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It’s Banned Books Week!

Can you find Waldo? Not if the censors have anything to say about it....

Can you find Waldo? Not if the censors have anything to say about it….

September 25 – October 1 is Banned Books Week, “a celebration of writing that has been challenged by would-be censors.”

It’s a good time for us readers to let our hair down and flash our rebellious side, maybe by doing something daring like reading a “filthy trashy sex novel” such as John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, or even works by North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Maya Angelou, who was one of the most banned authors in America for her unflinching narrative memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Readers don’t get to walk on the wild side all that often, so you can imagine folks are celebrating this week in all sorts of different ways.

The New York Public Library offers a quiz on its website where you can see how well you know your banned books.

Bookstores such as Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill are devoting entire front-of-store displays to banned books, which includes Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini…and Where’s Waldo?

And command central for this celebration is the website for Banned Books Week, which has been causing a literary ruckus since 1982.

So go ahead. Pick up a copy of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, or the Holy Bible, and stick it to the would-be censors. Because these books were among the ten most challenged titles of 2015.

Fall Conference Exhibitors: Part 1

The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2016 Fall Conference runs November 4-6 at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley, in Raleigh. As part of a full weekend of courses, readings, panels, and more, we offer an exhibit hall packed with vendors representing some of the best and brightest literary organizations, publications, and retailers North Carolina has to offer.

The exhibit hall is a key part of the conference experience and definitely should not be missed. This is your chance to chat face-to-face with publishers and marketers who are at their booths with nothing better to do than talk to you too! (In fact, that’s why the exhibitors are there!) It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for the literary landscape in North Carolina. And even if you find yourself talking to a press that doesn’t publish what you write, they may have recommendations as to where else you can send your work.

So, who’s all going to be there? Here are a few, to get us started:

Durham-based Backbone Press is a small press with a big vision. It’s a venue for ethnic poets, including African-American writers, which has a deep interest in poetry by Latino/a, Asian, and other Ethnicities. The press is also a seeker of poetry that is political, evocative, social, gritty, and also personal and poignant. Their forthcoming poetry chapbooks include Memory of a Girl by Aozora Brockman and Strange-tongued Names by Aaron Counts.

Carolina Wren Press is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to publish quality writing, especially by writers historically neglected by mainstream publishing, and to develop diverse and vital audiences through publishing, outreach, and educational programs. This Durham-based publisher hosts the annual Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman, which opens for submissions each spring. CWP authors include Quinn Dalton, Ravi Shankar, and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Jaki Shelton Green.

Ecotone literary journal and Lookout Books are a magazine and small press based at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Ecotone’s mission is to publish and promote the best place-based work being written today. Their contributors include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, as well as MacArthur, Guggenheim, and NEA fellows. But they’re equally excited to honor new voices. Lookout Books seeks out emerging and historically underrepresented voices, as well as overlooked gems by established writers. Their authors include Matthew Neil Null, Edith Pearlman, and Clare Beams, who will teach a fiction course at the NCWN 2016 Fall Conference.

The Greensboro Review, published by the MFA in Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has been “old school” since 1965. Edited by Jim Clark with Terry L. Kennedy serving as assistant editor, works from the journal are consistently cited and anthologized in the Pushcart Prize, New Stories from the South, Best American Short Stories, and other annual collections honoring the finest writing by both established and emerging talent. TGR offers two awards of $500—one award for fiction, one for poetry—and the winning manuscripts appear in the spring issue.

Minerva Rising Press, an independent literary press, celebrates the creativity and wisdom in every woman by giving them space to tell their stories and to tell them well. They publish thought-provoking and insightful fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry through chapboks and a literary journal. They pride ourselves on building a supportive community of women, because they believe that when women come together, they flourish. They are committed to working with both established and emerging women writers to hone and develop their craft in the direction of growth—both personally and professionally. They offer the annual Owl of Minerva Award: a $500 scholarship established by Minerva Rising to provide one woman writer with financial support to further her writing endeavors.

