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By Ellyn Bache

NORTH CAROLINA--I was never a fan of writing exercises. Too many writing teachers, I believed, threw a bunch of leaves and buttons and other miscellany onto a table and instructed students to “Write!” (for ten minutes, at least) as a way of passing the time.

Ellyn BacheLess work for the teacher.

But last year when I was revising my novel, The Art of Saying Goodbye, there was one chapter that, for a long time, didn’t quite work. I rewrote it six or seven times. When finally it passed muster with both my agent and editor, the plot had entirely changed. The scene was still between the same two characters, the setting was still the women’s dressing room of a department store, but the emotional content couldn’t have been more different. For the first time, all of us felt the scene did what had been meant to do. I felt like I’d been working on it forever.

Then I realized that what I’d been doing for months was an extended version of a writing exercise. Plot A doesn’t work? Try Plot B, Plot C. Plot X. A brutal application of the old standard writing exercise, “What if. . . ?”

A lot of what goes on in a writer’s head, I came to see, is a mental version of a writing exercise that can also be done on paper, in a formal workshop, probably with the same results. Once, writing about a male character I didn’t fully understand, I changed his name, his age, his appearance, whatever I could think of to make him three-dimensional. Nothing. After much struggle, until I switched from third person to first and finally caught his voice. In those days I wouldn’t have called what I was doing a “writing exercise,” but that’s what it was.

In “Getting Unstuck,” my upcoming workshop at the Network's 2011 Fall Conference, the objective is to learn strategies and practice exercises that have the potential to offer real help. Can’t move the plot forward? A critical scene doesn’t fit the very character who most needs to be there? Dialogue feels forced and unnatural? All of these problems can be addressed.

I still believe that only certain writing exercises work. The goal of this class is to send writers home with some practical, easy-to-use ideas that do.

***

ELLYN BACHE will lead a Saturday workshop at the 2011 Fall Conference. She is the author of eight novels, including most recently The Art of Saying Goodbye. Her short-story collection The Value of Kindness won the Willa Cather Fiction Prize, and her novel Safe Passage was made into a movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sam Shepard. She has also written several books for young people as well as a nonfiction journal about sponsoring refugees.

Registration for the 2011 Fall Conference, Nov 18-20, hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, will open in September. Keep an eye on www.ncwriters.org for more details.

 

 

Katherine Soniat in the AndesASHEVILLE—A sense of place is central to the work of Katherine Soniat, a widely published poet who will lead a Saturday poetry workshop at this year’s Fall Conference. Her extensive travels have allowed her to immerse herself in various cultures so that they become transformative filters for more personal contexts.

Crete, the Andes, the Bavarian Alps, and the Grand Canyon are a few of these regions she has included in her writing. Expanding the focus of poetry in such a way allows threads of art, myth, history, geography, and geology to inform her collections, shaping sequences of poems that resonate across a broad but personal spectrum.

Originally from New Orleans, Soniat has taught at the University of New Orleans, Hollins University, and for twenty years was on the faculty at Virginia Tech. Her fifth collection of poems, The Swing Girl, is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press, and a sixth collection, A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge, will be published by Dream Horse Press in the fall of 2012.

Her upcoming workshop is titled “Poetry, Archetypal Imagery, and You: A Writing Workshop.”

“What is an archetype?” Soniat asks. “How might it relate to who you are in this grand universe? Does the world have an imagistic language in which it speaks to us across time?

“If you participate in this workshop, you will probably find that indeed there are certain images that are almost old as the Earth itself, and that your life is also encased in those archetypes. AND (this one is important!) that we also create new personal archetypes to guide us into the future. Lots to think and write about.

“If you decide to join us: Please bring a photo of people in a situation that you are familiar with. Bring a second picture (not necessarily a photograph) of people you do not know in a situation/circumstance that you do not fully understand. You are simple drawn to this picture for some unknown reason. In other words, there is an interesting ambiguity in this picture that acts as a magnet. This second image can come from a magazine, the newspaper, whatever.

“We will enter through the gateway of these two images into the world of archetypes then see if those images speak to each other, if they inform one another in a fresh and vivid manner. Of course, they will “in form” YOU in the most surprising ways. You leave this workshop with a poem to remind you of the time we spent considering archetypal imagery.”

