White Cross School Blog


NC Literary Hall of Fame




John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, righter of wrongs, and some call him the Pompetus of Love. Okay, maybe he’s an urban fantasy and horror author from Charlotte with a background in theatre and a love for fried pickles and loud music. John is the author of The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, available wherever books or e-books are sold. He’s also the creator of the comedic horror icon Bubba the Monster Hunter, and the short stories that bear his name. John is an award-winning poet, lighting designer, and theatre producer, whose work has been translated into over twenty-five languages and read worldwide. He’s been published in several online literary journals including The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, cc&d, Deuce Coupe, and Truckin’. His poem “Dancing with Fireflies” was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize. John is also the host of the YouTube series Literate Liquors, where he pairs fantasy and science fiction novels with the appropriate alcohol. He can be found online at and spends too much time on Twitter (@johnhartness), especially after a few drinks.

At the 2014 North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, John will join the panel discussion, "The Many Paths to Publication," with Kim Boykin and Karon Luddy. Traditional or Indie, Big 5 or Small Press, Digital or Print: writers have never had more possible, viable paths to publication to choose from, which can make choosing harder than ever before. This panel discussion will feature three authors who have followed more than one of those paths, and can tell you what they discovered along the way.

Register now!


What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Don't Quit Your Day Job.

Did you have a teacher or mentor who had a big, positive impact on you?
I had a ton of great teachers who took an interest in my writing over the years, particularly in high school. But the biggest was Deborah Hobbs, my English teacher for 9th - 11th grade. She made sure to push me to excel and never let up.

Who is your literary hero?
Probably Pat Conroy.

If you could live in any literary world for the rest of your life, where would you find yourself?
I'm good where I am. Literary worlds are generally pretty f'd up places, since writers love to torture their characters.

If you could have written one book that someone else wrote, which book would it be?
I couldn't. No interest.

Many writers are solitary creatures. Coming to an event like Fall Conference can be a little intimidating, navigating the exhibit hall and ballroom events. Any advice for working the room?
Get over yourself. The days of writers as these brilliant fragile creatures working in solitude in some ivory tower are long over. Get your head out of your ass and network. I have zero sympathy or patience for people who are unwilling to put in the work networking to make their own success. If you're really that much of a wilting lily, get drunk first. It'll take the edge off.

Who gave the best reading or talk you've ever been to? What made it so good?
Ann Bogart and Ben Cameron can give me goosebumps with their passion for the arts. James Earl Jones made me weep with his honesty.

Any advice for attendees who sign up for the Open Mic?
Practice. Work that is performed is a PERFORMANCE, the interaction with the audience is much more important than the words on the page. Watch videos of slam poetry performers and steal from them. Be a mf'in rock star. We can all read, now ENGAGE me. Thrill me, make me live in your words.

The city of Charlotte was founded on two established Native American trading routes. Now, of course, it's the 2nd biggest banking center in the country. Fall Conference will boast an exhibit hall packed with vendors. How do you approach an exhibit hall at a conference such as this? To shop, to chat, or both?
I'm usually selling books, and will be at this event as well. But if I'm there just attending, then I'm networking. I'm looking for publishers that publish my kind of work and trying to make connections with decision-makers. I'm not there to chat, this is a business. That said, I'll happily chat at the bar later.

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but of course most of us do. What is one—or some—of your favorite book cover(s)?
I'm a genre fiction guy, so give me a genre fiction cover. Tell me what the book is about, and evoke a feeling. Thieftaker by DB Jackson is an excellent example of this. It sets the tone, the location and hints at a magical element, all without hitting me over the head with it.

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop, panel, or Mart?
That this should be fun, and funny, and it's not all so bloody serious all the time. For god's sake, if you can't laugh at yourself, everyone else certainly will do it for you. Writing is hard, it's a difficult business to break into and almost impossible to make any money at, so do anything you can to have a good time in the process.

What is your guilty pleasure read?
I have no guilt, so I'll read anything. I love YA SF and Fantasy, I write comic horror and urban fantasy, I write poetry, I read alternate history and thrillers, and I'm a huge fan of graphic novels. Read what you love, screw anybody who judges you for it.

What makes you cringe when you see it on the page?
Passive voice, purple prose and stories that don't go anywhere.

Caffeine of choice? (English Breakfast, Caramel macchiato, etc.)
Mountain Dew.


Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.


Anthony S. Abbott is Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College. He is the author of two novels and seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which, The Angel Dialogues, was published by Lorimer Press in March of this year. His 2011 collection, If Words Could Save Us, was the co-winner of the Brockman Campbell Award of the NC Poetry Society. His 2003 novel, Leaving Maggie Hope, won the Novello Award. He taught English and creative writing at Davidson for nearly forty years, and was chair of the department from 1989 to 1996. He also served as President of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, The Charlotte Writers' Club, and, most recently, the North Carolina Poetry Society. He teaches writing workshops in Charlotte, Davidson, and Winston-Salem.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Tony will teach the workshop "Poetry 101." It's everything you wanted to know about poetry but were afraid to ask (in ninety minutes). We will review the basic elements of poetry—imagery, metaphor, form and free verse, sound and rhythm, and look at some ways these various elements can be combined to make a fresh and moving poem. The instructor will supply examples.

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If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
I would be Mary Oliver. I would love to have her remarkable ability to look at things and see into them. I find her vision absolutely stunning.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
“Passionate, engaging, original.”

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Don’t be afraid. Write what you have to write, and don’t edit it. Hold on to it, and one day you will know what to do with it. If you don’t write it when you first have it, you will lose it.

