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Poetry Bracketology: Nominations Open!

If you’re a college basketball fan, March really is the month of madness—especially here in North Carolina. Now poets can get in on the action with “Poetry Bracketology,” led by North Carolina Writers’ Network member and teacher Suzanne Baldwin Leitner.

Just like the NCAA college basketball tournament, “Poetry Bracketology” takes 64 poems (teams) divided into four regions, and pits them head-to-head in a one-loss elimination tourney. The regions are “3 Centuries of American Poetry” (3CAP); “Romanticism/Elizabethan/Metaphysical” (R.E.M.); “Poets Laureate” (any poet laureate, any nation, any region, any town); and “Poet Pourri” (for all those poems that don’t fit into the other three regions).

Nominations are currently open for 3CAP. One person may send up to two nominations for any poem written by an American poet in the last 300 years. To nominate, e-mail Suzanne or contact her through her Facebook page:

Once the “teams” have been settled, tournament action begins in March, with the winner will be announced in early April—for poetry month!

Suzanne is also looking for regional supervisors for the four regions. If interested, contact her through one of the methods mentioned above.

The 2016 Piedmont Laureate

Katy Munger

Katy Munger

Durham mystery writer Katy Munger has been named the 2016 Piedmont Laureate.

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 City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, the Piedmont Laureate program’s mission is to “promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.”

During 2016, Katy will appear at workshops, reading programs, and speaking engagements throughout Wake, Durham, and Orange counties.

“I cannot speak to the self-esteem of all of NC’s writers, but I can say that I am lucky to have been raised here,” Katy says in her inaugural Piedmont Laureate blog post, “which is why I think it’s only fitting I spend the next year passing on the love for writing I learned growing up in Raleigh.”

Katy has written fifteen mystery novels since 1990 using several different pseudonyms. She is the author of the Dead Detective series, writing as Katy Munger and as Chaz McGee; the Casey Jones crime fiction series writing as Katy Munger; and the Hubbert & Lil mystery series, writing as Gallagher Gray. The Casey Jones series is a humorous, semi-hardboiled series set in the Triangle area featuring a female unlicensed private investigator and numerous recurring sidekicks.

Katy earned a BA with Honors in Creative Writing from The University of Chapel Hill. She is also a former book reviewer for The Washington Post, and for decades was a book editor and columnist for Raleigh’s The News & Observer. In addition to her work as an author of mystery novels, she is the Director of External Relations and Communications for the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) for academically gifted students in grades 4-12.

The Piedmont Laureate Program focuses on a different literary form each year, including poetry, novels, creative nonfiction, drama/screenwriting, children’s literature, short fiction, speculative fiction, and mystery fiction.  Past laureates have included Carrie Knowles (2014), Zelda Lockhart (2010), and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Jaki Shelton Green (2009).

For more information about the Piedmont Laureate program, visit

Like Food? Write Poetry?

In a continuing celebration of Southern culture and arts, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, an Atlanta-based restaurant offering contemporary Southern cuisine, invites poets from across the South to participate in the first annual White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails Prize in Southern Poetry. Poems will be on the topic of Love, no matter what the context, and judged prior to Valentine’s Day.

Poems will be evaluated and judged by Kevin Young, author of eleven books of poetry and prose, including the forthcoming Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015 (Knopf, 2016). The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf, 2012) won the PEN Open Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book. He is Charles Howard Candler Professor of English & Creative Writing and Curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.

The winning love poem will be featured on the restaurant’s Valentine’s Day menu running from February 12 through the 14 and the winning poet will receive a $1,500 prize.

To learn more about White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails and its commitment to Southern Arts and Culture, please visit us at

Here are the complete guidelines:

  1. The contest is open to all poets who currently reside in and have had residency in one of the following states for a minimum of twelve consecutive months: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia (Residency will be verified before prize winner is announced.)
  2. Writers who have published two or more full-length collections of poetry or who do not meet the residency requirements are NOT eligible
  3. Translations and manuscripts in languages other than English are not acceptable, however manuscripts that occasionally use words from other languages are perfectly fine
  4. All poems submitted will become the property of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails and can be published without further approval of author
  5. Manuscripts must be received prior to February 5, 2016
  6. The submitted poems will not be returned
  7. No entry fee required
  8. Poem Guidelines:
    • Only one submission per author
    • 40 line limit
    • Must be on the topic of “Love”, but can be a “Love” of anything
    • Poem must be typed (single-spaced)
    • Author must include name, address, phone number, email address, word count and manuscript title on the submitted poem
  9. Poems must be submitted by email to
  10. No revisions of submitted manuscripts will be allowed during the contest
  11. The winner will be announced on February 12, 2016 and contacted to discuss delivery of the $1,500 payment prize

Consider Word Mule for Your Next Writing Project

Whether your manuscript needs to be proofread or you’re looking to work with a ghostwriter, Word Mule, based in Charleston, SC, is a one-stop-shop for all your literary design and production needs.

