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Two New Series Broadcast Poetry

There’s something poetic in the air these days—or rather, on the air. The North Carolina Poetry Society has launched two new audio programs to celebrate their 90th anniversary!

January 14 marked their first on-air appearance on WHUP 104.7. Hosted by Bob Burtman, this new show will feature a different poet every four weeks. The launch featured a reading by NCPS VP of Programming Lynda Rush Myers. She and NCPS President Celestine Davis also talked up the year-long anniversary celebration. The show airs live at 8:00 am.

Celestine also will host the new livestream “Poets & Poetry Matters.” Starting in February, this web series will feature “monthly interviews and readings with poets whose body of work answers the questions, can poetry matter or do poets matter, with a resounding, ‘Yes!'” Keep an eye on the NCPS Facebook page, and on YouTube come February, for subscription links and info for how to watch.

Celestine Davis is a Teaching Instructor at East Carolina University. The NCWN Regional Rep for the Down East region, she is an avid volunteer community arts promoter who facilitates workshops, readings, and other outlets for poets and other writers. She is a co-founder and the festival director of the regional film festival, Down East Flick Fest. She is the current president of NCPS.

With more than 375 members from North Carolina and beyond, the Poetry Society holds regular meetings four times a year in Southern Pines at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, or online when necessary. In addition, NCPS sponsors annual contests for adults and students, which offer cash prizes and award certificates; the annual Poet Laureate Award, judged by the state’s poet laureate; the annual Brockman-Campbell Book Award, recognizing the best book published by a North Carolina poet; and the annual Lena M. Shull Book Award, selecting for publication the best full-length unpublished poetry manuscript by a poet living in North Carolina, where the wining manuscript is published by St. Andrews University Press, and the winning poet leads a workshop and gives a reading at Poetry Day Hickory in April. In 2003, the NCPS Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series, where three distinguished North Carolina poets are selected annually to mentor student poets in the eastern, central, and western regions of the state. Learn more at www.ncpoetrysociety.org.

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NCWN Contest Season – Best Submission Practices

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

Congrats on submitting to an NCWN contest! We are in the throes of contest season. Here are a few best practices for those new to submitting.

  • Submittable is the online submission hub for our contests. Anyone who submits online needs to create a free Submittable account. (Once you’re there, you have access to thousands of submission opportunities beyond Network-affiliated contests.) Here’s the Network’s Submittable tab.
  • Remember: Do not use your NCWN log-in for Submittable. You must create a separate Submittable account.
  • Please familiarize yourself with Submittable before you submit. If a contest closes on a Friday, or over a weekend or holiday, staff won’t be available to troubleshoot any last-minute issues. We are always available to answer questions and assist during business hours.
  • On Submittable, there is submission tab for members and another for non-members. Please submit based on your membership status. Submittable won’t know who is or isn’t a member; Network staff verifies that information.
  • For those who prefer snail mail, you can submit via mail to North Carolina Writers’ Network’s PO Box. Please be mindful of manuscript formatting requirements and contest deadlines — and the finicky nature of our postal system.
  • Take extra time to proofread your final draft so you’re submitting your best work.

Good luck with your writing and submitting. Thank you for being part of North Carolina’s literary community.

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Fields Lie Fallow: How to Accept Writers’ Block (and What to Do about It)

by Kat Bodrie

My husband is in a musical slump. Since creating his first electronic album last year, he’s mostly been making music for himself—tapping out beats and improvising melodies on one of his synthesizers with his headphones on, personal DJ sessions that go unrecorded. But after our cat, Rita, passed away in November, he had a sudden urge to make a grief song, a requiem, which he shared with friends and family.

Since then…nothing. “I have no music inside me,” he laments. I’ve told him about my own writing process, offered suggestions to create anyway, but the problem seems to be more that he’s beating himself up for not creating.

A lot of writers do this to themselves. A few years ago, I decided to release my supposed “need” to constantly create. Instead, I took a bigger-picture view of my already existing process.

There’s really four, maybe five, parts: writing, revising, getting feedback, submitting, marketing. The marketing aspect involves posting to social media, my website, and my newsletter once I get a piece accepted, which may or may not happen in any given season (or year, for that matter).

But what I found I was doing between all those parts was reading, listening, keeping an eye out for interesting information and inspiration. And that’s as much an important part of the process as any of the others.

Rather than thinking of that period absent of creation as writers’ block, think of it as a field. The soil needs time to rest, to be cold and frozen in winter. Sure, after seeding in spring, there will be lots of little things poking out of the ground, which will grow and ripen in time for the fall harvest. But each part of the process is just as important as the other.

Too often, we focus only on the produce we create with our pens. But there’s a lot going on under the surface. Personally, I think the largest hurdle is accepting that of ourselves, to not ask too much of our creative selves since stress, after all, is counterproductive.

