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Arts & Literature

Writing Group Based in Peachtree Corners Brings Romance to the Masses

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Berta Platas and Nancy Knight (founding member of GRW) presenting during a workshop panel at the 2019 Moonlight & Magnolias Conference.

Escaping into a good book has never been more important than in recent years. During the slowest days of the pandemic, when restaurants, sporting events and other activities were closed, we turned to puzzles, streaming movies, binge-watching entire seasons of a TV show, home workouts and reading a favorite author’s work to pass the time.

According to Readers Magnet, a self-publishing and marketing firm, fiction writing remains the most popular type of book sold. At the top of the fiction list are romance novels, an estimated $1.4 billion genre.

Peachtree Corners-based Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) couldn’t agree more.

The non-profit GRW has more than doubled their membership this year with 180 serious, professional writers, nearly one-third of whom are multi-published. Members range from the self-published to New York Times Best Selling Authors.

Meet the authors in Peachtree Corners

Each month, romance writers from Georgia meet at the Hyatt Place Atlanta in Peachtree Corners. Beginning at 9 until 11:30 a.m., they enjoy coffee or tea, network and hear from an experienced author on a variety of topics. Inevitably, you’ll find many writers just leaving at 2 p.m. when GRW’s time to gather runs out.

HM Thomas, author of The Right to Surrender and What We Deserve at the 2019 Moonlight & Magnolias book signing.

“We’ve had many published authors — NY Times Best Sellers, USA Today Best Sellers — who come and speak to us on a craft topic like editing or strengthening character,” said Brenda Lowder, President of the Georgia Romance Writers Board of Directors and romantic comedy author of “Body Jumping” and “Sparks.”

Their most recent meeting, held Sept. 17, featured Sia Huff discussing “Stellar Scenes.” Topics in 2022 have ranged from social media basics and how to find an audience to adapting romance fiction to the screen and how to create “firsts” in a novel.

Moonlight & Magnolias

In October, GRW will host their annual Moonlight & Magnolias Writing Conference Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 20-23 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW in Peachtree City. The three-day event, drawing writers from neighboring states like Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina, is jam packed with opportunities to learn and hone the craft.

Since its inaugural event in 1982, the conference has a long-established tradition of supporting and developing writers of all levels. While focused primarily on romance, writers of all genres are welcomed, respected and encouraged.

Thursday’s workshop features Debra Dixon on “Goal, Motivation and Conflict,” followed by an opportunity to visit vendors and socialize. Friday and Saturday include more than 25 morning and afternoon workshops on a wide range of subjects including titles like “Strength in Skirts: Creating a Strong Heroine,” “Writing Diversity throughout Genres,” “Villains,” “Tik Tok for Authors” and “Setting up Book Clubs and Get Your Book Chosen.”

Panel discussions will cover cold reads and industry trends, and provide an opportunity to learn from NY Times Best Selling Author Sherrilyn Kenyon, best known for her Dark Hunter series. Daily keynote speakers include Andrew Grey, Dahlia Rose and Melinda Curtis.

Moonlight & Magnolias Conference Chair and contributing author of “Love in the Lowcountry” Robin Hillyer-Miles notes that for authors attending each year, the highlight of the weekend is the Maggie Awards and the dance party that follows. The awards recognize published and pre-published authors of romantic fiction. Authors from as far away as Australia have submitted their work to win a Maggie.

Vicki Dabney, Robin Hillyer-Miles, and Pam Trouy enjoy a selfie at the 2019 Moonlight & Magnolias Conference.

Registration for the three-day event is $300 for members and $385 for non-members. That covers all workshops, lunch on Friday and Saturday as well as the Maggie Awards Banquet on Saturday evening.

“I’ve been to many conferences, and this one is the most fun,” said Lowder. “It’s a party atmosphere and people are just friendly and learning and looking to have fun. It’s joyous.”

What exactly is a romance novel?

According to Hillyer-Miles, GRW was at one time affiliated with the Romance Writers of America. Breaking away from that organization has allowed GRW to broaden their definition of what constitutes a romance writer.

“We’re able to expand our horizons a little bit,” said Hillyer-Miles. “Sometimes people who write novels with a romantic subplot might not be acceptable for RWA but is accepted for GRW.”

Most romance novels result in the main characters of the novel resolving a conflict for an optimistic conclusion. “A romance gives a promise that there’s going to be either a happily ever after or a happy for now,” explained Hillyer-Miles.