Photography, use of archetypal imagery, and dream work are also special areas of interest in both Soniat’s teaching and in her writing. She now lives on a ravine with one frequently noted bear (the Kenilworth Bear) in Asheville and teaches in the Great Smokies Writers' Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Registration for the 2011 Fall Conference, Nov 18-20, hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, will open in September. Keep an eye on www.ncwriters.org for more details.

 

 

 

By Randy Russell

Randy RussellASHEVILLE—I love talking story structure with other writers. To create a novel that will find ready acceptance in the commercial marketplace, I've learned that you need to pay attention to and define your story structure from the get-go.

You already know how to write. And perhaps beautifully so. By using a simple Rule of Three, you will learn how to construct a novel that will be an “easy sell” from tagline to query to final chapter, allowing your literary talents to find the widest audience possible.

The author’s guidelines for writing and pitching a successful novel for today’s competitive marketplace are designed to get you an agent quickly and to make a sell to a commercial publisher without pre-contract revisions. My story-structure Rule of Three was featured earlier this year at Writers Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino’s website www.guidetoliteraryagents.com.

The Rule of Three provides a structure and focus for commercially successful book-length fiction in any genre. Be prepared to describe your work-in-progress during this dynamic course and to participate in the detailed discussion of making your work perfect for the marketplace. It’s easier than you think.

To read more about the Rule of Three, click here.

***

RANDY RUSSELL will lead a Sunday workshop at the 2011 Fall Conference. He is the Edgar-nominated author of five published novels for adults, two books of short stories about ghosts, Ghost Dogs of the South and Ghost Cats of the South, and two volumes of Southern Appalachia folklore.

Earlier this year, Randy saw the publication of his sixth novel Dead Rules (HarperTeen), which received a starred Kirkus Review, was a Junior Literary Guild high-interest selection, and will be published by Quercus Books UK and by Aufbau Books in Germany. He lives in Asheville.

Registration for the 2011 Fall Conference, Nov 18-20, hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, will open in September. Keep an eye on www.ncwriters.org for more details.

 

 


By MariJo Moore

MariJo MooreCANDLER—How humans view animals and their role in the scheme of things is a matter of cultural perspective. In Cherokee collective memory, there was a time when humans and animals spoke the same language and understood each other. But when humans began killing animals needlessly and for sport, and not asking the permission of the animal’s spirit or making a prayerful offering before taking its life, animals retaliated by inflicting diseases upon humans. The plants, in compassion, gave medicine so the humans could heal these afflictions and diseases.

Anishanibe Indian people believe human beings descended from wolves back in the days when humans and animals spoke the same language. The Bella Cola Indians of the Northwest coastal region believe that someone once tried to change all animals into human beings, but were only able the make human the eyes of wolves.

Of course, not all contemporary American Indians have the same beliefs or concerns toward animals. Regardless, all believe in the interconnectedness of animals and human beings. I am of Cherokee descent and have been writing and facilitating creative workshops for over twenty years. Many of my creations reflect what I have learned from spending time with animals, listening to their messages, and applying their knowledge to my own life.

We have many stories and dances referring to the importance of animal speak and celebration of their existence. We know that animals are a part of creation as much as we are. Animals are teachers. Indigenous healers have long known that observing sick animals can lead them to medicinal plants. This is the language of Spirit. We all have spirit animals who can help us learn more about ourselves—help us in our creative ventures. They can offer us teachings that are evidence of the spiritual interconnectedness of all things: a connection that removes us from the world of logic and connects us to our inner nature. Animals have unique abilities that we humans have to develop through creative thinking and listening.

As an afterthought, I add that listening to animal speak is not just an American Indian belief. One of the writers I respect most, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote:

“For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings...they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, many people, and things, one must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning.”

I will contact each participant beforehand and determine which animal spirit he/she will work with. Join me in this workshop to deepen your understanding of animals as well as your writing abilities. You will also learn something about your inner-self.

***

MARIJO MOORE (Cherokee//Irish/Dutch) will lead a Sunday workshop at the 2011 Fall Conference. She is the author of over twenty books including The Diamond Doorknob, When the Dead Dream, Crow Quotes, Spirit Voices of Bones, Confessions of a Madwoman, The Boy With a Tree Growing from His Ear and Other Stories, Red Woman With Backward Eyes and Other Stories, and her most recent, A Book of Spiritual Wisdom–For All Days. She is also editor of several anthologies including Genocide of the Mind: New Native Writings; Birthed from Scorched Hearts: Women Respond to War; and Feeding the Ancient Fires: A Collection of Writings by North Carolina American Indians. The recipient of numerous literary and publishing awards, she resides in the mountains of western North Carolina. Her website is www.marijomoore.com.

