- Written by Administrator
- Category: Network News
CULLOWHEE—In 2013, we held the Squire Summer Writing Residency at Western Carolina University, where Kathryn Stripling Byer taught for so many years, and she led the poetry workshop at the Residency that weekend.
WCU was a welcoming host and venue, with one exception: in the building where we slept and took our classes, the air conditioning was stuck on overdrive, and we were freezing.
And then, after our first lunch together, Kay disappeared.
It’s not unusual for an instructor to isolate themselves before a workshop session, to take some time to review lesson plans or read manuscripts, so I wasn’t concerned. That’s not what Kay was doing, though. Five minutes before the workshop was to resume, Kay pulled up to the building’s back door and asked me and Charles to help unload her car.
She had driven home, collected every blanket and (of course) quilt she could find, filled her car with them, and brought them to share with her students staying in that icebox of a dorm.
Kay Byer, in everything I ever saw her do, was an elegant rebuttal of the idea that great artists have to be selfish and self-absorbed to produce work of excellence. She wrote some of the finest poetry I have ever read, and was one of the finest people I have ever known.
Kay died Monday evening of lymphoma. She was active, vital, and—in NCWN board member Nicki Leone’s phrase—“instinctively generous” almost to the very end. She led a workshop at NCWN-West’s “A Day for Writers” in Sylva only a month before she passed.
That was the last in a long, long list of services she rendered to the cause of poetry, especially in her adopted home state of North Carolina, and most especially in her beloved mountains of western North Carolina. She was instrumental in the founding of NCWN-West, the Network’s program to serve writers in the westernmost reaches of the state, and served for many years as their Jackson County Rep, organizing a monthly poetry series at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva. She served on the Network’s board, led workshops for us at several Residencies and conferences, gave keynote readings, and helped organize (and starred in) fundraisers. She won the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2001, and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2012.
Most notably, she was the state’s first female Poet Laureate, a position she held from 2005 to 2009, and in which she was a tireless promoter of the written word, especially in the public schools.
That list is woefully abbreviated and incomplete, but the Internet only has so much room. Besides, if you are reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you about the impact Kay Byer had. You probably felt it yourself. Her friend Lee Smith once said you can’t spit in North Carolina without hitting a writer; to that I will add that you can’t spit twice in North Carolina without hitting a writer befriended, taught, mentored, and/or inspired by Kathryn Stripling Byer.
She never shied to state her opinion and stand her ground, to use her position and influence as a Poet Laureate to bring attention to causes she found just or unjust, and she did so while being scrupulously fair, even to those she opposed. On several occasions I was happy to have her wise counsel, or just to hear her warm, kind voice in the middle of a challenging time.
I am one of a great many who will miss that voice. I will miss her counsel, and her company. I will miss the poet and teacher, advocate and activist. Mostly, though, I’m going to miss my friend.
North Carolina Writers' Network
- Written by Administrator
- Category: Network News
BOONE—"When you piece together an identity, a story of who you are, you choose only a fraction of these events as components of the narrative," says Eric G. Wilson. "The work is in progress: You revise earlier passages to conform to your current feelings....fostering awareness of the endless editing that we are always unconsciously doing anyhow, taking charge of the changes, growing responsible for them, and generously interweaving our texts into multitudinous networks of the world."
Eric will lead the Creative Nonfiction class, “Creating Presence: Voice in Creative Nonfiction,” during the North Carolina Writers' Network 2017 Squire Summer Writing Workshops, July 13-16, at Appalachian State University in Boone.
Registration is open through June 28.
The Squire Summer Writing Workshops offer conferencegoers the chance to study elements of one genre with one instructor over the course of the program. Attendees will work on their own manuscripts, as well as those of their peers, while also attending readings, special presentations, and taking advantage of built-in writing time, amid the beauty and majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Without a strong voice, prose—no matter how stylistically felicitous—feels generic, institutional, and bloodless. Animated with an engaging persona, the same words spring into an essay: idiosyncratic, imaginative, vibrant. But while essential for powerful creative nonfiction, voice is notoriously difficult to define. Sure, we say it is the personality of the writer, the unique presence, the controlling consciousness, the point of view, the constructed “I” behind the “eye,” and so on. These traditional definitions, however, are almost as vague as the term they are meant to clarify.
In Eric’s workshop, attendees work to understand voice conceptually and practically. They will discuss how important writers have understood voice as well as how it works in selected essays (including those submitted for this workshop). Registrants will also complete exercises designed to strengthen their voice. Conferencegoers should come away from the sessions with strategies for creating a more captivating verbal presence and thus more powerful essays.
Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the workshop.
Eric G. Wilson is a professor of English at Wake Forest University, an Appalachian State alumnus, and the author of five works of creative nonfiction: Keep It Fake, How to Make a Soul, Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace, and Against Happiness. His essays have appeared or are appearing in the Portland Review, Hotel Amerika, The Fanzine, Georgia Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Oxford American, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Our State, and Chronicle of Higher Education. He has also published a volume for Muse Books: The Iowa Series in Creativity and Writing, My Business Is To Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing. His most recent book, a work of fiction called Polaris Ghost, is coming out with Outpost 19 this winter.
Joseph Bathanti will lead the class in poetry, "Writing the Longer Narrative Poem." Sheryl Monks will lead the fiction course, "How Bad Things Happen to Good Characters: Compression, Tension, and Catharsis in Fiction."
Registration is capped at forty-two registrants, first-come, first-served. Register now.
Join is for an intimate weekend talking about writing in a town TripAdvisor named the number two “diamond in the rough” for vacation destinations.