In 2013, Forbes named Charlotte among its list of Best Places for Business and Careers. What makes Charlotte such a vibrant place to visit and live?
I have lived in Davidson, a small town twenty miles north of Charlotte, for fifty years. When we came to Davidson, people welcomed us openly and made us feel part of the community. That warm and caring community continues to nurture us fifty years later.

Why do you feel it's important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
When I first started writing, I had almost no contact with other writers, with people like me. Conferences give us a chance to be with one another and feel the support of others like ourselves. In North Carolina, especially, writers are a genuine community. You might meet someone at a conference who will become a true friend….

Saturday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "Words in Civic Life." Does creative writing have a role to play outside the covers of a book?
Of course it does. I didn’t really know how black people felt until I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Poems, novels, essays change us—they allow us to experience what it is like to be someone else from the inside. Literature is a humanizing force

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop, panel, or Mart?
Often people who are just starting out lack the tools to adequately shape their vision. I hope my workshop will give them some of those important tools and do it in an interesting and helpful way. I want them to have fun while they are learning.

What does it mean for writers to "Network?" Any tips?
When we founded the North Carolina Writers' Network we realized that many writers lived in communities where they felt isolated from many of the important things going on in writing centers like Raleigh, Durhm, Chapel Hill. To Network really means to be in touch with what is going on and to become a part of it. If Sharon Olds is coming to Duke, I want to know about it even if I live two or three hours away. A network can help keep me alive as a writer.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
The Bible.

Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
I have enjoyed Poetry very much. For fiction, The New Yorker is absolutely essential. Wonderful stories.

Can writing be taught?
Yes. You can’t teach talent or genius. A gift is a gift, but we can always help people improve. We can teach people to be better writers than they are.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
I really don’t know. Frost, Yeats, Eliot, Dickinson, Whitman, Olds, Oliver—poets I dearly love. And Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Have you ever had writer’s block? What is one thing that helped you overcome it?
The most important thing is life experience. When something powerful happens, then we write about it. With no life experiences, we dry up inside. Passon comes from life. Then we write about it.

Someone writes an unauthorized biography about your life. What would the title be?
The Man Who Limped Toward Heaven.


Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.


Zelda Lockhart’s poetry can be found in Obsidian Journal, a publication of North Carolina State University; Calyx: A Journal of Women’s Art and Literature, and the North Carolina Literary Review, among others. She is the award-winning author of the novels Fifth Born, Cold Running Creek, and Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle. She was the Piedmont Laureate for North Carolina’s Triangle region, won a Barnes & Noble Discovery Award, and was finalist for both a Hurston/Wright Award and a Lambda Literary Award. She lives in Hillsborough on the 3.5 acres of land that she recently converted into LaVenson Press Studios, which offers a series of workshops, hosts a literary magazine, and feeds participants from its organic garden. Visit the Studio’s website,, or Zelda’s website at

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Zelda will lead a workshop titled "The Mirror Exercise: Producing a Whole Short Work in Less Than an Hour." In this workshop, participants produce raw material from “The Mirror Exercise,” which is a segment of Zelda’s forthcoming book, The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript. The four short prompts of this exercise help participants produce a whole short piece of fiction, memoir, or poetry during the workshop. This includes a quick training on how to get in the creative zone quickly and access your best work. This workshop teaches invaluable skills for maintaining daily writing while leading a very busy life.

Register now!


What are you reading right now?
I am reading my own manuscript, The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript, over and over to clean it up. I'm also reading Catching Fire, so that I can engage intelligently with my daughter as she talks about Katniss and President Snow and those guys.

Where is your favorite place to write?
On my screeened-in porch, watching the hummingbirds come to the bergamot in summer, watching the wild turkeys in fall, watching the deer and red crested piliated woodpeckers against the bleak backdrop in winter, and watching listening to the tree frogs in spring.

If you weren't a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
If I wasn't writing and teaching about writing, which is really expressing and teaching about expression, I'd be expressing in some format (singing, dancing, playing the guitar—all things I do), and I'd be teaching about it.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
My children.

If you could switch places with one fictional character, who would it be?
None of them, they have some hellish lives.

What do you hope attendees takeaway from Fall Conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop?
I'd like for attendees to leave feeling hell-bent on expressing themselves from an emotional, psychological, and spiritual base, because that is the vulnerable stuff that good art is made of.

Charlotte is known as both "The Queen City" and "The Hornet's Nest." Does one of those nicknames ring more true for you than the other?
No, I think Charlotte is cool. My son, partner, and granddaughter recently moved from there, and I miss visiting. So, my association with the city is one of walks to the coffee shop, ice cream shop, and chalk drawings on the sidewalk with the grand.

Sunday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "The Many Paths to Publication." What's the first thing you ever published?
I believe it was a poem: "The Same Jesus," published in Sinister Wisdom Journal in 1995.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
Soul-Stirring, Life-Affirming, Spritually-Death-Defying. :)

What is the most frustrating or rewarding part of the writing process?
Frustrating: When the coffee was decaf. Rewarding: When the coffee was espresso.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Invest in Kleenex for the tears, and a corset for the gutt-busting laughter.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
The English-French dictionary. The English language is too analytical. Doesn't work well for a poet's heart.

Describe your ideal literary festival. Who would give the keynote address? Who would be the featured readers? What else?
It would be in a clearing in the woods. The keynote would be given my these two gangster hawks that hang around my house who yell all the time to let everyone know how tough they are. The featured readers would be the coyotes who are stealing, raiding, and pillaging everything they encounter. In their exposition, they'd give the backstory of why they formed gangs, what they were afraid of, and how they hope to find redemption. What else? What else is there after all that. Wait, yes, there would be the most amazing vegetarian feast served up on the backs of box turtles. Giggle—no, I don't drink.

Do you steal hotel pens?
Of course!!!!!


Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.


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