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This week, readers across the world have made it their aim to “blackout” bestseller lists with titles by Black authors:

“To demonstrate our power and clout in the publishing industry, June 14 – June 20, we encourage you to purchase any two books by Black Writers. Our goal is to Blackout Bestseller lists with Black Voices.”

Earlier this week, we recommended six titles by inductees of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

But if you’re anything like us, you’re always looking for something else good to read. Why not try one of these titles from Black-owned small presses with ties to North Carolina?

American Herstory by celeste doaks
Backbone Press:
A collection of brilliant poems that speak to and about former First Lady Michelle Obama. Spanning themes of family, art, gardening, and race, they are as lighthearted as they are heavy. American Herstory is the winner of the inaugural Backbone Press Chapbook Award. “American Herstory is an intimate, inspirational, and occasionally hilarious meditation on Michelle Obama,” says Entropy magazine. “But the collection also says something dead-serious and vital—that women, especially black women, are still ready to fight.”


Black From the Future: A Collection of Black Speculative Writing (Stephanie Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle, editors)
BLF Press:
Black From the Future: A Collection of Black Speculative Writing encompasses the broad spectrum of Black speculative writing, including science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and Afrofuturism, all by Black women writers. “Within this revelatory 22-piece anthology of prose and poetry across the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres, editors Allen and Cherelle have gathered works by some of the best and boldest voices in African-American speculative writing,” says Publisher’s Weekly in a Starred Review. “There’s something for everyone in this outstanding anthology.”




The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript by Zelda Lockhart
LaVenson Press:
Utilize your emotional, psychological, and spiritual self to produce the first draft of a full-length manuscript. This book acts as creative companion for individuals (those with or without writing experience) as they journey through the sharing of an impactful event in life, do exercises that help them transform internal obstacles into external gifts, and then write resolution and outcome. “This book should come with a warning label,” says Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina. “Be ready, you are going to have to go deeper than you ever imagined.'”




Just Do You by Trina Ramsey
Minerva Rising Press:
A practical guide to help women over 40 live their best life. Are you stuck in autopilot? Do you go through each day putting one foot in front of the other with little thought about why? Are you happy and fulfilled in your life? If not, what would you do differently? Through journaling and self-reflection, Just Do You! uses life lessons to challenge women over forty to confront their limiting beliefs and open the door to a more peace, joyous life. Trina Ramsey is a life coach and speaker specializing in personal transformation, with over twenty years of experience in business, fundraising, and management. She created the Just Do You Institute for Women s Empowerment for women over forty who are ready to live full, fearless, and authentic lives.


This week, you can be part of a campaign to “Black Out” the bestseller lists:

This initiative, being shared across social media with the hashtag #BlackoutBestsellerList, has the sole mission of demonstrating Black writers’ power in the publishing industry one book at a time.

Purchase any two books by Black writers before June 20 to demonstrate the power and clout of Black writers in the publishing industry.

And, ahem, if we may make some recommendations? Why not start with a few books by inductees of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame?

All books are available from your local bookstore, or you can support indies everywhere by ordering through

Looking for more? Other Black inductees to the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame include:

It’s gonna be a long summer. Why not stock up?

Manly Wade Wellman Award Longlist

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation has announced the longlist for the 2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award. The 2020 award covers novels published in 2019.

Among the eighteen titles is To the Bones by longtime friend of the Network Valerie Nieman, a “genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia” from West Virginia University Press.

NCWN member T. Frohock’s Where Oblivion Lives (Harper Voyager) made the list: a Los Nefilim novel, Where Oblivion Lives is a “dark, lyrical historical thriller, set in 1930s Spain and Germany, that brings to life the world of angels and demons from the novellas collected in Los Nefilim: Spanish Nephilim battling daimons in a supernatural war to save humankind.”

Also included is Carl Perkins’ Cadillac by John G. Hartness (Falstaff Books). John’s no stranger to Network events, having served on faculty and as an exhibitor. Carl Perkins’ Cadillac is Book 5 of the Quincy Harker Demon Hunter series. John won the 2016 Manly Wade Wellman Award.

Gail Z. Martin’s Inheritence (SOL Publishing) also made the list. Gail taught at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference. Inheritence is the fourth book in the Deadly Curiosities series. Gail won the 2018 Manly Wade Wellman Award.

For the full longlist, click here.

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation (NCSFF) was founded in December 2013 to promote the writing and reading of speculative fiction in North Carolina and to recognize outstanding achievements in North Carolina science fiction and fantasy.

Manly Wade Wellman was a 1996 inductee to the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. He wrote thirty-five adventure novels for boys, nearly half of them set in North Carolina in the southeastern part of the state, and in the mountains. These include both contemporary mystery/adventure stories and historical novels.

