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NC Humanities Council Launches Statewide Read Program

From our friends at the North Carolina Humanities Council:

The North Carolina Humanities Council (NCHC) is launching its Statewide Read program – a virtual book club for residents across the state – that dives headfirst into a highly topical subject, climate change, through preselected works of fiction.

The program features two books in the so-called climate-fiction or “cli-fi” genre:, including the adult novel, The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.

“Our Statewide Read program is coming at a critical time in our society when people are actively seeking ways to explore and learn about complex topics,” said Sherry Paula Watkins, executive director of the North Carolina Humanities Council. “Even though these are works of fiction, the underlying themes and messages resonate with environmental events we are experiencing today. It is our hope that the Statewide Read brings people together and fosters a meaningful discussion about our environment and how water plays an important role in our communities and our state.”

Want to be in on the conversation? Join us on January 19, 2021 for a “Whose Water Is it Anyway?” panel discussion on the science behind science fiction featuring author and professor emeritus Dr. John Kessel and journalist and author Jacqui Castle in conversation about the themes of natural disasters, climate change, and the water supply as presented in The Water Knife. The panel will be moderated by Charlotte Readers Podcast host, Landis Wade.

Click here to register.

In The Water Knife, in the near future, the Colorado River has dwindled to a trickle. Detective, assassin, and spy Angel Velasquez “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ensuring that its lush arcology developments can bloom in Las Vegas. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent south to hunt for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with her own agenda, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north. As bodies begin to pile up, the three find themselves cast as pawns in a game far bigger and more corrupt than they could have imagined. When water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.” Paolo Bacigalupi is a Hugo, Nebula, and Michael L. Printz Award winner, as well as a National Book Award finalist. He is also a winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and a three-time winner of the Locus Award. The Water Knife is a New York Times Bestseller.

There will be a book discussion of The Water Knife on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, at 6:30 pm. Register here.

A finale event is scheduled to be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2021, at the Discovery Place in Charlotte.

The Statewide Read is the keystone program of “Watershed Moments,” a two-year initiative by NCHC that explores our varied relationship with the environment, culturally and historically. Other “Watershed Moments” programs include an environmental journalism panel, film discussion series, and the statewide tour of the Smithsonian exhibit, Water/Ways. Learn more at

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through grant-making and public humanities programs, the Council serves as an advocate for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about our shared human experience. The Council operates the North Carolina Center for the Book, an affiliate program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To learn more visit

2021 Poetry in Plain Sight Poems Chosen

“Venus” by 2012 Poetry in Plain Sight Creative Founder, the late Rodney Holman

From Sam Barbee, president, and our friends at the North Carolina Poetry Society:

The North Carolina Poetry Society is honored to announce the forty-eight poems to be featured on Poetry In Plain Sight posters have been chosen, and they are outstanding, all fitting our program’s high standards.

Ninety-two poets from all around North Carolina submitted over 250 poems. All were of high quality, so you can imagine what a difficult time our three judges had narrowing in down to forty-eight.

One update: we had planned to launch the program in our Host Cities—Winston-Salem, New Bern, and Burnsville—in January, 2021. Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases around the state, we are postponing the launch until April—Poetry Month! For the kick-off, we will feature poems by Jaki Shelton Green, our current NC Poet Laureate, and also three former Poets Laureate: Fred Chappell, Joseph Bathanti, and Shelby Stephenson.

Other cities that are under consideration for participation are Asheboro, Oxford, Sanford, and Wilmington. Those discussions were also stalled due to the pandemic.

Once again let me thank all the poets who participated, plus our ongoing sponsors: NC Writers’ Network, Winston-Salem Writers, Press 53; plus our Judges, and Host City Coordinators for their dedication.

Please click here for a full list of 2021 Poetry in Plain Sight poems.


Launched in Winston-Salem in 2013 by Winston-Salem Writers, Poetry in Plain Sight brings North Carolina poetry and poets to the public.

