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See you at the NCPS Meeting in Southern Pines!

Outside at Weymouth

We’re looking forward to the annual meeting of the North Carolina Poetry Society on Saturday, September 14, at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in Southern Pines!

NCWN Communications Director Charles Fiore will introduce the winner and finalists of the 2019 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition. Alan Michael Parker, Annie Woodford, Michael Boccardo, Sandra Ann Winters, and Kathryn Kirkpatrick will read their poems.

Other highlights of the day include readings by Tina Barr, whose poetry collection Green Target won the 2019 Brockman-Campbell Book Award, and finalists Pamela Badgett, Valerie Nieman, and Wayne Johns—NCWN members, all.

NCWN member and poet Kathy Ackerman will read from her collection A Quarrell of Atoms, which won the 2019 Lena Shull Poetry Book Contest.

Benjamin Cutler, the NCWN Regional Rep for Swain County, will read as well. Benjamin was awarded the 2019 Susan Laughter Myers Fellowship; he receives $500 and a residency at Weymouth.

Other programs include poet Bingo; an open mic; and readings from Susan Laughter Meyers’ posthumous collection, Self-Portrait in the River of Déjà Vu (Press 53).

For more information and a detailed schedule of the meeting, click here.

For more information on the North Carolina Poetry Society, click here.

The sun always shines in Southern Pines. (I think we just made that up?!?) See you there!

Another “Call for Personal Stories” Follows Success of Anthologies Bearing Up, Exploring

By Randell Jones

The Personal Story Publishing Project (PSPP) announces the theme for its new “Call for Personal Stories” for its 2020 anthology. North Carolina writers are especially sought and welcomed by December 15.

“That Southern Thing”
The theme for the PSPP-2020 is “that Southern thing,” personal stories about “living, loving, laughing, loathing, leaving the South,” incited by a writer’s personal musings on the good, the bad, and the peculiar of life in “the South.” Make us laugh, make us cry, make us wince, make us think. Leave the readers grateful, encouraged, vexed, or just plain gobsmacked, but in every case sensing, knowing, feeling something more about “the South” than they might have considered before. Newcomers and natives have equal value in their perspectives. “The South” is not what you might think . . . or is it?

Bearing Up and Exploring
Seventy-plus writers—most from North Carolina—participated in the Personal Story Publishing Project in 2018 and 2019. Their stories appear in the two anthologies, Bearing Up and Exploring, released by Daniel Boone Footsteps Publishing of Winston-Salem. Those writers—both new voices and experienced and published writers, including two poet laureates—crafted true stories about taking on life with grit, determination, and humor. The respective writing themes were “making do, bearing up, and overcoming adversity” and “discoveries, challenges, adventure.”

Writers submitted stories of 750-800 words. “These writers brought to the page their honest passions for sharing stories they so deeply wanted to tell,” said Randell Jones, award-winning author and storyteller and editor/publisher of the Personal Story Publishing Project. “You can feel it throughout the forty-five stories in each collection. Many new writers really surprised themselves with what they wrote. I was delighted to work them all in completing the two collections.”

Submitting Your Story
More information about the Personal Story Publishing Project is available online at A nominal reading fee applies to each submission. Copies of Bearing Up and Exploring are available online as well.

The current Call for Personal Stories is open through December 15, 2019. The anthology of forty-five selected stories will be released in April 2020.

Tell us your favorite personal story, the one you most want to share about “that Southern thing.”

6-minute Stories” Podcast
Everybody loves a good story, and many of the stories from Bearing Up and Exploring can be heard on the new weekly podcast, “6-minute Stories” launched in June. Listeners can subscribe at Apple Podcast, Spotify, or Stitcher. Anyone can find them online as well under “6-minute Stories” in the main menu at Hear what other writers who submitted to the Personal Story Publishing Project shared with the world. Stories selected for PSPP-2020 will be considered for sharing as well in future episodes of “6-minute Stories.”

The Personal Story Publishing Project and “6-minute Stories” encourage more writers to share their writing with others and provide the platforms for doing so.

Keep writing. Keep sharing.

Oxford American Unveils Stylish New Look

With its Fall, 2019, issue, Oxford American, arguably the premier glossy publication of the South, unveiled a new look:

Featuring an updated cover design, new fonts, and a higher page count to accommodate more fine art and photography, the magazine has been redesigned to create a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for readers.

