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Kelly Starling Lyons Named Piedmont Laureate

Kelly Starling Lyons

Acclaimed, Raleigh-based children’s author Kelly Starling Lyons has been named the 2021 Piedmont Laureate.

Each year, a Piedmont Laureate is appointed for a one-year term to conduct literary activities in Durham, Orange, and Wake counties. These include readings at designated public sites; workshops; and events that promote literature to the public.

The Piedmont Laureate program is sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County. Its primary goal is to promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

Kelly’s works include the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices-honored picture book, One Million Men and Me; Ellen’s Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection; Tea Cakes for Tosh, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and winner of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Award for Juvenile Literature (sponsored by the AAUW of North Carolina), and Hope’s Gift, a Storytelling World Award winner, IRA/CBC Children’s Choices selection and SIBA Okra Pick. She is a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf, a collective of writers who promote awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers. Recent books include Dreambuilder: the Story of Architect Phil Freelon  and two in a “My First I Can Read” series: Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! and Ty’s Travels: All Aboard!

To request her participation in public events, please contact the Piedmont Laureate Program.

For more about Kelly Starling Lyons, click here.

Piedmont laureates are appointed in a rotating cycle of genres. Past laureates include Tamara Kissane (playwriting); David Menconi (creative nonfiction); Nancy Peacock (fiction); and Mimi Herman (poetry). The previous laureate for children’s literature was John Claude Bemis (2013).

For more about the Piedmont Laureate program, click here. Follow the Piedmont Laureate on Facebook and Twitter.

NC Writer Wins Crook’s Corner Book Prize

From our friends at the Crook’s Corner Book Prize Foundation:

Chapel Hill–As a River by Sion Dayson is the winner of the eighth annual Crook’s Corner Book Prize, which awards $5,000 for the best debut novel set in the American South.

This year’s judge, award-winning novelist Monique Truong, chose the winner from the Shortlist announced in September 2020.​ The shortlisted titles were ​As a River​ by Sion Dayson (Jaded Ibis Press), ​Confessions of an Innocent Man​ by David R. Dow (Dutton) and ​Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (Harper Collins).

Set in Georgia, written in spare and lyrical prose, As a River moves back and forth across decades, evoking the mysterious play of memory as it touches upon shame and redemption, despair, and connection. At its heart, it’s a novel about our struggles to understand each other, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.

Sion Dayson was born in New York and raised in North Carolina. After a decade spent in Paris where she acquired French nationality, she now makes her home in Valencia, Spain. Her work has appeared in numerous venues including The Writer, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Hunger Mountain, Utne Reader, The Wall Street Journal, and several anthologies. ​Jaded Ibis Press ​is a feminist press committed to publishing socially engaged literature with an emphasis on the voices of people of color, people with disabilities, and other historically silenced and culturally marginalized voices.

The Crook’s Corner Book Prize​, established as a collaboration between the iconic Southern restaurant, ​Crook’s Corner​, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the Crook’s Corner Book Prize Foundation, was inspired by the prestigious book awards long given by famous “literary cafés” in Paris.

“This pandemic year has particularly impacted debut novelists, who have a tough time gaining recognition even in the best of times,” says Foundation president Anna Hayes. “With in-person bookstore readings and book launch events canceled, we are especially glad for this opportunity to shine a spotlight on exciting new writers.”

Submissions are now open for next year’s Prize. For more information on the Prize and submission guidelines, please visit ​​ or follow us on ​Twitter​, Facebook​, and ​Instagram​.

2020 Nancy Olson Bookseller Award Recipients

From our friends at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance:

Lisa Yee Swope

Lisa Yee Swope of Bookmarks in Winston-Salem and Bonnie Shank of The Storybook Shoppe in Bluffton, South Carolina are the 2020 recipients of the Nancy Olson Bookseller Award. The Nancy Olson Award was launched in 2019 with an anonymous donation from an author who is also an admirer of the late Nancy Olson, founder of Quail Ridge Books. The award, which comes with a $2000 cash prize, honors booksellers who embody the spirit of Olson’s bookselling legacy of supporting writers–especially new writers–other booksellers, and community outreach.

