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Fall Conference Generates Media Buzz

With all the recent buzz, you’d have to be living under a rock—or a conch shell—not to have heard about the upcoming North Carolina Writers’ Network 2013 Fall Conference in Wrightsville Beach. It’s happening this weekend, November 15-17, and we’re getting ready to welcome more registrants than we have at any conference since 2007. It’s going to be quite a weekend.

(By the way, there’s still time to be part of the exccitment—on-site registration opens at 5:00 pm Friday!)

So, who’s been saying nice things about us?

And we can’t say enough about all the writing organizations, libraries, and other literary-minded individuals who’ve done so much to spread the word over the course of the past six months. Thank you: we can’t wait to spend the weekend with you talking about writerly things.

And don’t forget: NCWN will host our first-ever Pre-Conference Tailgate on Friday at 12:00 pm at The Bellamy Mansion. The Wilmington-based writing group The Sea Quills, who are also the Network’s regional representatives for the Cape Fear Coast, will lead a series of writing exercises to get our creative juices flowing. Light refreshments will be provided; open to the public.

Is There a Manual for this Whole “Writing” Thing?

Getting Your Book Published for DummiesIn a recent article for the Paris Review, Kaya Genç reviews an art show in Istanbul that features, among other things, a bookshelf “holding more than one hundred books devoted to helping authors finish their manuscripts.”

Titles include 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing; Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing; First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript; and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author.

Genç, who has read only one of the hundred books, finds the collection first amusing, then sad. He pities those poor souls desperate enough to pick up books such as this in hopes it will make them better writers:

Had the Stanford professor Franco Moretti analyzed the titles of their books with his distant reading methods, he would surely point to the curious ways in which they present the craft of writing: they offer exercises and strategies to create time for writing, they believe that a book is something that the writer grows, like a child, and that the literary voice is something one can find in a manual. Plots can be devised through kits and those same kits can help one write a first draft in thirty days; one can liberate her writing, or release or free her inner writer, just like that.

It’s tempting to agree with him. After all, there are no books in the world titled, Neurosurgery in 30 Days. And if all the secrets to writing a bestseller could be gleaned from a book, wouldn’t all of us simply buy said book, follow its instructions, and relax into a writerly life of luxury and fame?

There are other books on the list though, books that hold not promises but suggestions; books that talk about writing a novel not like assembling a bookcase from Ikea but as a craft that can be practiced and honed and eventually, after many years, if not mastered then at least tamed. Books that can (and frankly, have) helped many aspiring writers if not write a bestseller in thirty days, at least begin to develop good habits and treat the writing life as just that—a life that must be lived fully.

To be sure, someone like Allan Gurganus is not picking up any of the books in this collection. But for emerging writers, reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life, Stephen King’s On Writing, or even Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way can be beneficial. Not because any of these books will make us a bestselling author, but because when we’re just starting out writing, it’s important to learn it’s okay to take our writing seriously, to surround ourselves with other people who are serious about books, and to admit to ourselves “Yes, I’m an artist, there are others like me.”

At the beginning, it can sometimes feel like how-to books are the only things telling us our dreams are even possible. And books that demystify the process a little, or offer a glimpse into a world that we want to be a part of—there’s value in books like those. In fact, isn’t this all what books do best?

So, how many of those hundred books have you read?

storySouth Highlights Winners of Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition

As part of our programs and services, the North Carolina Writers’ Network offers four annual writing competitions, including the Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition honoring the work and legacy of the poet and critic Randall Jarrell.

Now you can read the winning poem from the 2013 competition plus three additional finalists in a special section of storySouth. And it’s free:

The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition is administered by Terry L. Kennedy and the graduate program in creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where Jarrell taught for eighteen years, and is open to any writer who is a legal resident of North Carolina or a member of NCWN. This annual contest awards one poet $200, publication in storySouth, and an invitation to read at UNCG’s Founder’s Day. There is a 40-line maximum for each submission.

Mills, Soniat, and White also read their poems at the 2013 September meeting of the North Carolina Poetry Society. Watch their readings on NCWN’s YouTube channel, here.

Eight-Tracks, Rotary Phones…and Printed Books?

Kobo Glo and Mini

Kobo Glo and Mini

The big five publishing houses are being pretty tight-lipped on the subject, so maybe agents do have a reason to be concerned: according to Publisher’s Weekly, authors can no longer assume that signing a standard publishing contract will guarantee a print format edition of their book.

In the past, a print version was considered standard, but agents are finding that more and more frequently publishers are refusing to commit to publishing a title in paperback, much less hardcover.

Agents said they “feared that if vague language about format begins to crop up on a regular basis, they will need to start advocating for a format they were universally guaranteed in the past.”

