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A Cautionary Tale

When writers think of networking, after they choke back the swell of panic over the thought of leaving their writing desk and venturing out into public for a change, they often imagine doing so in order to share publishing opportunities and media connections, to help one another find success.

But there’s another, equally important benefit to networking: warning others off scams or less than reputable publishers, agents, and marketing services.

Unfortunately, this blog post deals with the latter.

Linda Formichelli is the North Carolina-based author of How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie. Like many indy authors, she knew she needed to assemble a crack team to make her new book a success. She hired designers and production services, and a firm who specialized in taking indy books to market.

She contracted Insurgent Publishing to handle the release of her book, including marketing and PR. They seemed like an established and recognized firm: a “boutique” publisher that produces and markets “books that matter for the creative outliers of the world.” The company was founded by a five-year Army officer who served a deployment in Iraq. Everything seemed above-board. But what resulted was less than optimal for both parties.

In short?

What followed was a $6,500.00 disaster that ended in lackluster results, a prematurely terminated contract, and angry recriminations from both sides.

But let’s walk it back. It’s probably a good idea to start with Linda’s original blog post on The Renegade Writer. Here, she outlines the case for the prosecution.  It’s long, but worth the read. And don’t miss out on scrolling through all 163 comments—where the owner of Insurgent Publishing (allegedly) impersonates someone else to defend his company’s (alleged) failure.

Then, scoot on over to a blog post on the website for the Alliance of Independent Authors. There, author John Doppler does the yeoman’s work of laying out the arguments for both sides and zeroing in on the things that could have been done by both Linda and Insurgent Publishing to make her book release a success. Honestly, this blog post should be essential reading for anyone who thinks they might publish a book of their own one day, indy or otherwise.

Then, to cap things off, check out Sandra Beckwith’s article on potential pitfalls for indy authors.

Happy reading. And good luck. If nothing else, all of this is a healthy reminder that while it can be fulfilling, publishing is sometimes a dog-eat-dog world out there.

Take a Moment to Thank Your State Government

From our friends at ARTS North Carolina:

As the NC General Assembly closes up shop for the 2015-2017 Biennium Session, we turn our attention to you, our stalwart advocates, to express our admiration and respect for your diligent, intelligent, and passionate arts advocacy that carried the day for our industry.

Counting the $500,000 increase in Grassroots Arts Funds for 2016-2017, the Biennium budget included a total increase of $800,000 non-recurring funding for Grassroots Arts. These funds are distributed to all 100 counties and helps provide a diverse menu of arts opportunities and impact: festivals, arts in schools, administration overhead, sub-grants to community agencies, concerts…the list goes on.

In addition, the Legislature allocated a total of $715,422 for A+ Schools. All total, the NC General Assembly increased arts funding in the 2015 – 2017 Biennium budget by $1,515,422 or a 14 percent increase in funding for grants and programs at the North Carolina Arts Council.

Pat yourself on the back, and then let’s get started on what’s next!

Your Thank-You Notes Make a Difference.

Throughout the years, we have often heard that arts advocates do the “best” job of thanking their Legislators. The last time we heard that? From a House Sub-Committee in the current session that initiated the recommendation for this year’s successful $500,000 increase for Grassroots Arts Funding.

TAKE ACTION

Help ensure next year’s agenda, which is already in the making–one that will be the most ambitious in Arts North Carolina’s history. Here’s how:

  • Express your appreciation to the House/Senate leadership listed below.
  • If your own Legislator is not on this list, write to that person as well.
  • Communication can be short.
  • Hard copy letters have a much longer shelf life and are actually read, even if they do not come from a Legislator’s district.
  • If you must email, be sure and put “Thank You” in the subject line or if the person is your Legislator, indicate “Thank you from your district.”
  • Tell the Legislators what this money means to your place and people.
  • Tell them you will invite and keep them informed of programs made possible by the funding, then make sure you do so.
  • Always, thank them for their service to North Carolina.

The primary recipients of appreciation should be the following:

Click here to find your legislators (if not on the above list) and write to them, too.

As always, thank you for being a part of our action network.

Incoming! Freshmen Reading

Summer’s a good time to catch up on your reading. Libraries hold contests to see how many books kids can read each week, and a glance around the local pool or the beach reveals plenty of people turning pages of books or electronic devices.

Most colleges and university’s assign a Common Reading Book to incoming freshmen, to give new students something to talk about, and debate, when they arrive on campus. These books can be fiction or nonfiction, classic or modern.

Our friends at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh noted recently that four North Carolina colleges (Duke, East Carolina University, Elon, and NC State) have assigned Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy was a New York Times bestseller named Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Esquire, and TIME:

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Here are some other colleges around the state, and what they’ve assigned as this year’s Common Reading Book:

RIP Writer’s Classifieds

In the past, one of the perks of being a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network was having access to the “Writer’s Classifieds” section of our website. Here, editors, designers, writing retreats, and more offered their goods and services; writing groups sought new members; and sometimes an entrepreneur or two would market a specific product.

