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North Carolina Award Nominations

From our friends at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

RALEIGH, N.C. – Just over two weeks remain to make a nomination for the 2016 North Carolina Award, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the state. The nomination period closes April 15, 2016. Created by the General Assembly in 1961, the award recognizes “notable accomplishments by North Carolina citizens” in the fields of literature, science, fine arts, and public service.

Award nominations may be submitted by Award Nominations may be submitted by anyone either online at or by sending nomination materials to the North Carolina Awards Committee, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, 4601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-4601.

“This is the opportunity for us to pay tribute to the North Carolinians who better our experiences by their extraordinary involvement in this state,” says Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the N. C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Please nominate a co-worker, community leader, or friend who has served North Carolina with distinction.”

The North Carolina Awards Committee will review the nominations and make its selections in early summer. The recipients will be honored during ceremonies in Raleigh in September. Past award recipients have included some of the country’s most distinguished artists, poets, writers, performers, journalists, scientists and public servants; including William Friday, Romare Bearden, James Taylor, Gertrude Elion, John Hope Franklin, David Brinkley, Maya Angelou, Billy Graham, and Branford Marsalis.

Award recipients in 2016 were Anthony S. Abbott of Davidson for Literature; Dr. Anthony Atala, of Winston-Salem for Science; Senator James T. Broyhill of Winston-Salem for Public Service; Dr. A. Everette James, Jr., of Chapel Hill for Fine Arts; Howard N. Lee of Chapel Hill for Public Service; and Patricia McBride of Charlotte for Fine Arts.

The nomination form and guidelines are available online. To receive forms by mail or by e-mail contact or call (919) 807-7256.

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan Kluttz, NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to
experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit

Nancy Olson, RIP

Nancy Olson

Nancy Olson, founder of Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, died yesterday. She was seventy-five.

For twenty-nine years, Quail Ridge Books has been at the center of the Triangle’s literary scene. National bestselling authors have graced its stage alongside local writers. The store’s selection has always been hand-crafted to offer strong support for book clubs, those interested in writing, and readers of all ages.

Raleigh’s The News & Observer offered a long obituary yesterday that is well worth the read.

Quail Ridge posted this remembrance on its website.

Publisher’s Weekly named Olson “Bookseller of the Year” in 2001. The site also noted her passing.

Please note, QRB recently moved from its longtime home in the Ridgewood Shopping Center. It is now located in a temporary home in the North Hills Shopping Center, 4381-105 Lassiter at North Hills Ave.

Doris Betts Spring Literary Festival

Beloved teacher of writing and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Doris Betts won three Sir Walter Raleigh awards, the Southern Book Award, the North Carolina Award for Literature, the John Dos Passos Prize, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Medal for the Short Story, among other recognitions. Among her many novels, Souls Raised from the Dead was on the New York Times’ list of top twenty best books in 1994.

She was also a native of Statesville.

This weekend, Thursday, March 24 – Saturday, March 26, Mitchell Community College will hold the fourth annual Doris Betts Spring Literary Festival on the Statesville campus.

The 2016 visiting authors are Joyce Compton Brown (Friday, 3:15 pm), Robert Inman (Friday, 6:30 pm), Kevin Winchester (Saturday, 11:15 am), and Anjail R. Ahmad (Saturday, 1:30 pm). This event is free and open to the public.

Saturday will offer a writing workshop in concurrent sessions at 10:00 am, first-come, first-served. Please contact Kimberly Singh at or 704-978-1361 to register.

For a full schedule of events, click here.

Mitchell Community College has been educating residents of Iredell County and surrounding communities since it was chartered in 1852 as a Presbyterian college for women. Mitchell continued its evolution and in 1959 became an independent community college operated by the Mitchell College Foundation and recognized by the state. Mitchell opened one of North Carolina’s first early college (high school) programs in 2004 and added a second in 2008.Today’s Mitchell is preparing motivated high school students to excel by allowing them to earn college credit tuition-free through the Career and College Promise program and two early college high schools.

Meet the Slush Pile Live! Panelists

For the second year in a row, the North Carolina Writers’ Network Spring Conference will feature Slush Pile Live!

Last year’s sessions were insanely popular, with folks camping out in the seminar rooms more than an hour before the program began. This year will be just as thrilling but with one (hopefully) improvement: Slush Pile Live! will offer both poetry and prose in two rooms so that more attendees have a chance to receive feedback on their writing.

