Reads & Reviews

What We’re Reading and Writing

In the works: a gathering of books recommended by me/other WordPlayers! Here’s a start…

WordPlay-recommended Books on the Writing Process
WordPlay-recommended Fiction
WordPlay-recommended Memoir

Have suggestions? Please share! Send your recommendations to

What Others Are Saying about WordPlay

“[Maureen’s] nurturing spirit and uncanny teaching skill make Wordplay a powerful wellspring…”

Caroline Castle HicksIn the dedication of my first book, from which the essay “It Goes Right Over Our Heads” is taken, I wrote that Maureen’s “remarkable writing and creativity classes have transformed me from somebody who ‘always wanted to be a writer’ into somebody who is one.” Maureen sometimes refers to herself as a “creative midwife,” and over the course of our 19-year friendship, she has indeed labored with me, nudging, encouraging and breathing my writing dreams into being. As I’m sure many of her other students could attest, she is often an incubator as well, keeping our dreams warm until we come to believe in them as much as she does. Her nurturing spirit and uncanny teaching skill make Wordplay a powerful wellspring for all of us who long to bring our creativity to life.  

Caroline Castle Hicks
Huntersville, North Carolina

More about Caroline here.

“Ever since I was seven years old, I wanted to write and publish a real novel…. Maureen has fostered my creativity and has encouraged me every step of the way.” 

Lisa Otter Rose and Maureen Ryan Griffin 2014 001-2I’ve always enjoyed writing and have kept a journal since I was twelve, but it wasn’t until I moved to Charlotte that writing became an important part of my life. I was new in town and saw a class advertised at CPCC in the continuing education program entitled “Write From the Heart”. It just so happened that a few weeks earlier I had printed the words “Write From” inside a large red heart that I had drawn on the cover my latest journal. It was the sign I needed and so I enrolled in Maureen’s class.

Ever since I was seven years old, I wanted to write and publish a real novel, not just the one I made in second grade. Maureen has fostered my creativity and has encouraged me every step of the way. In fact, many times she has pulled me out of the fatigue ditch, dusted me off, and gave me a firm, but loving push back onto the writer’s road toward a finished novel.

Lisa Otter Rose
Matthews, North Carolina

Connect with Lisa:
Purchase You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland!:
More about Lisa here.

“What a warm circle writers create when they work together under the right conditions. And Maureen created just the right atmosphere.” 

All that is neLynn Hoppercessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail.
                                                                   ~ Dorothea Brande

“Everything you do is perfect,” insisted Maureen Ryan Griffin, my writing teacher at John C. Campbell Folk School last September. And isn’t that true for all of us? We are perfect just as we are, and we must strive to be better. Holding these two thoughts simultaneously has always been difficult for me. But I’m getting there! And the writing workshop moved me closer. What a warm circle writers create when they work together under the right conditions. And Maureen created just the right atmosphere. During the week, we learned to “Sprint,” to “Gather,” to “Sprawl,” to write dialogue, to ask questions, to list, to “Leapfrog” off another’s work, and much more. If you haven’t seen Maureen’s excellent book Spinning Words into Gold, check it out. It’s full of great writing advice and exercises. Thanks to Maureen and the other participants for making the folk school class so special for me. I am going now to plan my writing practice schedule for the weeks ahead. I’m sure it will be perfect.

Lyn Hopper
Dahlonega, Georgia

Connect with Lyn: http://zenpoems.wordpress.com
More about Lyn here.

 “[Maureen’s] enthusiasm for words and the myriad ways in which they can be put together is contagious.” 

Savannah StonerUp until a few years ago, when I first signed up for one of Maureen’s writing classes, I’d spent the better part of the previous two decades thinking a lot about writing, reading every book I could find on writing, fantasizing about how great it would feel to one day be a “real” writer. The trouble was (imagine a cymbal crashing here for effect) I spent precious little time actually putting pen to paper, and instead spent precious years blocked by anxiety and fear and self-doubt.