According to a MasterClass article explaining the genre, “Romance novels can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece, with five surviving stories centered on romantic love from this time. Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel “Pamela” is also a precursor for the modern romance novel. In the nineteenth century, romance novels rose to prominence with the popular works of Jane Austen, whose novel “Pride and Prejudice” greatly influenced the genre.”

While a happy ending is required to be considered romance, the genre is inclusive of sub-genres that range from historical romance and suspenseful romance to the paranormal, science fiction and fantasy. The genre is also diverse with some novels focused on the challenges of young adults, multi-cultural relationships or LBGTQ connections. Erotic romance delves into more explicit sexual interaction and may bring to mind the worldwide best seller “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Members join for the community

Joining GRW costs $25 annually and members pay only $10 per in-person meeting or $8 to join the meeting virtually. Following their October conference, GRW’s next monthly meetings in Peachtree Corners will take place Nov. 19 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Ciara Knight and Dec. 10 with Tanya Angler, who Amazon describes as the award-winning author of “sweet contemporary romance novels revolving around themes of second chances and hope.”

For Lowder, becoming a GRW member eight years ago resulted after a friend encouraged her to attend a monthly meeting. She found the authors welcoming, uplifting and well-connected.

“Join for the warmth and support of the very talented writers in the community,” added Lowder. “The reason I volunteer is because the authors have been so supportive, warm and encouraging and it is a place that really nurtures growth.”

Learn more at garomancewriters.org.

Karen Huppertz is a freelance journalist, content writer and passionate volunteer with the International Dyslexia Association. She has worked with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the past 10 years primarily covering city and county government action. Her endlessly inquisitive nature about a wide range of topics, desire to understand the big picture and an impassioned aspiration to provide accurate facts shape her work. Originally from South Carolina, Karen has lived in Gwinnett for nearly 30 years. She is happily married and mother to two great young adults. Her professional career includes a marketing and advertising background while her volunteer career has focused on dyslexia, a learning difference making it challenging for about 10-20% of the population to learn to read. She is proud to have played a small part in Georgia’s recent legislation calling for teacher training in how to recognize and help dyslexic students. When not posting images from her nearby garden on social media or writing to meet a deadline, she can be found advocating to make literacy available to everyone.

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Arts & Literature

Local Students Show Off Their Artistic Creations

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Courtney Escorza, Colleen Nikopour, Laura Hwang, Jennifer Jackson, Norcross. Laura ELizabeth Martin, Payton Hirschmann, Paul Duke HS

From May 11 through May 18, the Norcross Gallery & Studios kicked off a fantastic exhibition, Reflections at Rectory, which showcased the works of 36 rising stars: AP and IB art students from our local high schools.

The opening reception celebrated their creativity and dedication. Gallery director Anne Hall presented a dozen awards generously sponsored by the community, a testament to the local support for these young artists.

One prestigious award, the Terri Enfield Memorial Award, holds special significance. 

Established by Terri’s daughters, it recognizes not just artistic excellence, but also leadership, work ethic and the spirit of collaboration. Last year’s winner, Aidan Ventimiglia, even played a part in selecting this year’s recipient Jasmine Rodriguez

Reflections at Rectory

Congratulations to all the student artists.

Students in the second annual Reflections at the Rectory exhibit

Norcross High School:

  • Gustavo Benumea-Sanchez
  • Maycol Cruz Padilla 
  • Dorie Liu
  • Harlet Martinez Castro
  • Paulina Santana
  • Gisela Rojas Medina
  • Clare Fass 
  • Ava Netherton
  • Ubaldo Diaz
  • Katia Navas-Juarez
  • Mariah Ingram 
  • Arisdelcy Juan
  • Max Kaiser
  • Dani Olaechea
  • Christina Bonacci 
  • Diana Ortiz Ventura 
  • Katie Yerbabuena-Padierna 

Paul Duke High School:

  • Adamu Abdul-Latif 
  • Salma Noor Alabdouni 
  • Samrin Zaman
  • Camryn Vinson 
  • Liz Damian
  • Cecelia Berenguer
  • Jasmine Rodriguez
  • Angelina Bae 
  • Dahyana Perez
  • Jonah Swerdlow
  • Kyra Allicock
  • Anni Brown 
  • Kaleb Fields 
  • Destiny Jones
  • Gabriela Leal-Argueta
  • Madisyn Mathis 
  • Ashley McDonough 
  • Ahtziri Pinones
  • Alondra Valiente-Torres

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Arts & Literature

Book, TV and Podcast Recommendations for this Summer

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Beat the heat this Summer with a good book, show or podcast. This year, Peachtree Corners Magazine received over 30 recommendations from more than a dozen city residents. There is something for everyone on this list, so let’s dive in.

Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics
by Terry Golway  

This 400-page book offers readers a comprehensive and insightful exploration of one of the most influential political machines in American history. It provides valuable lessons and perspectives on the intersection of politics, power and society.

Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War
Stream on Netflix

This nine-part series offers viewers a thought-provoking exploration of one of the most consequential periods in modern history. It provides deep insights into the complexities of nuclear politics and the enduring legacy of the Cold War.

Fareed Zakaria GPS  
Listen on CNN Audio

This podcast comprehensively examines foreign affairs. It enhances a listener’s global awareness, fosters critical thinking and sheds light on complex issues shaping our world today.

Brian Johnson, City Manager for Peachtree Corners

Empowering Nurses Through Self-care: Unleashing Your Potential and Thriving in the Nursing Profession
by Audrey Boyce

Audrey Boyce offers a practical guide to help nurses find balance and fulfillment in their personal lives and professions. With a comprehensive overview of self-care strategies, this book is essential for nurses looking to recharge, reduce stress and increase job satisfaction.

The Go-Giver, Expanded Edition: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann

The Go-Giver tells the story of Joe, an ambitious young man striving for success. Through Joe’s journey, this book imparts powerful lessons about the significance of giving, collaboration and building meaningful relationships in achieving success.

Special Ops: Lioness
Stream on Paramount+

The protagonist, Joe, attempts to balance her personal and professional life as the tip of the CIA’s spear in the war on terror. The Lioness Program enlists Cruz to operate undercover alongside Joe among the power brokers of State terrorism.

Money and Wealth
Listen on Apple Podcasts

In Money and Wealth, John Hope Bryant provides valuable insights into financial literacy and wealth-building strategies. With a clear and accessible approach, Bryant aims to empower listeners with practical knowledge to achieve financial stability and success.

Bobby Cobb, CEO of Cobb Global Outreach Inc.

1984 
by George Orwell

The new audio drama of George Orwell’s 1984 on Audible is nothing short of phenomenal. With a full cast of film stars and sound effects in stereo, you’ll feel like you’re actually in Oceania, being watched by Big Brother.

Jill Tew, local author of the forthcoming young adult dystopian novel The Dividing Sky

Enter Ghost 
by Isabella Hammad 

I recently read this and loved the writing. The author plays around with formatting between narrating the story and switching to the format of a play to show the dynamics between characters.

Ruwa Romman, Georgia State Representative

Seeing Eye Girl
by Beverly Armento

Beverly Armento’s account of her life in Seeing Eye Girl is truly remarkable. I was captivated by her story of resilience, strength and, ultimately, forgiveness. 

Erin Griffin, Norcross High School Foundation for Excellence Co-President

Never Enough: When Achievement Pressure Becomes Toxic – And What We Can Do About It
by Jennifer B. Wallace

This book presents research on how to raise healthy, joyful achievers in a hyper-competitive world. The author was a guest speaker at Greater Atlanta Christian’s (GAC) Parent Partnership Series this year, and we heard about the importance of children knowing that their intrinsic self-worth is not contingent solely upon external achievements. 

The Anxious Generation
by Jonathan Haidt

Discover the root causes behind the epidemic of today’s teen mental illness. With compelling data, Jonathan Haidt unveils the decline of play-based childhood and offers practical solutions for a healthier, more fulfilling upbringing. We have asked GAC faculty to add this to their personal summer reading list.

Dr. Scott Harsh, President of Greater Atlanta Christian School

Glad You’re Here
by Craig Cooper and Walker Hayes

Glad You’re Here tells the true, redemptive story of country music singer Walker Hayes and his unlikely friendship with pastor Craig Cooper. In alternating chapters, each individual shares their unique perspective on pivotal moments in their friendship, and the book reminded me to prioritize the patient and persistent cultivation of community.

Ann Cousins, Communications Director and Wesleyan School

The Boredom Experiment
Listen on Apple Podcasts

The Boredom Experiment, hosted by Jeremy and Ashley Parsons, is a short, heartfelt podcast series that documents and explores the effect of removing digital distractions and social media from their family’s lives for a year. 

Over eight episodes, they share their experiences and insights into how this experiment impacts their creativity, relationships and overall well-being. The Parson’s storytelling thoughtfully weaves together interviews, music and their musings in such a creative, personal way that makes it an absolute delight to listen to. 

