The N.C. Writers' Network is something special and its success should not be left to chance or to the mercy of the political winds.
"I write because I am alone and move through the world alone. No one will know what has passed through me. I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am trying to stand up in my life. I write because to think a thing and dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know."
-From Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones
Through our chosen genres and private ambitions for our writing may be different, we all finally write for the same reason - to make ourselves known and to know ourselves. To communicate and connect with others. Sometimes in the quest for publication or in the primary struggle to make time to sit with pen and paper in hand, we lose sight of the primary value of what we're about as writers and as readers - the power of words to challenge and change us.
For many of us, we began writing because we loved to read. Perhaps as children - or maybe later - some of us found ourselves hooked on that AH-HAH! experience of discovering a book with descriptions that tell it just the way it is in fresh and vivid language. And we wanted to be able to do that ourselves. To tell our stories, or to make them up. To capture an important event or a particular emotion in a poem. To see if we could influence others with words - in an essay or a letter or a report.
And now, here we are, members of one of the most unusual and lively literary organization in the country - the North Carolina Writers' Network. An organization that proves every day how much writers have to offer their communities. An organization that promotes the diligent work of our state's small presses, little ma
gazines, libraries and bookstores. An organization that helps writers find opportunities for teaching, publication and readings. An organization that helps aspiring writers begin and experienced writers thrive. An organization that has lifted the literary arts to a new level of visibility among our state's citizens and our leaders in government, education and philanthropy. An organization that has made its presence known in our state's public schools, prisons, corporate board rooms, newspaper offices, hospitals and in a variety of other workplaces. An organization that continues to celebrate our cultural diversity and our common bond as lovers of the written word.
Our 1,800-member N.C. Writers' Network is a hub of activity for a thriving literary community, providing an extensive series of statewide readings, nine writing competitions, networking opportunities, a 24-page bimonthly newsletter, workshops, conferences, a critiquing service and more. The three-year-old North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, located at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines, offers great potential for promoting the state's rich literary heritage.
In all, the Writers' Network has 22 programs that nurture, serve and connect writers at every stage of their development. By helping to create a climate in which writers and writing can thrive, this organization has done much to enhance the state's growing literary reputation.
This, we might well contend, has not only been good for writers. It has been good for everybody. Because literature helps to define us, inspire us, amuse and comfort us. In its contributions to the educational and cultural life of the state, it could readily be said that the N.C. Writers' Network is comparable to the N.C. Symphony and the N.C. Museum of Art. There's just something about having it here that lifts the heart and spirit.
We are lucky to have such a vibrant organization devoted to the literary arts in North Carolina.
"Literature helps to define us, inspire us, amuse and comfort us...."
Some time has passed since Governor James B. Hunt appointed me Poet Laureate of North Carolina, and this eventful, crowded, and exciting period has sharpened my awareness of the immense value of our Writers' Network to the citizens of our state.
Speaking to all sorts of groups-high school and middle school classes, community college forums, Friends of Libraries gatherings, small book clubs and large ones, scholarly meetings and other kinds-I have discovered the liveliest interest in literature of all sorts and especially in the writings of Tar Heel authors. It is widely recognized-much more widely than I had imagined-that North Carolina leads the South in quality literary production and is among the three or four top states in the nation in this regard.
I have discovered also that this bright interest sometimes lacks direction. Local leaders and devotees need to know how to contact writers and speakers, how to plan programs, how to set up conferences, how to organize and fund local projects. For answers to these, and to a hundred other questions, I always refer inquirers to the Writers' Network.
Our strong literary organization is the envy of the country. Our fall conferences are always exciting and hugely attended, helpful-and great fun. We have nifty online technology of inestimable service to writers, readers, teachers, and librarians. Our Writers' Network News is no longer a small flimsy bulletin but a classy and highly informative publication of twenty-four pages, filled with news, listings, and often provocative opinions. We sponsor important literary competitions of every sort. We have instituted programs for young people, for the underprivileged, for the handicapped-well, for everyone who evinces an interest in strong writing, fine reading.
Please excuse me if I seem to have been crowing on our behalf, but I think we have every reason to sound out proudly. Yet it is also true that none of these accomplishments could have been possible without the aid of interested and supportive friends. And we need your continued support to help us carry on as we have been doing and to institute some bright new projects we have in mind.
Without your aid, we could have done nothing. Without your future aid, we will be able to do little. So we count on your friendship, your good will, and your financial support to help us do what we alone can do, to fashion a scattered multitude of writers and readers into an active force and thus make a splendid difference in our literature, in the hearts of readers, and in the history of our state.
Best wishes and please accept the warm regards of all the administration and staff of the Writers' Network and of myself, ole Fred, as a modest representative of a splendid North Carolina literature.
North Carolina Poet Laureate
"Our strong literary organization is the envy of the country..."
More information about Fred Chappell is available at the N.C. Arts Council website.
There's something unique and wonderful about the North Carolina Writers' Network that makes it deserving of our support.
Think of all the Network provides. You may share my view that the Network newsletter alone is a bargain at that price. But think about the many Network-sponsored events and programs during the year that bring us together, give us a sense of community, and allow us to see, hear and comment on each other's work.
We are fortunate, indeed, that this organization is here to enrich our lives and careers. Because it is such a state treasure, let's do what we can to make sure it thrives, regardless of which way the political winds are blowing.
Thank you for making the North Carolina Writers' Network what it is.
As an organization whose mission is to serve, support and connect writers and readers, it is exciting for the Network to have the opportunity to serve a state which has such a vibrant literary community.
Achievements like Fall and Spring Conference, Writers' Outreach Workshops, Hot Ink for Teen Writers, the Writers' Network News, North Carolina's Literary Resource Guide, and nine writing competitions have enabled the N.C. Writers' Network to become the largest literary organization of its kind in the country. How fortunate that North Carolina's many writers and readers have this resource to turn to for information, for education, and for a sense of community.
The North Carolina Writers’ Network has meant much to me as a poet, and I recommend a membership to every aspiring author I meet throughout the state. After some thirty years without managing to publish my work in book form, I finally broke through in 2000 thanks to the Network’s Mary Belle Campbell chapbook contest.
Emboldened by that success, I entered two manuscripts in the Jarrell/Harperprints competition a couple of years later and was delighted to have one named a finalist and the other selected as the winner. Much as we all know that writing must be its own reward and that no true poet writes just in order to appear in print, it is also true that the poet’s voice will languish if denied the Emersonian “listening ear” of the public. We may be speaking to ourselves, but we need to be overheard.
I can honestly say that I had been so disheartened by my repeated failure to publish more than just an occasional poem here and there that I had been very close to giving up trying. As it was, I persevered with renewed energy and soon University Press of Florida brought out my first full-length collection, Our Lives Are Rivers. Two years later, Main Street Rag published my second book, Any Second Now. I don’t believe that my case is unique, and I would not be surprised if the Network is one of the reasons why creative writing has flourished as much as it has in North Carolina. I consider it an honor now to serve on the Network’s Board and to have a chance to work with a great bunch of people who volunteer their time and energy to figure ways to help other writers the way they once helped me.
Mark Smith-Soto, Director
Center for Creative Writing in the Arts
Editor, International Poetry Review
Romance Languages/2336 HHRA
UNCG/P.O. Box 26170
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
Carole Boston Weatherford
Early in my career, the Network was an invaluable clearinghouse of information. Through the Network’s newsletters and conferences, I found out about submission opportunities, grants, and even new presses, such as Longleaf and Coastal Carolina, that would eventually publish my work. The information I gleaned through the Network literally launched my career.
Carole Boston Weatherford