Still, I understand the itch to create, so I have a few suggestions for writers:

  • Find prompts: I used to hate prompts, being told what to do. It felt forced, but when you’re out of ideas, sometimes that’s the best way to push forward. You can google “writing prompts” and find plenty for free online, or order a book of prompts and work your way through them. Create your own prompts by writing down words from the dictionary on slips of paper and pulling them out at random (a technique my poet friend uses), or make a list of ideas: Christmas trees, a time you felt joy, an experience with a bully (or being a bully), breakfast cereal. Listen to a friend vent, and turn it into a prompt.
  • Write in another genre: As a mixed-genre writer (poly, as one person put it), I’m amazed by how writing a poem might inspire a short story, or how a personal essay might bring up a memory that becomes a poem. If you’re strictly a prose writer, try writing a short passage in another style, like mystery or historical fiction. You’re still producing, and you may even get something out of the process.
  • Read: Pick up a book — any book — and immerse yourself. Try writing in that author’s style, or adding a chapter to the end. (Great exercise!) Or just read a scientific article and include the information in a poem, short story, or essay. Link it to something that happened in your life or someone else’s. Underline words and phrases you like, and use them to start a piece of writing, or incorporate them some other way. I love using favorite phrases as titles or sentences as epigraphs. You can find inspiration almost anywhere if you just open your mind and get curious.

If you’ve skimmed this list and find yourself saying, “I’ve tried that; it doesn’t work for me,” then try it again. And again. And again. You may surprise yourself.

Even if you don’t, don’t worry. Release the guilt, and let your field lie fallow.

KAT BODRIE is a professional editor and writer in Winston-Salem. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry in Plain Sight, West Texas Literary Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. Read her writing and get in touch with her at KatBodrie.com.

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Ronald H. Bayes, RIP

For the second time in as many weeks, the North Carolina literary community finds itself mourning the loss of a wonderful friend and writer, after learning that North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Ronald H. Bayes passed away over the weekend. He was 89 years old.

“Ron Bayes does not consider life a spectator sport,” reads his official biography from the NCLHOF, “and he has not lived his creative life in isolation from the world. Not diminishing his own creative production or dedication to classroom teaching, he founded, directed, and nurtured the St. Andrews Press, the St. Andrews Review, Cairn: The New St. Andrews Review, Gravity Hill, the student literary journal, and the Writers’ Forum.”

Over his long career, Bayes published 16 books of poetry, three critical works, two plays and seven collaborative works with visual artists. He was inducted into the NCLHOF in 2014.

“When I enrolled at St. Andrews as a freshman in the fall of 1969, I knew I wanted to be a poet,” writes Beth Copeland (’73) in the St. Andrews by the Lake alumni newsletter. “What I didn’t know was that Ron Bayes shared my fascination with Japan, the country where I was born and lived as a young child…When I met Ron, I felt as if I had returned to my homeland. Ron recognized and nurtured the developing poet. With Ron’s encouragement, I found my voice and my passion for poetry.”

To watch former NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti read Bayes’ poem “For a Friend Who Walked Girders,” click here.

“He’s a loss to the writing community of the state,” writes NCWN member Elaine Thomas, “and to all his former students (of which I am one — loved him dearly).”

Details about services and more have yet to be released.

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David T. Manning, RIP

David T. Manning

David T. Manning

The North Carolina literary community mourns the loss of beloved poet and friend David Treadway Manning (1928 – 2021), who passed away on November 24.

Productive until the end, his poetry collection Sailing the Bright Stream: New & Selected Poems (Press 53) won the 2021 Brockman Campbell Award for Poetry from the NC Poetry Society. In May of 2021, NCPS honored him as the 2021 Pinesong dedicatee. For years, he hosted the Friday Noon Poets monthly gathering at Amity United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, convening an informal poetry reading where poets would share their own work or the work of others. He also was very involved with the North Carolina Writers’ Conference.

He gave selflessly to the poetry community, often blurbing books by writers he admired. He frequently read his work at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and was a regular at the open mic poetry series there for many years.

David Treadway Manning was a Pushcart nominee and three-time winner of the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Poet Laureate Award. His poems appeared in Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, 32 Poems, and also Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina: A Guidebook, edited by Geogann Eubanks (UNC Press). He was a past winner of the Longleaf Chapbook competition and of Crucible’s Sam Ragan Award. He published ten chapbooks, most recently Singularities (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His full-length works included The Flower Sermon, runner-up for the 2007 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award: Soledad (Main Street Rag, 2014); and the unserious Yodeling Fungus (Old Mountain Press. 2010). His last collection of poetry, Sailing the Bright Stream: New & Selected Poems, won the 2021 Brockman-Campbell Award for Poetry. As the convenor of the Friday Noon Poets of Chapel Hill, he was coeditor of the group’s anthology, Always on Friday (Katherine James Books, 2006). David and his wife Doris lived in Cary.

