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NC Arts Council Needs Your Input

Wilton Barnhardt invites you to take the survey! © Sylvia Freeman

Wilton Barnhardt invites you to take the survey!
© Sylvia Freeman

North Carolina is an “affordable, livable, artist-friendly state,” thanks in no small part to a plan laid out more than forty years ago by the North Carolina Arts Council:

After decades of vigorous work, experimentation, and refinement, our state’s arts infrastructure reaches into all 100 counties through one of the most highly developed and effective networks of local arts councils in our nation.

Now, the NCAC is looking ahead. They’re asking North Carolina artists to complete an online survey to give feedback about the recently released “draft plan for the arts.

It’s a lot to read, so if you’re crushed for time, artists are specifically addressed in the first goal, “Invest in North Carolina’s Arts and Culture.”

To complete the survey, click here.

It’s worthwhile to read the entire draft, though.

For example, did you know the A+ Schools program, which “uses the arts to teach across the entire curriculum,” has now spread to three other states and “regularly receives national attention from enthusiastic business leaders and educators who testify about its proven ability to enhance creativity in our students”?

Or that North Carolina is home to the greatest number of Native Americans “east of the Mississippi”? It’s no secret that cultural diversity is an asset to the arts, which in turn are an asset to the economy, and help make North Carolina a great place to live.

Good thing it’s almost the weekend. Plenty of time to read the draft and reply to the survey!

Poets & Writers Local App

By R.A. King

Writing, at its center, is a solitary practice. As a result, finding fellow writers can be like digging up members of an underground movement. And while the North Carolina Writers’ Network helps build a literary community in this state, online and through our NC Literary Calendar e-blast, what if you’re traveling and want to find a writing event happening wherever you are?

Poets & Writers—the United States’ largest nonprofit organization for creative writers—has you covered. As the modern saying goes, “If you can think of it, there’s an app for it.”

The P&W Local app shows a plethora of local activities and places for the literary community. From readings and author events, to hidden gem bookstores and poetry slams, the P&W Local app has it all. They even have city guides, where prominent authors take you through a tour of their towns, and show the city in a new light. There are currently only seventeen cities featured, but P&W is working on adding more.

Besides finding wonderful sources and literary locations, P&W is most importantly a place to connect with local writers and readers to get the word out on your writing or create a workshop. When you’re writing, you don’t have to be alone, and the P&W Local app can help you make a literary network of local comrades in arms.

You can download the P&W Local app here.

The P&W Local app is graciously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Making the Most of a Writing Conference

Leave Your Introverted Self at Home! © Sylvia Freeman

Leave your introverted self at home!      ©Sylvia Freeman


The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Spring Conference is right around the corner. So how to make the most of a day spent on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro?

Sandra Beckwith, a “recovering publicist with more than 25 years of award-winning publicity experience,” runs the website Build Book Buzz. She recently listed eight tips for getting the most out of any writing conference:

1. Make sure you’re selecting a conference that’s a good fit for you.
This is step one, of course, but it’s a very important step one. I don’t write fiction, so it doesn’t make sense for me to register for a conference with an agenda dominated by fiction topics, as so many are. I attend fiction-focused conferences as a speaker and work to get the most out of them by attending as many sessions as I can, but I wouldn’t pay to attend a fiction-based conference. Don’t register for a conference that requires long-distance travel and related expenses until the sessions and speakers are posted. You don’t want to arrive, look over the agenda, and think, “There’s nothing here I need to learn.”

2. Plug in to any and all pre-conference networking.
This will help you begin to develop online connections and relationships that you can solidify on-site and in-person. This is important if you’re going to the conference solo instead of with a writer buddy because it will mean there will be friendly faces there waiting to greet you. Knowing who else plans to attend, whether it’s through the conference Facebook group, listserv, or registrant list provided in advance by organizers helps you decide who you might want to network with, also.

3. Create one or two goals about what you want to get from the conference.
I’ve thought a lot about the goals I need in place before I attend the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference in late April. My first goal is to learn as much as I can from the educational sessions, but it won’t stop there. I also want to identify a few people who might be interested in joining a mastermind group I’d like to create. Finally, I want to get in-person time with the ASJA members I already know and love.

