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Claudia Emerson, RIP

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson—Pulitzer Prize winner, former poet laureate of Virginia, and graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro—died last week in Richmond. She was 57.

From the Washington Post:

Ms. Emerson’s works were published widely, including in the New Yorker magazine and in journals including Poetry, Southern Review, Ploughshares, and Shenandoah. She traced her artistic roots to the literary tradition of her native South. “Even though I’ve never owned an inch of land in my life,” she observed, “I feel very much tied to it.”

Claudia Emerson was born Jan. 13, 1957, in Chatham, Va. Her father, whose family had farmed for generations, ran a store in town.

Emerson published five poetry collections through Louisiana State University Press: Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997), Pinion: An Elegy (2002), Late Wife (2005), Figure Studies: Poems (2008), and Secure the Shadow (2012). A sixth collection, titled The Opposite House, will be released posthumously in March, 2015.

She was the former poetry editor of the Greensboro Review and contributing editor to Shenandoah. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2006; an NEA Fellowship in 1994; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011; and was elected to the Southern Fellowship of Writers in 2011.

Click here to visit her website.

Here is her poem “Animal Funerals, 1964.”

That summer, we did not simply walk through
the valley of the shadow of death; we set up camp there,

orchestrating funerals for the anonymous,
found dead: a drowned mole—its small, naked palms

still pink—a crushed box turtle, green snake, even
a lowly toad. The last and most elaborate

of the burials was for a common jay,
identifiable but light and dry,

its eyes vacant orbits. We built a delicate
lichgate of willow fronds, supple, green—laced

through with chains of clover. Straggling congregation,
we recited what we could of the psalm

about green pastures as we lowered the shoebox
and its wilted pall of dandelions into the shallow

grave one of us had dug with a serving spoon.
That afternoon, just before September and school,

when we would again become children, and blind
to all but the blackboard’s chalky lessons, the back

of someone’s head, and what was, for a while longer,
the rarer, human death—there, in the heat-shimmered

trees, in the matted grasses where we stood,
even in the slant of humid shade—

we heard wingbeat, slither, buzz, and birdsong—
a green racket rising to fall as though

in a joyous dirge that was real,
and not part of our many, necessary rehearsals

2015 Manly Wade Wellman Award

Manly Wade Wellman

Manly Wade Wellman

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation (NCSFF) has announced the preliminary eligibility list for the 2015 Manly Wade Wellman Award. Seventy-nine novels written in 2014 are eligible.

The Manly Wade Wellman Award honors outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy in novels written by North Carolina authors, defined as writers who have made their primary residence in North Carolina for six months out of the twelve months preceding publication. In the case of a novel with more than one author, half or more of the listed authors must be North Carolina authors. The novel may be published or self-published, available electronically, in print, and/or in audiobook format.

To view the complete preliminary eligibility list, click here.

The yearly lifecycle of The Manly Wade Wellman Award is as follows:

  • in December, a preliminary list of eligible novels is published and publicized along with a solicitation for additions and corrections
  • at illogiCon in mid-January, nominations will open based on the list of eligible novels as well as write-in options; nominations will close and the list of finalists announced in March (at StellarCon, when held)
  • at ConCarolinas in late May, final voting will open; final voting will close at ConTemporal in late June
  • at ConGregate in mid-July, the winner(s) will be announced, and (anonymous) voting data will be published

A versatile, award-winning writer in many genres, Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986) was born in Angola, West Africa. Although his work has been called “science fiction,” he successfully blended his varied interests to create a genre now referred to as speculative fiction. His fascination with Appalachian history and folklore form the basis for his fantastic Silver John series, which features a virtuous folk-ballad-singing young hero who battles supernatural forces of evil in the North Carolina mountains, defending the innocent and timid. Wellman’s numerous works of speculative fiction also include a Martian murder mystery, tales of loathsome alien invaders, and Twice in Time, the story of a man who falls into the fifteenth century and becomes Leonardo da Vinci.

Wellman was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1996.

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation (NCSFF) was founded in December 2013 to promote the writing and reading of speculative fiction in North Carolina and to recognize outstanding achievements in North Carolina science fiction and fantasy. The first and currently only project administrated by the NCSFF is The Manly Wade Wellman Award. Their website is http://ncsff.org/.

Raleigh Arts Plan

Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers

Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers

Launched over the summer, the Raleigh Arts Plan hopes to define Raleigh, NC, as the “Southern Capital of Arts and Culture.”

From the press release:

The Raleigh Arts Plan is the development of a ten-year master plan to strengthen arts and culture for all the city’s communities and people. This plan comes from the community and will reflect a shared vision for the cultural future of the city’s people. The planning process is led by the City of Raleigh but will also include partners, organizations and citizens who want to be involved in fulfilling the community’s vision. The results of the plan will include initiatives to grow arts and cultural opportunities across the city that reflect the needs of the community.