Facebook posts by friends and colleagues mention his generosity, humor, kindness, and poetic talent. He will be missed.

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Heather Bell Adams Named Piedmont Laureate

Heather Bell Adams

Raleigh author Heather Bell Adams, a longtime member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, has been named The Piedmont Laureate for 2022. She follows the 2021 Piedmont Laureate, children’s author Kelly Starling Lyons.

Heather Bell Adams is the author of Maranatha Road (West Virginia University Press 2017), which won the IPPY gold medal for the Southeast, and The Good Luck Stone (Haywire Books 2020), which won Best Historical in the Next Generation Book Awards. A recipient of the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Award, Carrie McCray Literary Award, and James Still Fiction Prize, Heather’s work appears in Still: The Journal, Atticus Review, The Thomas Wolfe Review, The Petigru Review, Pembroke Magazine, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Raleigh where she works as a lawyer.

Heather’s support of the North Carolina Writers’ Network goes back years. She won an honorable mention in the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. She led the session “Essentials of Scene-Crafting” at the NCWN 2018 Spring Conference. Her essay “Show Me” won the the 2021 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition. Most recently, she led the session “Getting Back into the Writing Groove” at the NCWN 2021 Fall Conference, in Durham.

Click here to listen to an interview with Heather on Artist Soapbox, the podcast hosted by another former Piedmont Laureate, Tamara Kissane.

The Piedmont Laureate program is co-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. The program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing, enriching the lives of all our citizens.

Applicants must be have been residents of Wake, Durham, or Orange counties for at least one year and plan to continue living in one of those counties for a subsequent year. Piedmont laureates are chosen by a selection committee of literary community experts appointed by the sponsoring agencies and receive an honorarium.

As public advocates for the literary arts, laureates hold readings and workshops in community gathering places; promote literature online and at public events; and generally work toward expanding public appreciation of the literary arts.

“Heather is a perfect example of someone who will highlight the craft of writing to all writers in the region,” says Linda Janssen and Jorge D. Cortese, Orange and Durham County Representatives for the North Carolina Writers’ Network. “She manages to make complex subjects understandable to all writing levels, whether in-person for large groups or through online sessions. She succeeds at being comprehensive without overwhelming those at the beginning of their writing careers or practices.”

Past Piedmont Laureates include David Menconi (nonfiction); James Maxey (speculative ficiton); Ian Finley (playwriting); and the current North Carolina Poet Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green (poetry).

For more information about the Piedmont Laureate program, visit www.piedmontlaureate.org; contact Margaret DeMott, Durham Arts Council, mdemott@durhamarts.org; or contact any of the other sponsoring agencies.

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Poetry In Plain Sight 2022 – 2023

By Sam Barbee, North Carolina Poetry Society

I am pleased to announce the 48 poems to be featured in Poetry In Plain Sight 2022 and 2023 have been selected.

Eighty-one North Carolina poets submitted this year, with overall entries totaling two hundred and eleven.

For the complete list, click here.

The judges commented on the consistent quality of the poetry, and I applaud them for their judicious efforts and dedication. In several cases, it was particularly hard to pick between entries from individuals because several poets had all three of their poems under consideration!

We are pleased to have poems from all five living NC Poets Laureate, of course including our current Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green. Their poems will be highlighted in April of 2022—Poetry Month—and continue in May.

This year, 21 poets will be featured on posters for their first time, which is always exciting. Poetry In Plain Sight depends on fresh voices to share their unique perspectives.

Poetry In Plain Sight thanks the NC Writers’ Network, Winston-Salem Writers, and Press 53 for their support, both financial and in-kind; plus Friends of the Program for their direct donations and/or purchase of our vintage posters to keep the program viable.

(See current inventory of vintage poems here.)

I thank all the poets who trusted us with their work.

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Happy Trails to Wayne Martin of the NCAC

From our friends at the North Carolina Arts Council:

November 29, 2021

Dear friends,

I am writing to share good news for the arts. The state budget approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Cooper includes an additional $15 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the North Carolina Arts Council. An increase of $1 million in state funds is also designated for the Grassroots Arts Program in year two of the budget. These allocations will greatly benefit arts organizations and artists in all 100 counties as together we strive to reopen the arts sector fully.

The leadership team at the Arts Council collaborated closely with Nate McGaha and Arts North Carolina throughout the budget process. The outcome shows how effective and important that partnership is. Arts Council board members, past and present, were also extremely effective in reaching decision makers. We are, of course, indebted to those legislators in the General Assembly who believe in the importance of the arts and to Governor and Mrs. Cooper, who are strong arts supporters. Finally, thanks to all of you who advocated with your elected leaders.