Highlights include Boyce Upholt’s deeply reported feature on Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe; a suite of poems by Nathaniel Mackey; an exclusive excerpt from Van Jensen and Nate Powell’s graphic novel, Two Dead; and Kelundra Smith’s profile of Lucy Negro Redux, a ballet based on the poetry collection by Caroline Randall Williams, scored by Rhiannon Giddens and starring ballerina Kayla Rowser. The Fall 2019 issue also includes short stories by contributing editor Kevin Brockmeier, along with first-time OA contributors Erin McGraw, Jami Attenberg, Sarah Curry, and Selena Anderson.

Order the new issue now! 

Oxford American was founded in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1992. It’s a non-profit quarterly literary magazine “featuring the best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South.”

Each year, OA puts together a Southern Music Issue devoted to music from a single, Southern state. North Carolina was featured in 2018; order that issue, if you missed it, here.

Past Tar Hell contributors include bestselling author Wiley Cash; Jeremy B. Jones; NC Literary Hall of Fame inductees Allan Gurganus, Randall Kenan, and Jill McCorkle; and many more.

Check out Oxford American on the web at; follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Come Hell or High Water, We’ll See You at Bookmarks!

NCWN trustee Terry L. Kennedy (left) and NCWN Executive Director Ed Southern at Bookmarks in 2018

Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors kicks-off today and runs through the weekend, rain or shine.

Saturday’s events are all FREE and feature over fifty authors with another sixty-plus exhibitors, including us! We’ll have an exhibitor’s table, Booth 19, near the corner of Holly and Spruce St, so please do come by and say hello.

We’ll also be hosting a Slush Pile Live! event in the Footnote space at 634 W. Fourth St. at 12;30 pm on Saturday.

This is an interactive event for writers to get immediate feedback on their work from editors and agents. All anonymous—all live! Want to have your work read? Bring a hard copy of up to 300 words of prose from a single work, typed, double-spaced (with no name) to the Information Booth by 12 p.m. Submissions are chosen at random and not all are guaranteed to be read due to time limits. Featuring Lauren Faulkenberry, co-owner of Blue Crow Publishing; Christopher Forrest, Press 53 Editor; Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press and Programs; and moderator Ed Southern, Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

Ed also will moderate the panel “Exploring the North Carolina Literary Landscape.” Panelists include NCWN trustee and editor of the NC Literary Review, Margaret D. Bauer; NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Randall Kenan; and bestselling author Daniel Wallace. This panel happens at 2:30 pm on the second floor of the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.

Download the Bookmarks Book Festival app in the App Store or on Google Play to see the Festival schedule by time, venue, or author, and get real-time updates.

Be sure to use hashtag #NCWN19 when posting to social media!

For a full schedule, visit:

SIBA Executive Director to Retire after 30 Years

From our friends at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance:

Wanda Jewell

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance announced yesterday, September 3, that Executive Director Wanda Jewell will retire in June, 2020. Wanda says that “Serving as SIBA’s executive director for the past 30 years has been the honor of my life.”

“I am so proud of all we have accomplished together,” Wanda said in a letter to core members. “SIBA is seen as forward-looking, innovative, and smart—an organization willing to take risks without being risky. I treasure the reputation we have earned.”

SIBA president Kimberly Daniels Taws recently shared the Board’s heartfelt thanks to Jewell, saying, “Wanda ushered Southern booksellers into the digital age, working tirelessly to give everyone the skills to thrive. Her ‘try anything’ attitude has led to fun, silly times and but mostly to great innovations, including the board’s adoption of policy governance. We are grateful for all that Wanda has given SIBA. She has epitomized the heart of the organization by her energy, dedication, passion and creative nature.”

Taws highlighted some of Wanda’s many accomplishments over her three decades of work at SIBA in a letter to the membership and outlined the upcoming search process. The board has hired The Nexus Institute principal Nanette Blandin to help begin the search.

“Nanette is highly recommended by those who have worked with her at the American Booksellers Association in the past,” Taws says in her letter. “In 2014, she led the search for the ABA’s Chief Financial Officer position and, in 2018, she was the outside consultant to ABA’s Governance Review Committee, which was tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of ABA’s governance and making recommendations for improvement.”

