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On Being an Intern

Today we bid farewell to our summer intern, Austin Evans, who’s done yeoman’s work in his time with us. He’s waded through more database entry projects than was probably fair, proofread every newsletter article for the Fall, and even contributed a couple articles to the newsletter and to this blog, one on the Writing Challenge app and one on the literacy group Durham Mighty Pen.

If we’d really had our act together, we would have asked him to write a few reflections about his time with us, and then posted them here. But, well, we just got back from the Squire Summer Writing Residency and frankly, we just didn’t think that far ahead.

Instead, we’ll link to a recent blog post over at the Minneapolis-based Milkweed Editions, where their pride of interns talked about the projects they’re working on and the value of making an immediate impact on the organization—just as Austin has.

The entire post is worth a read, but here’s one quote:

“I’ve come to know that the fastest way to learn how the field of publishing works is to be thrown at a desk with a task, and force myself to figure out how to complete it—asking questions and getting out of my comfort zone are simple, essential skills that I’ve honed in this office. When I’m in a welcoming environment that encourages learning, tasks go from daunting to motivating—I constantly leave here feeling accomplished, and that the day went too fast!”—Rachel Johnson

That, to us, should be the intern’s creed. We should strive to provide that for our interns, and every intern should hope for an similar experience, where his or her hands are getting dirty in every aspect of the business, where they’re given responsibility, and where they’re relied on for much, much more than just fetching coffee.

Thanks for all your hard work, Austin. Keep in touch, and happy trails.

Interested in being an intern with NCWN, or know someone who might be? E-mail communications director Charles Fiore.

Trade Show vs. Conference

This question’s been coming up, so we thought we’d take a moment to discuss what happens at a trade show vs. a typical conference (or festival), because there is a difference in terms of who can attend, etc.

Merriam-Webster defines “trade show” as “a large gathering in which different companies in a particular field or industry show their products to possible customers.”

So, for example, at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 40th Anniversary Discovery Show, September 18-20 in Raleigh, publishers will be staffing vendor tables hoping to showcase their books to nearly 300 bookstores. There are, of course, other events happening that weekend, including author talks and booksignings, but it’s an industry event and not open to the public.*

A “conference,” on the other hand, is a “formal meeting in which many people gather in order to talk about ideas or problems related to a particular topic (such as medicine or business) usually for several days,” again according to Merriam-Webster.

So at Bouchercon 2015, October 8-11 in Raleigh, more than 1,000 authors, fans, publishers, reviewers, booksellers, editors, and every other part of the community will get together for a fantastic four-day event—the world’s finest annual crime fiction festival. This conference is open to the public, if you register, and the North Carolina Writers’ Network will be there. We hope you come see us.

And we hope this helps answer some of y’all’s questions.

Want to know more? E-mail us or holler at us on Twitter….

*Writers who register for “Indiependents Day” will be treated to a tour of the trade-show floor, something not offered to the public.

Registration Closed for SIBA Trade Show Display

Well, that didn’t take long.

If you’ve already registered to have your book(s) displayed on the North Carolina Writers’ Network member table at the 2015 SIBA 40th Anniversary Discovery Trade Show, thank you. Registration is now closed: no more online registrations will be accepted, and snail-mail registrations postmarked after July 21 will be returned.

We’re overwhelmed by the response. And we’re sorry we can’t accommodate every worthy book.

We have limited space, and so we accepted the amount of books that we can successfully feature—fairly and prominently—to the nearly 600 booksellers who will be on-hand.

For more about this offer, and the SIBA 40th Anniversary Discovery Show, click here.

Thanks, all.

“Watchman” Proves Books Still Matter

Yesterday marked the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, her first novel since the 1960 debut of the much-celebrated To Kill a Mockingbird.

Without spoiling anything for anyone who hasn’t been following the build-up on some form of social media, there’s been a flurry of excitement—and controversy—over the book’s release. But from coast to coast, our biggest takeaway is this: books still matter. Clearly.

In Los Angeles during a marathon, day-long event, celebrities took turns reading Watchman, including DJ Cynthia Fox and author Cynthia Bond. Three-thousand miles away, in New York City, actress Mary Badham, who played Scout in the 1962 film of Mockingbird, read selections from both books at the 92nd Street Y. In Monroeville, Alabama, Lee’s hometown, Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe began selling the new book at midnight and celebrated with an Atticus Finch impersonator, welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Closer to home, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh offered biscuits and jam from Yellow Dog Bread Company and encouraged patrons to write on a memorial wall. Chapel Hill Public Library screened the 1962 film. Later that night, Flyleaf Books hosted a panel moderated by Daniel Wallace, “Scout’s Honor: Celebrating Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The panel, which included author AJ Mayhew as well as Christopher Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, discussed issues of social justice and inequality inherent in Mockingbird, and how the novel continues to resonate today.

“It is so contemporary on every front,” said panelist Joe Flora, professor emeritus of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of English and Comparative Literature. “Black lives matter—we’ve heard it this summer, and this novel deals with that theme.”

Still, those on the panel agreed the publication of Watchman was more “publicity stunt” than “literary decision,” a view shared by many.

Including The Onion, who yesterday ran the following headline: “Harper Lee Announces Third Novel, My Excellent Caretaker Deserves My Entire Fortune.”

The 2015 Summer Okra Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced its 2015 Summer Okra Picks, a “bushel of books that represent the best in Southern lit, fresh off the vine.”

The pick of the bushel, of course, is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman (Hub City Press), her first book since the much-celebrated 1960 release of the Pulitzer-Prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird.

Robert Beatty’s Serafina and the Black Cloak (Disney-Hyperion Press) also made the list. Set in Asheville, Serafina is a “spooky historical mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate.”