The article speculates that such a shift would hurt midlist authors and those below—especially first-time authors and those without consistently strong sales records. Agents fear a new business standard would mean less money for both themselves and their clients and allow publishers to use an e-book only release as a way to “dump” those books they’re less excited about.

Which is bad news not only for authors and their representation, but brick-and-mortar bookstores as well.

Despite their dismay, agents and other insiders who spoke to PW said they were not necessarily surprised by the move, given the current marketplace. There is growing pressure on publishers to release books quickly, and to do so in the formats that will bring in the most revenue. Because so many book deals are made well in advance of the titles’ release dates, publishers have always had to gauge the future relevancy of topics and authors. Now publishers also have to attempt to anticipate the future bricks-and-mortar landscape when signing contracts. As some insiders explained, it’s a very different situation when the question goes from, “How many copies will Barnes & Noble take?” to “Will Barnes & Noble be around?”

To read the full article, click here.

Have You Self-Published?

If so, the Network has a favor to ask.

From time to time, we receive inquiries from authors looking to self-publish for the first time. While we are able to direct these writers to certain resources and publishing platforms, we would also love to be able to put these writers in touch with other authors who have already self-published, and who might be able to provide guidance, recommendations, or simply share your expertise with a newbie or two.

If you’ve self-published, and if you’d be willing to exchange e-mails or possibly talk over the phone about your experience(s), please e-mail Charles Fiore, Communications Director, at Charles@ncwriters.org.

Then if anyone comes to us with questions about self-publishing, we’ll mention your name, and offer to put them in touch with you.

Thanks in advance! Happy writing.

November 1 Deadlines for Fall Conference

The Holiday Inn Resort, Wrightsville Beach

The Holiday Inn Resort, Wrightsville Beach

Don’t forget that next Friday—November 1—is the deadline to register for the Manuscript Mart, Critique Service, Marketing Mart, or one of the Master Classes at the Network’s 2013 Fall Conference.

And please note that this is not a “postmarked by” kind of deadline. This is a “received by” kind of deadline. We must have your registration materials in our clutches by 5:00 pm next Friday in order to secure your space.

Those spaces are filling fast, so please don’t wait. This year’s Fall Conference is shaping up to be one of our most popular ones in years, but we’re greedy—we want you there, too.

Please read the appropriate guidelines in our Fall newsletter or on www.ncwriters.org, and send your materials as soon as you can.

We hope to see you all next month in Wrightsville Beach.

Bytestories Offers Bite-Sized Moments in Prose

ByetstoriesTheir website claims that “writing War and Peace is not required” to leave one’s mark on this world, and maybe that’s true in a time when the 140-character Tweet and thirty-second soundbite are all many of us have the patience for.

But Bytestories, a web ‘zine that publishes short prose under 1,500 characters (about 200-250 words), also wants their contributors to be able to share our insights in a timely fashion. To record those blips we see in our everyday experiences and, with a few quick keystrokes, publish and share them with friends and readers.

“The site is 100 percent dedicated to sharing stories based on personal experiences,” says Bytestories co-founder Luke Simmons. “It’s about sharing the funny, sad, dangerous, and/or embarrassing things that happen while at home or abroad.”

Published stories are filed under categories such as “Crime,” “Death,” and “Outdoors,” and readers can not only see how many others have read a particular story but also grade each story with a familiar five-star rating system. Would-be contributors need only to create an account or log-in through one of many social media accounts and fire away.

Writer Helen Townsend has been featured on Bytestories over twenty times because she believes that writing under a character constraint “helps her sharpen up her prose and practice the craft of writing.” Here is her story, “Burying the Body,” published April 4, 2013, on Bytestories.

We have Labradors like other people have children. I know you’re not supposed to rank your kids or dogs, but Lucy was the best – a relentless retriever, a childminder, a seriously crazy horse and eccentric dog. When she was dying the vet came to give her the last rites and the fatal shot.

“We can take the body for you,” the vet said.

“No,” cried my youngest son. “I want to bury her in the front garden under one of those stone crosses with the gold writing.”

I had my doubts about the stone cross, but I told the vet we’d bury her ourselves in the back garden.

“She’s a big dog,” he said. “And heavy.”

Prophetic words. Husband out, one child too small to dig. I labored like a navvy and when the hole seemed deep enough I dragged the dead weight of Lucy’s body there. Alas, too small, too shallow. I dug again. Still too small. The kid was crying and I looked like a mud splattered gravedigger. I hurt, physically and emotionally.

Then the lights went out. I’d dug through the electricity cable. But in the pitch darkness I toiled on, digging, digging, digging, the kid crying, crying, crying.

We couldn’t see a thing, but I tenderly laid Lucy to rest and devised an on the spot service. The kid was pacified. In the morning, the hole was revealed as a large mound, with a paw sticking out. I cried, and tenderly tucked the paw into the earth then planted a lot of flowers over the mound.