Thank goodness for Maureen Ryan Griffin! She is far and away the most amazing, generous writing teacher I’ve ever had. Her enthusiasm for words and the myriad ways in which they can be put together is contagious. Maureen cares so much about creating an emotionally rich environment in which her students can share their stories that she has helped me to shift my attention away from worries about how well my writing might be received and  refocus my attention on the way I feel about the characters in my stories, the way the characters care about each other, and the way everyone in class supports each other and celebrates each other’s work.

I’m constantly blown away by how everyone’s writing has blossomed. Several of us have had pieces published and/or have read them as commentaries on Charlotte’s NPR Station WFAE 90.7. Two of my essays, “The Fine Art of Singing Badly” and “Fried Lemons in Heaven,” were NPR commentaries; my “Fried Lemons” piece appeared in Imagining Heaven: An Anthology of Personal Visions of Heaven; and I was among several contributors to be invited to read my piece during the Sensoria festival at Central Piedmont Community College. And my essay “Wolf” appeared in the June 2012 issue of Sasee magazine. None of these successes and experiences would have been possible without Maureen’s guidance and encouragement, her writing prompts and recipes.
Even though my anxiety still sometimes gets the better of me, I’m so grateful for the other times when I can write in spite of my fears, and I relish the breakthroughs when all those old, nagging worries fall way. Thanks to Maureen and the community of my writing mates, I’ve been able to savor the writing process in a way that had too often escaped me in the past.

Savannah Stoner
Charlotte, North Carolina

More about Savannah here.

Maureen provided a safe place to process my grief out loud. She nudged me and encouraged me until I transformed from a scared and timid writer into someone who just might admit that I am a writer (among other things) if you ask me what I do.”

Cheryl BoyerMy writing path has traveled down the roads of personal essay, poetry, and fiction, much of it delving into families, how they come to be, and the relationships involved. Maureen opened the doorway into poetry and showed me that it can be a vessel that holds some of my deepest hopes and griefs and dreams. In the  last decade I’ve had a handful of poems published and it’s still where I turn when there’s something scratching away at my subconscious, something that needs to breathe.

Cheryl Boyer
Waxhaw, North Carolina

More about Cheryl here.

Maureen taught the first real poetry course that I ever took. She did not have us abandon our individual “style,” which is the thing that we poets are often most protective of. Rather, she invited and guided us into thinking beyond style.”

Edward MiddletonAfter some basics on construction and rhythm she had us reach back into memory to a time that impacted us more emotionally than anything else. She encouraged us to stay with those feelings and not to shun or run from them. And when they were at their sharpest… write. And so we did. As an artist I’m not only the sum of my gift, but also what I’ve been taught. For this reason I often lightheartedly refer to Maureen as “Sensei” because of her love of and skill at teaching the craft.

Edward Middleton
Columbia, South Carolina

Purchase Fast Food and Other Social Dilemmas: here.
More about Edward here.

I needed an objective editor. I wanted it to be someone I knew and trusted, but it had to be a person who didn’t know my history and the details of my past. I also wanted someone who I respected and who would have a heart for the material I was working with. After considering several different people, I chose Maureen.”

Ann CampanellaI couldn’t have made a better choice. Maureen and I spent the better part of a day discussing my book. As we went over my manuscript page by page, she shared her impressions, which helped me know what was missing and where I was on target. We talked about themes, language, characters, structure, and more. She asked every question she could think of, challenging me to find the emotional core of each scene. She knew this memoir was deeply important to me, that I wanted to get it right, that I wanted to take my readers on a journey through grief and leave them in a place of hope. I took volumes of notes, but knowing it was impossible to write down everything we discussed, Maureen gave me an audio recording of our session. I listened to this recording as I was driving to the beach and lived with her words and questions for several days on a solo writing retreat as I pondered how to go deeper.

Many of my writer friends have been midwives for Motherhood: Lost and Found, and I am grateful to each of them. Maureen coached me through those difficult final stages of labor, then gave me guidance on cleaning and swaddling “the baby,” making her presentable for publication. Thank you, Maureen.