The board has set up ample time for SIBA members to give feedback at the upcoming Discovery Show in Spartanburg and will be naming a Search Committee within the month.

Questions about the search can be directed to Kimberly at or Nanette at


The North Carolina Writers’ Network has very much enjoyed working with Wanda over the years and wishes her a happy, well-earned retirement!

Greensboro Kicks-Off “One City, One Book”

This Saturday, August 24, the Greensboro Public Library will kick off “One City, One Book,” a city-wide initiative to get Greensboro residents reading the same book: Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

The Kick-Off party happens at 6:30 pm at the Greensboro History Museum.

Osha Gray Davidson, author of The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South, will lead a candid conversation about integration in places like Durham, where his book takes place, as well as the institutionalized racism experienced in places such as South Africa, which Noah writes about.

This fall, lively programs, discussions, films, theatrical productions, readings, and more will engage the entire community around the themes of Born a Crime.

Born a Crime is a New York Times international bestseller, named one of the best books of the year by USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Esquire, Newsday, and Booklist.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Filled with history of the Civil Rights Movement, The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South is an account of the unlikely friendship between Ann Atwater, an African American activist in Durham, and C. P. Ellis, a local member of the Ku Klux Klan. Both are engaged in the public school integration movement, just on opposite sides. Osha Gray Davison shares their backstories and takes the hidden history of Ann and C.P.’s story out of the darkness. The book has been made into a movie, starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji Henson.

Library staff are seeking the community’s help to convince Trevor Noah to make a public appearance in Greensboro for One City, One Book. The hope is that people will reach out on social media with the hashtag #TrevorToGPL.

Quail Ridge Books Turning 35

Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh

Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh

Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh is fast-approaching their thirty-fifth birthday. They’ve been in a reminiscing kind of mood lately, and sent out the following via their newsletter:

Do you have any photos from QRB over the years: book signings, parties, storytimes, or anything else? Are there any QRB stories you would like to share? Please send them in to—we would love to see them!

So, if you’ve got something, please share!

Quail Ridge Books was founded by Nancy Olson in 1984. She ran the store for twenty-nine years. For a moving tribue to Nancy, click here (password: READ).

The current owner is Lisa Poole, who purchased the store in 2013 and relocated it to the North Hills Lassiter District, just a few doors down from Vivace and across Lassiter Mill Road from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. This beautiful “new” space hosts readings and events, has two floors, and an incredible built-out children’s section.

They recently launched a podast, “Bookin’,” which you can listen to here.

To subscribe to their weekly e-newsletter, click here.

You also can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Lauren Groff Selects Winner of Hub City Press’ C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize

From our friends at Hub City Press:

Ashleigh Bryant Phillips

Ashleigh Bryant Phillips

Hub City Writers Project is pleased to announce that Ashleigh Bryant Phillips of Woodland, North Carolina, has won the 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize for her collection, Sleepovers. The Curtis Prize is awarded to an emerging Southern writer, and Phillips will receive $10,000 and publication by Hub City Press.

Ashleigh Bryant Phillips grew up (and still lives) in Woodland, North Carolina, a town with no stop light. She earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she was a Byington fellow. Her stories have been published in The Nervous Breakdown, Hobart, and others. They’ve also been nominated for Best of the Net, awarded Best Small Fictions 2019, and taught in creative writing classrooms.

Phillips’s collection was chosen by judge Lauren Groff, who is The New York Times bestselling author of three novels, The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, and Fates and Furies, and the celebrated short story collections Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. Her work has appeared in journals including The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Tin House, One Story, and Ploughshares, and in the anthologies 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and five editions of the Best American Short Stories.

About Phillips’s collection, Groff said, “Ashleigh’s prose often holds an incantatory crispness that, while I read along, lulled me into forgetting that I was reading. These stories derive their power from an almost unbearable dramatic irony and an equally deep hunger for human connection and compassion. Most of all, however, I responded to a palpable sense of fearlessness. I see in this collection a steely writer, one deeply moved by her place and her people, but also fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be.”

The runner-up is Aracelis González Asendorf for her collection The Last Lock. Other finalists were Charles Booth for Forgotten Battles of the Civil War, Stephen Hundley for The Aliens Will Come to Georgia First, and Jonathan Wei for The Reason Things Don’t Work Out.

