Porchside Chats: An Interview with RWC Flash Fiction Contest Fellow Jan McDaniel

Jan McDaniel is a fiction writer from Bremen, GA. You can read more about her Rockvale journey at her website, wayforhope.com.

1.  You received a fellowship for a 1-week residency at RWC as winner of our Flash Fiction Contest in January 2020. What made you want to apply for the fellowship and what did winning mean to you?  

When I explored the RWC website, I fell in love with the concept: an intimate gathering of writers in natural and historical surroundings. The freedom to write all day, away from life’s other demands, is a rare commodity, and having this opportunity meant two things to me. One, I could focus on projects close to my heart and, two, I could encourage my daughters, who are also writers, to find the solitude they need for the creative process.

2. What are you reading right now?

Real Love for Real Life by Andi Ashworth and America’s Favorite Inns, B&Bs and Small Hotels by Sandra W. Soule, both found in the RWC library. I agree with Ashworth when she says, “We were created to respond to voice, touch, and physical presence, yet our society is increasingly voiceless, faceless, and untouchable.” I can relate when she speaks of seasons of life bringing new incarnations while caregiving remains a vital part of who she is.

I was drawn to the brief history and depiction of life in the RWC location by prior owners in the Soule book. Plus, I am an armchair traveler and enjoy reading about new places.

3. When did you start writing? Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?  

I grew up writing stories. There was never a specific moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I just was a writer. That compulsion is not always easy to live with, but it is always rewarding.

4. Tell us about your writing. In what genre do you primarily write? What project are you working on now? Do you have a big goal for 2021 and/or beyond?

I am an eclectic writer, and I like to have more than one project going at a time. I enjoy nonfiction, mostly articles and short columns, and southern-flavored fiction (short stories and novel-length) full of whole communities of characters … and thrillers. Earlier in my career, I gravitated toward writing about psychological horror and moments of realization. Now, most of my themes are related to survival, connection, and hope. In 2021, I would like to find a literary agent to represent my novel manuscripts and book-length nonfiction projects.

5. Many writers have to balance their creative life with other life responsibilities. Do you have a day job? What are other responsibilities that share space in your day to day life? 

My days of newspaper reporting and teaching college English classes are behind me, but I cofacilitate two grief-related support groups locally and volunteer with an international nonprofit online. My family, especially my two young grandsons, brings light and balance into my life. I spend as much time with them as I can and enjoy watching their baseball, football, and basketball games.

6. What are three words that describe you as a writer?

Prolific, quirky, and determined

7. Tell us about your writing community. Do you have a writing group with which you share on a regular basis?

In the past, I was a member of several critique groups and enjoyed attending conferences and workshops for writers. At present, I share work with my daughters, who always help and inspire me. 

8. Have you ever been to a writers’ colony before or been a writer-in-residence? What attracted you to this experience? Can you share thoughts about residencies in general or RWC in particular?

No, I haven’t. The Rockvale experience seemed to be a perfect fit for me, especially since the pandemic still threatens. Here, there is plenty of physical space for each writer to feel safe and secure. Though we share a kitchen in the farmhouse, social distancing is easy. I felt confident in my decision to come to Rockvale and have found great connections and conversation.

9. Did you establish a routine at RWC? Can you share what your days looked like?

I usually get up early and start working on one of my projects, but I do take breaks. Simple breakfasts, usually tea and toast, and quick meals with protein, fruits, and vegetables power me throughout the day. I drink water between meals and may have a snack now and then. I have found relaxation in exploring RWC inside and out. My favorite break is a sunset walk everyday during which I can walk in the garden and take in the peaceful colors of the surrounding hills.

I take my laptop to various spots, such as the writing porch, to work. I usually connect with other writers briefly around mealtimes and have deeper conversations in the evenings. Then I close the day in my room.  

10. What advice do you have for other writers?

Self-care is important, no matter where you are, but because writers can get lost in their work, it is important to plan what will make you comfortable during the day. 

Find a book or two in the library to read.

Cook your protein all at once for meals over a few days. 

Take photographs.

Enjoy the swimming pool if you can. It really helps on hot days.

11. Our tagline at RWC is “We believe in the Power of Words.” In your own writing, do you feel your words have power and purpose? How does that power manifest itself for you? Why do you write? What is your inspiration?

I am inspired by people around me, and I believe my words do have power. Healing takes place through both writing and reading. I have witnessed grieving people in the depths of despair repeat something I said to encourage others. This is life-saving power. The same thing happened to me after my husband died. I clung to the hope fellow survivors handed me and made my way back to life.

I feel drawn to writing as a way to reach out and connect with others. 

12. Fun Facts (Jan’s picks are in bold)

Computer/Pen and Notebook




Glass half empty/Glass half full


Desk/Comfy Chair or Bed

Actual book/Kindle, Audio


Something old/Something new