Although his work has been called “science fiction,” he successfully blended his varied interests to create a genre now referred to as speculative fiction. His fascination with Appalachian history and folklore form the basis for his fantastic Silver John series, which features a virtuous folk-ballad-singing young hero who battles supernatural forces of evil in the North Carolina mountains, defending the innocent and timid. Wellman’s numerous works of speculative fiction also include a Martian murder mystery, tales of loathsome alien invaders, and Twice in Time, the story of a man who falls into the fifteenth century and becomes Leonardo da Vinci.

A shortlist of finalists will be announced on Wednesday, July 1, and the winner(s) will be announced at ConGregate on Friday, July 17, 2020. However, as ConGregate will not be held in person this year, location and manner of the announcement is subject to change at this time.

The Mothership Departs: Farewell, Mothership

The Mothership

The Durham arts community will lose an invaluable nerve center when The Mothership permanently closes its doors at the end of June. The Mothership made the announcement late last weeek.

From the beginning of this crisis, we’ve been dedicated to letting the new conditions (stay-at-home orders, physical distancing, a reshuffled economy) conjure the greatest amount of imagination and possibility for us and our business. As the COVID-19 narrative unfolds and intersects with other timelines and challenges we face as a business, the story that emerges is one of a razor thin path–if we hold on to our building. And although we have walked many tightropes in our history, this one is just too narrow.

Six years ago, The Mothership opened its garage doors as a co-working space in the heart of downtown Durham, just steps from restaurants, bars, hiking trails, and more. The Mothership coworking offered freelancers, business owners, and remote workers a space for their good ideas.

Collaboration blossomed in many exciting and unexpected ways as artisans sold goods through The Mothership Shop and writers read from their works-in-progress at free monthly readings.

The monthly Durham Writers’ Salon offered writers an evening of writing time followed by reflection and encouragement. The good vibes will be missed.

Originally, a farewell event was planned to open tonight through June 7. This event has been postponed; check Facebook for details.

The North Carolina Writers’ Network would like to with The Mothershp godspeed: see you in your next incarnation.

NCWN Statement of June 2, 2020

Y’all might recall a few years ago, when some writers from Minnesota sought to challenge our claim that North Carolina is “the Writingest State.” Our debate was heated but good-natured, well-read but frivolous, and—now, in the light of the last seven days—luxurious, reflective of a far less urgent time.

The board, staff, and members of the North Carolina Writers’ Network are proud to stand with our friends and fellow writers in Minneapolis, as well as all other people there and in communities across the country. We stand with all who seek to make their voices heard and their stories known.

We stand against those who seek to silence voices and stifle stories through violence, which only ever reflects the failure or abandonment of language and human reasoning.

We stand against those who inflict violence on credentialed media members, the professional storytellers who put themselves in harm’s way to seek and serve the facts of human experience. We deplore such acts, whether committed by agents of the state or not.

If we have not made it clear before, let us do so now: The North Carolina Writers’ Network is an anti-racist organization. We cannot pursue our mission of connection and community and be otherwise.

We cannot stand by our Statement of Belief—“We believe that writing is necessary both for self-expression and community spirit, that well-written words can connect people across time and distance, and that the deeply satisfying experiences of writing and reading should be available to everyone”—and not oppose the exclusion of any people, anybody with whom we share our full and common humanity—which is everybody.

Black lives matter. Black voices and stories matter, and are, and long have been, subject to unique and ingrained harm in this nation.

We do not “look forward,” passively, to a time when words like these will be unnecessary. We commit ourselves to the work of making such a time come to pass, of making this statement—and all such like it—obsolete. We commit ourselves, again, to lifting up Black writers within the Network, as members, teachers, speakers, and contest judges. We commit ourselves to the work of making the horrific events of the last seven days, and of the last 400 years, not a reality still lived, but only a story still told.


Ed Southern                                                     Shervon Cassim
Executive Director                                          President
North Carolina Writers’ Network                    North Carolina Writers’ Network

Bookmarks Book Drive for Healthcare Workers

From our friends at Bookmarks:

Throughout this crisis, we have been in awe of the healthcare workers who have been tirelessly caring for the sick. We know that this time has been exhausting and stressful.

So beginning today through June 11, we will have a book drive to give new books to our healthcare workers in our community. The wishlist below includes books on self-care and anti-anxiety, as well as some bestsellers to help the reader escape.

We would love your help. Please consider purchasing a book for a healthcare worker in our community.

Can’t purchase a book at this time, but want to help? You can make a donation on the wishlist page which will go towards book purchases.


Until we see you again, be well and happy reading.
The Bookmarks Team

New YouTube Channel Features Poetry Book Launches

One silver lining to our current global predicament is the way in which so many communities have rallied around one another.

The literary community is no exception.

Malaika King Albrecht, a poet and current president of the North Carolina Poetry Society, launched a YouTube channel in March. Every Thursday at 7:00 pm, using Zoom, she hosts virtual book launches for poets.