In December 2019, under the guidance of former WSW President and Poetry in Plain Sight Program Director Donna Wallace, Winston-Salem Writers officially signed over Poetry in Plain Sight to the North Carolina Poetry Society (NCPS). Under this arrangement, the program is now administered by the Board of NCPS and will streamline expansion to new host cities statewide.

For current information about Poetry in Plain Sight, including current submission guidelines, submission calendar, and contact information, visit the NCPS Poetry in Plain Sight Page

Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers

It’s the giving season, which means there might be a writer on your list. Or maybe you’re that lucky writer on someone else’s list! Either way, here are some great gift ideas for writers:

A gift certificate to your local independent bookstore. Good writers are wide readers. Plus, you support a local business! It’s a win-win.

A subscription to With so much going on in the world, it’s easy to become distracted by our various news and social media feeds. Freedom gives you exactly that: freedom from distraction, so you can write.

Any and all of our NC-based small presses will be happy to sell you a book or two by their authors, direct from their website.

Know somebody who could use some help planning a book? Plottr and Scrivener offer effective and affordable software.

A subscription to an NC-based literary journal. From The Greensboro Review (est. 1966) to Variant Literary Journal (est. 2019), NC literary journals come in all shapes and sizes (see: Inch).

For that writer who spends a lot of time driving or cleaning etc., audiobooks are a great way to go. Subscriptions start around $16 a month on Audible, which is quite the steal when you consider most books run 10 hours or more….

Short on cash? You can give the gift of time. (This is what all writers really want more of anyway!) Does that writer in your life have kids? Offer to babysit. Do you live with the writer? Offer to do their chores for a weekend. Got a friend with a beach house? Ask that friend if you can send your writer there free during the off-season for a DIY writer’s retreat.

Love books? So does Lithographs. Puzzles, posters, shower curtains, and much, much more, all made by words from cherished literary works forming striking, unforgettable images.

If the medium is the message, maybe that old-school writer on your list would appreciate a real-life journal from Moglea. Or maybe an old-school fountain pen from the Carolina Pen Company; a kind of promise for when the gift recipient has copies of their own book to sign.

A gift membership to the North Carolina Writers’ Network. For someone hoping to improve their writing craft, joining a 1,400+ member organization that offers programs and resources for writers of all levels and experiences is a great place to start.

Happy holidays!

You Made Yesterday Our Givingest Day

We have no words to describe your generous support of the Network on this year’s Giving Tuesday.

OK, that’s not true. We do have words, of course, but this morning, all of them seem either inadequate, or unnecessarily violent: We didn’t just meet our goal, we beat it . . . by a lot.

We had hoped for 75 Giving Tuesday donations. Instead, as of midnight last night, we had received 105. That’s almost double the number of gifts received on what had been our best day for donations.

We know we have more on the way, too. Many of you let us know that you’re putting a check in the mail. We’re grateful for every cent of support y’all have offered.

The Network still faces a challenging year, but what y’all did yesterday makes the rest of the year a lot less daunting. On behalf of the staff, board, and all the writers the Network seeks to serve, we thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Ed Southern
Executive Director
North Carolina Writers’ Network

Where’s the Moon?

Welcome to the final installment of the “Prompt Party!” During The NCWN Writingest State Online Conference, Saturday, November 14, sponsored by Plottr, we randomly assigned a genre to rooms of randomly assigned attendees. Then, we gave a prompt:

A scientist manages to reanimate a 300-year-old werewolf that he finds in the museum archive fault, but the werewolf turns out to be nebbish and timid and riddled with insecurities. Meanwhile, a group of kindergarteners are in the hall waiting to tour the lab…

Last week, we shared what was created by our fiction, newspaper article, and stage & screen rooms. Last but certainly not least, here’s what our poets came up with:

WHERE’S THE MOON? (or, The Werewolf’s Lament)
by Sarah Blanchard, Alyssa Coleman, Jorge Cortese, and Ed Southern

Where’s the Moon? I can’t see the Moon.
Eons ago, the moon was closer, larger.
She held water in her seas, in her caverns, in her arms.
The Moon was there to change me, and
the Moon was always there. But now I’ve been
in a human cave for so long.
If the moon isn’t here to change me, I am only a man.
The ancient blood moves through me,
rising and falling like the moon’s seas.