Ann Campanella
Huntersville, North Carolina

Purchase Motherhood: Lost and Found: here.
Connect with Ann:
More about Ann here.

I was hooked the day I met Maureen Ryan Griffin at a local so-you-want-to-be-a-better-writer session. And now, after years of WordPlay classes and retreats, I must confess, I’m a true addict. But it’s not like being addicted to drugs or alcohol; it’s more like craving carrots. A Maureen addiction is a good thing.”

Mary Struble DeeryAt every class and retreat writers are seated on piles of comfort, while Maureen serves up a cornucopia of confidence. ‘Heap your plate as high as you can,’ she says. The self-belief concoction she serves gets creative juices flowing.

Inventive prompts and writing recipes are some of the tools of Maureen’s trade. These help her gently nudge students to recall and convey, imagine and express whatever surfaces. Finally, all are prodded to buff, buff, buff until their pieces gleam. Maureen helps writers feel proud.

Are you interested in getting addicted, too? Want to learn more about writing, have pride in the work you produce, laugh and cry in a safe, creative community? Well then, come mainline some Maureen with me.

Mary Struble Deery
Charlotte, North Carolina

Connect with Mary:
More about Mary here.

Thank you, Maureen, for being a wonderful friend, writer, teacher, and editor.

Maureen filled every minute [of class] with samples of inspiring prose and poetry, amazing writing prompts, and plenty of time to share and discuss our writing. She somehow managed to provide a perfect mix of encouragement, nurturing, and nudging.

Melissa Ballard
Oberlin, Ohio

Read Melissa’s writing here.
More about Melissa here.

With the support of Maureen and my wonderful classmates, I have a second career as the Positive Parenting Expert.”

Having met the two most influential people in my life, Mother Teresa and Oprah, I have learned they had trials and tribulations; however, their passion and commitment to their work never waned. They are my role models. Mother Teresa’s advice to me was, “Never be mediocre, be the best at what you do, whether it is making a cup of tea or healing the world.” I have tried to follow these words, but I can’t be the best I can be at writing if I do it alone. Thank goodness I have Maureen Ryan Griffin and my Under Construction group.

Kathryn Thorson Gruhn
Columbus, North Carolina

Connect with Kathy:
Visit Kathy’s website:
More about Kathy here.

Aside from being filled with wonderful writing information, inspirational prompts and encouraging words, I like to think that Maureen helped me stand on my writing legs. I arrived in her class with wobbly limbs, unsure if what I did counted as writing or even mattered. Maureen’s affirmations about my work strengthened those shaky writing legs. She helped give me confidence to stand tall and believe that I am a writer.”

These days with two small girls, I don’t take nearly as many classes as I used to, but I still regularly reference Spinning Words Into Gold. I often submit my work for publication, and I am happy to say that I have accumulated a few acceptances woven in with a string of rejections. Of course the acceptances are exciting, but I still revel in the fact that this once wobbly-legged writer feels confident enough to submit her work. Every time I submit an essay, I celebrate just as I believe Maureen would want me to!.”

Patrice Gopo
Charlotte, North Carolina

More about Patrice here.

Thanks to Maureen, I’m making time to read poetry every day and jot down my reflections and ideas. I’m thinking about another book. And I feel more in touch with my deepest thoughts and emotions.”

I have been writing and publishing for many years, but recently I became discouraged and disillusioned. My prevailing attitude toward writing was “Why bother?” I struggled to make time and space for writing in my ever-more-cluttered schedule. Maureen’s classes showed me that writing doesn’t have to be drudgery — it can be as easy as jotting down my thoughts while waiting in a doctor’s office or drinking my morning coffee. Maureen’s energy and creativity have been an inspiration to me. Her never-failing enthusiasm for writing and the creative life are contagious.

Barbara J. Mayer
Mooresville, North Carolina

More about Barbara here.