Authors read from their work and then chat with Malaika about their process. Each episode lasts about thirty minutes—a great way to pass the time, thinking about poetry.

Past guests have included Christopher Davis, Maureen Sherbondy, Jacinta V. White, and more.

To view past episodes, click here.

Malaika King Albrecht is serving as the inaugural Heart of Pamlico Poet Laureate. Her fourth book, The Stumble Fields, is just out from Main Street Rag. Her book What the Trapeze Artist Trusts (Press 53) won honorable mention in the Oscar Arnold Young Award. Her chapbook Lessons in Forgetting (Main Street Rag) was a finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received honorable mention in the Brockman Campbell Award. Her second book Spill was also published by Main Street Rag in 2011. She’s the founding editor of Redheaded Stepchild, an online magazine that only accepts poems that have been rejected elsewhere. She lives in Ayden.

Interested in holding your book launch on Malaika’s channel? E-mail her at

Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so that you know each time a new episode drops!

Just a reminder: NCWN is keeping a running list of books that have been published in 2020, so that these authors don’t get forgotten in this health crisis.

Don’t see yours listed? E-mail

Guide to Reopening the Arts in NC

As North Carolina settles into a modified Phase Two of the state’s phased plan to ease restrictions stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic, cultural leaders have released a “Guide to Reopening the Arts in North Carolina” to keep patrons, workers, and artists as safe as possible in response to COVID-19.

Arts leaders representing the North Carolina Theatre Conference, the North Carolina Presenters Consortium, Arts NC, the North Carolina Arts Council, and many independent arts organizations have been researching and preparing resources to help arts groups plan for resuming public facing operations, which resulted in the guide.

To learn more about resources for arts and cultural organizations from COVID-19 visit ARTS NC here or the North Carolina Arts Council here. To view the guidelines for National Endowment for the Arts stimulus funds click here.

Remember to Update Zoom

By now, Zoom has become ubiquitous. We use it for work; we use it for our community involvement; we use it to catch up with family.

The North Carolina Writers’ Network also uses Zoom for our online classes and conferences.

(The next online class, by the way, happens Tuesday, June 16, at 7:00 pm, “From Monologues to Stump Speeches—The Importance of the Inciting Incident,” with playwright Raegan Payne. Registration is open.)

Zoom has updated to version 5.0. This version becomes mandatory on May 30; anyone logging onto Zoom after May 30 will be forced to automatically update to the newest version. It doesn’t take long, but it might be annoying if you’re joining a meeting a bit late and have to wait while the software updates.

We recommend taking a moment betweeen now and May 30 to update your Zoom software manually.

You can download the newest version here.

Or, open Zoom on your computer or mobile device, click on your profile icon, and select “Check for Updates.”

For more information about Zoom, click here.

Be sure to update before our next online event! See you then.

Happy Trails to Tommy Hays

Tommy Hays

Happy Trails to Tommy Hays, who announced his retirement as the Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Tommy taught for the program for twenty years.

A novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, Tommy’s middle grade novel What I Came to Tell You was an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA). Hays’ novel The Pleasure Was Mine was a finalist for the SIBA Fiction Award and chosen for numerous community reads. His other novels are Sam’s Crossing and In the Family Way, winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. A Trustee of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, he received his BA in English from Furman University and graduated from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He also teaches in the Converse College Low Residency MFA.

“I can’t think of a better job, working with such motivated and engaging students and such kind and dedicated writer/teachers,” Tommy said in a Facebook post. “I’ve enjoyed working with schools and organizations in the community to coordinate our classes as well as organizing and hosting Writers at Home, our reading series with Malaprops. Still it does feel like it’s time for a change.”

The Great Smokies Writing Program is a joint effort between the UNC-Asheville departments of English, Creative Writing, and the Asheville Graduate Center. The program offers opportunities for writers of all levels to join a supportive learning community in which their skills and talents can be explored, practiced, and forged under the careful eye of professional writers. The program offers classes every season; registration for Summer 2020 is open now.

The Great Smokies Writing Program also facilitates The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. Sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, this prize awards $1,000 and possibly publication in The Thomas Wolfe Review annually to a work of fiction under 3,000 words.

“Hays is a gifted storyteller, offering up an effective balance of credible emotion, understated wisdom, and gentle humor,” said The Bulletin in a starred review of What I Came to Tell You.

Tommy led the Master Class in Fiction at the NCWN 2011 Fall Conference and the 2015 NCWN Fall Conference; he led a fiction session in 2019.

“Tommy Hays writes beautifully,” said Claudia Smith Brinson in The State. “His subject matter, his sense of the South and Southerners, his ability to reflect on the deep in the ordinary are reminiscent of James Agee’s A Death in the Family and Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding.”

The North Carolina Writers’ Network would like to offer our deepest appreciation for Tommy and his contributions to the North Carolina literary world. We look forward to reading all the great stuff he’ll write with all his newfound “free time!”