We are waiting for guidance on how the federal funds can be distributed, and Arts Council staff will communicate with you as soon as we learn more.

As you may know, I am departing the North Carolina Arts Council on December 31, so this is my last letter to you from my office here. I feel fortunate that I can leave knowing that the arts sector will have resources in place to continue to recover from the pandemic.

To this day, the Arts Council’s founding mission of “arts for all people” inspires me. That vision has enabled many North Carolinians to live richer and more fulfilling lives. I cherish my memories of our work together over many years. They are your gift to me, and I thank you.

Sincerely,

Wayne Martin, Executive Director, North Carolina Arts Council

 

From all of us at the North Carolina Writers’ Network: thank you, Wayne, for your service to the arts in North Carolina, and specifically for your support for writers in this state and beyond. Best of luck to you in all your new endeavors!

 

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Three NC Authors (at Least!) Among NPR’s Best Books

At least three books by North Carolina authors are among National Public Radio’s “Best Books 2021.” NPR staff and trusted critics recommend some 2,800 titles, all sortable by category.

Among the recommendations are:

The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus (Liveright)
By Allan Gurganus
NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Allan Gurganus offers nine classic tales, never before between covers. Offering characters antic and tragic, Gurganus charts the human condition—masked and unmasked—as we live it now. These meticulously crafted parables recall William Faulkner’s scope and Flannery O’Connor’s corrosive wit. Imbuing each story with charged drama, Gurganus, a sublime ventriloquist, again proves himself among our funniest writers and our wisest.

 

Hell of a Book (Dutton)
By Jason Mott
Winner of the 2021 National Book Award: in Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

 

 

No Gods, No Monsters (Blackstone Publishing)
By Cadwell Turnbull
At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark? “Turnbull delves into the complexities of injustice and identity in this powerhouse contemporary fantasy,” says Publishers Weekly in a starred review. “Fantasy fans won’t want to miss this.” Named a “Most Anticipated Book” by Bustle, Buzzfeed, Forbes, GoodReads, Marie Claire, The Millions, and Tor.com.

 

 

For the complete list, click here.

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NC Authors Among Southern Book Prize Finalists

Four North Carolina authors are among the finalists for the 2021 Southern Book Prize, sponsored by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, including one member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

Well, it’s a bit disingenuous to say “a member.” We’re thrilled that Ed Southern, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, is a finalist in the “Nonfiction” category for his book, Fight Songs: Love and Sports in a Complicated South (Blair).

The other NC-based finalists are Wiley Cash, whose novel When Ghosts Come Home (William Morrow) is nominated in “Fiction;” Alan Gratz, whose YA novel about 9/11, Ground Zero (Scholastic Press), is nominated in “Children’s;” and Jaye Robin Brown, whose YA novel The Key to You and Me (HarperTeen) also is nominated in “Children’s.”

Fight Songs by Ed Southern is a wry and witty commentary on college sports and identity in the complicated social landscape of the South. Ed set out to tell how the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, from beyond the grave, introduced him to his wife, a Birmingham native and die-hard Alabama fan. While he was writing that story, though, 2020 came along. This book explores the connections and contradictions between the teams we root for and the places we plant our roots; between the virtues that sports are supposed to teach and the cutthroat business they’ve become; between the hopes of fans and the demands of the past, present, and future.

 

 

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash is a tender and haunting story of a father and daughter, crime and forgiveness, race and memory. When the roar of a low-flying plane awakens him in the middle of the night, Sheriff Winston Barnes knows something strange is happening at the nearby airfield on the coast of North Carolina. But nothing can prepare him for what he finds: a large airplane has crash-landed and is now sitting sideways on the runway, and there are no signs of a pilot or cargo. As the suspense builds and this compelling mystery unfolds, Wiley Cash delves deep into the hearts of these richly drawn, achingly sympathetic characters to reveal the nobility of an ordinary man struggling amidst terrifying, extraordinary circumstances.

 

Alan Gratz’ Ground Zero delivers a pulse-pounding and unforgettable take on history and hope, revenge and fear—and the stunning links between the past and present. The novel alternates between a boy visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and an Afghani girl on September 11, 2019, who stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz—and put herself and her family in mortal danger? Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same.

 

 

The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown is a sweet and funny LGBTQ+ romance perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Julie Murphy, from the critically acclaimed author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. It’s a point-of-view rom-com about two girls falling in “like.” Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper Kitt comes to spend the summer with her grandmother and train at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, and everything changes.

For the full list of finalists for the 2021 Southern Book Prize, click here.

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