Remembering Martha – Nashville Writers Alliance

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MarthaLast night, we raised a glass to Martha. Martha Whitmore Hickman was one of the founders of our writers group and a member for about 25 years. That’s a lot of Tuesday nights! Hundreds! The comments posted on Facebook following the announcement of her death were evidence that she was many things to many people. Last night we shared our memories of her as an elegant and wise writer. Doug Jones wrote a tribute to Martha, and I wanted to share it.

I was saddened to hear the news from California.
 
I recall my first meeting of the Nashville Writers Alliance (NWA) in the April, 1997. It was at Martha and Hoyt Hickman’s home on Castleman Drive in Green Hills. The NWA had been recognized nationally and had a group of excellent writers including Jim Young, Rita Bourke, Phyllis Gobbell, Charles Hooper and, of course, Martha Hickman. They were excellent craftsmen in the business of writing. But Martha Hickman was the master. Many have commented on how smooth her words and reading were. They literally flowed and you just gladly followed along.
 
I knew the reputation of the NWA and was afraid they would listen to me read my work and summarily pitch me out. Martha made me feel like a long-lost friend and guided me through that first nervous meeting. These writers would later all become like family to me.
 
As time passed, Martha became a mentor to me. I have learned she also helped a number of other writers, which is not surprising. She encouraged me to write and the only time I heard her say anything close to being hard was when she said, “Douglas, ignore the critics and keep writing!”
 
I have no idea why but she always liked my SILAS JONES OF ROCK SPRINGS. She said that although she was from the north, she felt she could be a member of the Jones family of Maury County. I would pick her up and drive her to NWA meetings. Our conversations were entertaining and I never had a clue what topic she would select. By the time we arrived at our member’s home, we would be laughing and hooting.
 
I remember like it was yesterday, as we were driving to Charles Hopper’s home for a Tuesday night meeting. We were on Granny White Pike and just passed the 4-way stop on Tyne Blvd. We were talking politics and the weather when she suddenly said, ‘Douglas, you are a natural storyteller. SILAS JONES OF ROCK SPRINGS will be published someday.’ I was so excited that Ms. Martha would say something positive about my writing that I almost drove off the road! She reminded me of my grandmother, Bertha McMeen, and that is about the highest compliment I can give.
She had a soft voice and was kind to everyone. Martha forgot more about writing than l ever know. She was a fine lady.
 
Bless you, Martha Hickman. You are in a better place but know that none of God’s angels are any sweeter than you.
 

About phyllisgobbell

My day job is teaching English. Since 2002 I have served on the English faculty at Nashville State Community College, where I have taught courses in composition, literature, and creative writing. I am editor of the literary magazine, Tetrahedra. I earned my B.S. in Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and received my M.A. in English from Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee, where the graduate program offered both creative thesis and scholarly thesis options. I submitted a creative thesis, a 90-page collection of stories entitled Listen to Me. Most of the stories have been published in literary journals and/or have received awards. My writing career spans three decades. My history of publication includes both fiction and nonfiction. I have published two novels and more than thirty stories and articles in literary journals, anthologies, and magazines. It was an honor for me when one of my stories appeared in HomeWorks in 1996. The anthology was a collection of works by Tennessee writers living at that time, including Alex Haley, Robert Penn Warren, and Peter Taylor. The highlight of my writing career occurred when I received the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Award in Fiction for 2006. Other writing achievements include the Leslie Garrett Fiction Prize awarded by the Knoxville Writers Guild, Tennessee Writers Alliance Short Story First Place Award, and the North Carolina Writers’ Workshop First Place Award in Creative Nonfiction. In 2005, I received a Pushcart nomination for my story, “Primates,” which was published in Bellevue Literary Review. My most recent award came from the Knoxville Writers’ Guild, the 2008 Creative Nonfiction First Place Award for my essay, “In the Car with Mother on Christmas Eve.” I am a founding member of the Tennessee Writers Alliance and served on its Board of Directors for ten years, including two terms as president and one as chair of the Board.
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2 Responses to Remembering Martha – Nashville Writers Alliance

  1. I’m so glad that you shared this. Martha made a deep and lasting impression on so many people.

  2. Martha left an indelible mark on our group. She was an absolute inspiration. No matter what happened in her life, writing was the thing she lived for, the thing she kept going back to, the thing she relied on. It is so sad that her voice has been stilled.

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