White Cross School Blog


NC Literary Hall of Fame



Cynthia Lewis has been teaching Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, and creative nonfiction at Davidson College since 1980. Her reported essays concern American culture, including such topics as American women bodybuilders, spousal murder, professional gambling in Las Vegas, women’s obsession with shoes, and the world of Southern debutantes. Her nonfiction has been published in Southern Cultures, The Antioch Review, The Massachusetts Review, Shenandoah, Charlotte Magazine, and elsewhere. Three of her personal essays have been included by the editor of The Best American Essays on the “Notable Essays” list and another has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently finishing a book about sports and Shakespeare.

Cynthia will lead the Creative Nonfiction Master Class at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference. Registration is now open!

After the initial drafting is complete, a writer may have lost valuable objectivity on the manuscript. The substance of this workshop will be strategies for recovering and sustaining such objectivity on one’s own work once the initial drafting is done. We’ll focus on how to take a draft to the next level, revising and polishing it for publication. We’ll discuss issues large and small—from voice, point of view, narrative arc, organization, scene-setting, and characterization to such concerns of line-editing as eliminating wordiness, achieving stylistic elegance, and correcting grammar. Each participant will submit a portion of a draft that represents one of the following: a lead, a conclusion, a point of crisis or transition—in other words, a crucial passage that can make or break a whole piece. We’ll workshop every submission, attending particularly to how each writer’s choices might affect an audience.


If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
Andrew Marvell (then I could get to the bottom of his ambiguous poems).

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
My next book (versus the one after that): engaging, imaginative, edifying.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
You’ll get rejected far more often than you’ll be accepted. It’s not personal. Try to learn what you can from rejection and not let it erode your morale. The same piece of writing that one editor / reader doesn’t embrace may be the very piece that another editor / reader will love. You’re making a match; you may need to date around for a while before you find the “right one.” If so, it isn’t your fault; it’s a process.

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?
This was the last question I answered because it was the hardest. I’m not sure that being a “best place for business and careers” is quite the same as “vibrant,” a word that, to me, suggests interesting, vital culture. Certainly Charlotte has its cultural ambitions and a good deal to offer by way of the arts, including, but not limited to, excellent museums, like the Bechtler, Mint, and Gantt Center; the world-class North Carolina Dance Theater; a symphony and opera company; and some theater. But the same people who benefit from the monetary wealth in Charlotte aren’t necessarily supporting the wealth of culture here. The closing of the Charlotte Repertory Theatre is a case in point, and the financial struggles of the NCDT, the symphony, and the Arts and Science Council repeatedly point out the divide in Charlotte between those who are in the city to make a good living and those who want to live well in the sense of supporting the city's culture.

Why do you feel it's important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
As an intensely private activity, writing can make you lose your objectivity on yourself and your work. Periodically joining a group of people who are also writers helps you step outside of your head and your narrow work and see it as others see it—an invaluable gift.

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?
Oh my goodness, absolutely! Shelley called poets the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” You don’t have to go that far to accept that leaders often lead through language and communities form around it.

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop?
Confidence in their work, seasoned by trust in the advice offered by others in their writing community.

What does it mean for writers to "Network?" Any tips?
For some writers, it means to hustle constantly, always trying to connect and make inroads in the publishing world. I'm probably far less active at and knowledgeable about networking than I should be and certainly than many of my peers, especially younger writers, who are savvy about using social media to promote their work.

My own approach to networking is, at the very least, includes following up on invitations to submit or to explore opportunities. Beyond that, I'm not above asking questions that some people might consider forward or checking in with people who might be able to help me if they choose to. I found my agent by writing back to an agent who had rejected my project because he didn't feel he knew enough about the area; when I asked him if he knew of another agent who would know about it, he responded that, although he usually doesn't recommend other agents (for obvious reasons), he thought maybe Mr. X would be interested (he was). People you ask for a favor can always say "no," but if you don't ask, you'll never get their help or advice. By the same token, I try to help writers when they come to me. No telling when such kindness will circle back to me; besides, it's the right thing to do.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
A college edition of the complete works of Shakespeare.

Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
I wish I read more. I read the New Yorker pretty religiously, as it abounds in the kind of writing I respond and aspire to. Beyond that, I admire the Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Southern Cultures, and many others.

Can writing be taught?
When I started out as a college writing teacher thirty-three years ago, I was skeptical that writing could be taught. All these years later, I now absolutely believe it can be. It’s a set of skills, and skills can certainly be taught.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
Richard Lanham, author of Longman Guide to Revising Prose.

Have you ever had writer’s block? What is one thing that helped you overcome it?
Yes, I have. The one thing that helped me overcome it was to deny its power over me by continuing to write.

Someone writes an un-authorized biography about your life. What would the title be?
Portrait of a Serene Bitch-Goddess. (Am I allowed to say that?)


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


The North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference offers something for almost every writer, at any level of skill or experience.

Your best route to getting the most out of the Network’s 2014 Fall Conference depends on where you are right now as a writer, where you want to go as a writer, and how you want to get from here to there.

We hope these suggestions will help you find the offerings you need the most.


Are you a newcomer to the literary neighborhood? Have you just begun to write creatively, with the goal of getting published? Have you submitted only a few pieces so far, or nothing at all? Is this your first writers’ conference? Are you still not quite ready to think of yourself as a writer?

Don’t be shy; every single person at the Fall Conference either is or was a novice at one point, too.

As a novice, though, you probably ought to concentrate on your craft, honing your work to its finest quality, before you worry too much about getting it published.

In fact, get a head start before you come to the conference. Join the Network, if you haven’t already, and explore our website—features, articles, back issues of our newsletters—to learn more about the writing business.

For a thorough introduction to the business side, from beginning to end, we especially recommend this pair of articles: one on publishing by Betsy Thorpe (who’ll co-lead a workshop on “The Art of the Pitch,” and take part in the Fall Conference Critique Service), and one on bookselling by NCWN trustee Nicki Leone.

Some basic research before the conference will save you some time and mental energy, so you and your fellow registrants can get the most value out of your workshops.

Some good workshop options for novice writers include Chantel Acevedo’s “All Shapes and Sizes: A Workshop on Novel Structure”; “Poetry 101” with Anthony S. Abbott; and “First Impressions in the First Few Pages” with Sarah Creech.

Your choices may vary depending on your preferred genre, but we encourage you to use the Fall Conference to dabble in other genres. You may surprise yourself.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Open Mic Readings on Saturday night. You need the practice, and we want to hear you.



Do you have a few publications to your credit, or an established track record of submissions? Are you a familiar face at writers’ gatherings? Are you working on a book-length project?

You may be ready to apply to one of the Master Classes, which admit only the first 16 qualified registrants to each class, and will take up all three of your Saturday workshop sessions.

Or, you may want to mix some of the craft workshops—maybe “Poetry and Time” with Julie Funderburk; “Making Their Stories Your Own” with Rebecca McClanahan; or Zelda Lockhart’s “The Mirror Exercise: Producing a Whole Short Work in Less Than an Hour”—with some of the appropriate business-of-writing workshops like Sunday’s panel discussion on “The Many Paths to Publication” with Kim Boykin, John Hartness, and Karon Luddy.

Consider sending in a short story or several of your poems to our Critique Service, and let an experienced editor tell you what works, and what doesn’t.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Open Mic Readings on Saturday night. You need the practice, and we want to hear you.


Have you finished a book-length manuscript (or at least a first draft), or do you have enough poems to think about a collection?

You may still want to apply for one of the three Master ClassesCreative Nonfiction with Cynthia Lewis, Fiction with Aaron Gwyn, or Poetry with Morri Creech—if you think you need a little more know-how to make your manuscript the best it can be.

Or you may be ready to concentrate on the “business of writing” workshops: “The Art of the Pitch” with Betsy Thorpe and Carin Siegfried; “Crafting Your Message: Beginning an Interactive Publicity Campaign” with Priscilla Goudreau-Santos; “The Many Paths to Publication” panel discussion; maybe even “Creating a Poetry Community” with Scott Owens and Jonathan K. Rice.