Here are the 2016 Slush Pile Live! panelists:

Jason T. Graves

Jason T. Graves is the founder of Prospective Press, which publishes high fantasy and urban fantasy, sci-fi and speculative fiction, and cooking/health and wellness guides, among many others subjects. He lives in North Carolina with his family and a menagerie of small, domestic animals. He takes his coffee black, and—when he is not editing, tutoring, running his businesses, or conducting mysterious, mad-scientist experiments—he writes mysterious and beautiful fiction.

Terry L. Kennedy

Terry L. Kennedy is Associate Director of the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, editor of the online journal storySouth, and associate editor of The Greensboro Review. His poems, essays, and reviews appear in variety of journals and magazines. His poetry collection is New River Breakdown, and in addition to coordinating the visiting writers series, he teaches the undergraduate poetry workshop and a course on entrepreneurship and independent press publishing.

Crystal Simone Smith

Crystal Simone Smith is the founder and managing editor of Backbone Press, a small press with a big vision. Broad, cultural, and forward, the press is a venue for ethnic poets and poetry that is political, invocative, social, gritty, also the personal and poignant. Crystal is the author of the poetry chapbook, Running Music.

Anna B. Sutton

Anna B. Sutton is a writer and co-founder of The Porch Writers’ Collective. She is the poetry editor at Dialogist, a designer at The Porch and One Pause Poetry, and vice president of sales & marketing at John F. Blair, Publisher. She has previously worked for Humanities Tennessee, Lookout Books, and read for the literary journals Ecotone, Chautauqua, Gigantic Sequins, and Atlantis.

Kevin Morgan Watson

Kevin Morgan Watson is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Press 53. With a focus on short fiction and poetry, he has worked with writers ranging from first-time published authors to winners of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. He has earned awards in both short fiction and poetry, but no longer writes for publication. Kevin also serves as an advisor for student adaptation of short stories to screenplays with the screenwriting faculty at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking in Winston-Salem.

Ross White

Ross White is the founder and executive director of Bull City Press. He is the author of How We Came Upon the Colony (Unicorn Press, 2014). With Matthew Olzmann, he edited Another & Another: An Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series. He is a recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Sicily, and currently teaches poetry writing and grammar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

For more information about Slush Pile Live!, and to register for the NCWN 2016 Spring Conference, click here.

Meet Reedsy

retro157If you’re considering self-publishing your next book, you might consider exploring Reedsy, a London company with big plans to revolutionize the publishing industry by using technological innovation to craft better books.

Reedsy offers many of the same “full service” publishing options as other companies, including editorial help, design work, and marketing/publicity. They carefully curate their list of more than 300 freelance publishing professionals (they claim to accept only the top 1 percent of applicants), and their easy-to-use website makes assembling a production team simple by allowing authors to browse freelancer profiles, submit their project summary (“brief”), and compare quotes for free. Authors can then instantly begin collaborating on their next project through Reedsy’s proprietary online software.

Forbes magazine had this to say:

Every author, no matter how many books they may have sold has experienced the same sinking feeling when the manuscript they have worked on for months, if not years, is returned by a publisher with a polite rejection note. “Maybe rewrite chapters 1 through 15 and try again?” It’s a curiously old fashioned way of doing things and one that is increasingly easy for authors to bypass thanks to a site like Reedsy.

Reedsy was the 2015 Futurebook Award Winner “BookTech Company of the Year.”

The Reedsy website also offers a blog and writing prompts to get blocked authors writing again. Check out their website at

Lenoir County Student Wins Poetry Out Loud!

Jasmine Jackson

Jasmine Jackson from Kinston High School in Lenoir County won the North Carolina Poetry Out Loud Competition. She rose above competitors from twenty-eight other counties and will compete in the national finals in Washington, DC, this May.

Jackson dazzled the judges with her breadth of performance: she read “Obedience, or the Lying Tale” by Jennifer Chang; “The Spider and the Fly” by Mary Howitt; and “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.

North Carolina’s State Competition, now in its eleventh year, features recitations by students from public and private schools, including schools as far away as Jackson County in the mountains to Dare and New Hanover counties on the North Carolina coast.

Jackson will receive a $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals, where she will compete for a $20,000 college scholarship. The state winner’s school also receives $500 to be used to purchase poetry books for its library. The runner-up at the state level receives $100, with his or her school receiving a $200 stipend for buying poetry books.

“I applaud all the high school students across North Carolina that memorized and recited a well-known poem from the past or the present,” said Secretary Susan Kluttz of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Recitation is a powerful way to learn about literary heritage and gain self-confidence while exploring your own creativity.”

