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Amplifying the Voices of Durham Youth

By Austin Evans

Durham’s literary future is looking brighter than ever with the advent of Durham Mighty Pen, a new organization dedicated to providing programs for children and adolescents centered on creative writing, publishing, and tutoring.

According to its website, the organization exists “because [we] believe critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills—cultivated seamlessly and with unparalleled effectiveness in creative writing contexts—are necessary in building confidence, opportunity, and community.”

The vision of Durham Mighty Pen is “a vibrantly diverse Durham in which every student has equal access to academic achievement, and acknowledges that ‘students armed with the power of words and creativity can engage their communities as agents of change, and break the cycle of poverty and marginalization from the inside out.'”

Durham Mighty Pen recently completed its inaugural program, “The Short of It,” a six-week collaborative short-story workshop created by Programming Director Matthew Arnold for students grades 6-8. The program was held on Tuesday nights from 6:00-7:00 pm at the Emily Krzyzewski Center at 904 W. Chapel Hill Street in Durham. The workshop culminated in the release of a collection of students’ workshop pieces on Sunday, May 17, as part of the Read Local Festival at Durham Central Park.

While Durham Mighty Pen will partner with local businesses and organizations around town to find accommodations for programming, an hour-long in-school program is currently being designed to help students become great peer editors. So, if you are a local classroom teacher, Durham Mighty Pen would love to be invited into your classroom to offer this unique opportunity to your students!

Future programming is still in the works, and Durham Mighty Pen is seeking volunteers and donors to help grow Durham’s first program explicitly committed to bringing high quality creative writing and publishing experience to underserved youth. There is a list of current volunteer openings, as well as a nice donation page that details exactly how your money will help amplify the creative voices of Durham’s youth. The organization has not yet acquired 501(c)(3) status, however, so you will have to contact Durham Mighty Pen directly with regards to making your donations tax deductible.

More information can be found at

Stitching North Carolina

Stitching North Carolina

Earlier this week, Joy Javits, founder of In the Public Eye: Effective Communication, keyed us into Stitching North Carolina: The 100 County Quilt Project.

From her e-mail:

During World War II, more young men from North Carolina were rejected from serving in the military because of health reasons than any other state. Not surprisingly, the state’s number of doctors and hospitals ranked near the bottom. North Carolina needed a state hospital!

Centralized Chapel Hill, where a two-year medical school, opened in 1879, was expanding to a four-year program, was seen as the logical setting for the state hospital which would serve all of its people regardless of ability to pay. North Carolina Memorial Hospital opened for business on September 2, 1952, and has grown into five hospitals in the years since.

Before celebrating the opening of the N.C. Women’s and N.C. Children’s hospitals in September 8, 2001, Joy Javits was tapped to lead a project that would represent all 100 counties served by the hospitals. The response was enthusiastic and along with drawings of their county flag by children, and writings by women, a brilliant quilt made by many hands was the centerpiece at the celebration.

Large as the quilt was, 27 counties were not represented, but “holder” blocks were sewn in to provide a place for them. The quilt, as well as the poems and county flags toured 18 counties over seven years. This past fall, Javits, along with writer Valarie Schwartz, had the idea of furthering the project and continuing the tour.

Below you will find instructions for whichever piece of this project is not represented by your county. We hope you will know someone in your county with the skills and interest to make this contribution. Please let us know how we can assist you, including who we need to contact if you are not the right person to help with this.

Please help us piece together the missing squares of our state quilt, complemented by the writings and drawings, to get
Stitching N.C. back on tour!

Here is the list of the the counties from which they do not have a piece of writing:

Anson, Ashe, Columbus, Gaston, Gates, Greene, Haywood, Hertford, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Mitchell, Montgomery, Northampton, Pender, Perquimans, Person, Polk, Richmond, Robeson, Rutherford, Sampson, Stokes, Surry, Vance, Wayne, Wilkes, Yadkin, Yancey.

If others wish to contribute a piece of writing that would be great too. They have a book of the contributions which is part of the Quilt Tour. In addition, the writings may be given as a gift to the patients in their hospital beds and to their caregivers, simply for their interest.