4. Don’t even begin to think that this is a pleasure trip.
I’ll be speaking at an author’s conference in Denver in early May. One of my sisters lives there and while I’ll absolutely make sure I have time to see her, I’m not going there so I can hang out with my sister. I’m not even going simply because I’ll be presenting. I also hope that I’ll learn from the other people who will be presenting there. That means that the learning comes first. The socializing and dining at interesting restaurants comes second. And I never do anything touristy unless I come in a day early or stay a day longer. Otherwise, I’ve spent a lot of money on having fun, which sounds like a vacation. If I wanted a vacation, it would be 100 percent vacation and probably wouldn’t happen at a conference center. You’ve worked hard to pay for this conference. Get your money’s worth by putting the conference and what you’ll get from it first.

5. Leave your introverted self at home.
This can be difficult for me. I’m an introvert who has learned to be an extrovert, so while I know how to step forward, introduce myself, and start a conversation, there are times during that lull between lunch and the next session when I’d like to just sink into a comfy chair with a latte and people watch. But then I’d be wasting my registration fee. (See point 4.)

Act on those connections you made! © Sylvia Freeman

Act on those connections you made! © Sylvia Freeman

6. Remember to bring a conference tool kit.
At a minimum, bring one or two notebooks, a couple of your favorite note-taking pens (I like a fine point Sharpie, myself), and business cards. If you plan to blog from the event, be sure to bring your laptop or tablet. I hope to videotape a few short interviews for my YouTube channel at the conferences I’ll be attending, so I’ll make sure I pack the hardware I need for that, too.

7. Review notes and handouts at the end of each day.
As you reviews those notes back in your room after dinner, highlight three key points from each of the sessions you attended, and label them according to importance – “1” being the most important, of course. Then, when you return to your notes to take action when you’re back home, you’ll have a solid starting point.

8. Act on what you’ve learned and connections you’ve made.
It’s not enough to learn or connect. You have to act on all of it. Send “nice to meet you, let’s stay in touch” e-mails to people you met. Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Implement a few of the tips you picked up immediately. Schedule time to learn more about something that intrigued you at the conference. The worst thing you can do is to return to your computer and do nothing with the knowledge you acquired or the friends you made at the conference.

Registration for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Spring Conference is now open.

The Masters Review

by R.A. King

The term “emerging writer” evokes many thoughts into the writing and reading community—excitement, anticipation, untapped potential. But where does an emerging writer get their creativity in print and finally emerge? It’s crossing this threshold that’s the hardest, from unpublished to published.

Have no fear, the Masters Review is geared toward this specific group of writers. Every year, they make a printed anthology of unpublished writers, read and chosen by a New York Times bestselling author. They focus exclusively on new writers for this contest, and on their website, but published authors should not be dissuaded from participating. The best part about this contest, if you win, is the anthology being distributed nationally and mailed to agents, editors, and publishers.

The contest is for short fiction and narrative nonfiction with a maximum of seven thousand words. The guideline and rules for the Masters Review Printed Anthology contest are very flexible. They’re forgiving about submitting the same story to another organization, as long as it’s only printed through one organization. Multiple submissions to the Masters Review are allowed, so if you’re sitting on some unpublished works, you can go in guns blazing. Even non-US residents may submit their work.

The only thing all contestants must do is pay a $20 reading fee to help the Masters Review continue its drive to emerging writers and new authors. The fee is also a small price to pay to win it big. However, they also hold a New Voices monthly contest that’s free. And you can submit to both contests!

The Anthology contest deadline is March 31st. Good luck, everyone!

A Few Remarks from Ed Southern

Ed Southern  © Sylvia Freeman

Ed Southern
© Sylvia Freeman

Ed Southern, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, was given the Ethel N. Fortner Writer and Community Award on Thursday, March 5, at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg. Over the years, this award has been given to ardent supporters of the arts in communities ranging from journalists to activists to publishers.

North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Jaki Shelton Green introduced Ed, who, from his middle class origins growing up in Winston-Salem “across the street from the barbwired pasture of a working farm,” has written three books and guided the Network to 70 percent membership growth in the first five years of his tenure.

Here are Ed’s remarks upon receiving this reward.

“Thank you, Jaki, for that kind introduction. And thank you to President Paul Baldasare, and to everyone here at St. Andrews. I am honored to accept the Fortner Writer and Community Award, and humbled to join such a distinguished list of past winners. I am especially flattered to be honored along with Allan Gurganus, and grateful to get to speak before he does.*

“I would also like to recognize my family—those who are here with me tonight, as well as those who couldn’t be—and thank them for the love and support they’ve given me to this point, and hope it continues.