The bill to fix the cable was $500, I didn’t even price a stone cross. Vale Lucy. RIP

Visit http://www.bytestories.com to read more stories and, of course, to submit!

Rude B****es Make Me Tired

Celia Rivenbark

Celia Rivenbark

Celia Rivenbark will speak at the annual banquet during the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2013 Fall Conference. Her newest book, Rude Bitches Make Me Tired, was reviewed today by Pam Kelley at the Charlotte Observer.

The book is full of practical advice. It just happens to be sandwiched, as Rivenbark says, “between the obscenity and the ranting.” Some examples: Don’t bring some trifling store-bought cake to a funeral. Funerals aren’t the place for store-bought food, period. She includes a simple baked ham recipe “Any idiot can bake a ham,” she points out.

Read the entire review here.

Rivenbark, who lives in Wilmington, writes a syndicated humor column that runs Thursdays in the Observer. She has written six other humor books, including Bless Your Heart, Tramp.

The NCWN 2013 Fall Conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Resort in Wrightsville Beach. The Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include a luncheon, an annual banquet, readings, workshop tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and an exhibit hall packed with literary organizations, presses, and publishers. Conference faculty includes professional writers from North Carolina and beyond.

The banquet is open only to Fall Conference registrants, though a registrant may bring one guest for a fee of $50. Guests must be registered with the Network in advance of the conference.

The NCWN 2013 Fall Conference is open to writers at all levels of skill and experience, from all across North Carolina, and beyond. Writers can register at www.ncwriters.org or by calling 336-293-8844.

National Book Award Finalists Announced

The Finalists for the 2013 National Book Awards have been announced. Established in 1950, the National Book Award is an American literary prize administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Louise Erdrich (right) won the 2012 NBA for her novel The Round House. Other 2013 winners included Katherine Boo for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Nonfiction); David Ferry for Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (Poetry); and William Alexander for Goblin Secrets (Young People’s Literature).

In order to be eligible for the Award, a book must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year. Self-published books are only eligible if the author/publisher publishes the work of other authors in addition to his or her own.

The 2013 Finalists are:

Fiction
• Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers, Scribner/Simon & Schuster
• Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House
• James McBride, The Good Lord Bird, Riverhead Books/Penguin Group (USA)
• Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge, The Penguin Press/Penguin Group (USA)
• George Saunders, Tenth of December, Random House

Nonfiction
• Jill Lepore, The Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House
• Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
• George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
• Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, W.W. Norton & Company
• Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House

Poetry
• Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
• Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion, Alfred A. Knopf
• Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke, Penguin Poets/Penguin Group USA
• Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture, Louisiana State University Press
• Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems, Graywolf Press

Young People’s Literature
• Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
• Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster
• Tom McNeal, Far Far Away, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House
• Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group (USA)
• Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints, First Second/Macmillan

No one, not even the Foundation staff, learns who the Winners are until the day of the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, which takes place in mid-November in New York City.

In Fiction, Jhumpa Lahiri was many prognosticators’ favorite to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize, but that was honor was bestowed this week upon twenty-eight-year-old Eleanor Catton and her novel The Luminaries. Catton is the youngest author to ever win the award.

The night before the Awards, each Finalist receives a prize of $1,000, a medal, and a citation from the panel at a private Medal Ceremony. Immediately following the Medal Ceremony, all twenty Finalists read from their nominated books at the Finalists Reading. The four Winners in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature are announced the following evening at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, where each Winner receives $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

The Wall Poems of Charlotte

The Wall Poems of Charlotte

A.R. Ammons’ “Salute” featured on the Dandelion Market

In Charlotte, the writing is on the wall—literally.

The Wall Poems of Charlotte is a poetry initiative founded in April of this year. The goal? To create murals that “bring poetry to the people, all of whom deserve access to it and to whom it belongs.”

The murals, designed by students in the Advertising and Graphic Design program at Central Piedmont Community College, feature North Carolina poets. Poems by North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee A.R. Ammons and Jon Pineda have already been showcased at the Dandelion Market and the Treloar House, respectively.

In a May interview with the Charlotte Observer, Kenn Compton, who works on the project’s advisory board, said, “The most exciting aspect of this project is to see the students connect with poetry, with working on a large scale, with working on something that is both very real and so much bigger than themselves.”

And director Amy Bagwell believes the project embodies her core philosophy, to “bring poetry to as many people as possible through accessible and democratic presentation.”

The Wall Poems of Charlotte is one of several public displays of poetry happening across North Carolina, including Raleigh’s “Poetry on the Bus,” spearheaded by The Raleigh Review, and Winston-Salem’s “Poetry in Plain Sight,” sponsored by Barnhill’s Books, Press 53, and the Winston-Salem Writers.

For more information on The Wall Poems of Charlotte, visit www.thewallpoemsofcharlotte.com.