There are children out there.
I can hear them laughing in the hall. How
could I not, with these ears?
I could hear them laughing two towns over.
(Are they laughing at me now?)
I was a teacher once, and I loved the children. They
were kind, and eager to learn.
But now I only feel that
they smell so sweet. Sweet
and tasty, like a dessert.
Small children are delicious, I can remember now,
But, oh, so cruel as well.
I want to teach again, like I did after the French Revolution,
But I’m afraid to ask.
I want to be under the Moon again
But the night is also cruel.

Werewolf Rescues Children from Nuclear Jam

During “The Prompt Party” at The NCWN Writingest State Online Conference, Saturday, November 14, sponsored by Plottr, we broke up into four separate rooms and randomly assigned a genre to the randomly assigned attendees. Then, we gave a prompt:

A scientist manages to reanimate a 300-year-old werewolf that he finds in the museum archive fault, but the werewolf turns out to be nebbish and timid and riddled with insecurities. Meanwhile, a group of kindergarteners are in the hall waiting to tour the lab…

If you missed the “Short Scene” and “Fiction” contributions, click on the appropriate links! A third room was assigned the genre of “Newspaper Article.” Here’s what that room wrote:

Werewolf Rescues Children from Nuclear Jam

CLEVELAND, OH—While working in the museum lab, Dr. Marc Shelley unearthed an astonishing discovery. While a kindergarten class from R.J. Lockhart Elementary school looked on, there suddenly appeared a magical being. Although one kindergartener was sucked into the beam, authorities report that he has been recovered in the cafeteria eating his peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich.

The werewolf, whom sources have identified as “Woody,” emerged from the lab into the hallway and asked the students, “Should I be worried about the peanut butter?” One child responded sheepishly, “Well, only if you left the raspberry jam on the sandwich.”

Docents were alarmed when the teacher throwing the raspberry jam jar into the light promptly vanished as well, leaving the kindergarteners with the docents.

Woody the Werewolf looked at the docents and said, “Y’know, I wonder if this happened because of GMO foods, because my mother always said to avoid GMO foods and especially peanut butter with raspberry jam, I mean, what, are we now in charge of these kids?”

Dr. Shelley, stepping back, exclaimed: “That’s it! I knew the raspberry farm was sitting next to the nuclear power plant and yet I allowed Woody to eat that raspberry jam and peanut butter anyway!”

The children were safely returned to school by Woody and authorities are investigating an outbreak of nuclear raspberry jam reactions in the cafeteria. More information will be released after investigation by Dr. Marc Shelley and his university.

(Additional reporting by Susan Musilli, Bob Slentz-Kesler, and Nancy Williard.)

The Werewolf You Deserve

Yesterday, we shared one of the responses to the prompt given during “The Prompt Party” at The NCWN Writingest State Online Conference, Saturday, November 14, sponsored by Plottr. During the event, participants broke up into four separate rooms and were randomly assigned a genre. Then, they were given a prompt:

A scientist manages to reanimate a 300-year-old werewolf that he finds in the museum archive fault, but the werewolf turns out to be nebbish and timid and riddled with insecurities. Meanwhile, a group of kindergarteners are in the hall waiting to tour the lab…

One of our rooms was assigned the genre of “Fiction.” (For yesterday’s “Stage and Screen” response, click here.) Here’s what the Fiction room wrote.



by Erim Akpan, Vivian Bikulege, and Ward Brian Zimmerman

“It’s alive!” The werewolf starts moving, confused. He focuses on the door, hears the children outside.

“I’m scared,” says the werewolf.

Leonard, the absentminded scientist, coaxes his new creation by gently touching his shoulder. “There’s no need to be scared. Just give into to your instincts and chase away those little brats.”