“And of course, I would like to thank the staff, trustees, and members of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, some of whom braved the bad weather to be here, and most of whom have made my work and my tenure as Executive Director a lot easier than you might think.

“Not that I’m giving this award back.

“I’m going to stop extending my thanks right there, even though—well, because—there are, literally, thousands of others that I really ought to thank: all the writers and readers and lovers of literature, famous and anonymous, now and in the past, who made and maintained the environment in which an organization like the North Carolina Writers’ Network could exist, much less thrive; who turned North Carolina into The Writingest State, to use that felicitous phrase first coined by a previous Fortner Award winner, the late, great Doris Betts.

“The Network has adopted this phrase as a motto, a description, and a mission—to make sure North Carolina stays the Writingest State. We stand fast against any and all challengers to this title, whether those challenges come from the other 49 states, or—as it turns out—from right here at home.

“We stand ready to face these challengers, but—to tell you the truth, just among us friends—I don’t worry too much about them.

St. Andrews University

St. Andrews University

“No, I worry about us—all of us who love the written word—not doing our jobs. I worry about clichés, stilted dialog, lazy thinking, lack of observation, lack of humor, wit, and surprise.

“To be honest, I worry sometimes about our community being too encouraging, too nice—accepting, even celebrating, anything less than excellence.

“As long as we avoid the kind of self-congratulation that leads straight to irrelevancy, the literary community of this state is long since strong enough to see off, to face down, to overcome, to correct, any dismantling that some may seek of the structures that have long supported us.

“We will write and read poems, short stories, novels, memoirs. No budget cut has yet been conceived that can stop the human need to create, to hear, and to read good stories, well told.

“The state of North Carolina has a great story. No one should be able to take this state’s story away from us. And no one should have to remind us that those who best tell the best stories, always win in the end.

“Thank you.”


*North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Allan Gurganus was later honored with the 2015 Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award. In his acceptance speech, Gurganus admitted he had, over the years, perhaps stretched the truth in his writing, but it was “truth that needed stretching.”

What Not to Say to a Bookseller

Scuppernong Books

Scuppernong Books

Most of us probably spend far too much time in bookstores. So here are a few helpful tips from Book Riot for what NOT to say to booksellers as we meander through the shelves.

Among the best?

“Which books should I have on my dating profile to not seem idiotic, politicized, out of shape or creepy?”

“Does this author still look like her author photo? Or is she tricking me into thinking she’s still attractive?”

“I don’t need help. I’m just figuring out where my book will be shelved once I finish it, get an agent, sell it, and get it stocked here, in this location.”

(We’re all probably guilty of #3, at least a little bit!)

For the full list, click here.

The Truth about Finding Time to Write

IMG-20111006-00020Get enough writers together in one room, and the question is bound to come up: “How do you find time to write?”

Michael Nye, managing editor of The Missouri Review, tackles this question on TMR blog.

His post responds to Ann Bauer’s recent essay in Salon, where she called for more transparency among writers in terms of how they actually make their living and how they actually find time to write.

Nye agrees, and takes it a step further:

…when we intentionally misrepresent our writer income, when we buy into this “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” narrative, we end up putting a generation of writers and artists into a spiral of debt and servitude. With transparency, with honesty about who we are and how we work, that is something we should be able to help our students, our readers, and our audience avoid for themselves and understand all the better.

So if the reality is that most writers support themselves with full-time jobs that don’t actually involve writing (or have a working spouse, or a trust fund, etc.), how do we, you know, find time to actually do what matters, that is, write?

Nye goes on to share a fantastic quote from author Fred Venturini, who says:

I have been asked in interviews before how I find the time to write. I always found that question strange, simply because to me, it sounds like you’re asking someone “How do you find the time to play video games? Or hunt? Or scrapbook? Or shop?” We make time for the things we love to do; we have to find time for the stuff we don’t.

Pretty sure we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

City of Oaks Welcomes Boucheron 2015

By R.A. King

Margaret Maron

Margaret Maron

North Carolina mystery, thriller, and crime writers rejoice: Bouchercon 2015 will be held in Raleigh!

