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Rebecca McClanahan’s tenth book is The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change. She has also published five books of poetry, three books of writing instruction, and The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings, winner of the Glasgow Award in nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Sun, and numerous anthologies. Recipient of the Wood Prize from Poetry Magazine, a Pushcart Prize, the Carter Prize for the Essay, and literary fellowships from New York Foundation for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, McClanahan teaches in the MFA programs of Queens University and Rainier Writing Workshop, and has been appointed the 2015 Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University.

Rebecca will lead a workshop at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference titled, "Making Their Stories Your Own." Whether you’ve inherited boxes of letters, photos, and documents, or only a few stories passed down to you, this multi-genre workshop will help you begin to shape the raw material of family history into an engaging and artful text. Drawing on her experience in writing essays, poems, and, most recently, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change, Rebecca McClanahan discusses the challenges and rewards of family history writing and offers suggestions for the journey. Specific topics include selecting and arranging significant details, fleshing out characters, providing historical or cultural context, employing speculation and reflection, choosing the best structure, and discovering themes and patterns of meaning.

 

What are you reading right now?
Adrianne Harun's new novel; Fleda Brown's book of poems, No Need of Sympathy; rereading Tillie Olsen's Silences and Edward Hoagland's essay collection, The Courage of Turtles.

Where is your favorite place to write?
My own desk, facing away from the window so I'm not distracted.

If you weren't a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
Back-up singer for gospel and/or blues group.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
I have no idea. You'll have to ask my readers.

If you could switch places with one fictional character, who would it be?
E. B. White's spider, Charlotte A. Cavatica. She spins beautiful webs, helps save her friend's life, and leaves her "magnum opus," generations of spiderlings (one of which is named Joy) who will carry on her work after her death.

What do you hope attendees take away from Fall Conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop?
Whatever will challenge them to move to a new place in their work.

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?
Though I know the origin of both, I've always thought it strange to give cities nicknames they'll likely outgrow.

Sunday's Workshop Session IV panel discussion is titled, "The Many Paths to Publication." What's the first thing you ever published?
An essay I wrote in the eighth grade for a contest sponsored by the WCTU, in which I made an admirable case against alcohol, which I had not yet tasted. I was paid fifteen dollars. Had I saved the money, I could have ordered a glass of lovely single-malt scotch last week. Oh well.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
I'll pass on this one and just hope the critics can read my mind.

What is the most frustrating or rewarding part of the writing process?
Finding the center in the midst of all the havoc that first drafts create. The process is frustrating and rewarding, all at the same time.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Publication doesn't change your life; writing does.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
The Oxford English Dictionary, or whatever dictionary best suits the reader's native language.

Describe your ideal literary festival. Who would give the keynote address? Who would be the featured readers? What else?
As for featured readers, there are too many fabulous writers for me to choose from; I'll leave that to the event organizers. But I would definitely vote for a dance—with a great band or DJ and a roomy dance floor.

Do you steal hotel pens?
I prefer to think of it as providing free advertisement for the hotels.

***

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference opens Wednesday, September 3, at www.ncwriters.org.

 

Jonathan K. Rice is founding editor and publisher of Iodine Poetry Journal, which is in its fifteenth year of publication. In 2002 he co-edited the chapbook, Celebrating Life, a project funded by Barnes & Noble in celebration of National Poetry Month and in memory of Dorothy Perry Thompson, noted poet and instructor at Winthrop University. He is the author of a chapbook Shooting Pool with a Cellist (Main Street Rag, 2003) and a full-length collection, Ukulele and Other Poems (Main Street Rag, 2006). His poetry has also appeared in numerous publications and he has been a longtime host of poetry readings in Charlotte, where he lives with his family. In 2012 he received the Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award for outstanding service in support of local and regional writers, awarded by Central Piedmont Community College.

Jonathan will take part in a Panel Discussion, “Creating a Poetry Community,” with Scott Owens, at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Fall Conference, November 21-23 at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel. As romantic (and Romantic) as the image of the solitary poet may be, the reality is that most poets need to be part of a community. A poetry community can help its members hone their craft, find their muse, take advantage of opportunities, and overcome the discouragements that all writers face. Scott Owens and Jonathan K. Rice have spent years building poetry communities through magazines, readings, open mics, and more. They will talk about their experiences, answer your questions, and share tips on how to come together with your fellow poets.

 

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out that you wish they had?
Rejection is just part of the process of writing, getting published, and as a catalyst for revision.

Did you have a teacher or mentor who had a big, positive impact on you?
I had an English teacher in high school who was also my Latin teacher. She encouraged me more than anyone I’ve ever had since. She had a huge impact on me as a teenager, because she believed in me.

Who is your literary hero?
Walker Percy. I was blown away by his first novel, The Moviegoer. I read it in college and could not get enough of Percy’s work after that. His novels were philosophical, Southern and Catholic influenced, among other things. They made me think. He was forty-six when his first novel was published in 1961. It won the National Book Award that year.

If you could live in any literary world for the rest of your life, where would you find yourself?
Black Mountain College in the 1940s and 1950s. Instructors during this time period included Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and artists Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, among many other prestigious writers and artists.

If you could have written one book that someone else wrote, which book would it be?
A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

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?
Breathe. Relax. Be yourself.