The 1000 Hours Outside Podcast
Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Youtube 

Digital Minimalism 
by Cal Newport 

Digital Minimalism advocates for a thoughtful and intentional approach to technology use. Newport argues that constant connectivity and digital distractions hinder productivity and well-being and encourages individuals to choose tools and habits that align with their values and long-term goals. In a digitally crowded world, this book was a needed reminder to be intentional with my time and strategic with how I use technology. 

Natalie Dettman, Creative Director at Wesleyan School

Sideline C.E.O.
by Marty Smith

While on this surface this book offers great wisdom from some of the most successful coaches of our time, it also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of many people we admire. 

From learning about Greg Sankey figuring out how to lead the SEC through Covid as he sat on his front porch to Mack Brown processing through how to lead his football team through racial tensions at UNC, you realize that these men [and women] are normal human beings that face the same difficult choices as the rest of us. 

Not to mention, Marty Smith captures the lives and insight of these coaches in a fun, compelling way!

Practicing the Way
by John Mark Comer

New Kid
by Jerry Craft

Where Do We Go from Here
by Martin Luther King Jr.

Joseph Antonio, Middle School Principal at Wesleyan School

West with Giraffes
by Linda Rutledge

This is lightly based on a true story. It is the story of moving giraffes who survived a hurricane, were rescued in the Atlantic, and were carried cross-country to the San Diego Zoo. It is well-written, and the character development is fantastic. 

Crossing the country with two giraffes during the Depression created excitement in all the small struggling areas. The joy of those who had never dreamed of seeing a giraffe in real life will bring joy to anyone reading this book.

Housewives of True Crime
Listen on Apple Podcasts and Youtube

Moms and Mysteries
Listen on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio and Spotify 

Southern Fried Crime
Listen on Apple Podcasts and Youtube

Wiser than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Listen wherever you get your podcasts

Nancy Minor, The Nancy Minor Team

The Women 
by Kristen Hannah. 

A great read about the Army nurses in Vietnam. 

Laurie Rogers, The Nancy Minor Team

In The Woods
by Tana French

This book is a real page-turner. The author is a gifted writer, so even though it is a crime thriller, it reads like a novel. There are six books in the series, and I have read all of them.

Casefiles
Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

This is a true crime podcast that has been around for several years. The stories are detailed and very interesting and cases are examined from all over the world. 

Shameka Allen, MBA, MA, CEO of Good Samaritan Health Centers of Gwinnett

Over the Edge of the World
by Laurence Bergreen

Over the Edge of the World is a captivating account of Magellan’s expedition around the world. We all know Magellan’s name but few of us know the rich details behind the adventure and how it unfolded. I was inspired by the courage and bravery of those who took part in the great Age of Exploration.

Arrested Development
Stream on Netflix

This is easily one of our favorite shows. My wife, Meredith, and I have watched and re-watched it so many times and still find it so hilariously funny. The show blends clever writing with quirky characters and intricate, running gags. There’s always money in the Banana Stand!

Dr. Death
Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Wondery

This gripping true-crime podcast explores the shocking story of a dangerous surgeon. It’s a must-listen for its compelling narrative, deep investigative journalism and critical insights into medical malpractice and systemic failures. The podcast has since been made into a limited streaming TV series.

Scott Hilton, Georgia State Representative

Sleep Wrecked Kids
by Sharon Moore

This book explains how inadequate sleep affects children’s growth, development and learning. This is a great guide to creating better sleep routines. 

Healthy Sleep Happy Kid
by Meghna Dassani

This quick, easy read offers valuable insights into how sleep impacts a child’s health. It provides practical tips for improving your child’s sleep environment and habits and is a go-to resource for parents aiming to enhance their child’s sleep and overall wellness.

I can’t overstate the importance of good sleep habits for the overall well-being of your child and the entire household. Quality sleep is the foundation for happy, healthy kids and stress-free parents, setting the stage for the best possible summer with your family.

Dr. Gia Grannum, Board Certified Pediatric Dentist of Agape Pediatric Dentistry

The Measure
by Nikki Erlick

I recommend The Measure by Nikki Erlick, which is about to come out in paperback! It’s a great pick for summer reading or a book club!

Poured Over, the Barnes & Noble Podcast
Stream on the Barnes & Noble website and Apple Podcasts

Check out the Poured Over podcast for interviews with your favorite authors, book recommendations for your TBR pile and more.

Amanda Couch, Assistant Manager at Barnes & Noble at The Forum

Want even more recommendations? Check out last year’s list here.