They offer the following services:

EDITING. Two cents a word, $35 minimum, estimated two-week turnaround time on a 90K word novel.

WRITING. They do it all, from ghostwriting to car-dealership commercials. Contact for pricing.

DESIGN. Including book layout and cover design, but also “posters, postcards, corporate newsletters, wedding invitations, lost-dog fliers, found-cat fliers.”

They maintain a casual blog as well, which provides some insight into what it’s like to work with these witty folks. A post from October, “Enhancement Reduction: What Trimming Extra Words Does for Your Word Flow,” shows a before and after passage from a novel they’ve recently edited.

Take a look and judge for yourself if Word Mule might be the perfect partner for your next writing project. Contact them here.

NC Poet Receives Witter Bynner Fellowship

Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke

North Carolina native Allison Hedge Coke has received the 2016 Witter Bynner Fellowship. The $10,000 grant “promotes poetry in American culture and encourages grant proposals that expand awareness of the positive effects of poetry on society.” Coke was selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera; the fellowship is sponsored by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry.

Coke’s authored books include the poetry collection Dog Road Woman, which won the American Book Award, and Off-Season City Pipe. She also is the author of a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer, and Blood Run, a verse-play. Hedge Coke has edited eight additional collections. She is a founding faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ full-residency MFA in Writing and Publishing Program, where she teaches poetry, creative nonfiction, and publishing.

Her honors include an American Book Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony for the Arts.

Her North Carolina ties run deep. She came of age cropping tobacco and working fields, waters, and working in factories. She attended Cary Elementary School and North Carolina State University, is a Weymouth Center for the Arts resident fellow, and will teach “Writing as Freedom and Docupoetics” at Cullowhee Mountain Arts this summer.

Juan Filipe Herrera

Juan Filipe Herrera

The Witter Bynner Fellowship supports the writing of poetry and requires the recipient to participate in reading and recording sessions at the Library of Congress. Coke will be awarded in a ceremony on Wednesday, March 9, at 4:00 pm, in the James Madison Building in Washington, DC.

Witter Bynner (1881-1968) was “a man of commanding stature, splendid good looks, and infectious energy, he presided over the cultural and convivial life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for five decades.” His long career began during his undergraduate days at Harvard, where he was graduated summa cum laude in 1902. He was the Phi Beta Kappa poet in 1907 with Young Harvard, which became his first book. It was followed by a long list of works, extending until 1960, when Alfred Knopf, the publisher of all but a few of his copious bibliography, brought out his last, and in many ways, his most remarkable work titled New Poems, 1960.

Juan Felipe Herrera’s numerous poetry collections include 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007; Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008); and Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999). In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature. In 2015 he was named U.S. poet laureate.

For more information about the Witter Bynner Fellowship, click here.

Incarcerated Writers Seek “Pen Pal” Tutors

© Morgan Harrell

Our Mission Statement says “(t)he North Carolina Writers’ Network believes that writing is necessary both for self-expression and a healthy community, that well-written words can connect people across time and distance, and that the deeply satisfying experiences of writing and reading should be available to everyone.”

And we mean it.

Every year we receive handwritten letters from persons incarcerated in our state, asking us for help with their writing. One way or another, they have found an outlet in creative writing. They want to tell their stories, share their experiences, explain themselves to themselves and to others. They recognize that they need instruction, direction, and a helping hand.

Many of the services that once could have helped these writers no longer exist. In their absence, the Network would like to provide these incarcerated writers with “pen pal” writing tutors—experienced writers who would be willing and able to share advice, ideas, and encouragement through ongoing correspondence.

If you’re interested in helping a fellow writer in this way, please contact Ed Southern at and let him know. He will send you the name and address of one of the incarcerated writers who contact the Network. You will be able to initiate and conduct the correspondence on your own terms, and share as much or as little information as you’d like.

You need only provide writing tips and encouragement, the very things that all writers need, whatever their circumstances.

Broadway’s “Bright Star” Shines on Asheville

A couple things piqued my interest when I saw that a new musical, “Bright Star,” written by Steve Martin with music by Edie Brickell, was set to open on Broadway.

First, I’d always wondered what had “happened” to Edie Brickell, who seemed to have completely fallen off the radar after producing what were, in my opinion, two of the best albums of the late-eighties/early nineties: the double-platinum Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars (1988) and Ghost of a Dog (1990). She did not, I am relieved to discover, marry Paul Simon and call it quits: in fact, she’s been busy. Real busy.


“Bright Star” tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and ’40s. When successful literary editor Alice Murphy meets an ambitious young soldier just home from World War II, their connection inspires Alice to confront a shocking incident from her past. Together they discover a long-buried secret with the power to transform their lives.

“American South,” of course, being code for North Carolina, specifically Asheville. In fact, the leading female, Alice (played by Carmen Cusack in her Broadway debut), is a “highly successful editor of the Asheville Southern Journal.”