“Each day in the bookstore is a ray of sunshine surrounded by books and helping parents, grandparents, and children find the right book,” said Bonnie Shank of her work as a bookseller. “Nothing is better than hearing a mother or grandmother say their children devour books. This morning a grandfather came in and was looking for a Christmas book to read to his two and four year old grandchildren through Skype. What fun it was to help him pick the perfect book to share.” Shank said she was “humbled and proud” to have been nominated and selected for the award, which comes with a $2000 cash prize. “Our little children’s bookstore, The Storybook Shoppe, is the soul of our community, Historic Old Town Bluffton, and I am privileged to be a part of it.” Shank came to The Storybook Shoppe nine years ago, after retiring from a 34-year career as an English and Language Arts teacher in the Department of Defense school system, living and teaching in Panama, Okinawa, Japan, and Germany.

Lisa Yee Swope, who joined Bookmarks three years ago as it was transitioning from an annual book festival to a physical bookstore with year-round programming, said “I am delighted that the Bookmarks community sees and lauds my exuberance for sharing the things I love. It’s a daily joy to be part of a great org that is making such a difference in our schools and community.” Swope is a frontline bookseller who manages the Bookmarks Kids Club, a subscription service for kids in which she gets to individually pick books for dozens of children, also allows her to form ongoing relationships with the families in the community and the grandparents, aunts, and uncles in the community who have littles they love in and out of area.

For more information about the Nancy Olson Award, visit or contact Linda-Marie Barrett at

2021 a Banner Year for Works in Public Domain

Each year, when the calendar turns over to January 1, a slew of 95-year-old works become public domain. This means their copywright expires, and the material can be used by any and all without paying a fee.

This year’s batch has quite the headliner: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In what must have required an admirable amount of forethought, Michael Farris Smith’s new novel Nick, a Gatsby prequel novel about Nick Carraway, launches today from Little, Brown and Company. More Gastby spinoffs and reissues are certainly on the way.

Gatsby aside, 1925 was a kind of banner year for “Anglo-American literature and the arts”…

1925 was the year of heralded novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf, seminal works by Sinclair Lewis, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, Agatha Christie, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Aldous Huxley … and a banner year for musicians, too. Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, among hundreds of others, made important recordings. And 1925 marked the release of canonical movies from silent film comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, offers this take on 2021’s public domain bumpercrop:

1925 brought us some incredible culture. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I. The culture of the time reflected all of those contradictory tendencies. The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be ‘the greatest year for books ever,’ and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers, while characters such as Jay Gatsby, Hemingway’s Nick Adams, and Clarissa Dalloway still resonate today.

So, explore away, you intrepid authors! Or maybe, take a page from Michael Farris Smith’s playbook and see what’s coming into public domain in 2025, say, and write toward that!


For the past month or so, graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero has beeen running a social media campaign where artists “support our bookshops during lockdown with a quick sketch, drawing, or masterpiece of their local favourite store.”

Maybe the idea of playing Pictionary sends you into fits and convulsions; maybe you have a graduate degree in graphic design. Either way, this sounds like too much fun to pass up….

With theatres dark, concert venues closed, cinemas silenced, and galleries shut during lockdown, it is time to re-brand our bookshops as an essential service, and recognise the existential crisis they are facing. Now more than ever before, in the delayed run- up to Christmas, bookshops need to be seen and celebrated on social media, through all possible means – and the most possible means is through the unique combination of word, image, and print that is comics art.

Sure, SelfMadeHero probably had “real” aspirational artists in mind when they came up with this challenge, but who cares?

See? No training necessary. ‘Ya just gotta have h-art.

But training helps. (Click on the image—it’s animated!)

This project was featured recently on BBC Radio London. Ceck out the Twitter feed #DrawYourBookshop here.

It’s a joy to scroll through the Instagram feed. And you can see the images on Facebook as well.

Let’s get this trend to jump the pond! Get drawing!

NC Humanities Council Launches Statewide Read Program

From our friends at the North Carolina Humanities Council:

The North Carolina Humanities Council (NCHC) is launching its Statewide Read program – a virtual book club for residents across the state – that dives headfirst into a highly topical subject, climate change, through preselected works of fiction.