The second place winner was Khaiyah (K-Swizzle) Barber from Voyager Academy in Durham. She performed “Ah! Why Because the Dazzling Sun” by Emily Brontë; “I’m a Fool to Love You” by Cornelius Eady; and “Domestic Situation” by Ernest Hilbert.

North Carolina Poet Laureate and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Shelby Stephenson was the featured poet for the event. Each contestant had their photo taken with Stephenson.

Other distinguished members of North Carolina’s literary community served as judges including Anna Lena Phillips Bell, North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Jaki Shelton Green, Gretchen Steele Pratt, Matthew Wimberly, Metta-Sama Melvin, Cassandra Williams, and Nathan Ross Freeman. Event emcees are Michael Beadle, Eurydice White, and Terri Kirby Erickson.

For more information visit

Pat Conroy, RIP

Pat Conroy’s desk

New York Times bestselling author Pat Conroy of Beaufort, South Carolina, passed away last week at the age of seventy. His universally read books include The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated movies.

There’s nothing we can say about him that hasn’t already been said better by someone else, so here are a few links to excellent stories that have been posted over the past week.

But we’ll give the last word to Lady Banks, who provided a lovely tribute in her Commonplace Books e-newsletter:

Obituaries and retrospectives abound, focusing mostly on how Conroy turned his dark life into the novels that so many people love. “Tortured” is the word the New York Times used. But there is another part of Mr. Conroy’s life that her ladyship, the editor, has noted and admired for a long while—Pat Conroy has been a generous and supportive presence in the lives of many new Southern writers. He mentored them, encouraged them, lent his support and his time. It is not uncommon—indeed, it is all too common—to talk to an author with a new or debut novel and find that Pat Conroy had offered advice on an early draft, answer a query with a lengthy response, or offered to read future work (a promise he always made good on). Recently he helped to start Story River Books, an imprint from the University of South Carolina Press, with the specific goal of nurturing the writers in his home state of South Carolina:

“Literature can choose anywhere it wants to be born. It can come from a nursing home in Seneca or Summerville, from an old mill town near Greenville, from a peach orchard in York, or from anywhere the sting and loveliness of language goes to dwell. I want Story River Books to find and nurture those voices, and for writers young and old in this infinitely variable state to be recognized and heard.”

Pat Conroy, RIP.

Bathanti named the Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence

Posted courtesy of Appalachian State University:

© Sylvia Freeman

© Sylvia Freeman

BOONE—Joseph Bathanti has been named the Charles George VA Medical Center (VAMC) Writer-in-Residence in an innovative program in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in Asheville. The program is funded by a North Carolina Arts Council and North Carolina Humanities Council grant.

Bathanti is a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University and an award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist [and former North Carolina Poet Laureate – ed.].

During his tenure, Bathanti will teach and co-lead two eight-week creative writing workshops devoted to the recovery of Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These veteran-guided workshops will feature poetry and creative nonfiction (personal essay and memoir) as the primary genres – and will make the crucial connection as to how memory and the desire for healing feed these genres.

Bathanti will compile and edit an anthology featuring the writing produced in the workshops. In addition, using material from the workshops, he will create a readers theater script to be performed on stage in Asheville and across North Carolina.

The ultimate goal of these works is to raise awareness and spur the development of writing programs in VA medical centers and communities across North Carolina focused on the recovery and healing of wounded combat veterans. Bathanti’s role will be a central feature of the arts and humanities programming at Charles George VAMC led by Dr. Bruce Kelly, with support from community, state and national partners. In launching this innovative effort, Bathanti and Kelly will work closely with the funding agencies.

In addition, Bathanti will also co-lead a literature and discussion group for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans at Charles George VAMC as part of the initial VA pilot for the Great Books Foundation’s “Talking Service” program, which is funded by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Wounded Warrior Project.

Bathanti’s involvement with veterans began when he was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue as North Carolina’s seventh poet laureate, a position he held from 2012-14. His signature project as poet laureate was working with military veterans – those returning from combat and others – and their families, whenever possible, to tell their stories through poetry and other forms of writing.

“Not only do veterans have extraordinary stories to tell, but scholarship now exists demonstrating that writing about trauma can be instrumental in addressing and overcoming its consequences,” according to Bathanti. “It is clear from pockets of experience throughout the country that the study of literature and related writing can contribute in profound ways toward the recovery of wounded veterans. We know very clearly the value of shared experience and importance of community in the role of healing within veteran populations.”