So, just to recap, there’s a brand-new Broadway musical with music by the insanely talented Edie Brickell, book by Steve Martin (who needs no introduction), set in Asheville, North Carolina, starring a female writer at the height of her powers? I can’t buy tickets fast enough.

For more information on “Bright Star,” click here.

Literary Walking Tour of Wilmington

The next time you’re in Wilmington—or if you’re lucky enough to live there—you might consider signing up for the “Literary History Walking Tour.

(Mostly) led by Gwenyfar Rohler, owner of Old Books on Front Street and columnist for Encore, the Literary History Walking Tour is a “90 minute walking tour of the literary history of downtown Wilmington.”

Discover over 400 years of Literary History on a two hour guided walking tour of our city’s breath taking historic district. Learn the connection between Arthur Miller and The Dixie Grill. Stand where Oscar Wilde did when he lectured here. Meet the first American Playwright, walk in the footsteps of three Presidents, and find out why we kept drowning the Public Printer. Guests may take unlimited photos during tour!

The tour is operated by, and begins at, Old Book on Front Street, a Wilmington “Institution” since 1982. Located at 249 N. Front St. in Wilmington’s Historic District, the bookstore offers an extensive collection of used books, including African American and Judaica, foreign languages, plays and scripts, and classics.

The next scheduled Literary History Walking Tour is Saturday, January 9, at 1:30 pm. Sign-up here!

Members Selected for 2016 Winter Okra Picks

North Carolina Writers’ Network members Taylor Brown and Lee Smith have books coming out this month, and they’ve been selected as 2016 Winter Okra Picks by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

Taylor Brown’s debut novel Fallen Land (St. Martin’s Press) is set in “the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward.” North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Robert Morgan, author of many books including Gap Creek, called Fallen Land a “thrilling fugue, in both senses: of flight, and intricate composition. It is also the story of a revenge quest, the horrors of Sherman’s March, a noble horse named Reiver, of sacrifice, endurance, and redemption. No one who reads Fallen Land will ever forget it. In this first novel, Taylor Brown proves himself a fresh, authentic, and eloquent new voice in American fiction.”

Despite being a New York Times bestseller for fiction, and also an inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, Lee Smith’s Dimestore (Algonquin Books) is her first work of nonfiction. In it, she “deploys the wit, wisdom, and graceful prose for which she is beloved to conjure her early days in the small coal town of Grundy, Virginia—and beyond.” Anyone who heard her Keynote Address at the NCWN 2015 Fall Conference knows they’re in for a treat; Kirkus Reviews called it a “warm, poignant memoir from a reliably smooth voice.”

2016 Winter Okra Picks have a strong Southern focus and are published between January and March, 2016, and all of them have fans among Southern indie booksellers; people who are always looking out for the next great writer who should be on your plate and in your To Be Read stack. So it is very likely the next time you visit your local Southern indie bookstore, someone will hand you one and say, “You’ve got to read this!” Read them before they hit the bestseller lists and impress your friends with your impeccable taste and literary savvy!

For a complete list of 2016 Winter Okra Picks, click here.

Fall Conference In the News

As the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Fall Conference registration approaches record-breaking numbers, we’ve been all over the news. Here’s what you may have missed:

Paul Foster’s interview with poet Tina Barr on WNCW 88.7 FM

Carol Anders interview with poet Keith Flynn on WNPV 103.7 FM “Asheville ‘N the Arts”

D.G. Martin’s interview with Keynote Speaker Lee Smith on WCHL 97.9 FM “Who’s Talking with D.G. Martin”

Joanne O’Sullivan’s Fall Conference feature in Asheville’s The Citizen-Times

Dannye Romine Powell’s write-up of Fall Conference in The Charlotte Observer

Barbara Hootman’s feature on poet Tina Barr in Black Mountain News

Cindy Schaeffer’s Fall Conference shout-out in Raleigh’s The News & Observer

The Laurel of Asheville featured Heather Newton

Alli Marshall’s Fall Conference plug in Mountain Xpress*

Nicki Volle’s Fall Conference feature on the Master’s Review blog

R.T. Smith’s Fall Conference write-up on the Shenandoah Literary Journal website

A Fall Conference feature on the Everyday Arts blog courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council

Katie Winkler wrote a feature on Jeremy B. Jones for 85-26 in the Henderson Times-News

And we received kind mentions in newsletters from Fall Conference sponsors Al Manning and Alice Osborn and Write from the Inside Out; Fall Conference exhibitor the North Carolina Poetry Society; the Winston-Salem Writers; and more.

Plus, we’ve been all over social media: special thanks to Crazyhorse Literary Journal, New Southerner, The Massachusetts Review, Fall Conference exhibitor Bull City Press, and Murray State University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Pre-registration for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Fall Conference closes Friday, November 13. Don’t delay: register now.

*Keep an eye out for a feature on creative nonfiction writer Christine Hale in Friday’s Mountain xPress!