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Meet The Refinery

Amy Paige Condon, Founder & Editor

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It all started when...

Amy’s kindergarten teacher asked how to keep the child occupied after she finished her vocabulary and counting work. Amy’s mother advised, “Just stick a book in her hand.” Thus, by the age of 5, Amy’s love of a good story was firmly intact. This ardor carried her through high school English into college journalism, and even into a career as an urban parks planner, where she honed her persuasive storytelling techniques to get legislation passed.

But after 16 years in the planning profession, Amy couldn’t shake the feeling that there were stories she was meant to tell. She took community education classes at Miami-Dade College to reawaken the muscle memory of creative writing she had stopped exercising after college. Then, in 2009, Amy and her husband, Brian, switched gears, sold everything and moved to Savannah, so that she could earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. While still a graduate student, she co-authored the New York Times bestselling The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook (Artisan 2012) with baker-owners Cheryl and Griffith Day. The Wiley’s Championship BBQ Cookbook, co-written with Wiley and Janet McCrary, which she presented as her master’s thesis, became a top-selling cookbook for Gibbs Smith Publishers, and was named the best cookbook of 2014 by the National Barbecue News

An internship in 2010 with the award-winning Savannah magazine led to a freelance career until she joined the editorial staff in 2012 as the digital editor. Amy moved into the associate editor’s position the following year and was named editor in 2016. Her work also has appeared in the journal HistoryMiami, The Local Palate online, Tasting Table online and Garden & Gun magazine.

She started teaching creative writing courses in 2012 through the community education program at the Coastal Georgia Center. In Fall 2017, she will serve as an adjunct professor at Armstrong State University. Now, two long-held dreams are coming true: her proposal for a biography of former Miami News editor Bill Baggs is under contract with the University of Georgia Press, and she has launched The Refinery Writing Studio to continue helping others tell their stories. 

Amy lives in Savannah with her husband, three rambunctious dogs (Barkley, Harper and Moses) and a talkative pig named Gus.

 

Nancy Fullbright, Instructor

It all started when ...

A second grade Nancy asked a third grade teacher, Mrs. Dukes, what the word “ambition” meant. So impressed that a second grader was asking such an astute question (and after reading a tragic short story penned by Nancy about a wayward balloon that wanders too close to the sun), Mrs. Dukes insisted to the principal that Nancy be placed in her third grade class the following year.

Little did she know the vocabulary question was prompted by a detailed reading of Dolly Parton’s feminist anthem, “Nine to Five.”

Thus began Nancy’s lifelong love of storytelling, whether the medium was oral, written, or musical (preferably classic country). Inspired by her AP English teacher who regularly wore a button reading “I Read Banned Books,” Nancy majored in English at Furman University and went on to get her graduate degree in mass communication from the University of Georgia.

Today, she leads creative writing programs for children at The Refinery, A Writing Studio, and also works as a freelance writer and public relations professional. She has more than 20 years of communications and media relations experience, working in both nonprofit and corporate environments. She also volunteers as a writing fellow for the Deep Center, a Savannah nonprofit that leads creative writing workshops for middle schoolers and professionally publishes their works.

Currently working on her memoir, a tale of how she narrowly escaped a Southern Baptist salvation, Nancy has also been published in Cook and Tell: Recipes and Stories from Southern Kitchens edited by Johnathon Scott Barrett.

Nancy lives in Savannah with her British-born husband, Peter Hendy, a sweet basset hound named Sadie, and a trampy tortoiseshell cat named Olive.

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Alexis Orgera, Poetry & Publishing

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It all started when ... 

Alexis wrote her first poem in the ninth grade, during a semester (a whole semester!) of studying poetry in English class. She was hooked—the way word-sounds jangled and clashed against each other, the collision and elision of line breaks, music, imagery, and metaphor. The language of poetry made sense to her.

Turns out, she couldn’t get enough. She edited her high school and college literary magazines, majored in British and American Literature at New College of Florida, where she wrote her senior thesis on the work of Nikki Giovanni. She studied poetry in graduate school at Emerson College, working closely with the poet Gail Mazur, who helped her to both hone and amplify her unique, and sometimes unorthodox, voice. Her thesis won the “Best Thesis Award” at Emerson the year she graduated.

She has published two books of poems, How Like Foreign Objects and Dust Jacket, and her individual poems can be found in magazines like Another Chicago Magazine, Black Warrior Review, Carolina Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Green Mountains Review, Gulf Coast, The Journal, Memorious, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Alexis has won various prizes and grants for her writing over the years, but her favorite will always be a residency at the beautiful Hermitage Artists Retreat in Englewood, Florida, where she wrote furiously to the sound of waves and herons and afternoon thunderstorms over the Gulf of Mexico.

While teaching and freelance editing in her twenties and thirties was gratifying in many ways, Alexis knew there was something more for her to do. In 2015, on a cross-country drive with her beloved dog and cat, she stopped in Oklahoma City to visit an old friend from Emerson, Chad Reynolds, and the children’s book press, Penny Candy Books, was born. Together, Alexis and Chad have published ten books and garnered national press for their mission-driven efforts to foster big conversations and publish a diverse range of stories and experiences.

Alexis, now an associate editor at Savannah magazine, is a wanderer by nature, but is happy to be growing some roots in Savannah where she lives with her husband, Aaron.