Bathanti continued, “Dr. Kelly and I saw this up close in our initial pilot with veterans from his panel related to their combat experiences in Vietnam. To a man, they reported it was the best thing they’d done to address their PTSD since returning over four decades ago. Though we didn’t see their courage while deployed in-country, we did see it in the classroom as they shared the images, guilt, camaraderie and the impacts of combat on their post-deployment lives. Their openness and writing was honest, powerful and personal as they took on the long-standing grip of moral injury and post-traumatic stress.”

Bathanti credited Appalachian State University for its commitment to veterans on its campus and beyond and for supporting his writing project with veterans.

The workshops Bathanti will lead at the medical center will help establish a broader strategy in support of the medical humanities and creation of local capacities to bridge the military/civilian gap. The ultimate aim of this project is to empower change agents throughout the Veterans Health Administration, inspiring them to integrate programming in arts and humanities devoted to the recovery and healing of veterans who carry the wounds of war. These approaches are not only transformative for veterans, but help them reintegrate more fully with their families, friends, vocations and communities.

There is a growing mandate for arts and humanities within the military itself. It’s been part of the programming at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for over a decade, and is the standard of care at the affiliated National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NiCOE). The National Endowment for the Arts collaborated with the Department of Defense and provided major funding to expand this work for wounded veterans at two key military bases.

It’s estimated there are a quarter of a million Vietnam veterans still living with defined post-traumatic stress disorder, and countless numbers with sub-threshold effects. PTSD is, as well, one of the signature injuries from recent wars along with traumatic brain injury.

This initiative signals a groundbreaking collaboration among the Charles George VAMC, the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Humanities Council and community partners around shared vision and purpose. As Bathanti said, “It establishes a prototype for others to follow. Programs in arts and the humanities are an important addition to the foundation of excellent care provided by VA mental health services to help our wounded veterans move toward an even fuller sense of recovery. We hope to see this programming grow not only here in North Carolina, but throughout the entire VA system.”

This initiative was made possible through the support of community non-profits Asheville Community Theater and Asheville Buncombe Sustainable Community Initiatives, which submitted the grant proposals to the North Carolina Arts Council and the North Carolina Humanities Council. Community supporters whose contributions made this possible include HomeTrust Bank, Dana Stonestreet, Roberts & Stevens, PA, Attorneys, John and Dee Mason, Jack and Laurie Hamilton, and Robert Major and Suzanne Morse.

Those Timid Bourgeois Readers Probably Just Hate My Anarchist Politics

Cady Vishniac, a reader and copy editor for Raleigh Review (among the many other hats she wears), has a two-part series up at The MFA Years that should be required reading for anyone looking to land your poetry or prose in a lit mag.

In Part One, Cady “clears up some misconceptions about submissions,” including:

  • Nobody gets published without an MFA.
  • The readers probably didn’t even look at the whole thing.
  • That magazine turned me down in 2014. They must hate me.
  • I’m not really good enough to submit to top-tier magazines.
  • I posted my story to my personal blog or webpage.
  • Those timid bourgeois readers probably just hated my bold anarchist political statement.
  • This magazine is taking too long to get back to me.
  • They keep spamming me after I submit.

The takeaway?

Remember that readers are not the enemy. Litmags are not the enemy. I want to help you. I want to love your work. I want, sometimes desperately, to say yes.

In Part Two, Cady divulges her personal “dealbreakers,” some of the reasons she typically decides to reject a story. From story types (she really hates “revenge” stories, or thinly veiled pieces of therapeutic writing) to the many things you’ve heard time and time again will sink your submissions: clichès, poor technical skills, unnecessary exposition, and yes, writing that closely resembles porn.

Don’t let our bullet-points do all the work: both Parts One and Two are excellent reading in full, as Cady expounds on each subject and offers advice for making sure the editors can’t say no.

Saturday Is State Championship for Poetry Out Loud

Let’s get ready to RUUUUMBLE!

The Poetry Out Loud State Competition happens Saturday, March 5, at the Greensboro Central Public Library in Greensboro. High School students representing twenty-eight counties across North Carolina will compete for $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, DC, to compete for the national championship.

The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for his or her school library.

North Carolina’s State Competition, now in its eleventh year, features recitations by students from public and private schools, including schools as far away as Jackson County in the mountains to Dare and New Hanover counties on the North Carolina coast.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

After successful pilot programs in Washington, DC, and Chicago, Poetry Out Loud was launched in high schools nationwide in the spring of 2006 and has grown to involve millions of students across the country.

In 2015, Casey Goggin of Pinecrest High School in Moore County represented North Carolina and was the 2015 third place winner at the National Finals. Watch his recitation of “The Applicant” by Sylvia Plath, above.

To watch some pretty amazing kids read some even more amazing poetry, click here.