Emrys: A Lifeline for Aspiring Writers


Ten years ago, Terresa Haskew took a leap of faith and decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. Her youngest was finishing high school, and she and her husband, Ben, were about to become empty nesters. It was her turn. At the time Terresa didn’t believe that she had the skills or even the talent to write, yet she chose to follow her heart and explore the possibilities.

The first step was enrolling in a beginning poetry class offered through Furman’s Lifelong Learning program. Terresa knew little about poetry and had never considered this to be her platform, but it was worth a try.  Trembling with anticipation, she sat through her first class as she was introduced to free verse.  That day she also met Arthur McMaster, her instructor, who to this day remains her mentor, friend and writing advocate. She had taken the plunge.

For a long time, Terresa considered herself a “dabbler,” not a writer. But then she found Emrys. This wonderful organization whose mission is to nurture creativity among emerging and established writers offered her a home to explore her dream.  “Emrys is a lifeline for emerging writers. Writing is a solitary business, and it is so beneficial to learn from and share with others,” explained Terresa.

As early as 2007, Terresa began to see herself as a poet. That year she submitted a poem to Emrys, and it was selected and published in the Emrys Journal, the organization’s annual literary publication since 1984. “This recognition validated that I could do this. It was like throwing gasoline on the fire.”

And her confidence as a poet has continued to grow as her work has been accepted into a variety of journals around the country. In addition, Terresa has received many accolades, including the Emrys Journal 2013 Nancy Dew Taylor Poetry Award and the Press 53 2010 First Prize for Poetry.

Along the way, Terresa has expanded her writing to include short fiction. Thanks to Emrys, she dove in and began attending classes and workshops offered by the Emrys’ Writing Room. These accessible workshops provide professional instruction for writers at all stages of their craft.

Once again, Terresa saw success with her writing. In 2013 she received recognition for her fiction with a Hub City-Emrys Prize. And later that year Ron Hagell and Shirley Smith showcased her story “Living the Dream,” as a film at the Hub City Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival.

In 2014 Main Street Rag published “Breaking Commandments,” Terresa’s first poetry book.  And Emrys supported her again by inviting her to read poetry from her book at its monthly Reading Room. The Reading Room is open to the community and features published regional writers.

So what does Terresa write about? Her work is flooded with emotion and often focuses on her childhood. She considers her best writing to be about her father.

“He was a true inspiration and I enjoyed sharing my work with him. While Dad passed away a few years ago, I was able to say goodbye to him through my poem ‘Ursa Major.’ It tells the story of losing a father and a childhood memory of a caged bear.”

Today, Terresa serves on the Emrys board of directors. She is indebted to this organization for providing an environment that allowed her to pursue her dream. Since 1983, Emrys has built a community of writers and readers, helping so many to wade into the water and learn to swim.

For more information about Emrys or to become a member, visit www.emrys.org.


Photos by Nill Silver

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Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities and the United Way of Greenville County.

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