Skip to content

World Book Night Happens Tomorrow

Billy Shakes

Billy Shakes

Wednesday, April 23, is World Book Night, an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person. One night a year, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

Each year, 30-35 books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed World Book Night U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers.

Givers pick up their books in the week before World Book Night. On April 23, they give their books to those who don’t regularly read and/or people who don’t normally have access to printed books, for reasons of means or geography.

The 2014 books include Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat & Other Stories, and Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire. For a complete list, click here.

Many bookstores in North Carolina are getting in on the action, including:

For a complete list of events, click here.

Why April 23? It’s William Shakespeare’s birthday, of course!

NCWN: Now on LinkedIn

Thanks to Chuck Thurston, the Regional Rep for Cabarrus and Rowan Counties, the North Carolina Writers’ Network now has a Group page on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a “business-oriented social networking service.” If Facebook is a high school reunion and Twitter is a cocktail party, LinkedIn is a business lunch—a place to build your professional identity, connect with others in your industry, and keep up with current trends and ventures.

To begin using LinkedIn, click here. To request to join NCWN’s LinkedIn Group, click here.

LinkedIn has arguably the cleanest and easiest-to-use discussion forum of all the major social networking sites. Have a question about writing or publishing? Our new Group page is a good place to ask it.

While you’re there, why not look to make connections with others who can be a resource?

Chuck Stone, RIP

Chuck Stone

Chuck Stone, a “pioneering black journalist and an influential journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” died Sunday, April 6, at 89.

Stone served on the North Carolina Writers’ Network Advisory Board and worked as a reporter and editor at several influential black newspapers at the height of the civil rights era, including The New York Age and The Chicago Defender.

From his obituary in the Raleigh News & Observer:

From 1960-63, Stone was editor and White House correspondent for The Washington Afro-American. During that period, he met Philip Meyer, now an emeritus professor at UNC but then a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers. Meyer recalled that the he and Stone met when they both moved into a northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood as part of efforts to integrate it.

Three decades later, Meyer would recruit Stone to Chapel Hill to teach journalism. On Sunday, Meyer recalled his friend’s sense of humor, intellect and his ability to diffuse tension situations. “He was very smart. He could take a long-range view of events,” Meyer said. “He was a great diplomat.”

He was such an effective diplomat that when a group of heavily armed inmates attempted to escape from Philadelphia’s notorious Graterford prison in 1981, they told police negotiators they wanted one thing: Chuck Stone. After two days, he negotiated their surrender, and the six hostages the prisoners had taken emerged alive and unharmed.

They knew Stone from his weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News, and from his work as one of the first black journalists in the mainstream press.

And any writer can probably relate to this quote from Maria Gallagher, a former Daily News writer: “If he liked you, he loved you. If he didn’t like you, he’d write about you.”

Instructors Return to Conference: As Attendees

Rebecca Black

Who knows? You may find yourself sitting next to Stegner Fellow and NEA grantee (and poet!) Rebecca Black….

There might be no better proof of the value of our writing workshops than the fact that four former NCWN conference instructors have registered for the 2014 Spring Conference on Saturday, April 12, in the MHRA Building on UNCG’s campus.

Paul Austin (Fall Conference 2012), Rebecca Black (Spring Conference 2012), Terry L. Kennedy (Spring Conference 2013), and Jan B. Parker (Fall Conference 2012) will all be sitting in workshops, attending readings, and lunching side by side with other conference-goers. Plus, Jacinta V. White, who will lead a special session of “One City, One Prompt” at this year’s Spring Conference, is looking forward to sitting in on some workshops earlier in the day.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Where else can you “sit at the feet” of the current Piedmont Laureate, Carrie Knowles? Or learn how to write a children’s book with award-winning author Kelly Starling Lyons? Or share lunch with James Applewhite Poetry Prize winner John Thomas York?

Pre-registration closes at midnight on Sunday, April 6. For more information, and to register, click here.

Goggin Repeats as NC Representative for Poetry Out Loud

The dynastic Casey Goggin

The dynastic Casey Goggin

Moore County high school student Casey Goggin was crowned the North Carolina champion of the 2014 Poetry Out Loud Competition for the second year in a row. That’s back-to-back championships for the sixteen-year-old from Pine Crest High School—officially making him a dynasty. At least in our books.

Goggin recited complex poems “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth, “Chorus Sacerdotum” by Fulke Greville, and “To Elsie” by William Carlos Williams. He was challenged by thirty-three other students from across the state in the annual recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and coordinated by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

He will compete in the national finals in Washington, DC, April 29-30.