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Arts & Literature

8 Theatrical Performances Coming to the Peachtree Corners Area

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Discover local theatrical performances: mystery, musicals, comedies, and Shakespeare in the Park. Support the arts with every ticket.
Photo by cottonbro studio

Mean Girls: High School Version
Thursday-Friday, April 11-12
Thursday and Friday, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.
Paul Duke STEM High School
5850 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross
Tickets: Adults, $12; students, $10 and children (ages 5 and under), $5

Adapted from Tina Fey’s hit 2004 film, the Mean Girls musical has been nominated for a staggering 12 Tony Awards. Now, Paul Duke STEM brings the high school version of the show to life.

Tickets are on sale and can be purchased here.

The Curse of the Hopeless Diamond
Thursday, April 18. 6:30 p.m.
Anna Balkan Jewelry and Gifts
51 S. Peachtree St., Norcross
Ticket: $25, includes snacks and one glass of wine

The audience-participation murder mystery is a fundraiser for Lionheart Theatre’s summer theatre camp for kids and teens; it’s being hosted by Anna Balkan and 45 South Coffee House.

About the show: Reginald and Daphne Potter are touring extensively, along with their world-famous Potter Diamond, in the company of four detectives. It’s well-known that the Potter Diamond is beautiful…and cursed!

Purchase tickets here.

Anastasia
Thursday-Sunday, April 25-28
Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.
Valor Christian Academy
4755 Kimball Bridge Rd., Alpharetta
Tickets: $20 per person

About the show: Presented by CYT Atlanta, the show spans from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing con man and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family.

Click here to learn more.

Little Shop of Horrors
Thursday-Sunday, April 25-28
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 7 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.
Norcross High School
5300 Spalding Dr., Norcross
norcrosshigh.org, nhs-drama.com, 770-448-3674
Tickets: $10

About the show: A horror comedy rock musical, Little Shop of Horrors centers around a florist shop worker who raises a carnivorous plant that eats humans.

Secure your spot.

Seussical
Thursday-Saturday, May 2-4
Wesleyan School Powell Theatre
5405 Spalding Dr., Peachtree Corners
wesleyanschool.org, 770-448-7640

About the show: The fantastical, magical musical is based on the children’s stories of Dr. Seuss.

Discover more here.

Breaking Legs
May 3-19
Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 18 and Sunday matinees, 2 p.m.
Lionheart Theatre Company
10 College St., Norcross
lionhearttheatre.org, 678-938-8518
Tickets: Adults, $18; students and seniors, $16

About the show: In this madcap comedy, an Italian restaurant is owned by a successful mobster and managed by his beautiful unmarried daughter. When the daughter’s former college professor asks for financial backing for a play he’s written about a murder, the three main Mafiosi are intrigued with the idea of producing a play. The daughter becomes enamored of the playwright who discovers, through the ‘accidental’ death of a lesser thug, that his backers are gangsters.

Find tickets here.

Finding Nemo JR
Friday-Sunday, May 10-12
Greater Atlanta Christian School King’s Gate Theatre
1575 Indian Trail Rd., Norcross
greateratlantachristian.org, 770-243-2000

About the show: The hour-long musical adaptation of the Pixar film features Marlin, a nervous clownfish who lives with his adventurous child, Nemo, in the Great Barrier Reef. When Nemo is carried off to Sydney, Marlin must overcome his fears and travel across the ocean to find him.

Learn more here.

Much Ado About Nothing
Saturday-Sunday, May 11-12
Saturday, 2 and 5 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.
Simpsonwood Park
411 Jones Bridge Circle, Peachtree Corners
crewofpatches.org

About the show: Contemporary Classics Theatre presents Shakespeare’s romantic comedy May 11-26 at Simpsonwood Park in Peachtree Corners, Christ Church Episcopal in Norcross and Autrey Mill Nature Preserve in John’s Creek. Director Susanna Wilson’s version of the play is set in Italy during a 21st century film festival. Love at first sight, jealousy and confusion, an illegitimate sibling, mixed-up lovers, three weddings and a funeral fill this amusing look at love, betrayal and acceptance. Performances will be outside for a “Shakespeare in the Park” experience. Audience members should bring blankets and lawn chairs as no seating is provided. Shows run approximately 100 minutes with no intermission. 

Click here for more information.

Want more event happening in and around Peachtree Corners?

Check out our recent article: 25+ Free Events Happening at Peachtree Corners Library in April and May

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