When we first went virtual, back in 2008, a Writer’s Classified section made sense. There were few good options then, online, for places writers could connect to peddle their wares.

Eight years later, though, an online classified section has started to feel a bit outdated. There are better ways for writers to connect with one another, whether through the Network’s Facebook page, our Twitter feed, or our LinkedIn group. So while the Writer’s Classified section is now defunct, we’ll hope you’ll continue to use one or more of the Network’s online outlets to, well, ‘ya know, network.

And lest you think we’d take away a member benefit without replacing it with something more fabulous…

…we’re thrilled to announce a new Members Only section, what we’re now calling “Audio/Visual.” For now, this means members have easy access to archived videos of readings by faculty at past Network events. In the future, we hope this means our members will have access to video tutorials; video and audio recordings of workshops and panels; and who knows what else.

Thanks for staying with us as we continue to move the North Carolina literary world forward, one step at a time, with the support of members like you.

Pat Conroy Literary Center Set to Open

The Pat Conroy Literary Center

Pat Conroy, who sadly passed away in March, always felt he owed a debt not only to his loyal readers, but to all of those who helped him along the way. During his lifetime, he was known as a staunch champion and tireless supporter of emerging writers. His tutelage left a legacy nearly equal to his stupendous literary output.

Now, his debt of gratitude will be repaid in perpetuity through the Pat Conroy Literary Center, set to open in Beaufort, South Carolina, this fall.

Operating under the belief that “writing can bring meaning in and of itself, changing both our own lives and our world,” the Pat Conroy Literary Center will:

  • Host readings by acclaimed regional and national authors
  • Offer writing classes both at the Center and also off site, hosting classes at venues such as schools, senior centers, military bases, etc.
  • Expand literary arts education programs currently available by placing writers in K-12 classrooms to work with students
  • Sponsor lectures, master classes and special events
  • Provide space for book groups and writing groups
  • Create mentorships for middle and high school writing students
  • Offer ongoing professional development for English teachers
  • Provide need-based scholarships to our programs
  • Secure financially and renovate our location in downtown Beaufort
  • Collaborate with libraries and other organizations
  • Create an English Teacher of the Year award
  • And so much more

Conroy was the author of the universally-read books The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated movies. His life and works will be celebrated during the Pat Conroy Literary Festival, October 23-26, in Beaufort.

For more information about the author, and the Pat Conroy Literary Center, click here.

Hub City Waters Young Readers, Hoping They’ll Grow

The lifelong benefits of reading to babies and children are well-documented. Reading to one’s child strengthens the parent-child relationship, and the more words a child learns, the more comfortable he or she is using those words. Children with poor reading proficiency have the greatest risk of not finishing high school and failing to find economic success later in life.

Hub City Writers Project, based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, together with BirthMatters and The Adolescent Family Life Center, looks to address this social issue with a new initiative: Growing Great Readers.

Growing Great Readers is a book drive initiative aimed at new mothers aged twenty-four and younger and their infant children. Modeled after Dolly Parton’s hugely successful Imagination Library, the program donates books on a monthly basis to participating families to assure ready access to quality picture and board books aimed at children ages one to three.

The program launches at the Hub City Bookshop tonight at 4:00 pm, featuring Storytime with retired children’s librarian Bea Bruce, crafts, and cookies and lemonade. The event is free and open to the public.

Dolly Parton, an eight-time Grammy-award winning songwriter and country music legend, launched Imagination Library in 1995 in order to foster a love of reading among her Tennessee county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income. Since then, the program has grown: Imagination Library has mailed 60,000,000 books to children in the United States, Canada, and the UK. Currently over 1,600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to over 750,000 children each and every month.

Also founded in 1995, Hub City Writers Project has published more than 500 writers in sixty-six books, renovated two historic downtown buildings, and given away more than $20,000 in scholarships to emerging writers. It has sold some 150,000 Hub City Press books, provided creative writing instruction to hundreds in the Carolinas and beyond, and hosted lively book launch events in unlikely locales, including an abandoned train station, a river bank, and a concert hall. Hub City has won South Carolina’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts, the SC Governor’s Award for the Humanities, and 13 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards. They also hold an annual book drive that delivers at least 4,000 new and gently used children’s books to elementary students.

For more information on Hub City, click here.

RIP Blue Ridge Bookfest

For the past eight years, the Blue Ridge Bookfest has been a cultural fixture of Western North Carolina, and an important thread in our state’s literary tapestry. Unfortunately, in an e-mail sent today by festival organizers, we’ve learned that 2016 was the last year for the festival.

“Over the eight years we hosted more than three hundred talented authors and workshop leaders,” organizer Bill Ramsey said. “We will never forget their presentations and their books. Their comments regarding the event were always positive and helpful. We send our thanks to each of them.”

