My March Writer’s Retreat at Ambrosia Farm Bed & Breakfast

Neil Sagebiel

AmbrosiaSign_06 There are still a few spots available for my upcoming writer’s retreat at Ambrosia Farm Bed & Breakfast in Floyd, Virginia. It begins on Friday evening, March 7 and runs through Sunday morning, March 9. The cost is $120 plus lodging.

Here’s the fancy-pants description:

“Writing and Publishing Your Nonfiction Book”

Author and blogger Neil Sagebiel of Floyd, Virginia, will lead a writer’s retreat on nonfiction book writing and publishing. Neil will cover topics such as story development and research, the book proposal, the writing process, literary agents, publishers, working with editors, and related areas. Participants can discuss and work on a current project and/or simply bring their ideas and questions.

(Once all participants are identified, Neil will email questions related to their background and interests and work to tailor the time accordingly. This retreat will include time to work on a current project and/or other fun writing exercises.)


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Citizens Celebrates Centennial Anniversary

Citizens1Congratulations to Citizens, our local and regional telecommunications provider, for 100 years of service to Floyd and surrounding communities.

Citizens extended this invitation in its February newsletter:

Citizens2Come join Citizens 100th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, February 28, 2014 as we celebrate YOU, our loyal customer. Stop by our office in Floyd and enjoy a pictorial history of our company, refreshments, and more. It’s our way of paying tribute to those who have helped us stand the test of time.

The company also announced the completion of its regional fiber network.

How I Like My Coffee

According to Statistic Brain, 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee. Want to take a guess at how much is spent annually on specialty coffee in the United States?

Try $18 billion.

I was a little disturbed to learn that 65% of coffee drinkers add cream and/or sugar to their coffee. Years ago my father told me if I drank my coffee black for a week that I’d never go back to cream and/or sugar. Dad wasn’t right about everything, but he was right about that.

Coffee is an important (um, essential) part of my morning routine. Back in my ad agency days, I wrote my “four things coffee has to be.”

Those four things are:

1. Fresh.

2. Black.

3. Strong.

4. Hot.

Speaking of “hot,” one of my former workmates used to kid me about constantly heating and re-heating my coffee in the microwave. So here’s the crazy part. I’d pour it from the pot into my cup and then put my cup in the microwave because it wasn’t hot enough. Yes, I like my coffee scalding hot. I’m not sure why.

Are you part of the 54% who drinks coffee? If so, how do you like yours?

P.L. Travers vs. Walt Disney

This year our family changed up the Christmas tradition. One of the changes was going to the movies. On Christmas Day we saw “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of how the Mary Poppins stories penned by P.L. Travers made it to the big screen in the mid 1960s thanks to the persistence of Walt Disney.

Wonderfully portrayed in the film by Emma Thompson, Travers is seemingly the polar opposite–both personally and creatively–of Disney, who is ably played by the versatile Tom Hanks.

How did P.L. Travers, the prickly author of Mary Poppins, really fare against Walt Disney?

Historian Amy Henderson answered that exact question at

From a money standpoint, Travers fared quite well. She received $100,000 ($750,000 in today’s dollars) and 5% of the gross earnings. From a creative standpoint, Disney won, mostly. Walt remade Mary Poppins in the Disney image, so to speak, and the rest is history.

Henderson concluded:

At the end of the movie after the final credits, an excerpt from the original rehearsal hall tapes rolls, allowing audiences to hear the real Mrs. Travers vociferously bleating “No No No.” It’s a purely Hollywood attempt to give this bio-pic a boffo factual finish, but P.L. Travers’ voice makes one ask how this sourpuss could have created the joyful movie musical Mary Poppins. The answer is that she didn’t—Disney did.

Mary Poppins would be the greatest live action success of Walt Disney’s career. It won five Oscars, including two—Best Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and Best Music, Original Score—for the Sherman brothers, whose music makes the entire production soar. It looks like Saving Mr. Banks will be an award favorite as well. Emma Thompson has just been nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe, and the season is just beginning.

I enjoyed the movie, although it was somewhat fictionalized, more than I might have hoped or imagined.

But what else should I have expected? It’s Disney made by Disney. A little truth and a little make believe have gone a long way in the magic kingdom.

Regional Video Contest Offers $1,000 Prize

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Techonology Council (RBTC) is having a video contest. Here’s the scoop from a promotional message.

WANT TO WIN $1,000?

RBTCSubmit your video depicting the Roanoke-Blacksburg region and all of its amenities, the region’s technology or entrepreneurial community, or your technology company in the region for a shot at the $1,000 prize! Videos must be submitted by February 1, 2014.

FIVE semifinalist videos will be shown at a viewing party in February (and featured on our website!) and the winner will be announced at the February Tech & Toast. Help us promote the Roanoke-Blacksburg’s vibrant community across the nation by capturing the best parts of our region!

Videos may be submitted as a YouTube link to or on a CD or flash drive to the RBTC.

Videos must be between 30-60 seconds in length. The video must be the original work of the entrant. Limit one entry per person. Videos may feature either the Roanoke-Blacksburg region’s amenities and resources or technology companies within the region.

By submitting your video, you agree fully to the official rules of entry below.


The Movie ‘Nebraska’ and My Grandfather

Old age brings a host of indignities. Among other hazards of aging, once sound minds veer into strange alleyways.

My grandfather thought he’d won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. It was the talk of our family for a short while. He had received those mailings, those notifications, the ones so cleverly worded that you momentarily wonder about never having to work again, and paying off your house, and traveling to exotic locales halfway around the world.

NebraskaBut only for a moment.

That is, unless you’re my grandfather, age early nineties, and others like him with minds that were still in working order but that sometimes lost touch with reality. Grandpa was a grand-prize winner. The check was in the mail. It would arrive any day. Or Ed McMahon was going to knock on the front door. He was absolutely certain. Telling him anything different just made him angry.

I was reminded of my grandfather when I learned about the movie “Nebraska” starring Bruce Dern. The new film has received some excellent reviews.

Here’s a description:

“After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.”

I’ve been to 47 states, but I’ve never been to Nebraska, which seems odd since it’s smack dab in middle America. Yet I do consider myself a heartlander, if there is such a term, born and raised in the Midwest. And I’m a sucker for family stories.

I hope to see the movie “Nebraska” soon.

“The Book of Manning”: Football, Fatherhood, Family


The best sports stories are always about more than sports. That’s true of “The Book of Manning,” ESPN’s documentary on the Manning family and its legacy of great college and NFL quarterbacks–Archie, Peyton and Eli.

But it’s really a story about fatherhood and family. After his father committed suicide, Archie Manning, pride of Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints star, decided he would be an involved but not domineering father. Football wasn’t the most important thing.

“I was just trying to have a great father-son relationship,” Archie said about raising Cooper, Peyton and Eli. “That’s what I wanted.”

From all appearances, Archie got it right. “The Book of Manning” is worth watching.