before George Saunders reminded us of that in his book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, Vicki was teaching us to think about our readers and to respect their intelligence. I ask that question every time I sit down to write. Because of Vicki, I am a better writer.

Thank you for all of your work with the Great Smokies Writing Program, Vicki! You’ve always been an inspiration to me, and I’ve enjoyed hearing from some of my own students about how you have influenced their work.

Thank you for helping me find ways to play with words again! I had gotten much too serious. I loved all the different prompts you had us write on in class, and still use them to this day.

Vicki, your generosity in reading and giving feedback to your students is legendary, as is your literary citizenship. Thank you for the many ways you have supported the WNC writing community, through teaching, blogging, and uplifting other writers!

I stumbled into Vicki's class to get help with dialogue, story and action as a poet not a prose writer. What a pleasant surprise to encounter a natural born teacher to put me at ease and draw me into writing prose past my "blocks." Then I discovered her books that effortlessly wove the history of the area into the present—through the mystery-detective genre—without any awkwardness with the colloquialisms, etc. Part of this was her getting to know her neighbors and listening to their stories and use of language, but of course she also possessed a natural story-telling gene herself. I narrowly escaped becoming a prose writer.

Vicki, thank you for inspiration, guidance and volumes of information to help a writer get published. Your knowledge and teachings will remain with your students forever. It was a joy and an honor to be in your class. An unforgettable experience.

Vicki, your novel-writing class gave me the confidence to finally start sending my manuscript out to agents, which has led to so many wonderful and exciting opportunities! I so enjoyed carpooling to class with you and "talking shop" on the way (as well as exchanging Cuban recipe ideas!). Thank you for your words of critique and encouragement--you not only helped make my sentences stronger, but you also strengthened my resolve to take my writing to the next level professionally.

I am forever grateful for Vicki and her GSWP class. Before 2020, I had never taken a creative writing course and was very shy about sharing any of my work. I always had secret dreams of being a writer but felt it was too impractical/not for "someone like me." I feared being laughed at or ridiculed. Vicki made me feel comfortable right away. She took my work more seriously than I thought I deserved. Each class she gave amazing critiques and insights. Her eye for the technical craft of writing is invaluable. She helped me understand how to create a compelling scene—how to use characters, action, and dialogue to communicate with the reader. She also taught me that one could write simply for the love of writing. She fostered such a safe and inviting classroom. I had heard stories of how vicious or discouraging writers' workshops can be, but I never experienced anything except encouragement and truly helpful critiques from her and our classmates. Because of Vicki, writing is one of the most important pursuits of my life. I also want to mention that two of the stories I worked on in her class were accepted for publication, “Anosognosia” placed second in New South's 2021 contest and “Ancestors” (my very first publication) has been printed in Zone 3. Thank you, Vicki, for all the childhood dreams you help make true. :)