Registration for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2016 Fall Conference is open.

Check back soon for more exhibitor introductions!


By Ed Southern

The 2016 SIBA Discovery Show was a success for the NCWN members who had their titles on our display table. Various booksellers picked up at least one sample copy of every title, and some titles were gone by the end of the show.

Here’s hoping that those copies are read, and enjoyed, and those titles are ordered for bookstore shelves across the Southeast.

SIBA was also, for me, a chance to catch up with old friends, to hear and discuss the latest industry news, to find out about the forthcoming books that publishers and booksellers are most eager to see and sell, and to remind myself why I got into the book business in the first place.

At the moment I’m reading Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of the Imagination, a work of memoir-as-literary criticism, which posits the notion that readers and writers hold dual (or, sometimes, triple) citizenships—in their countries of birth or residence, and in “the republic of the imagination,” the great community created by books.

SIBA is one of several events—like the Network’s conferences and residency—that renews my loyalty to, and faith in, this republic every year. The book business is a business, and not one for the faint of heart. Nearly everyone in it, though, got into it because at least one book transported and transformed them, once upon a time.

The week before this year’s SIBA Discovery Show saw the announcement that in 2018, the show will move from its traditional format and September date and join with the Great American Bargain Book Show (GABBS), held each March at the AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia.

The show will be much bigger, and, for many, easier to reach. I’m always glad to have another fall weekend free for watching college football, too.

I wonder, though, if a March show will give new books—particularly books from debut authors or small presses—the same pre-holiday buzz that the September show has. Laying aside my sentiment, my many happy memories of SIBAs past, that’s my main concern about this change: Will a March SIBA be as welcoming to the Republic of the Imagination’s newest citizens?

NCAC Artist Fellowships

Kim Church reads at NCWN's 2014 Spring Conference. © Jan B. Parker

Kim Church reads at NCWN’s 2014 Spring Conference. © Jan B. Parker

The North Carolina Arts Council is now accepting applications for Artists Fellowships. Songwriters, composers, and writers are encouraged to apply. The deadline is November 1.

Fellowships are awards of merit to individual artists to recognize excellence, as evidenced in a recent body of work. These unrestricted $10,000 grants are intended to allow artists to continue developing their work by providing them with the time, equipment, or other support necessary to practice their art.

Non-student U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens who have been year-round residents of North Carolina for at least one year are eligible. Applicants must also plan to be physically present in the state during the grant period.

The Arts Council has a sweet new web portal which seems pretty easy to use: Applications must be submitted online.

Fellowship recipients are selected by panels of artists and arts professionals with expertise in the discipline under review. The recommendations of the panels must be approved by the Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources. The primary criterion that panelists will consider is artistic merit. There are no quotas in the selection of fellowship recipients. The Arts Council seeks diversity and balance in the panels it convenes to review the applications, but artistic merit is the determining criterion for awards. Financial need is not a criterion.

2015 recipients in literature included Sheila Webster Boneham (prose); Wiley Cash (prose); Kim Church (prose), Julie Funderburk (poetry); and Lee Zacharias (prose).

For more information, and to apply, click here.

See Us at Bookmarks Tomorrow!

The North Carolina Writers’ Network will have an exhibitor’s booth at tomorrow’s Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors in downtown Winston-Salem. Come out and say hello!

The Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors features more than forty authors in a full weekend of readings, panels, booksignings, tons of exhibitors, and a kid-friendly area for families. The festival happens in and around the Milton Rhodes Center for the Creative Arts at 209 Spruce St. North, in Winston-Salem. For full details, click here.

Plenty of Network members are on the slate, including Danny Bernstein, Bonnie J. Doerr, Gary Heidt, Bridgette Lacy, Debbie Moose, Betsy Thorpe, and Ross White.