Runner-up was Alisha Hartley from Central Academy of Technology & Arts in Union County with her recitations of “The Blues Don’t Change” by Al Young, “Invitation to Love” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, and “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee.

The Poetry Out Loud Competition features students in grades nine through twelve. Competitors at the state and national finals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents; all poems must be selected from the Poetry Out Loud print or online anthology, which is updated every summer.

Goggin receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital for the Poetry Out Loud National Championship. There, the North Carolina representative will compete for a $20,000 college scholarship. His school receives a $500 stipend to be used for purchasing poetry books; Hartley won $100, and her school received a $200 stipend for buying poetry books. All students participating in the semi-finals receive free memberships to the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society.

For more information on Poetry Out Loud, click here.

For a complete list of students competing at the North Carolina regionals, click here.

Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer

Three years before Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Elizabeth Spencer published The Voice at the Back Door, one of “the earliest novels recounting racial tension in the South.”

Spencer was nominated for the 1957 Pulitzer Prize. But instead of awarding what is arguably literature’s most distinguished honor to a female writing truthfully and unblinkingly about the small-town American South, no Pulitzer Prize in fiction was given that year.

Or so the story goes.

Now a new generation of readers can appreciate the work of one of North Carolina’s literary giants through a new documentary, Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story. This film offers a window into an extraordinary author’s life and work, viewed through the prism of her Southern lineage. It features archival photography and film clips, re-enactments, and interviews with many of today’s most important writers of the American South.

Bookmarks, in collaboration with RiverRun, will screen Landscapes of the Heart on Tuesday, April 8, at 6:30 pm, at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem. This event will be free and open to the public.

Elizabeth Spencer was born in Carrollton, Mississippi, in 1921 to a storytelling and book-loving family in a community steeped in the oral traditions of the South, and subsequently set many of her works in the hill country and deltas of Mississippi and Louisiana. The author of nine novels, many fine short stories, and the famous novella The Light in the Piazza, Spencer has received the Award of Merit Medal for the Short Story from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, of which she is a member. She has also been awarded the Cleanth Brooks Medal by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. Many of her stories and short fiction have been collected, including in The Southern Woman (2001), published to wide critical acclaim.

Now in her nineties, Spencer published a new collection of short stories, Starting Over, in 2014 (Liveright Publishing Corporation). One of the stories in this book, “On the Hill,” was called “one of the best stories I’ve ever read” by Malcolm Jones in the New York Times Book Review.

For more information about Landscapes of the Heart, click here.

Six Things about Elevator Pitching You Won’t Hear from Me Live

by Linda Rohrbough

Linda Rohrbough

Linda Rohrbough

At the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Spring Conference, I’ll be leading my “How to Make an Elevator Pitch” workshop. In it, I’ll teach a three-step formula that works for any book. Want to hear more? I’ll let you in on my secrets live on Saturday afternoon, April 12. But in the meantime, let me tell you six things I’m sure I won’t have time to say in class.

    1. Most new writers feel they have to be all things so some editor or agent will pay attention to them. That’s simply not true, and it’s the quickest way to produce failure.
    2. Every writer, no matter how experienced, has some level of fear when pitching. What’s important is to understand the concept that you can use fear to your advantage, and learn how to make fear work for you instead of against you.
    3. Writers stop improving their elevator pitch at the point where they sell the book. They do this because they figure if the pitch sold the book, it’s good enough. I agree. However, there are basic ways to make a pitch work, and it can always be improved.
    4. I failed miserably the first couple of times I tried to pitch my fiction. I failed pitching my nonfiction too, but the fiction failures were worse because I thought I had enough experience writing professionally to be heard. This is why I did the work to come up with my formula, which I use for my own work.
    5. Most successful writers learned how to pitch by trial and error, with years of practice. Yes, you can learn the same way. But do you really want to? Wouldn’t you rather short-cut that process?
    6. This is a false statement: “You just need a one-sentence pitch.” I’d like to find whoever started that rumor and straighten them out. Although it’s so widespread now, I’m not sure it’s possible to trace the source.

One thing you will hear me say in my workshop is that pitching is a lifelong skill. Since writing is a lifelong profession, that makes sense.

I’m smiling as I write this because I’m looking forward to teaching this workshop. It’s one of my favorites and fresh for me every time I teach it. Plus, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my NCWN friends, including having lunch with a limited number of attendees who sign up early.

Here’s the link for the NCWN Spring Conference registration. If you sign up by April 6, you can get a discount. (Hint, hint.) Hope to see you there!

Famous Meals in Literature

 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

As writers, we know everything about our characters—their likes and dislikes, how they respond to challenges, their hopes and dreams. But what about the food they eat?