Registration for the 2011 Fall Conference, Nov 18-20, hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, will open in September. Keep an eye on www.ncwriters.org for more details.

 

By Scott Owens

Scott OwensHICKORY—A few months back, a writer friend of mine posted a negative comment on Facebook about writing prompts. Within hours, dozens of other writers jumped on the bandwagon, adding comments not only further condemning writing prompts but also joining the currently popular practice of badmouthing creative writing programs in general, especially MFA programs.

My first thought, not surprisingly given my core of low self-esteem that I’m told springs from early paternal abandonment, was what’s wrong with me that I enjoy writing prompts. My second thought, remembering all the things my therapist told me about how I should see myself, was what conceited ***** writers become when they think they have a little success.

I didn’t participate in the dialogue myself. I figured I had nothing to gain from doing so. Instead, I borrowed a prompt from Robert Lee Brewer and started what has turned out to be a damned good poem, one that has already been published in a favorite journal of mine.

The first requirement of writing is that one has something to write about. Thus, generative strategies are among the writer’s most important tools. Most would-be writers have a handful of stories they know they want to tell. Many, however, are blocked by the fear that after they tell those stories they won’t have anything else to say.

The purpose of a writing prompt is not to tell writers what to write about, but to shake them out of their complacency, their comfort of non-writing, or their belief that they have nothing left to write about. The truth is, writing is a way of perceptually, emotionally, and intellectually engaging with the world, so how could anyone ever really run out of things to write about? The further truth is we all already have a lifetime of perceptions, experiences, and thoughts to write about, but we might sometimes need a little help recognizing those subjects or mining our memories, experiences, and perceptions. Good writing prompts simply remind us of things we already know that are worth writing about.

Perhaps my friend had in mind the sort of writing prompt that produces a single piece from each writer and that results in similar pieces from all the writers who undertake it. Write a poem about a mirror, for example; or worse, Write a poem beginning with “Love is.” I will readily admit that prompts of this nature, and workshops using prompts like this, mostly produce bad, imitative writing.

There are, however, other types of prompts that are much more useful—prompts that help us know where or how to look to find the subjects worth writing about—prompts that produce an endless number of writing opportunities—prompts that help us live more conscious, deliberate lives as writers. These perpetual prompts are the ones I use in my own writing, the ones I have used to fill dozens of notebooks, write eight books and nearly 1,000 published poems, and the ones I use when teaching, when helping others figure out how to write successfully.

***

SCOTT OWENS will lead a Saturday workshop at the 2011 Fall Conference. He is the author of four poetry collections and over 400 poems that have been published in various journals such as Georgia Review, North American Review, Dead Mule, Chattahoochee Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. He has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net Prize. Born in Greenwood, SC, he now lives in Hickory, NC, where he teaches and coordinates the Poetry Hickory reading series.

Registration for the 2011 Fall Conference, Nov 18-20, hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, will open in September. Keep an eye on www.ncwriters.org for more details.

 

ASHEVILLE--"The beautiful accidents of poetry happen in the dark," says poet Keith Flynn, "alone, where we are not perceived, but received."

Flynn will lead a poetry workshop at the Network's upcoming 2011 Fall Conference, and while he claims that poetry can't be taught, it can be "nurtured, cajoled, discovered, honed, begged or bought." He's been quoted as saying that he can teach anybody how to be a better writer, but that won't make them "burn with it." If fall conference registrants are looking to be ignited, this may be the workshop for them.

An award-winning poet, singer, and editor who has published five books of poetry and essays, Flynn is the founder and managing editor of The Asheville Poetry Review. From 1984-1998, he was the lead singer and lyricist for The Crystal Zoo, a nationally acclaimed rock band that released three albums. This new incarnation, The Holy Men, provides musical accompaniment to poems from all of his books, as well as new songs and re-imagined versions of his back catalog of recorded material. This incredible musical diversity can find the band shifting from swing to gospel to blues to ballad to bossa nova to boogie chug all within the same song frame.

Keith Flynn and the Holy Men will perform at this year's Fall Conference banquet, at 7:00 pm on Saturday, November 19.