Maureen gives assignments that get words out of me that I would not otherwise write or say. She responds with great information that fits perfectly with any subject that comes up in class. She is like a very friendly encyclopedia, giving you just enough information to help you keep writing but not so much that you are overwhelmed. She and the other class participants create a safe environment where I am willing to risk words and find out if I would risk them in a larger audience. I leave class happy, thinking [that] this is how I want to spend my time now.

I took a class from Maureen in 2009. I had been writing a book on the weekends for ten years. I wrote a piece in her class about the book and poked fun at it out of embarrassment. No one else did. They responded with compassion and helpful feedback. Their reaction helped me over the final hump of working to get it published. I’ve been selling Turn Your Face: How to Be Heard and Get What You Want Most of the Time since 2010, and have given many book talks on it as well.

I’ve been wanting to write another book, but I needed an audience and encouragement. Last July an email popped up about one of Maureen’s classes. It began the night before I was to leave for a big work conference. I never go anywhere the night before I leave town, but I viewed it as a sign and went. Since then, I’ve been to nine memoir classes and two day-long retreats. I have now retired from my full time job and plan to keep taking WordPlay classes because I get energized and encouraged.

Barbara Linney
Charlotte, North Carolina

Check out Barbara’s website here:
Want to learn more about her book Turn Your Face: How to Be Heard and Get What You Want Most of the Time? Check out her 2-minute video here:

More about Barbara here.

I am grateful for working with [Maureen], writing with her, and just knowing her!”

When writing with Maureen, stories will emerge you didn’t know were inside of you.  Your fellow workshop participants will take risks that surprise you and shed their personalities to become authentic story tellers. You simply must experience it to realize the power of Maureen Ryan Griffin’s writing courses. She provides insightful, though-provoking prompts that encourage a variety of writing styles and types. The creative, supportive atmosphere she creates seeps in and takes hold so that her writers reach new depths and produce a different caliber of writing.  She describes herself as a “midwife of dreams” and she realizes this role in many capacities. I am grateful for working with her, writing with her, and just knowing her!

Marann Mincey
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Check out Marann’s website here:
Check out Marann’s blog here:

More about Marann here.

That first class with Maureen convinced me that I could produce something worthy.”

One summer in Chautauqua, I began a casual conversation with Maureen Ryan Griffin as we walked our bikes away from an Open Mic session at the Literary Arts Center. I was in awe when Maureen told me that she had won the Chautauqua Poetry Award the summer before and surprised that she was the teacher of the class I had registered for because the description sounded like the push I needed to record the family stories that I wanted to preserve for my grandchildren.

That first class with Maureen convinced me that I could produce something worthy. Subsequent classes at Chautauqua, as well as a sojourn at Sunset Beach with Maureen, ensconced me firmly in the world of memoir, moved me into fiction and finally gave me enough confidence to try poetry. I have notebooks full of “compost” from Maureen’s classes that I continue to turn and add to.

Jane Pfefferkorn
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

More about Jane here.

I don’t think I will ever be able to write or read the “old way” again. Thanks, Maureen—the new way is a lot more fun”

I attended Maureen’s class—Spinning Words into Goldin October, 2011 at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Although I have written volumes over the years as a teacher and academic administrator, this class opened doors for me to new, creative, and imaginative ways to approach writing. I don’t think I will ever be able to write or read the “old way” again. Thanks, Maureen—the new way is a lot more fun.

Russell Baskett
Moneta, Virginia

Check out Russell’s website here:

More about Russell here.

There was a joyous, positive, and supportive spirit in the way Maureen encouraged each of us to explore our thoughts through writing.”

After meeting Maureen Ryan Griffin and going to the first session of “Writing to Heal”  I was hooked. There was a joyous, positive, and supportive spirit in the way Maureen encouraged each of us to explore our thoughts through writing. I was stunned to find words to share experiences of long ago that had been hidden away somewhere in my brain. I fell in love with writing all over again. Thanks to Maureen and her encouragement, I plan to continue a long-term project of writing about my parents and their work as educators in the beautiful city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, where I grew up. And again, family, faith, friends, swimming and writing are with me supporting me in this journey of healing.

Thelma Cooper
Waco, Texas

More about Thelma here.