Leonard straightens his lab coat and steps back in dismay. “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you howling? Why aren’t you pulling at your chains? Why aren’t you the werewolf that we want you to be?”

From behind the stale green door, the children start to knock, laughing, screaming in joy to enter the lab on their misguided field trip.

The werewolf’s ears lay prostrate on his head. “I’m trying my best, but no one ever believes in me. I’m the werewolf you deserve, not the werewolf you need.”

The knocking at the door changes to rattling of the handle. Leonard goes to the door to brace it with a chair but before he can accomplish the deed, the children break through.

“I’m scared.”

“Don’t be.”

The werewolf bolts from the table, entangles in the electrical wires. A terrible stench of burning flesh and fur infuses the room.


The children are sitting around a campfire discussing the day enjoying melting smores.

“What a weird day,”one child says as he sucks down a hot marshmallow.

Another kindergartner smirks. “What kind of a dog was that?”

“I don’t know what kind of dog,” his pal replies, “but he sure tasted good.”

Bad Hair Day

During “The Prompt Party” at The NCWN Writingest State Online Conference, Saturday, November 14, sponsored by Plottr, we broke up into four separate rooms and randomly assigned a genre to the randomly assigned attendees. Then, we gave a prompt:

A scientist manages to reanimate a 300-year-old werewolf that he finds in the museum archive fault, but the werewolf turns out to be nebbish and timid and riddled with insecurities. Meanwhile, a group of kindergarteners are in the hall waiting to tour the lab…

One of our rooms was assigned the genre of “Stage and Screen.” Here’s what that room wrote.

Bad Hair Day

by Marla Dunham, Jane Gatewood, and Katie Winkler

Setting: North Carolina Natural Science Museum

(A group of rambunctious kindergartners are peering through a window. The audience doesn’t see what’s there. Kids are chattering, giggling, Bobby pulls Susie’s hair.)

Susie: Stop that!

Bobby: I didn’t do nothin’.

Tommy: Susie, you are going to be sooooo scared. You’re gonna pee your pants.

Teacher: Hush! Y’all settle down.

(Children continue to push each other and chatter. Teacher says a bit louder)

You know the rules. No sudden movements. Everyone must be very quiet and listen to Dr. Franke. And most of all, don’t touch anything. And that means you, too, Bobby.

(The teacher gathers them together.)

Teacher: Are you ready? I think it’s time to go in.

(Dr. Franke slowly opens the creaking door.)

Dr. Franke: Welcome, children. Come right on into my lab.

Teacher: Don’t touch anything, Bobby.

Susie, Yeah, Bobby.

(They enter the room. Something is lying on the table. Dr. Franke whips off the sheet. The werewolf, with mangy hair and large teeth, gigantic paws and sharp claws, suddenly sits up. He also has pink curlers in his hair. The children, teacher, and Dr. Franke all scream.)

Dr. Franke: What have you done, Wolfie? Your hair. The curlers. Those are mine!!!

(The children quickly stop screaming and start giggling and pointing.)

Teacher: Now, now, children. It’s not nice to make fun of (pause) people.

Bobby: People?

Dr. Franke: Shut up, Bobby.

Werewolf: (Looking around the room that has suddenly gone totally silent) What the hell?

(Kids giggle again.)

Werewolf: What? A guy can’t have a bad hair day?

Happy Trails, Marsha Warren!

Marsha Warren oversaw NCWN’s move into the White Cross School circa 1989.

Happy trails to Marsha Warren who will retire as director of the Paul Green Foundation, effective January 1, 2021.

“I’ll very much miss helping carry on Paul Green’s life-long work in support of the arts and human rights,” Marsha said in an e-mail.

She has served the Paul Green Foundation for thirty years. In 2018, she was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. As the longtime Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, Marsha helped to create a standard for excellence—the annual Fall Conference, the named competitions, the newsletter, and regional groups such as NCWN-West. She launched a writing program for prison inmates and created the Network’s critique service for writers at all stages of development. By building a truly open architecture based on strong relationships and generosity, Marsha Warren paved the way for the virtual capacity of the Network to keep us connected today.