You should sign up for the Manuscript Mart, and sit down with an agent who can tell you what works, what doesn’t, and what different publishers are looking for.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Open Mic Readings on Saturday night. You need the practice, and we want to hear you.


Do you have a book out, or on its way? Are you coming to the conference mostly to brag?

Then, by all means, brag away! We want you to. We hope we helped you along the way. Drop off 5 copies of your published book at the registration table, so the Network can sell them for you on consignment during the conference.

Sign up for whichever workshops interest you. Have fun. See old friends. Make new ones. Be nice to those novice writers, since you were there once yourself.

Register for the Marketing Mart, so you can get some tips on how to find readers for your book (a job that’s falling to authors more and more these days). Come to the Brilliant at Breakfast panel discussions to learn more about how writers are contributing to their communities, and what the latest trends in the book
business are.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Open Mic Readings on Saturday night. You need the practice, and we want to hear you.

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


CHARLOTTE—Charlotte is known as “The Queen City,” and registrants of the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Fall Conference can expect a royal welcome November 21-23 at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel. Registration is now open.

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities including a luncheon and a dinner banquet with readings, a keynote address, workshop tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Conference faculty include professional writers from North Carolina and beyond.

Allan Gurganus, author of the New York Times bestselling Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and, most recently, Local Souls, will give the keynote address. Born in Rocky Mount, Gurganus is a Guggenheim Fellow, a PEN-Faulkner finalist, and the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Morri Creech will lead the Master Class in Poetry. Creech's third collection of poems, The Sleep of Reason, is a 2014 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Poetry. He is the Writer-in-Residence at Queens University of Charlotte, where he teaches courses in both the undergraduate creative writing program and in the low residency MFA program.

Aaron Gwyn will lead the Master Class in Fiction. Gwyn, an associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, is the author of a story collection and two novels, including most recently Wynne’s War.

Cynthia Lewis will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught at Davidson College since 1980 and is the Charles A. Dana Professor of English. Her creative nonfiction includes both reportage on American culture and personal narrative, and she has published essays on such diverse topics as serial bomber Eric Rudolph, premeditated spousal murder, American women bodybuilders, women's love of shoes, and kissing.

From Saturday’s “Brilliant at Breakfast” panel discussion titled “Words in Civic Life” to Sunday’s panel discussion “Creating a Poetry Community,” the 2014 Fall Conference offers ample opportunities for writers of all levels of skill and experience to build their own communities and support networks and, of course, have fun. The inimitable Wilton Barnhardt, author—most recently—of the novel Lookaway, Lookaway, will speak during the Network Banquet on Saturday night and lead a fiction workshop.

Other fiction workshops will be led by Chantel Acevedo, Sarah Creech, Moira Crone, and A.J. Hartley, who will focus on Y.A. fiction.

Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina’s seventh Poet Laureate, will read during the luncheon on Saturday. He fronts a stellar lineup of faculty poets including Julie Funderburk, Cedric Tillman, and Alan Michael Parker whose poetry collection, Long Division, won the 2012 NC Book Award.

Registrants looking to learn more about how the publishing industry works can look forward to the “The Art of the Pitch,” led by Carin Siegfried and Betsy Thorpe. Priscilla Goudreau-Santos will lead a Business of Writing Workshop, while Kim Boykin, John Hartness, and Karon Luddy will sit on a panel titled “The Many Paths to Publication.” The veritable smorgasbord of class offerings doesn’t stop there: Amy Rogers will teach “Food Writing,” Rebecca McClanahan will lead the all-genre “Making Their Stories Your Own,” and Zelda Lockhart will lead the all-genre "The Mirror Exercise: Producing a Whole Short Work in Less Than an Hour." Scott Owens and Jonathan K. Rice, both hosts of long-running monthly open mic events, will discuss “How to Build a Poetry Community.”

As always, the Manuscript Mart, Marketing Mart, and Critique Service are available to those who pre-register. And the Network will again offer the Mary Belle Campbell Scholarship, which sends two poets who teach full-time to the Fall Conference.

Fall Conference sponsors include Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council, Charlotte Magazine, Alice Osborn (, Al Manning, and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Registration for NCWN’s 2014 Fall Conference is now open.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages
of development. For additional information, visit


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