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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.

Need a Hotel Room for Fall Conference?

Sheraton Charlotte Hotel

Sheraton Charlotte Hotel

If you’re coming to Fall Conference but missed the deadline to book a hotel room at the Group Rate, don’t worry: there are plenty of nearby accommodations for even the most budget-minded traveler.

The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Fall Conference will be held November 21-23 at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, 555 S. McDowell Street. Here are four hotels within walking distance:

Prices vary, and change frequently, so check the hotel websites for the best rates. Of course, plenty of other websites offer travel deals, and cheaper rates, including

If sharing a hotel room is an option for you, why not post on the Network’s Facebook page or Tweet to our followers, to see if anybody else would be up for splitting the cost?

Registration for the NCWN Fall Conference is now open. But pre-registration closes November 14. Don’t miss out!

Sell Your Book at Fall Conference

Member Book Sales

Member Book Sales

Are you a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network? Are you coming to Fall Conference? Published members who register for workshops can sell their book(s) on consignment during the conference.

When you arrive, simply bring no more than five (5) copies of your book to the registration table. The Network will handle sales over the course of the weekend, and keep 20 percent. The rest goes into your pocket—just don’t forget to pick up your unsold copies before you leave!

This is just one more benefit of being a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

Haven’t yet registered? Fall Conference runs November 21-23 at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel in Charlotte. Pre-registration closes November 14—that’s just two weeks away!

Register now.

Let’s Talk about Funding for the Arts

ArtsNC.orgA few bulletpoints to ponder from our friends at ARTS North Carolina:

  • The state is experiencing a $62 million shortfall in its first quarter. No projections on how large it will be by June 30, but bones are rattling.
  • Governor McCrory has already instructed departments to reduce their budgets by 2 percent, and not necessarily across the board. Some Legislators believe that agencies should cut grants first.
  • When the next Biennium budget process begins in January, 2015, the Election will be a distant memory. If major changes in the state budget are considered, they generally happen in the Long Session to put as much space between catastrophic decisions and the next election.

If you support public funding for the arts, you should be concerned enough to take action NOW, not after bad decisions are announced.

  • Talk to your Candidates about public funding for the arts BEFORE NOVEMBER 4th. Know their position and disseminate their responses.
  • Immediately after the election, congratulate the winners and let them know you look forward to being their arts resource.
  • If you have the means, donate to or volunteer for campaigns of candidates that support the arts.
  • Be aware of who supports your Candidates. Are they arts inclined and might they help advocate?

Wondering who represents you in Raleigh? Click here to find out, and then tell them you care about the arts.

Last Chance to Book Hotel Rooms at Group Rate

Sheraton Charlotte Hotel

If you’re planning to attend the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Fall Conference but haven’t made hotel reservations, Friday, October 31, is the deadline for booking rooms in the conference hotel at the discounted group rate.

The conference will be held at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, 555 S. McDowell St., in Uptown Charlotte.

When booking your reservation, use this link  and the group code “NCWN—Fall Conference” for special conference rates.

Conference-rate rooms subject to limited availability, and will be allocated on first-come, first-served basis.

The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Fall Conference runs November 21-23 and offers workshops and master classes in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, lectures and panels on publishing and finding an agent, and the opportunity to have your manuscript reviewed by literary agents and editors. Allan Gurganus will give the Keynote Address. Saturday’s luncheon features Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina’s seventh poet laureate, and the Annual Banquet on Saturday night features the inimitable Wilton Barnhardt. Register now at

Moore, Shapiro to Receive North Carolina Awards for Literature

Lenard D. Moore

Lenard D. Moore

Lenard D. Moore—poet, essayist, writer, and playwright, and Associate Professor of English at the University of Mount Olivehas been awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature.

Created by the General Assembly in 1961, the North Carolina Awards have been presented annually since 1964. The award recognizes significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service. and science.

Alan Shapiro, a poet, novelist, and translator and the Kenan Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was also recognized in the Literature category.

From the press release:

“Lenard D. Moore believes in the magic and the music of words. The experiences of his eastern North Carolina roots spring forth in the poems, short stories and haiku that flow from him. Whether writing about jazz musicians, the smell of war or the music of elm trees, he concisely transports the reader to each specific time or place. His power with the economical use of words is best illustrated in the haiku, a Japanese form traditionally of three lines totaling seventeen syllables. He mastered the form so well that he became the first Southerner and the first African American to be president of the Haiku Society of America. He is winner of the Haiku Museum of Tokyo Award and executive chairman of the North Carolina Haiku Society. For all of his awards and recognitions, he considers teaching his most important work. Currently a professor at the University of Mount Olive, he organizes its literary festival and teaches and mentors young writers. He is founder of the Carolina African American Writers Collective and co-founder of the Washington Street Writers Group. He inspires and encourages all students to do their best work. His essays and reviews have appeared in more than 350 publications, poetry in over forty anthologies, and his work has been translated in several languages. His achievements as poet, mentor, and teacher earn him a place of recognition in the rich North Carolina literary pantheon.

Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro

“Alan Shapiro is among the nation’s most distinguished poets. He takes on difficult topics, including loss and grief, but he also celebrates the daily lives of real people. Born and raised in Boston, Shapiro is the author of twelve books of poetry (including Night of the Republic, a finalist for both the National Book Award and The Griffin Prize), two memoirs (The Last Happy Occasion, which was a finalist for the National Book Circle Critics Award in autobiography, and Vigil), a novel (Broadway Baby), a book of critical essays (In Praise of the Impure: Poetry and the Ethical Imagination) and two translations (The Oresteia by Aeschylus and The Trojan Women by Euripides, both published by Oxford University Press). Shapiro’s poems have appeared in more than forty journals and magazines, including The New Yorker. Twice Shapiro has received the highest prize for a North Carolina poet, the Roanoke-Chowan Award. Twice he received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Other awards have come from the Los Angeles Times, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Wellesley College, and the Poetry Society of America. Shapiro was elected in 2004 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at Stanford University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Warren Wilson College.”

The award will be presented to six distinguished North Carolinians Thursday, November 13, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham. Governor Pat McCrory will present the awards at the 7:30 pm banquet and ceremony, following a reception for the recipients at 6:30 pm.

The 2014 honorees include Dr. Betsy M. Bennett of Chapel Hill for Public Service; Robert A. Ingram of Durham for Public Service; Lenard D. Moore of Raleigh for Literature; Dr. Jagdish (Jay) Narayan of Raleigh for Science; Alan Shapiro of Chapel Hill for Literature and Ira David Wood III of Raleigh for Fine Arts. The awards are administered by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

“It is an honor to pay tribute to these remarkable individuals who have made North Carolina better by their extraordinary involvement in this state,” said Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the N. C. Department of Cultural Resources. “Each has enriched the lives of our citizens and propelled North Carolina onto the national and world stages.”