And here’s the submission information:

SEEKING: POEM or STORY written by a woman of the county about: UNC Healthcare, medicine, your county’s histories or glories or anything a patient at the hospital might like to read, as copies of the writings may be made available to patients and to their caregivers.

Typed or elegantly penned on standard, 8 1/2” x 11” paper (one page), laminated if possible (or emailed to below address), with name of writer and county on the front.

Joy Javits
Co-Coordinator of Stitching NC
410 Tadley Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

NBF Announces 2015 Innovations in Reading Prize

The National Book Foundation has announced the honorees for the 2015 Innovations in Reading Prize. Awarded annually since 2007, the prize honors an individual or organization that inspires readers and engages new audiences with literature, and has “supported a diverse range of individuals and organizations working locally, nationally, and internationally to create and sustain a lifelong love of reading.”

The 2015 winner is Reach Incorporated, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that “hires struggling teen readers as reading tutors for elementary school students.”

This year, for the first time in Innovations history, we awarded one $10,000 prize to an organization whose work is VITAL, demonstrating vision, ingenuity, transformation, achievement & leadership.

The honorable mentions were:

For more about the National Book Foundation, click here.

Four Wake Students Place in Phi Beta Kappa Writing Contest

From the press release:

RALEIGH – Four outstanding high school students are winners of the annual writing contest sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Wake County.

This is the forty-eighth year of the contest, which is open to juniors and seniors in all Wake County high schools, public and private. The contest focuses on literary analysis. All submissions must be scholarly interpretations of literature prepared as part of the regular work of an English class.

Junior Division winners are:

  • First Place: Jack Davis, a student of Palmer Seeley at Cary Academy, for “Beautiful Little Fool: The Evolution of the Cool Girl in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl”
  • Second Place: Dylan Jones, a student of Priscilla Chappell at W. G. Enloe Magnet High School, for “The Unwilling Acolytes: The Significance of Claire Zachanassian’s Entourage in The Visit”

Senior Division winners are:

  • First Place: Laura Naslund, a student of Marcia Jones at Ravenscroft School, for “Like Creator, Like Creation: Raskolnikov and Dostoevsky’s Parallel Spiritual Journeys”
  • Second Place: Chloe Pacyna, also a student of Marcia Jones at Ravenscroft School, for “Leading Ladies: The Principal Women of Oedipus Rex and Hamlet”

All winners receive book awards and certificates from the Association. First and second place winners also receive cash awards. The Association [honored] the winners, their teachers, and their families at its Spring Banquet the evening of April 28 at the Carolina Country Club. Guest speaker is Robert T. “Bob” Geolas, President and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina.

“As always, we received a diverse and interesting collection of essays,” according to Association President Michael Blanchard of Raleigh. “Wake County is fortunate to have talented students, dedicated teachers, and supportive parents who care about scholarship. We encourage every public and independent high school in Wake County to participate.”

The Phi Beta Kappa Association of Wake County is made up of alumni members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest undergraduate honor society. Founded at The College of William and Mary in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa fosters and recognizes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. For information on the Wake County Association, visit the website at

On May 2, Celebrate Indy Bookstores!

On Saturday, May 2, more than 400 independent bookstores around the country will celebrate Independent Bookstore Day. Here are some of the parties you’ll find at your local purveyor of books:

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe
Exclusive limited edition books and art pieces for sale, as well as a literary trivia contest hosted by the hilarious Allan Wolf (The Watch That Ends the Night). Win fabulous prizes donated by generous local businesses, enjoy some yummy munchies provided by Ingles, and raise a glass of champagne to indie bookstores everywhere!

Chapel Hill
Flyleaf Books
In the morning, stories and crafts for children; in the afternoon, Jeremy Hawkins leads a prompt-writing workshop for writers at all levels, and in the evening, live music by Jake Xerxes Fussell.

The Regulator Bookshop
In the morning, activities for kids; in the afternoon, an open mic followed by readings from banned books, literary trivia with prizes, and a party in the evening with live music and local literati.

McIntyre’s Fine Books
Storytelling and crafts for children start the day off; Alan Gurganus and Margaret Thornton read in the afternoon, followed by live music from Mr. Billy…and prosecco!