The Network will sponsor two Slush Pile Live! events at the festival: one at 10:15 am and one at 3:45 pm, both on the City Stage on Spruce Street. Panelists include Gary Heidt, Cheryl Klein, and Betsy Thorpe. The event will be moderated by NCWN executive director Ed Southern.

This is an interactive event for aspiring writers to get immediate feedback on their work from editors and agents. Here’s how it works: a panel of editors and agents will listen to submissions being read out loud and raise their hand when they hear something that would make them stop reading had the sample been submitted to their company. The panel will discuss the sample, offering constructive feedback. All anonymous—all live!

Those interested in having their anonymous work read should bring a hard copy of up to 300 words of prose from a single work. Submissions should be double-spaced. No names should appear on the submission. Please bring your submission to the Information Booth between 9:30 and 10 am for the 10:15 am program or between 3 and 3:30 pm for the 3:45 pm program. Submissions will be chosen at random. Not all submissions are guaranteed to be read due to time limits.

For the full festival schedule, click here.

Pitch Your Book on #PitMad

Ok, all you tweeters. Circle Thursday, September 8, on your calendar. That’s the next #PitMad event, a chance for you to pitch your book to agents (and sometimes, editors) over Twitter, all in 140 characters or less!

Over the course of twelve hours, authors make their best pitches and agents respond, either by tweeting themselves or through direct messaging. Created by Brenda Drake, this online event has grown exponentially. It’s so popular, in fact, there are some new ground rules this time around:

So our new rule is that you may only tweet three (3) pitches (they can be different pitches or the same pitch) per project for the day. You may pitch more than one project. I suggest every four hours or so tweet a different pitch. Or tweet during breakfast, lunch, and dinner breaks.

The pitch must include the hashtag #PitMad and the category (#YA, #MG, #A, #NA, #PB etc.) in the tweet. The “#” is important to include. It will sort the categories to make it easier for the agents/publishers.

Here’s an example of a #PitMad tweet, from author Anthony Awtrey:

When an immortal water spirit catches the attention of a hired killer, her best friend must save her. #pitmad #SFF

Keep in mind, of course, that #PitMad is public. While most agents and editors have nothing but good intentions, there are cautionary tales out there, so be sure to vet anyone who contacts you—and there’s no obligation to send your manuscript just because someone asks for it.

For full #PitMad information and requirements, click here.

The event runs 8:00 am to 8:00 pm EDT on Thursday, September 8. Good luck!

St. Andrews Welcomes Black Mountain College Festival

In the more than half-century since it closed in 1956, Black Mountain College, an experimental college once located in the western North Carolina mountains, has taken on the stuff of myth and legend.

Founded on the heels of “the closing of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, and the beginning of the persecution of artists and intellectuals on the European continent,” many of whom eventually made their way to Black Mountain College, the school was:

owned and operated by the faculty and was committed to democratic governance and to the idea that the arts are central to the experience of learning. All members of the College community participated in its operation, including farm work, construction projects and kitchen duty. Located in the midst of the beautiful North Carolina mountains near Asheville, the secluded environment fostered a strong sense of individuality and creative intensity within the small College community.

Among its poets and students were Robert Creeley, Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Hilda Morley, and Jonathan Williams.

In 1974, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, now St. Andrews University, “held the first Black Mountain College Festival to celebrate the history, the mission, and the arts of Black Mountain College.” This Fall, the Black Mountain College Festival returns to Laurinburg for a semester-long celebration of scholars, artists, poets, writers, musicians, inventors, and dancers who will be on-hand to revel in the past—and welcome the future.

“St. Andrews is trying to emphasize its connection to Black Mountain College primarily through Ron Bayes,” said Dr. Ted Wojtasik, co-chair of the Black Mountain College Festival and creative writing professor at St. Andrews. “We used to have a lot of Black Mountain College poets come here to read, like Jonathan Williams and Robert Creeley—who were friends of Ron’s. He was in that generation, but he wasn’t physically at Black Mountain College.”