The program features two books in the so-called climate-fiction or “cli-fi” genre:, including the adult novel, The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.

“Our Statewide Read program is coming at a critical time in our society when people are actively seeking ways to explore and learn about complex topics,” said Sherry Paula Watkins, executive director of the North Carolina Humanities Council. “Even though these are works of fiction, the underlying themes and messages resonate with environmental events we are experiencing today. It is our hope that the Statewide Read brings people together and fosters a meaningful discussion about our environment and how water plays an important role in our communities and our state.”

Want to be in on the conversation? Join us on January 19, 2021 for a “Whose Water Is it Anyway?” panel discussion on the science behind science fiction featuring author and professor emeritus Dr. John Kessel and journalist and author Jacqui Castle in conversation about the themes of natural disasters, climate change, and the water supply as presented in The Water Knife. The panel will be moderated by Charlotte Readers Podcast host, Landis Wade.

Click here to register.

In The Water Knife, in the near future, the Colorado River has dwindled to a trickle. Detective, assassin, and spy Angel Velasquez “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ensuring that its lush arcology developments can bloom in Las Vegas. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent south to hunt for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with her own agenda, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north. As bodies begin to pile up, the three find themselves cast as pawns in a game far bigger and more corrupt than they could have imagined. When water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.” Paolo Bacigalupi is a Hugo, Nebula, and Michael L. Printz Award winner, as well as a National Book Award finalist. He is also a winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and a three-time winner of the Locus Award. The Water Knife is a New York Times Bestseller.

There will be a book discussion of The Water Knife on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, at 6:30 pm. Register here.

A finale event is scheduled to be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2021, at the Discovery Place in Charlotte.

The Statewide Read is the keystone program of “Watershed Moments,” a two-year initiative by NCHC that explores our varied relationship with the environment, culturally and historically. Other “Watershed Moments” programs include an environmental journalism panel, film discussion series, and the statewide tour of the Smithsonian exhibit, Water/Ways. Learn more at

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through grant-making and public humanities programs, the Council serves as an advocate for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about our shared human experience. The Council operates the North Carolina Center for the Book, an affiliate program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To learn more visit

2021 Poetry in Plain Sight Poems Chosen

“Venus” by 2012 Poetry in Plain Sight Creative Founder, the late Rodney Holman

From Sam Barbee, president, and our friends at the North Carolina Poetry Society:

The North Carolina Poetry Society is honored to announce the forty-eight poems to be featured on Poetry In Plain Sight posters have been chosen, and they are outstanding, all fitting our program’s high standards.

Ninety-two poets from all around North Carolina submitted over 250 poems. All were of high quality, so you can imagine what a difficult time our three judges had narrowing in down to forty-eight.

One update: we had planned to launch the program in our Host Cities—Winston-Salem, New Bern, and Burnsville—in January, 2021. Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases around the state, we are postponing the launch until April—Poetry Month! For the kick-off, we will feature poems by Jaki Shelton Green, our current NC Poet Laureate, and also three former Poets Laureate: Fred Chappell, Joseph Bathanti, and Shelby Stephenson.

Other cities that are under consideration for participation are Asheboro, Oxford, Sanford, and Wilmington. Those discussions were also stalled due to the pandemic.

Once again let me thank all the poets who participated, plus our ongoing sponsors: NC Writers’ Network, Winston-Salem Writers, Press 53; plus our Judges, and Host City Coordinators for their dedication.

Please click here for a full list of 2021 Poetry in Plain Sight poems.


Launched in Winston-Salem in 2013 by Winston-Salem Writers, Poetry in Plain Sight brings North Carolina poetry and poets to the public.

In December 2019, under the guidance of former WSW President and Poetry in Plain Sight Program Director Donna Wallace, Winston-Salem Writers officially signed over Poetry in Plain Sight to the North Carolina Poetry Society (NCPS). Under this arrangement, the program is now administered by the Board of NCPS and will streamline expansion to new host cities statewide.

For current information about Poetry in Plain Sight, including current submission guidelines, submission calendar, and contact information, visit the NCPS Poetry in Plain Sight Page

Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers

It’s the giving season, which means there might be a writer on your list. Or maybe you’re that lucky writer on someone else’s list! Either way, here are some great gift ideas for writers:

A gift certificate to your local independent bookstore. Good writers are wide readers. Plus, you support a local business! It’s a win-win.