The annual weekend-long event has hosted nationally acclaimed authors such as Wiley Cash, Sara Gruen, Jeremy B. Jones, Ron Rash, and many, many more. The festival was also a huge proponent of local writers, allowing many North Carolina voices to lead seminars and workshops and to exhibit in the cozy confines of Blue Ridge Community College, where the event always took place.

The remaining fund balance of $1,515.29 will be donated to the BRCC Student Creative Writing Program for use in publishing their annual book of prose and poetry. The e-mail cited rising expenses and waning attendance as the main factors in the decision to end the festival’s run.

Boston Poets are Only Happy When It Rains

World-renowned street artist Banksy recently painted a mural for a primary school in Bristol, England, which only goes to show how far street art has progressed from being a nuisance to well, being something parents of school-age children can appreciate. Now there’s a fresh take on public art brewing just “across the pond” in Boston.

Boston’s mayor has a Mural Crew, where “young Boston artists work alongside professional mural painters to conceptualize, design, and paint large-scale murals throughout the city.” And this summer, their murals have been materializing—literally—at the most unexpected times: whenever it rains.

“Raining Poetry” is an art installation collaboration between the Mural Crew and Mass Poetry. Together, they’ve been installing poetry along select sidewalks in Boston. According to Sarah Siegel of Mass Poetry, the crew uses “a biodegradable water-repellent spray and stencils made by local artists.” On dry days, you can’t see the poems. But once it rains (or you throw a bucket of water over the words), the text darkens and becomes poetry.

Boston’s Poet Laureate, Danielle Georges, has selected four poems for the initial art installation, including three by Massachusetts poets.

The ultimate goal is to add so many poems that a commuter will encounter one or two poems a month as they traverse Boston city streets. Longterm, they’d like to include poems in different languages as well.

For more information about “Raining Poetry,” click here.

Arts in NC Needs Your Help by Thursday

From our friends at ARTS North Carolina:

We have good news and bad news about the state budget.

THE GOOD NEWS: the NC House of Representatives included a $500,000 increase for Grassroots Arts funding as allocated by the North Carolina Arts Council.

THE BAD NEWS: the Senate budget did not concur.

Therefore, arts funding will be an issue in the Conference process. The game could go either way. It depends on what you are willing to do.

Our goals are simple. Encourage the leaders in the House to hold their position and encourage the Senate to concur with the House. Representative Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County holds a very important position in the upcoming Conference process.

Please take action by NOON on THURSDAY:

If you know Representative Donny Lambeth personally:

  • Please place a telephone call and talk to the Legislative Assistant or leave your name on their message machine.
  • Number: (919)-733-5747

If you do NOT know Representative Donny Lambeth personally,

  • Please drop a short, hard copy letter in the mail by noon on Thursday.

Address:

300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 303, Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

  • Make the letters short but personal, such as:

I am asking that you hold firm to the House recommendation of a $500,000 increase for Grassroots Arts as allocated by the North Carolina Arts Council (or to your Senator concur with the House recommendation of a $500,000 increase for Grassroots Arts as allocated by the North Carolina Arts Council). Over 650 organizations in all 100 counties will benefit and 3.5 million citizens will be served by this remarkably efficient grant program. In our county, we will see significant increases in our funding to arts in education, artist residencies, festivals, etc. Thank you for your dedicated service to the citizens of North Carolina.

And please copy Arts NC at karen@artsnc.org if you receive a response.

What’s at stake?

A resounding response to this Call to Action could have a major impact on the arts where you live. Forsyth County currently receives $76,719 in Grassroots Arts funding. The $500,000 increase would bring that amount to $92,352.

The work on the budget will likely begin in earnest on Thursday. Do not delay in taking action!

Thank you, advocate!

Karen Wells
Executive Director

Ecotone Among O. Henry Prize Winners

A hearty congratulations to North Carolina’s Ecotone magazine: Ron Carlson’s short story “Happiness,” which appeared in Issue 18, has won a 2016 O. Henry Prize. In September, this story, along with the other nineteen winners, will appear in an anthology from Random House, edited by Laura Furman.

Since 1919, the O. Henry Prizes have awarded the best short stories each year, culled from hundreds of literary magazines. This year’s winners include heavyweight publications such as One Story, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker. Winning authors include Wendell Berry, Lydia Fitzpatrick, and Carlson, the award-winning author of four story collections and four novels, most recently Five Skies. His fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, Playboy, and GQ.

To read six of the winning stories free, click here.

Ecotone was founded at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2005, and has grown into an award-winning magazine featuring writing and art that reimagine place, which their authors interpret expansively. Among Ecotone’s contributors are 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.

Ecotone is produced by faculty and students in the MFA program at UNC-Wilmington. Along with their sister imprint, Lookout Books, they champion innovative and underrepresented work and offer UNC-Wilmington students the opportunity to learn the art and craft of publishing. Ecotone also facilitates the annual Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition for the North Carolina Writers’ Network.