Ron Bayes is a 2014 inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

The Black Mountain College festival events include “poetry readings, prose readings, art exhibits, dance performance and open mic readings for anyone to express their artistic abilities.” Basil King and Martha King, both alumni of Black Mountain College who met and married after meeting there, are scheduled to read poetry and prose on Thursday, October 27, at the Ronald H. Bayes Lounge of Orange Hall on the St. Andrews campus. There is also the possibility that Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound, may appear. The festival concludes November 19 with a panel discussion on the future of Black Mountain College on Saturday, November 19.

For more information on the Black Mountain College festival, click here.

New Website for NC Arts Council

NC Arts Trail

NC Arts Trail

The North Carolina Arts Council launched a new website this month:

Graphic-based, efficient, and modern, the new site highlights favorite programs through a slideshow on the home page and offers easy access to other features through a drop-down menu up top.

The site and the new A+Schools website are mobile friendly and were designed by the Arts Council’s graphic design and website manager, Hal Earp.

Visitors can jump to the North Carolina Arts Council’s social media accounts at the bottom of the page.

Feedback? Found a link that doesn’t work? Contact NCAC at

Joseph Bathanti Receives North Carolina Award

© Sylvia Freeman

© Sylvia Freeman

Former North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti has received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the highest civilian honor in the state.

A longtime friend of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and a familiar face at Network events (he was most recently the featured guest at Saturday’s Fall Conference luncheon, in 2014), Bathanti is the author of ten volumes of poetry, three novels, and a short-story collection. He is the recipient of some of the state’s most prestigious literary awards and teaches creative writing at Appalachian State University.

Bathanti is admired and respected by his literary peers. He came to North Carolina in 1976 to work for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), noting that he had a master’s degree in English and no idea what work he wanted to do. His assignment was teaching at the state correctional facility in Huntersville. There, he met his wife Joan, who taught the Pittsburgh native about grits. His interactions with the incarcerated taught him the importance of allowing others to tell their personal stories. He came to love North Carolina and writes of this state and his native Pennsylvania equally. He serves as an ambassador of letters, and has worked with military veterans to tell their stories as well. Through all of his teaching posts and populations, he brings an appreciation for the human spirit and the humanity of us all.

The North Carolina Award will be presented to seven distinguished North Carolinians on Thursday, September 22, at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. Governor Pat McCrory will present the awards at the 7:00 pm banquet and ceremony, following a reception for the recipients at 6:00 pm.

The 2016 honorees include Joseph Bathanti of Vilas for Literature; Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum of Chapel Hill for Science; Robert J. Brown of High Point for Public Service; James C. Gardner of Rocky Mount for Public Service; Dr. Assad Meymandi of Raleigh for Fine Arts; and Dr. Aziz Sancar and Dr. Paul L. Modrich of Chapel Hill for Science. The awards are administered by the NC Department of Natural and 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 NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Each has enriched the lives of our citizens and propelled North Carolina onto the national and world stages.”

Greensboro’s Visual Poetry Project

Between now and November, in downtown Greensboro, poetry lovers can take a self-guided walking tour and see eleven different sculptures that have been created in response to poems.

Sponsored by the Writers’ Group of the Triad, The Visual Poetry Project paired eleven poets with eleven different artists in the ekphrastic tradition:

Sculptures are generally located on Elm street between the main library and ArtMongerz gallery (across from the Mellow Mushroom). For example, if you see a fountain in Scuppernong bookstore then you should look for the poem on the side. All sculptures should have a journal to allow you to leave comments.

For a complete list of sculpture/poem locations, click here.

Poets include North Carolina Writers’ Network members Michael Gaspeny and Walt Pilcher. To see a sampling of the sculptures and poems, click here.

On Friday, September 2, starting at 6:30 pm, there will be an organized walking event starting at the Greensboro Central Library, 219 N. Church St. Contributing poets will be on-hand to talk about their individual poems.

For more information, contact Cathie Holcombe at or visit the event’s Facebook page.