“Flynn’s words need to be read aloud for the full dramatic impact,” writes Jennifer MacPherson in The Comstock Review, “but even on the page, they mesmerize the reader with their historical significance and startling juxtapositions. These are original, passionate, vigorous and musical narratives that roam the full spectrum of the art. Keith Flynn is a true original, and a national treasure.”

He is the author of four collections of poetry: The Talking Drum (1991), The Book of Monsters (1994), The Lost Sea (2000), and The Golden Ratio (2007). His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, journals, and anthologies in the United States and Europe.He has been nominated six times for the Pushcart Prize, was awarded the Paumanok Poetry Prize in 1996, and has given thousands of performances from his work across North America and abroad.

 

 

Anne Fitten Glenn"It’s fantastic!”

“A work of art.”

“Stirred my soul.”

Chances are you’ve heard these words or ones like it, and that’s why you’re on the path--enthusiastically or not--to presenting your work to agents and publishers. Or you’ve already had that work of art published, and now it’s time for public readings and presentations. In other words, you need to learn how to market yourself, not just on paper, but in real life.

In fact, you need to develop that difficult-to-define but “you know it when you see it” skill known as stage presence. Just about everything about a pitch or a public presentation is different from writing. The body language: writers sit, presenters stand. Eye contact: writers make it with a computer screen; presenters make it with people. Then there’s the speaking part. Writers do it through their fingers; presenters speak with their tongues--out loud.

When you’re used to communicating via a computer screen, communicating publicly with real people can be a little scary. But never fear. That’s why we’re here. We can help you turn something you dread into something you desire (well, at least something that doesn’t make you want to curl up on the floor and weep). If you’re already looking forward to making a pitch or presentation, our workshop will give you the chance to practice. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you’ll be. Did we mention this is going to be fun? Your workshop leaders are a beer expert and a belly dancer. So, how could it not be?

Well, you should probably know they’re award-winning writers too.

Faun FinleyANNE FITTEN GLENN (aka Brewgasm) writes regular “Brews News” and humorous parenting columns for Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s alternative newsweekly. She also writes and photographs arts and entertainment, business, health, and news for a variety of media outlets. She’s won a North Carolina Press Association award. AF regularly speaks and presents at colleges, conferences, and events. The former communications and journalism professor lives with two kids, her Dorkie Poo mutt, and two marmalade cats in Beer City, USA (better known as Asheville, N.C.).

FAUN FINLEY has won two national awards for her online work: One for the The Pet Shop blog and the other for Bargain Sense, an online video show she created, co-wrote and co- hosted. She was the 2010 recipient of Yes Weekly’s “Best Belly Dancing” award. Faun also has a twenty-year background in live performance and ten years of teaching experience. She regularly emcees live shows at major events along with local TV and radio personalities. And she’s a copywriter. She does short, snappy, get-your-attention writing for integrated marketing campaigns. That also means pitching is something she does as often as brushing her teeth.

Please join us for ninety minutes of fast and fun exercises, tips and techniques, how-to’s and what-not-to’s and lively interactivity.

Why settle for nervousness when you can learn to knock ‘em out?

Registration for the 2011 Fall Conference, Nov 18-20, hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, will open in September. Keep an eye on www.ncwriters.org for more details.

 

edith pearlmanDistinguished author Edith Pearlman will give the Keynote Address at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2012 Fall Conference on Friday, November 2, at 8:00 pm. The Fall Conference, which starts on Friday and runs through Sunday, will be held at the Embassy Suites in Cary, in North Carolina's Triangle Area. The Keynote Address is free and open to the public.

Pearlman's collection of short stories, Binocular Vision, was published by North Carolina's Lookout Books in 2011 and won the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and was a Finalist for the National Book Award, among many other honors.

Her Keynote Address will discuss the years of hard work and determination that went into making her an "overnight success."

She has published more than 250 works of short fiction and short nonfiction in national magazines, literary journals, anthologies, and online publications. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Collection, New Stories from the South, and The Pushcart Prize CollectionBest of the Small Presses.

Her first collection of stories, Vaquita (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), won the Drue Heinz Prize for Literature. Her second, Love Among The Greats (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002), won the Spokane Annual Fiction Prize. Her third collection, How to Fall, was published by Sarabande Press in 2005 and won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Her fourth collection, of course, was Binocular Vision.

"Pearlman writes about the predicaments—odd, wry, funny. and painful —of being human," the New York Times said about her latest collection. "These quiet elegant stories add something significant to the literary landscape."