At www.raleighartsplan.com, citizens can get involved by answering questions about what they’d like to see, culture-wise, in their city; customize a personal profile; and interact with other artists and cultural curators through “Mindmixer,” an online engagement tool that will “connect organizations with community members who might not otherwise get involved.”

The creation of the Raleigh Arts Plan was developed by The Cultural Planning Group, a San Diego-based firm. The $150,000 initiative will focus on engaging the community in arts and culture as well as developing the future of arts and culture in the city.

Introducing Writers and Filmmakers.com

Money may be “only a tool,” as Ayn Rand once said, but for independent writers and filmmakers, cold hard cash is often the thing standing between their movie idea and the movie actually being produced one day.

Enter www.WritersandFilmmakers.com, a new web-based company dedicated to the belief that the “filmmaking and writing community can decide on our own what is good…and what to fund!”

Writers and Filmmakers.com believes we are living in the golden age of filmmaking. The talent is strong, the drive is visible, the passion is overflowing! Everyone wants to make a film that will blow the audience away—and Writers and Filmmakers.com wants to help. They want to empower those filmmakers and writers who are unable to raise funds simply because they are not connected.

Through two contests—one for feature-length films, and one for short films—writers can win up to $20,000 and have their film shot, while filmmakers can win up to $50,000 and launch their movie career.

For more information, including a detailed FAQ, click here.

With only 1,000 applicants, total, per contest, divided between writers and filmmakers, the odds are actually pretty good—at least as far as these things go.

Sign up for their newsletter or check out their Facebook page here.

#GivingTuesday

In the commercialized gauntlet that is the period of days following Thanksgiving—as “Black Friday” becomes a week-long event and “Cyber Monday” deals can be had around the clock—we’d like to encourage you to remember the non-profit organizations in your end-of-year giving plans.

Today is #GivingTuesday, after all. Why not consider donating to the North Carolina Writers’ Network?

The North Carolina Writers’ Network connects, promotes, and serves the writers of this state. We provide education in the craft and business of writing, opportunities for recognition and critique of literary work, resources for writers at all stages of development, support for and advocacy of the literary heritage of North Carolina, and a community for those who write. The North Carolina Writers’ Network believes that writing is necessary both for self-expression and a healthy community, that well-written words can connect people across time and distance, and that the deeply satisfying experiences of writing and reading should be available to everyone.

From the unprecedented crowd at October’s 2014 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame induction ceremony (some 300 strong), to the 200-odd attendees at this year’s Fall Conference in Charlotte, NCWN is committed to encouraging writers of all stripes, from newbies to New York Times bestsellers.

Please consider giving. You can donate easily, online, by following this link.

You’d be surprised what even a modest donation can do. Any amount helps.

Thank you.

Self-Published? The Numbers Don’t Lie

This morning’s books waiting to be opened and shelved at Book World. (Ron Charles/The Washington Post)

The book review department at The Washington Post receives about 150 books a day.

Read that again.

150 books. A day.

These are books that had to find an agent, then a publisher, then be professionally edited, and then find someone willing to throw marketing dollars at them, because The Washington Post? It doesn’t review self-published books.

They’re not alone, of course. Few major media outlets do. But if you’ve ever wondered why, or screamed about the injustice of a policy like theirs, here’s some insight.

Roger Sutton, editor in chief of Horn Book magazine, recently penned an open letter to self-published authors, explaining more or less why Horn Book magazine doesn’t review self-published books. There are several reasons, which Ron Charles does a nice job of summarizing in his follow-up blog at The Washington Post.

But this one stands out:

A related problem is that while many, many people want to self-publish their children’s books, far fewer actually want to read them.

Frankly, that’s not a problem limited to children’s books. Plenty of adult writers are more interested in publishing than in reading the work of their peers—and plenty of others are more interested in publishing than mastering the craft of writing.

The numbers don’t lie. More than a half-a-million books are published in this country every year. Whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, that’s an uphill climb if ever there was one. But the roadmap for success, for both, remains the same: study your craft. Practice your craft. Know your audience. Comport yourself professionally.

And for the love of all things sacred, use an editor. And a proofreader.

How to Win a Contest

The North Carolina Writers’ Network officially launches our “contest season” tomorrow, when we open up submissions to the first of our four annual contests.

Literary magazines and publishers everywhere are swamped with submissions this time of year, and writers are keeping busy by sending stuff out and tracking the replies.

Sarah Backer, author of American Fuji and the first American and first woman to serve as Visiting Professor of English at Shizuoka University, in Japan, offered some contest advice on The Review Review. Specifically, how to make the first cut.

Among her tips:

  • Timing matters
  • Format predicts quality
  • Grammar counts
  • Titles are important
  • Avoid common themes
  • Avoid gimmicky structures

The full article is definitely worth the read. Some great tips, and things writers really need to be aware of when sending their work out on submission.