This annual convention, which has moved from state to state since 1970, is named in honor of Anthony Boucher, a writer, editor and reviewer of mystery fiction. It’s one of the biggest mystery genre conventions in the world.

At each Bouchercon, writers, publishers, authors, fans, and booksellers are invited to mingle and unite in their passion for mystery writing. The program includes but is not limited to panel discussions, presentations, and lectures by experts and enthusiasts of the mystery genre.

This year, North Carolina’s own Margaret Maron will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Maron is the author of the Deborah Knott series, among other notable books. American Guests of Honor include Kathy Reichs and Tom Franklin; International Guests of Honor include Zoë Sharp and Allan Guthrie. Tar Heel favorite Ron Rash will also be on hand as a Local Guest of Honor.

This year, Bouchercon is collaborating on a short-story anthology contest titled Murder Under the Oaks, which will be published by Down & Out Books in Raleigh. The deadline is midnight on March 1. For details, click here.

Bouchercon, which is run largely by volunteers, will be held October 8-15. The North Carolina Writers’ Network will be there with a booth, so be sure to stop by and say “hello.”

Dark Miracles of Chance

Jan Hensley

Greensboro resident Jan Hensley just donated his book collection to the Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s Special Collections and Archives at Wake Forest University. And what a collection: more than 10,000 books, including “autographed copies and first editions, and upward of 50,000 ephemera, including chapbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, letters, journals and personal notes of his interactions with authors.”

The majority of these are by and about North Carolina authors.

“The last half-century saw a tremendous outburst of good writing from North Carolina. Jan Hensley saw it all, too,” said Ed Southern (’94), executive director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. “What’s most significant about Jan’s collection is that he gathers all those first editions, and takes all those photos, not as an outsider or observer, but as an active participant in the literary community. He is a part of what he’s preserved.”

“Dark miracles of chance,” to quote from Thomas Wolfe, played an outsized role in Hensley’s lifelong obsession. It all began when he played the character of Luke in a theatrical adaptation of Look Homeward, Angel. This turned him onto Wolfe, whose works he began collecting. Years later, at a Eudora Welty signing, he had a major epiphany. He didn’t just want to collect books. He wanted to collect books signed by contemporary North Carolina authors. And the rest is history.

For the full article, click here.

Our Very Own Ed Southern Wins Fortner Award

Ed Southern

Ed Southern

From St. Andrews University:

St. Andrews University will present the 2015 Ethel N. Fortner Writer and Community Award to North Carolina Writers’ Network Executive Director Ed Southern on March 5.

The invitation-only presentation will be made during the weekly Writers’ Forum timeslot.

Created in 1986 to honor Ethel N. Fortner, who was a friend to writers and frequent contributor to the St. Andrews Review, the award has been given to ardent supporters of the arts in communities ranging from journalists to activists to publishers.

The 2014 award was presented to Our State magazine editor-in-chief Elizabeth Hudson.

A North Carolina native, Southern has served as the Executive Director at the North Carolina Writers’ Network since 2008. Prior to that, the Winston-Salem resident served as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for John F. Blair, Publisher.

In addition to fostering the writing community of North Carolina, Southern is a published author himself. His books include Voice of the American Revolution in the Carolinas, The Jamestown Adventure, and Parlous Angels. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from Wake Forest University in 1994.

Also on March 5, St. Andrews University will present the 2015 Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award to award winning novelist and essayist Allan Gurganus.

“Each year, we honor distinguished North Carolinians—past and present,” said Ron Bayes, distinguished professor of creative writing Emeritus. “Honorees are persons who have, over a long period, been outstanding practitioners of their art, and who have selflessly shared their talent with other creators, working in their primary genre and beyond.”

Previous recipients of the award include Governor Bob Scott, David Brinkley, Loonis McClohon, Kathryn Gurkin, Paul Jeffrey, Sally Nixon, and Sally Buckner. The 2014 award went to Grammy Award winning musician Rhiannon Giddens.

Gurganus has had his fiction translated into sixteen languages. His books include Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, White People, Plays Well with Others, The Practical Heart, and Local Souls. His essays are seen in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. Gurganus has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Pen-Faulker Nomination, the American Academy’s Sue Kaufman Prize for best first novel, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lambda Literary Award, and the National Magazine Award.

For more information about the Writers’ Forum, creative writing or the St. Andrews Press, call 910-277-5310, email or visit the website at