The NCWN Fall Conference offers more than twenty-five workshops in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, as in other aspects of the craft such as writing for children, publishing, and how to wow at an open mic. Registrants can also choose from three weekend-long Master Classes: Creative Nonfiction (led by Elaine Nell Orr); Fiction (led by Jill McCorkle); and Poetry (led by 2012 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Kathryn Stripling Byer). Participants at the conference may also register for one-on-one sessions with a publishing or bookselling professional.

Registration opens soon at www.ncwriters.org.

 

By Elaine Neil Orr, 2012 Fall Conference Faculty Member, Master Class (Creative Nonfiction)

Elaine Neil OrrLook at yourself in the mirror. Even after years of knowing it, you’ve forgotten that the image is you but reversed. In a photograph, you see yourself as the photographer framed you. Even in an age in which everyone is taking her own picture with an iPhone, an age in which you can frame yourself, the image cannot capture you. There’s the pose, for example. Even in the “candid” shot, the photograph cuts out the world. What lies beyond the frame or in the interior self? There are “views” of yourself and your place in the world that you have not gotten yet and you will never get from the mirror or the photograph. You can get them on the page, in memoir. Through the alchemy of writing about the self, you emerge. I might say, by writing memoir you become yourself.

Memoir is akin to almost any art: there is more of life than you need to create it. The sculptor in wood cuts away to get at the shape he is looking for. The writer of fiction knows more about the character than she can put in the novel. The “more” of the life must be made into “less,” sculpted into a shape: to make an impression, to tell a story, to reveal. In memoir what is being revealed is a particular self in a particular world. Oddly enough, you have not yet really seen her even though she is you.

You may say: But I have no interesting stories. Nothing has happened to me. I don’t have enough “material” to carve away at.

Have you seen a bird fly? Have you dipped your foot into a cool river? Have you learned your parents are fallible? Did you see for yourself how children, in groups, will torture the weakest child? Have you fallen in love? Everything has happened. If you still feel you don’t have “enough”, try the method of another art: pottery making. Add more clay, work it into a shape, then begin trimming. Put paint on a canvas, enough to make it three dimensional; cut across the surface with a palette knife, leading the eye.

Here: the beginnings of a memoir.

Summer comes. I am exhausted after the teaching year, after the completion of a novel that was six years in the writing. I let myself rest and enter a lull. I spend cool June mornings on my back porch. I observe myself. What is that feeling in my throat that dips into my chest and tells me I am weary? What is that sensation going to my bones? I observe the world. Here arrive two male cardinals for their morning sport. I write them down in my journal, along with my bones, my tea, my pajamas. A chipmunk runs down the walk, sees me, halts its small self, leaps into air and bounds to the fence. I drink tea. I get the chipmunk onto the page. I rest my pen. My eyes rest so the colors of the world bleed one into the other. How long? I don’t know. I sense something. I look. At first I think it’s a huge cat, circling the base of the pine. But no. The tail, the nose. A fox on the hunt. In a moment, I am after it, waving my arms. But I am too late. Off he trots, the downward turned comma of a chipmunk clenched in his mouth. I have the beginning of a memoir. Who am I in that morning, between chipmunk and fox? What has happened? Life and death and everything between. Now what will I make of it?

Oddly enough, I may find myself better reflected in this drama of fox and chipmunk, observing myself observing them, than I do pouring over my childhood photographs. This is the route to memoir: a more circuitous route than mirror-gazing. Yes. The material still has to be shaped. That’s the fierce work of memoir: discovery and creation until you are there, on the page, new, regardless of your age.

***

ELAINE NEIL ORR will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction at the NCWN 2012 Fall Conference. She writes memoir and fiction. She is an award-winning professor of world literature and creative non-fiction at N.C. State University. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Spalding University in Louisville. Her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, was a Book Sense Top-20 selection and nominee for the Old North State Award. Elaine has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the North Carolina Arts Council and is honored by Image as Artist-of-the-Month for her story, “Day Lilies.” Her memoir and short fiction have appeared in The Missouri Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, and Prime Number, among other places, and she has three times been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her historical novel, A Different Sun, will be released by Penguin/Berkley Books in spring 2013. A daughter of missionary parents who was born and grew up in Nigeria, Elaine Orr writes out of the inheritance of two worlds.

Registration for the NCWN 2012 Fall Conference opens soon at www.ncwriters.org.