Her conclusion is heartening:

Of course, many factors are in play in a contest, among them are luck. This contest had a large judging panel. Anything that got three no votes in a row was ruled out. Since our tastes were diverse, many pieces I admired were gone before I had a chance to defend their merit. (Be of good cheer! Quick rejections don’t necessarily mean your writing sucks or won’t win a different contest.)

The first of the NCWN annual contests, The Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition, opens for submissions tomorrow, Saturday, November 15, and runs through January 17. And of course our Opportunities section, available to members, lists hundreds of contest and submission opportunities in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and playwriting.

LIVE at White Rock Hall

In 2007, Denise Petrey and her husband, Keith Flynn, purchased the White Rock Presbyterian Church. Built in 1909, the church needed to be moved from the flood plain where it had sat for almost a century. Two years later, a “large truck” and two bulldozers moved the church down the road, the church was re-christened White Rock Hall, and the restoration process began.

There are incredible pictures of the church here, and a more detailed history here.

In October, Flynn launched “LIVE at White Rock Hall,” a YouTube series offering music, poetry, stories, and interviews that seeks to “create collaborations between world-class authors and award-winning musicians, and to capture the performances as they happen.”

View Episode 1 here.

Denise Petrey lives, creates, teaches, and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is a massage therapist in Asheville and blogs at Sacred Fox Transitions.

Serving as lyricist and lead singer from 1986 to 1998, Keith Flynn’s poems were blasted to full effect by the double-barreled sonic accompaniment of The Crystal Zoo, which produced three albums: Swimming Through Lake Eerie (1992), Pouch (1996), and Nervous Splendor (2003), an innovative compilation of music and spoken word. Flynn is currently on hiatus with his most recent group, three-man combo, The Holy Men, whose first album, LIVE at Diana Wortham Theatre, was released in 2011.

Flynn is also the author of five collections of poetry: The Talking Drum (1991), The Book of Monsters (1994), The Lost Sea (2000), The Golden Ratio (2007), and Colony Collapse Disorder (2013). His first collection of essays, The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing, was published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2007. He is the founder and managing editor of the Asheville Poetry Review.

Future guests on “LIVE at White Rock Hall” will include performances by Patricia Smith, Ron Rash, Robert Morgan, Ten Cent Orchestra, R. B. Morris, and many, many more.

Kenan Theatre Company Mounts Paul Green Play

Johnny JohnstonThe Kenan Theatre Company at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will present the musical comedy Johnny Johnston November 20-24. The book was written by North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Paul Green with music by Kurt Weil.

Johnny Johnston is based on Jaroslav Hasek’s satiric novel The Good Soldier Švejk, and focuses on a naïve and idealistic young man who, despite his pacifist views, leaves his sweetheart Minny Belle Tompkins, to fight in Europe in World War I. He manages to bring the skirmish to a temporary halt by incapacitating a meeting of the generals with laughing gas, but once they recover he finds himself committed to an asylum for ten years. He returns home to discover Minny Belle has married a capitalist. He settles down as a toymaker who will create anything except wooden soldiers, his personal gesture of peace in an increasingly warlike society.

Dramatist, teacher and author Paul Green (1894-1981) is one of North Carolina’s most revered writers and one of America’s most distinguished. His first Broadway play, In Abraham’s Bosom, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was followed by six more Broadway plays over his lifetime, as well as numerous other short and full-length plays, screenplays, short-story collections, and books of nonfiction. A lifelong fascination with theatrical elements such as dance, language, music, and lighting, combined with a desire for the drama to make a difference in American social life, led to Paul Green’s development of the Symphonic Outdoor Drama. His first, The Lost Colony, has been staged in Manteo, NC, every year since its first performance in 1937, except during World War II. More than fifty of these historically-based plays, including five of Green’s original seventeen, produced in outdoor amphitheaters near where their actual events took place, are staged annually across the United States.

He was introduced to Kurt Weil by Cheryl Crawford (of the Group Theatre), and the result was this 1936 musical, Johnny Johnston.

For performance times and tickets, click here.

Manuscripts Due for Fall Conference Attendees

Kristyn Keene of ICM

Kristyn Keene of ICM

If you’re coming to Fall Conference and registered for (or planning to register for) either the Manuscript Mart or the Critique Service, your manuscript is due by Friday, November 7.

Please note: This is NOT a postmark date. The Network needs to have your manuscript in-hand by Friday.

For details on the Manuscript Mart, click here. For details on the Critique Service, click here.

If you’re planning to take advantage of either of these opportunities, we need your conference registration, Manuscript Mart or Critique Service registration, payment, and manuscript by Friday, November 7.

Also, if you have not yet registered for Fall Conference and are hoping to take a Master Class, that deadline is Friday, November 7. On Saturday, November 8, attendees will no longer be able to register for a Master Class in Creative Nonfiction (Cynthia Lewis), Fiction (Aaron Gwyn), or Poetry (Morri Creech).

The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Fall Conference runs November 21-23 at at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, in Charlotte. Registration is open.