There are some truly memorable meals in literature: the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; the bouillabaisse made by Henry Perowne in Ian McEwan’s Saturday; how canned peaches become a true delicacy in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Now fifty of literature’s most famous meals have been photographed and collected in Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried.

Fictitious Dishes serves up a delectable assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature. Showcasing famous meals such as the watery gruel from Oliver Twist, the lavish chicken breakfast from To Kill a Mockingbird, the stomach-turning avocado-and-crabmeat salad from The Bell Jar, and the seductive cupcakes from The Corrections, this unique volume pairs each place setting with the text from the book that inspired its creation. Interesting food facts and entertaining anecdotes about the authors, their work, and their culinary predilections complete this charming book, which is sure to whet the appetites of lovers of great literature and delicious dishes.

Fictitious Dishes will be published by HarperCollins in April, 2014. You can preview some of Dinah’s selected meals here.

Carrie Knowles Named New Piedmont Laureate

Carrie Knowles, 2014 Piedmont Laureate

Carrie Knowles, 2014 Piedmont Laureate

Longtime North Carolina Writers’ Network member Carrie Knowles, of Raleigh, has been selected as the 2014 Piedmont Laureate in the Short Story.

As Piedmont Laureate, Knowles will receive an honorarium and serve until December 31, 2014. Her duties will include presenting public readings and workshops, participating at select public functions, and creating at least one original activity to expand appreciation of short fiction.

Knowles also will lead a workshop at the NCWN 2014 Spring Conference, “Market Your Book – with Imagination,” with Peggy Payne. This workshop is an opportunity for registrants to “sit at the feet” of the current Piedmont Laureate and learn how to improve their book’s sales, using the very ability that started them writing in the first place: imagination. Attendees will learn tactics and strategies for books and book ideas that other workshop participants bring in.

Spring Conference is a full day of intensive workshops in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book marketing, and the “art of the pitch.” Other features include faculty readings, on-site “lunch with an author,” publisher exhibits, and an open mic for conference participants. Special Sessions include “Speed Pitch,” where registrants will have the opportunity to pitch their manuscript to four literary professionals, and “One City, One Prompt,” led by Jacinta V. White. For more information, and to register, click here.

The Piedmont Laureate program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing. Co-sponsored by the Durham Arts Council, City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Alamance County Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, the program’s mission is to “promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.” The program focuses on a different literary form each year. Past laureates include NCWN board member Zelda Lockhart (2010); 2013 Spring Conference faculty member Scott Huler (2011); and poet Jaki Shelton Green (2009).

Knowles has been a freelance writer, arts advocate, and organizer for 45 years. She has published dozens of short stories and three books: a memoir titled ” (Three Rivers Press, 2000) and two novels, Lillian’s Garden and Ashoan’s Rug (Roundfire Books, 2013). Noted as one of the top books of 2013 by The Salisbury PostAshoan’s Rug is a novel created from a series of ten linked short stories. Ms. Knowles’ short stories have won numerous awards, including the Village Advocate Fiction Contest, the Blumenthal Writers & Readers Series, the North Carolina Writer’s Network Fiction Syndication, and Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Competition. She was named twice as a finalist in other Glimmer Train competitions, was a finalist in the Doris Betts Fiction Contest, and received an honorable mention in the National Literary Awards.

Who’s Reading These New-Fangled e-Books?

The Science of MarketingBook-marketing guru Sandra Beckwith writes a terrific blog and offers a must-read e-newsletter. In her most-recent, she breaks down a few statistics gleaned from Dan Zarrella’s book The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies. Zarella “wants you to toss out much of what you’ve heard about social media marketing and focus on what his research tells you instead.”

As Beckwith parses out the data, she comes to some interesting conclusions. Of the 1,000 American adults surveyed, all of whom own a computer or e-reader and have a job paying $70,000 or more:

  • About 65 percent said they read e-books at least once a month.
  • Nearly half said they read fiction e-books.
  • Women were more likely to read fiction e-books than men, while men were more likely to read business e-books than women.

And what about pushing widgets? What can Zarella’s book tell us about how to put our own book in front of readers? The author also asked people how they heard about e-books they read. He learned that:

  • 45 percent learned about them directly from Amazon (more women than men).
  • About 35 percent said “recommendations from friends” (more women than men).
  • The third most common way readers heard about e-books was through search engines (more men than women).

Beckwith concludes that word-of-mouth marketing is essential, and authors must make their books available as e-pubs. And while it’s great to have your book listed in as many outlets as possible, for better or worse Amazon still rules.