 

Blonnie Bunn WycheThe North Carolina Writers’ Network 2012 Fall Conference will be held November 2-4 at the Embassy Suites in Cary. The Network is pleased to offer registrants two potential scholarship options. Along with the Mary Belle Campbell Scholarship, which the Network offers annually to poets who teach K-12, there’s a new scholarship on tap for 2012: the Blonnie Bunn Wyche Memorial Scholarship which will send a woman over fifty years-old to this year’s Fall Conference.

Blonnie Bunn Wyche, who passed away last spring, was a longtime, full-time elementary-school teacher who always had limited time to write. But once she retired, she blossomed. She wrote The Anchor—P. Moore, Proprietor, about a spunky 15-year-old girl running a tavern in Southeastern NC in 1764. Published in 2003, just before her 71st birthday, it won the AAUW Juvenile Literature Award, was selected by independent booksellers for its prestigious “Book Sense 76” list, and garnered a slew of other recognitions. Her second novel, Cecilia’s Harvest, about a young NC widow during the American Revolution, was published in 2009.

The recipient of The Blonnie Bunn Wyche Memorial Scholarship will:

  • Be a woman over 50, writing prose fiction
  • Not yet have published a book-length volume of fiction (although any number of published stories/excerpts are okayand so are no publications at all). Applicant should indicate what she’s published.
  • Send one paragraph (not more!) about her aspirations as a writer.
  • Send the Network up to 10 double-spaced pages of her fiction as a writing sample. A team of independent judges will select the recipient.
  • Please e-mail your application and materials to mail@ncwriters.org, either as a Word attachment or in the body of the e-mail.

 

Also, for the second year, the North Carolina Writers’ Network will offer Mary Belle Campbell Scholarships to allow poets who teach to attend the annual Fall Conference.

These scholarships will honor the memory of the late Mary Belle Campbell and the legacy of her many contributions to North Carolina’s literary traditions.

Mary Belle Campbell

The Campbell Scholarship application process will be open to those who teach full-time at the K-12, undergraduate, or postgraduate levels, and who have produced a significant amount of poetry. Teaching poets who live in North Carolina and adjacent states (VA, TN, GA, SC) will be eligible, but special consideration will be given to applicants from the Triangle area, as well as to Network members.

Applications will include:

  • A curriculum vita or resume
  • Proof of employment with a public school system or accredited school, college, or university
  • A statement of writing intent describing both what the applicant hopes to accomplish as a poet and what the applicant hopes to learn at the Fall Conference
  • And 10-12 poems of the applicant’s own creation (published or unpublished) that demonstrate their skill with and commitment to the genre.
  • Applications, as well as any questions concerning the Campbell Scholarships, should be sent to mail@ncwriters.org.

 

Applications must be received by Friday, October 19.

Registration for the 2012 Fall Conference opens soon. Check www.ncwriters.org for details.

 

By Susan Woodring, 2012 NCWN Fall Conference Faculty Member, Fiction

The hard part is getting started.

This is true of jogging. The stamina required to propel oneself through so many long swaths of sidewalk is tempered by finding the right rhythm. It’s true of public-speaking. Body-surfing. Travel. Getting started—taking that first sub-action that is a part of the whole—is the hard part. This seems especially true when we’re talking about doing something dangerous like sky-diving, or, when we’re talking about me at around age eight, stepping off the high dive at the swimming pool.

As a fiction writer, I find beginning a story a million times harder than jumping off a high dive. I can have an idea or a character or even a line or two of dialogue. I might have a feel for the setting or the atmosphere. Sometimes, I even know what happens; the basic design of the story is set. And yet, actually beginning the thing—finding my way inside the story—that’s the hard part.

I liken it to finding a collapsed circus tent in an empty field of grass. Yes, a weird way to describe the fiction writer’s initial conundrum, but this is the image that keeps coming to me: the story is an enormous shapeless piece of canvas laid out in the middle of nowhere. The canvas and its poles and stakes, collectively, is the tent, right? There’s no other material item necessary. Except, of course, air. The task is, then, to somehow emit air and light into the jumble of canvas and tethers and poles. It’s a huge unwieldy blob of a thing, this tent, this story, until I find my way inside it.

The key to entering, I believe, is narrative voice. Point of view. Once I find the right person, or, more aptly, persona, to tell the story, I can lift up a corner of the tent. Because now, with the correct point of view, I have the storyteller’s eyes to see and breath to fill the thing, to emit air and light and invite first me, the author, and second you, the reader, inside.