A subscription to With so much going on in the world, it’s easy to become distracted by our various news and social media feeds. Freedom gives you exactly that: freedom from distraction, so you can write.

Any and all of our NC-based small presses will be happy to sell you a book or two by their authors, direct from their website.

Know somebody who could use some help planning a book? Plottr and Scrivener offer effective and affordable software.

A subscription to an NC-based literary journal. From The Greensboro Review (est. 1966) to Variant Literary Journal (est. 2019), NC literary journals come in all shapes and sizes (see: Inch).

For that writer who spends a lot of time driving or cleaning etc., audiobooks are a great way to go. Subscriptions start around $16 a month on Audible, which is quite the steal when you consider most books run 10 hours or more….

Short on cash? You can give the gift of time. (This is what all writers really want more of anyway!) Does that writer in your life have kids? Offer to babysit. Do you live with the writer? Offer to do their chores for a weekend. Got a friend with a beach house? Ask that friend if you can send your writer there free during the off-season for a DIY writer’s retreat.

Love books? So does Lithographs. Puzzles, posters, shower curtains, and much, much more, all made by words from cherished literary works forming striking, unforgettable images.

If the medium is the message, maybe that old-school writer on your list would appreciate a real-life journal from Moglea. Or maybe an old-school fountain pen from the Carolina Pen Company; a kind of promise for when the gift recipient has copies of their own book to sign.

A gift membership to the North Carolina Writers’ Network. For someone hoping to improve their writing craft, joining a 1,400+ member organization that offers programs and resources for writers of all levels and experiences is a great place to start.

Happy holidays!

You Made Yesterday Our Givingest Day

We have no words to describe your generous support of the Network on this year’s Giving Tuesday.

OK, that’s not true. We do have words, of course, but this morning, all of them seem either inadequate, or unnecessarily violent: We didn’t just meet our goal, we beat it . . . by a lot.

We had hoped for 75 Giving Tuesday donations. Instead, as of midnight last night, we had received 105. That’s almost double the number of gifts received on what had been our best day for donations.

We know we have more on the way, too. Many of you let us know that you’re putting a check in the mail. We’re grateful for every cent of support y’all have offered.

The Network still faces a challenging year, but what y’all did yesterday makes the rest of the year a lot less daunting. On behalf of the staff, board, and all the writers the Network seeks to serve, we thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Ed Southern
Executive Director
North Carolina Writers’ Network

Where’s the Moon?

Welcome to the final installment of the “Prompt Party!” During The NCWN Writingest State Online Conference, Saturday, November 14, sponsored by Plottr, we randomly assigned a genre to rooms of randomly assigned attendees. Then, we gave a prompt:

A scientist manages to reanimate a 300-year-old werewolf that he finds in the museum archive fault, but the werewolf turns out to be nebbish and timid and riddled with insecurities. Meanwhile, a group of kindergarteners are in the hall waiting to tour the lab…

Last week, we shared what was created by our fiction, newspaper article, and stage & screen rooms. Last but certainly not least, here’s what our poets came up with:

WHERE’S THE MOON? (or, The Werewolf’s Lament)
by Sarah Blanchard, Alyssa Coleman, Jorge Cortese, and Ed Southern

Where’s the Moon? I can’t see the Moon.
Eons ago, the moon was closer, larger.
She held water in her seas, in her caverns, in her arms.
The Moon was there to change me, and
the Moon was always there. But now I’ve been
in a human cave for so long.
If the moon isn’t here to change me, I am only a man.
The ancient blood moves through me,
rising and falling like the moon’s seas.

There are children out there.
I can hear them laughing in the hall. How
could I not, with these ears?
I could hear them laughing two towns over.
(Are they laughing at me now?)
I was a teacher once, and I loved the children. They
were kind, and eager to learn.
But now I only feel that
they smell so sweet. Sweet
and tasty, like a dessert.
Small children are delicious, I can remember now,
But, oh, so cruel as well.
I want to teach again, like I did after the French Revolution,
But I’m afraid to ask.
I want to be under the Moon again
But the night is also cruel.