Quail Ridge Books & Music
All-day offerings include art projects for kids, give-aways, and special merch on sale: first-come, first-served.

The Literary Bookpost

NC Awards Extends Nomination Deadline

From our friends at the NC Department of Cultural Resources:

The deadline to submit nominations for the 2015 North Carolina Awards, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the state, has been extended to Friday, May 8, 2015.

Please nominate a co-worker, community leader or friend TODAY who has served North Carolina with distinction. This is the opportunity for you to pay tribute to North Carolinians who better our experiences by their extraordinary involvement in our state.

Past recipients include William Friday, Romare Bearden, James Taylor, Gertrude Elion, John Hope Franklin, David Brinkley, Maya Angelou, Billy Graham and Branford Marsalis.

The nomination form and guidelines are available online.

To receive a form by mail or by email, please contact or call (919) 807-7256.

New Online Forum for Indy Publishing

The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses offers services and resources “designed to develop each member’s publishing capacity through increased marketing and organizational skills” and “serves as a nexus of communication, promoting shared learning across the entire field.”

To these ends, they’re firing up a new online forum this summer: Front Porch Commons.

From the press release:

Front Porch Commons provides a virtual space for sharing that’s produced by and for you—be a part of it! We will welcome comments, articles, essays, and blog posts from all who participate in or are interested in independent literary publishing—that includes publishers, authors, readers, librarians, educators, historians, booksellers, and all who care about our community.

Front Porch Commons is now accepting submissions. Follow the link for more information about what they’re looking for, and how to submit.

The CLMP maintains the Literary Magazine Circulation Database Template, a “low cost alternative to stand-alone database systems that helps literary magazines better manage their subscriber records, customer service, marketing campaigns, and accounting of earned income.” Their online services include e-mail lists, an online database of literary venues, and a website chock-full of resources for the indy publisher. CLMP also engages in political advocacy and publishes the Directory of Literary Magazines and Presses each year.

For more, visit

Summer Writing Opportunities for Youths

Great American Writers’ Camp

If you’re a parent staring down the barrel of the impending summer, wondering how you’re going to entertain your child (or children) for three whole months while school’s out, read on. Here are some writing camps you might want to consider.

The Great American Writers’ Camp
This year marks the 5th birthday of the Great American Writers’ Camp. To celebrate, the camp is adding even more creative writing activities, field trips, and games to their repertoire. From speeches to stories and poems to plays, this camp introduces kids to a wide range of writing styles in fun and interactive ways. The camp’s focus on idea generation and creativity, rather than editing, gives kids a low-stakes environment where they can try out new ideas, befriend peer writers, and let their creative side shine!
When: June 22-27
Where: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem

Young Women’s Summer Writing Experience (2 Sessions)
Two weeklong writing workshops for young women age 13-18. The objective of the Young Women’s Summer Writing Experience is to offer young women a week where “who they are” is at the root of every expression. Participants utilize inspiration from nature, literature, visual art, music, film and other art forms to inspire their writing. Writing experience not necessary. Each day participants express themselves through innovative writing prompts with Zelda Lockhart, prepare meals from the organic garden, and take a short hike. Each week a guest artist works with participants to blend writing with another art form. Last year participants wrote recipes with Chef LaMana of Culinary Healing, and turned writing into movement with choreographer Aya Shabu of the Magic of African Rhythm.
When: June 22 – July 3
Where: LaVenson Press Studios, 510 Firefly Ridge Ln., Hillsborough

Young Writers Workshop
The Young Writers Workshop (YWW) is an annual five-day camp that brings together up to 45 high school students to study the craft of writing on the UNC Wilmington campus. YWW participants take part in daily creative writing exercises, craft lectures, writing workshops, and readings. The week offers a valuable and exciting experience for young writers interested in learning more about their craft. Although YWW students are asked to submit a work of creative writing in one genre (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction), they receive instruction in all genres. Participants spend approximately six hours every day in writing exercises, peer workshops, and craft presentations. Students also have time to explore the UNCW campus, visit the bookstore and library, and get to know other young writers.
When: June 23-27
Where: University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington

Young Writers’ Camp
The attendance requirements for Young Writers’ participants are an enthusiasm for writing and a desire to work to develop writing skills. The curriculum is designed so that students who have average or above-average reading and writing abilities will benefit most from attending the program. Since the camp is academically rigorous, we encourage attendance only for students who are academically motivated and have the ability to manage their time to complete assignments.
When: Three sessions, June-July
Where: Duke University, Durham

Young and Teen Writers’ Workshop

Young and Teen Writers’ Workshops
Sponsored by the English Department within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and held on NC State University’s campus, the Young and Teen Writers’ Workshops nurture the creative spirit and teach creative writing skills and techniques. These summer afternoon workshops are intended for children and teens who already have a demonstrated interest in writing fiction, poetry, plays, and creative nonfiction or who have an enthusiastic desire to learn more about these kinds of writing.
When: July 6-17 (Young Writers) / July 20-31 (Teen Writers’ Workshop)
Where: NC State University, Raleigh


Young Writers’ Academy
The mission of Young Writers’ Academy LLC is to provide engaging creative writing enrichment opportunities for students that will inspire them to write. We aim to improve their craft and artiface through experiential learning. Our students have a blast creating original work. Several sessions, including essay writing, mystery writing, and nature writing.
When: July 6 – August 4
Where: Providence High School, 1800 Pineville-Matthews Rd., Charlotte

Summer Writing Programs
UNC Asheville’s summer writing program returns this year and includes a session for rising 6th-8th graders as well as the annual summer program for high school students. The program offers each participating student experience in different aspects of writing under the tutelage of Asheville’s finest writing instructors. During the two-week session, students will be able to write, share, and discuss their own work with other area students, culminating in a reading at the end of the second week.
When: July 13-17 (6-8 graders) / July 13-24 (high school)
Where: Owen Hall, Asheville

Summer 2015 Creative Writing for Middleschoolers
Do you know a rising 6th-8th grader interested in writing fiction and poetry this summer? An associate professor of creative writing with extensive experience leading writing workshops with middleschoolers will be hosting six workshops for a small group of middleschool students.
When: Wednesdays, July 22 – August 26, 4:00-5:30 pm
Where: A home near Duke Campus, Durham
Contact: Martha Witt at

Spring Conference Media Coverage

If you’re going to join us on Saturday at Spring Conference, that’s proof you haven’t been living under a rock these past few months. Because the North Carolina Writers’ Network has been in the news, a whole bunch, showcasing our award-winning Executive Director, our talented faculty, and extensive programming dedicated to serving writers at all levels of skills and experience.

Given our record-setting registration numbers, you probably haven’t, but in case you missed it:

And Spring Conference was featured in Raleigh’s The News & Observer, Greensboro’s News & Record, March issues of O.Henry, Pinestraw, and Salt magazines, the Salisbury Post, and the e-newsletters of the Winston-Salem Writers and the Writers’ Group of the Triad (special thanks to those fine folks!).

Tune-in Friday, April 24, to hear the extended interview with Ed Southern on WFDD Triad Arts, part of the Triad Arts Weekend!

On-site registration will be available for Spring Conference beginning at 8:00 am in the lobby of the MHRA Building of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Even if you pre-registered, we recommend getting there early, as the open mic sign-ups are first-come first served.

See you tomorrow!

North Carolina Authors among SIBA Finalists

The Southern Independent Booksellers Association has announced the finalists for the 2015 SIBA Book Award, which recognizes “great southern literature from the last year.”

Included among the finalists are NCWN member and Wilmington resident Wiley Cash, author of This Dark Road to Mercy, which was nominated in the Fiction category.

Also nominated in the Fiction category was Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash, the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Farmville’s Sheila Turnage, was nominated in the Children’s category.

The University of North Carolina Press, in Chapel Hill, had two books place as finalists: The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region by Marcie Cohen Ferris (Cooking) and Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie.

For a complete list of 2015 SIBA Book Award finalists, click here.

Finalists will be judged by a juried panel of SIBA booksellers, and winners will be announced on July 4, “Independents Day.”