A discussion of point of view necessarily begins with pronouns. We know that I goes with first person point of view, wherein one of the story’s characters is also the narrator of the story’s events. There’s second person, which uses the pronoun you, involving the reader directly in the story. And then, there’s third person point of view, which uses the pronouns he and she. This is the most versatile of the points of view, covering a wide range of what John Gardner has called “psychic distances” from which the story is told. There’s third person close point of view, wherein the narrative voice sticks closely to one character. We are limited to that character’s observances and thoughts. The other end of the spectrum is third person point of view omniscient, where the offstage narrator sees all, hears all, knows all.

While we start with pronouns when we talk about point of view, that is only the beginning. Pronouns, in and of themselves, are not the key to entering the tent. The life those pronouns bring with them is what matters to us; the history and interpretation and manner of speaking that come with the I, the you, the she: that is what we’re after.

Point of view is the thing that gives us as fiction-writers the courage to step off the diving board. We find the story’s point of view and that, like gravity, is what plunges us, the writers searching for entrance to our own stories, in.

***

Susan Woodring will lead a fiction workshop, “Whose Story is It, Anyway? Using Point of View to Improve Your Fiction,” at the 2012 Fall Conference. She is the author of a novel, Goliath (St. Martin’s Press, 2012) and a short story collection, Springtime on Mars (Press 53, 2008). Her short fiction has appeared in Isotope, Passages North, turnrow, and Surreal South, among other anthologies and literary magazines. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her short fiction was shortlisted for Best American Non-Required Reading 2008 and Best American Short Stories 2010. Susan currently lives in western North Carolina with her two children and her husband. For more information about Susan and to read her blog, please visit www.susanwoodring.com.

Registration for the NCWN 2012 Fall Conference opens soon at www.ncwriters.org.

 

Hats Off! to NCWN board member Jason Mott, whose debut novel, The Returned, was favorably reviewed in USA Today.

 

Hats Off! to Leigh Sanders whose essay, "My Mama Wanted To Be an Astronaut," was accepted by the Feminist Majority for the Abortion Matters segment on their website. Also, her letter to the editor, about Rachel Maddow coming to Elizabeth City, was published by The Daily Advance.

 

Hats Off! to Catherine Reid and Liza Wieland, both recipients of 2013-2014 prose fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council.

 

Hats Off! to Keith Flynn and Valerie Nieman, recipients of 2013-2014 poetry fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council.

 

Hats Off! to Debra Madaris Efird, one of twenty winners in the Saturday Evening Post's "Tribute to Our Troops" contest for her essay entitled "Immeasurable Sacrifice." In addition to being published online, she won a Speidel watch.

 

Hats Off! to Richard Krawiec, whose short story "Bad Girls" was accepted by storySouth.

 

Hats Off! to Joan Leotta, whose essay "She Stopped to Say Goodbye" has been selected to appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven is scheduled to be available in bookstores October 15, 2013.

 

Hats Off! to Sandra Ervin Adams, whose poem "Potter" appeared on the Arts page in the August 14 edition of ENC Weekly, the newest publication of Onslow and Carteret Counties.

 

Hats Off! to Stephen McCutchan, who recently released on Kindle three volumes of a series called Clergy Tales—Tails. This is part of a campaign he calls “Building Respect for Clergy One Story at a Time.” Each volume contains short stories about the complex mosaic that comprises the clergical life.

 

Hats Off! to Nancy Peacock, who was interviewed on The State of Things with Frank Stasio about her new book, The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson.

 

Hats Off! to Glenda Beall and Barbara Gabriel, whose poems, "Therein Lies the Difference" and "Message to a Waitress's Daughter" respectively, appear in the current issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review, edited by Scott Owens.

 

Hats Off! to Walter Bennett and Charles (LC) Fiore, whose debut novels were long-listed for the inaugural Crook's Corner Book Prize. Bennett is the author of Leaving Tuscaloosa; Fiore is the author of Green Gospel. To view the complete long list, click here. The short list will be announced on November 15, 2013.

 

Hats Off! to Claudette Cohen, whose short story "Three Pieces of Ice" has been awarded first prize in the Fiction category on the On the Same Page Writers Competition. Cohen has been invited to read from the story that won the Page Crafters Prize at Ashe County's Literary Festival held in September.

