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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 (www.aliceosborn.com), 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 www.ncwriters.org.

 

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.

 
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