She was the editor of The Collected Poems of Sam Ragan (St. Andrew’s University Press, 1990) and, together with NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Ronald H. Bayes, edited the anthology North Carolina’s 400 Years: Signs along the Way (Acorn Press, 1986).

NCWN Trustee Georgann Eubanks will become the new executive director of the Paul Green Foundation.

Georgann is the author of the three-volume Literary Trails series commissioned by the NC Arts Council and published by UNC Press. Her latest book is The Month of their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods Through the Year (UNC Press, 2018). Video documentaries include Earthcaster: The Life and Work of Thomas Sayre; Meinrad Craighead: Praying with Images; Coming Out Coming In: Faith, Identity, and Belonging (which won an Emmy for Best Topical Documentary in Midsouth Region); and several others. Georgann has won a number of awards, including the Leadership in the Arts Award, the Archie K. Davis Fellowship, the Sam Ragan Award, and an NC Arts Council Fellowship in fiction. She is the immediate past president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association and is a recent inductee to the North Caroliniana Society.

Georgann is currently at work on a biography of Paul Green. Along with her part-time work as Executive Director, she will continue to write, give talks, and do documentary work.

Georgann Eubanks

The Paul Green Foundation was established in 1982 to perpetuate the vision of playwright and activist Paul Green, whose commitment to the arts and human rights continues today through the mission of the Foundation. In 2007, the Paul Green Foundation established two funds at the Triangle Community Foundation and now gives the majority of its grants through these funds.

Author Paul Green (1894-1981), an inductee of the NC Literary Hall of Fame, was one of the South’s most revered writers, and one of America’s most distinguished. The first playwright from the South to gain national and international recognition, he was part of that remarkable generation of writers who first brought southern writing to the attention of the world. His best known achievements were as a playwright, including his 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for In Abraham’s Bosom, his 1937 The Lost Colony (his first of 17 Symphonic Drama creations), and his 1941 stage play of Richard Wright’s Native Son. Equal to his literary influence has been his influence on human rights in the South and internationally.

Happy Trails, Frank Stasio and The State of Things

Frank Stasio hosts The State of Things

Any time a media outlet shuts down, it hurts. Even more so when it’s a program that believed in the power of the written word; that believed new ideas have value; and that recognized the societal contributions of authors.

It’s with no small degree of sadness we’ll say goodbye to The State of Things with Frank Stasio at the end of 2020. WUNC 91.5 FM announced this week that the show will end with Stasio’s retirement.

It’s a fitting finale to what, overall, has been kind of a downer year, to say the least.

Countless North Carolina writers have appeared on WUNC 91.5 FM’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio over the years. The show was a champion of literature of all sorts, from sci fi to short fiction to off-beat literary magazines. They were generous to us as well, often interviewing NCWN conference faculty.

In an interview with The News & Observer, (WUNC President and General Manager Connie Walker) said Stasio’s retirement, along with examining audience trends, prompted the decision. There are also behind-the-scenes challenges, she said. The station is hiring a program director, and without that person in place, it would be hard to conduct a nationwide search for a new State of Things host.

Stasio’s last live show will be Wednesday, Nov. 5. WUNC producer Anita Rao will host new episodes through December.

Some of Stasio’s favorite State of Things conversations from his fourteen years as host will be rebroadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December.

Various explanations for the show’s shuttering include drawing less listeners during the pandemic and the challenges of finding the right host to fill Stasio’s shoes. The rise of podcasting and, perhaps, people suffering from “news overload” might be to blame as well.

It’s hard to read between the lines here, so we’ll just accept this news at face value and try, for the next several weeks, to simply appreciate a radio show that was a cultural touchstone in this state for more than twenty years.

From all of us at the NC Writers’ Network, godspeed and good luck! And, thank you.