 

Hats Off! to NCWN Board Member Terry L. Kennedy, who was interviewed by Frank Stasio on WUNC's "The State of Things" to talk about his new poetry collection, New River Breakdown.

 

Hats Off! to NCWN Regional Rep Chuck Thurston (Cabarrus, Rowan Counties), who was interviewed on The Less Desirables podcast.

 

Hats Off! to Joe Morris, Scott Owens, and Ross White, whose poems were chosen to be displayed in downtown Winston-Salem in August as part of Poetry in Plain Sight, sponsored by the Winston-Salem Writers. Morris ("Necessities"), Owens ("Used"), and White ("The Heat") also read at 4 Poems & a Party on Saturday, August 3 at Barnhill's Books.

 

Hats Off! to Teresa Keever, whose poem, "Ellie's Symphony," has been selected to appear in Minerva Rising, a new literary journal, in their September inaugural issue.

 

Hats Off! to Carol Henderson, who was recently profiled along with her book, Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers, in The Carrboro Citizen.

 

Hats Off! to Barbara Woodall, who was interviewed as part of a CBS special on the fortieth anniversary of the film Deliverance. (Click link to watch interview.) Barbara is the author of It's Not My Mountain Anymore.

 

Hats Off! to Diana Pinckney, who has won the 2012 Atlanta Review's International Poetry Grand Prize. The contest issue will be out in October, 2012, from the Atlanta Review.

 

Hats Off! to Dr. Susan Schmidt, whose poem, "Green Thought in Green Shade" about Carolina Parakeets, will appear in Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina, funded by the North Carolina Arts Council and forthcoming from University of North Carolina Press. Existing volumes about western and Piedmont North Carolina encourage readers to tour sites in NC and read excerpts from the state's writers that speak to place.

 

Hats Off! to Jack J. Prather, whose anthology Twelve Notables in Western North Carolina is among nineteen nominations for the 2012 North Carolina Literary and Historical Association "Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction".

 

Hats Off! to Steve Mitchell, whose flash fiction story, "Stalemate," is appearing in the inaugural issue of Siren, an edgy, multi-media journal.

...who was honored as the 2011 recipient of the Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award in a ceremony at the Philip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center on the main campus of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. The award ceremony was part of CPCC's  annual week-long Sensoria Festival. The award honors a community member who has contributed outstanding service in support of local and regional writers.  Amy, a presenter at many NCWN events, was acknowledged for being an award-winning writer, editor and independent press publisher. As a founder of the groundbreaking Novello Festival Press, she put more than 300 writers into print, many for the first time, through works of literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

... to Larry O. Nichols. The author of A Hobo Odyssey,  will be traveling to Britt, Iowa (http://www.brittiowa.com/hobo/events.htm) , the home of the 111th Annual National Hobo Convention, where he has been invited to participate in the festivities there honoring the thousands of traveling hoboes.  It is estimated that 50,000 guests will visit the four-day festival from August 11-14, in the mid-western town; normal population – 2,500.  Site seeing will include a visit to the memorial in nearby Clear Lake, Iowa, where the famous trio of Rock and Roll stars, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens were killed in 1959.

 

...whose Civil War-set YA novel Avery's Battlefield received two five-star reviews on Amazon.com. Its sequel, Avery's Crossroad, will be released next month.

Sweet Souls & Other Stories, a manuscript by Charles Blackburn, Jr. of Raleigh, was a finalist for the 2010 Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Competition at the University of Georgia.  The title story won him a Literary Fellowship in fiction from the N.C. Arts Council back in 1998.

Margaret Norton's memoir,When Ties Break: A Memoir about How to Thrive After Loss, was released August 3. It is a forthright story of one woman who survived a life of abuse, loss and emotional despair.

..... to Lauren Holder Raab. Her Blue Pencil Editing blog (www.bluepencilediting.blogspot.com) made the Writers Guild of America's Hotlist (www.wga.org/content/default.aspx?id=3670), which keeps "members abreast of developments in emerging entertainment platforms."

Karen Dodd's latest manuscript, "Shifting Sands" placed third in the 2008 Dixie Kane Memorial Contest in the Short Contemporary competition in Louisiana. The setting of this story is Southport and nearby islands. To read a portion of the novel check out her website.
Hat's off to Elaine Orr, who was recently honored for her fiction by Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion.
 
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