The prize is named in honor of C. Michael Curtis, who has served as an editor of The Atlantic since 1963 and as fiction editor since 1982. Curtis has discovered or edited some of the finest short-story writers of the modern era, including Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Anne Beattie. He has edited several acclaimed anthologies, including Contemporary New England Stories, God: Stories, and Faith: Stories. Curtis moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 2006 and has taught as a professor at both Wofford and Converse Colleges, in addition to serving on the editorial board of Hub City Press.

2020 Piedmont Laureate Applications Open

David Menconi, the 2019 Piedmont Laureate

The City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County announce the opening of the application process for the position of Piedmont Laureate for 2020.

For the 2020 cycle, applications will be accepted from writers of plays, musicals and screenplays (for film, television and video games).

Applications for the position are due October 7, 2019, by midnight.

Apply here.

The Piedmont Laureate must be 18 years of age or older and have been a resident of Wake, Durham, or Orange counties for at least one year. Candidates should plan on maintaining residency in Wake, Durham, or Orange counties for the duration of their appointment as Laureate.

The Piedmont Laureate will receive an honorarium of $6,000 (distributed in two payments). Additionally, the Laureate will be recognized at various area events and receive media coverage related to the Laureate program.

Specific outreach activities for the Piedmont Laureate program, planned in conjunction with the sponsoring agencies, will reflect the program’s stated goals, including:

  • Public readings and other creative writing activities;
  • Participation at select public functions;
  • Media appearances (not to exceed 6); and
  • Creation of at least one (1) original activity to expand appreciation of literature.

Additionally, the Piedmont Laureate will be encouraged to offer suggestions for future projects that will inspire public engagement and support of the literary arts.

The Piedmont Laureate will be selected by a committee appointed by the sponsoring agencies. Each year the program will be open to writers creating work in a selected literary genre (poetry, Dls, plays, etc.).

The 2019 Piedmont Laureate is David Menconi, who was a music critic and arts reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh from 1991-2019. He has also written for Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, The New York Times, and His books include the 2012 biography Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown (University of Texas Press), and his next book will be a history of North Carolina music for UNC Press. He also hosts “That Old North State Radio Hour,” a weekly show about North Carolina music, on That Station, 95.7-FM in Raleigh, NC.

Past Piedmont Laureates include Carrie Knowles, Zelda Lockhart, James Maxey, Nancy Peacock, and the current NC Poet Laureate and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Jaki Shelton Green.

Native Son, Famously Adapted by NC Playwright, Receives New Treatment

Richard Wright’s 1939 novel Native Son sold 250,000 copies in hardcover within three weeks of being published. Not without controversy for its unflinching portrayal of the racial divide in America that existed at the time, Native Son has remained in print despite being frequently banned and challenged.

North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Paul Green adapted the novel for Broadway. Directed by Orson Welles, it ran for 114 performances in 1941. Wright also adapted his novel for the stage.

(North Carolina Writers’ Network members, of course, will be familiar with the play Native, written by North Carolina’s Ian Finley, which tells the story of the fateful collaboration between Paul Green and Richard Wright during the adaptation of Wrights’ Native Son. An excerpt from this play was performed at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference.)

Now, Native Son will be introduced to a new generation of citizens through an adaptation by Nambi E. Kelley, running September 11-29 at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. The production will be directed by Colette Robert.

The Chicago Tribune called this show “gutsy, powerful, relentless.” The show runs ninety minutes with no intermission. Playmakers offers this warning:

Due to rough language, adult situations, and racially-charged scenarios in pre-Civil Rights Era Chicago, we encourage all patrons to use their own discretion in determining the appropriateness of the material.

For tickets, click here.

Other venues around the Triangle will offer opportunities for community engagement.

On Monday, August 26, the Stanford L. Warren Branch of Durham County Public Libraries will host a discussion of Native Son with PlayMakers’ cast and directors.

Through August 8, the Chapel Hill Public Library has issued a call for artists. Anyone who submits an original poster-size work based on the novel or its adaptations will receive four tickets to the show. One grand-prize winner will win $500.

For more on Richard Wright’s Native Son, click here.