Who gave the best reading or talk you've ever been to? What made it so good?
Gwendolyn Brooks gave a reading at Wingate University many years ago. She had a powerful voice with a powerful life story. I will never forget it.

Any advice for attendees who sign up for the Open Mic?
The microphone is your friend. Speak into the microphone. Don’t eat it. Don’t turn away from it while speaking. Greet the audience by introducing yourself. You can gauge the sound level by doing this. Project your voice. Keep comments to a minimum. If you have to explain what you’re about to read, read something else. Pace yourself. Don’t read something so long that you have to read it quickly to stay within the time limit. Don’t read a piece too slowly either.

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?
Both. I like meeting people. But I also want to support independent publishers as much as I can. As a publisher myself, working as a vendor I always get questioned about submission guidelines. I always tell poets though, if they want to know what we publish, they should buy my journal. That supports what we do.

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 have always liked J.D. Salinger’s book covers. They’ve always appealed to me.

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop, panel, or Mart?
I hope that they come away with a better understanding of the creative process and the mechanics of getting published, but also energized with a fresh spirit of creativity.

What is your guilty pleasure read?
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

What makes you cringe when you see it on the page?
Poetry that’s centered on the page.

Caffeine of choice? (English Breakfast, Caramel macchiato, etc.)
Strong black coffee.

***

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference opens Wednesday, September 3, at www.ncwriters.org.

CHARLOTTE—Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference opens Wednesday, September 3. Held at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, November 21-23, Fall Conference offers workshop tracks in several genres and featured guests Allan Gurganus, Joseph Bathanti, and Wilton Barnhardt.

Programming is made possible in part by our sponsors.

John F. Blair, Publisher, is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. The Winston-Salem based press published its first book, Whispering Pines, a volume of poetry by Salem native John Henry Boner, in 1954. Since that first book, John F. Blair, Publisher, has published several hundred other titles and started distribution of other publisher's titles, including books by Down Home Press, Banks Channel Books, Bandit Books, and Novello Festival Press. Blair titles won two gold IPPY awards this year, and one bronze. Recent books include Jeremy B. Jones' Bearwallow and Robert Inman's The Governor's Lady. John F. Blair, Publisher, will sponsor the Welcome Reception on Friday night.

The Arts & Science Council was founded in 1958. Its work as a local arts agency includes grant making, managing the public art program for the City and the County, developing cultural action plans to address issues from facility development and arts education to access and providing services to support artists and organizations. Throughout its fifty-plus-year history, and through public and private partnerships, ASC has led the growth of arts and culture in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area helping it become a vibrant community that enhances the quality of life for residents, attracts businesses, and fuels economic development. The Arts & Science Council will sponsor Saturday's Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion, "Words In Civic Life," with Amy Bagwell, Robert Inman, Dannye Romine Powell, and Ed Williams.

Produced by some of the city’s best magazine editors and writers, Charlotte Magazine is the definitive voice on top dining, entertainment, shopping, and real estate in the region. Each issue is a celebration—in photography, design, and story—of the people, places, events, and activities that define this city. Charlottemagazine.com, the online edition of Charlotte Magazine, is your essential guide to the greater Charlotte area—from Lake Norman to Center City to Waxhaw. You’ll find the latest information on dining, nightlife, culture, news, politics, communities, and trends in Charlotte—everything to help you make the most out of living in and around the city. Charlotte Magazine will sponsor the Faculty Readings on Saturday afternoon.

Alice Osborn (www.aliceosborn.com) is an experienced editor-for-hire and published author who will help you achieve writing confidence and publication success. If you need one-on-one coaching, she offers mentoring that can turn you from a writer into an author. She is the expert you can trust and who will be honest and fair with you. And most of all she strives to create longterm relationships with her clients so she can be your go-to person on your writing and publication journey. A member of the North Carolina Writers' Network Board of Trustees, Alice has published two poetry collections with Main Street Rag, Unfinished Projects (2010) and After the Steaming Stops (2012), with a third, Heroes without Capes, forthcoming from Main Street Rag. She is the editor of Tattoos: a Short Fiction Anthology, and her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. Alice will sponsor the Happy Hour on Saturday evening.

Al Manning is known as The Resident Curmudgeon. A member of the NCWN Board of Trustees, he also is the Chatham and Lee County Regional Rep, where he leads the monthly meeting of Writers' Morning Out, in Pittsboro. This group meets on the Second Saturday of the month, at 1:00 pm at Pittsboro Roadhouse. All writers, any genre are invited. Al is the author of The Curmudgeon's Book of Nursery Rhymes. He will sponsor the Open Mic readings on Saturday night.

The North Carolina Arts Council was created in 1964 by executive order of governor Terry Sanford to strengthen North Carolina's creativity, invention, and prosperity. Their mission? To utilize the arts for the benefit of North Carolina citizens and communities. The NC Arts Council seeks to create a strong and efficient arts infrastructure across North Carolina; plan and implement economic development initiatives using the arts; utilize the arts as an effective way to teach the public school curriculum, preserve our state's heritage, and provide arts experiences to youth; and provide data models and conduct research that documents the impact of the state's arts industry on North Carolina's economy.

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference opens Wednesday, September 3. Register online at www.ncwriters.org.

 

 
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