Beatty will lead a workshop outlining techniques for writing a successful Middle Grade / Young Adult novel at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Fall Conference, November 20-22 in Asheville…at the DoubleTree  by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore, just down the street from the Biltmore Estate. Registration will open on or around September 1.

John F. Blair, Publisher, located in Winston-Salem, also landed a title on this summer’s list: The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato by Kathy Giuffre.

The 2015 Summer Okra Picks all have a “strong Southern focus and are published between July and September, 2015, 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 TBR stack.”

For the complete list, click here.

The Art to a Healthy Reading Habit

Our friend Patricia Oliver, the Community Engagement Specialist in the Catawba County Library System, recently wrote the following article for the library’s e-newsletter. We liked it so much, we wanted to share it with you.

How to Pack More Books into Your Life
The Art to a Healthy Reading Habit

image001NEWTON—So many books and so little time. How can anyone be well read with all of today’s distractions?

Steve Leveen’s The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life (2005) offers several solutions. Leveen’s book, 144 pages or 3.75 hours on CD, is truly a “little guide,” but a helpful one for looking for ways to pack extra lit into their waking hours. The founder of Levenger, a company that sells reader tools such as bookmarks and pens, Leveen is all about making reading simple and more enjoyable.

One of his suggestions is to take control. Books, like flavors of ice cream, are a matter of taste. So what if it was on Oprah or won a major prize? This particular subject or author simply may not be your thing, and that’s OK. Leveen gives you permission to not like every book you pick up. So should you.

New York University professor Atwood H. Townsend wrote in his Good Reading: A Helpful Guide for Serious Readers, “Never force yourself to read a book that you do not enjoy. There are so many good books in the world that it is foolish to waste time on one that does not give you pleasure and profit.” He penned that advice some seventy years ago, when America was producing about 10,000 books a year. Today the number is more like 150,000. Sheer numbers alone beg us to be more discriminating.

Reading lists can be helpful. If you hear of a particular title or read a book review, note that book and author for the next time you visit the library. Likewise, keep a log of what you’ve read. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to recall book titles and authors you’ve enjoyed and want to share. The library has several online sources, as well as the staff, to help you find good books.

At the same time, you should not feel guilty about not having read every book you own. Maturity is realizing that you may never get to certain titles. Some readers set goals to read every Pulitzer Prize winner or every book on the freshman reading lists in North Carolina universities. Those are admirable goals, but if they’re too high, they may frustrate more than motivate.

Check out audio books. Seasoned readers know that travel and exercise time can be turned into “reading” hours with CD and MP3 players. In fact, some works are more enjoyable as read by the author or a professional actor. Your library has a wide selection of these books to choose from—both in the library, and accessible online from anywhere you want to read.

Contact your local branch for additional information on finding new books to read or to learn about library events. Be sure to register for the Summer Reading Program, if you have not already. Happy Reading!


The Catawba County Library System, headquartered in Newton, NC, serves the citizens of Catawba County with seven branches throughout the county and is a year-round, integral provider of early literacy and lifelong learning. In additional to traditional services, the system provides a full complement of computer and digital services, classes and support to bridge the digital divide, empower job seekers, and enhance community quality of life and economic health.

This article has been re-printed with permission. Thanks to Patricia Oliver and the Catawba County Library System!

Split This Rock’s Poetry Database

There are occasions when only a poem will do.

To that end, Split This Rock has launched The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database:

The Quarry is a searchable collection of over 300 poems by a diverse array of contemporary socially engaged poets, published by Split This Rock since 2009. Like all of Split This Rock’s programs, The Quarry is designed to bring poetry fully to the center of public life.

Visitors can search by theme, format, geography, identity, and language. So whether you’re looking for a poem to read as part of a eulogy or hunting for a new favorite poet from your home state, The Quarry is a great place to start.

Using the filter to search only for poets from North Carolina turns up NCWN member Beth Copeland’s “Cerberus” and L. Lamar Wilson’s “A Patch of Blue in Tenleytown.”

How were poems selected for The Quarry?

Poems featured in The Quarry were originally published in Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week series or were winners of Split This Rock’s annual poetry contest or the Abortion Rights Poetry Contest, co-sponsored by the Abortion Care Network. Some of the poets have featured at Split This Rock’s biennial poetry festival and/or Sunday Kind of Love reading and open mic series. Others are members of the national Split This Rock community, Split This Rock teaching artists, members of the DC Youth Slam Team, and more.

And if you happen to be in Washington, DC, tonight, you can join Split This Rock for their database launch party at 7:00 pm at Busboys and Poets – Brookland, 625 Monroe St. NE. The evening will include performances and poetry readings and a DJ.

Sign up here to receive a Poem of the Week in your inbox each Friday.

Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from their home in the nation’s capital, they celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination. Visit them at

Thirteen Steps to Landing an Agent

The Book Doctors send out a semi-regular e-newsletter. Earlier this month, David Henry Sterry offered a “baker’s dozen” pointers to finding a literary agent.

To subscribe to their e-mail list, which we recommend, click here. Now, without further ado:

1. Research. “There is a fine line between research and stalking.” Read books similar to yours. Know who the heavy hitters are in your genre. Become an “expert in the section of the bookstore where your book is going to live.”

2. Find Books Similar to Yours. Talk to booksellers at your local indy. Tell them what you’re working on. What other books out there are like yours? Read the acknowledgements section in the backs of books that are like yours—what agents are being thanked?

3. Make a List and Create an Environment of Competition for Your Book. “As soon as anyone expresses interest, you immediately e-mail everyone else on your list.” No one wants to be the agent who passes on The Next Big Thing.

4. Know Thy Agent-to-Be. Tailor each query to the agent you’re writing to. Don’t send a romance novel to someone who doesn’t represent romance. You’d think this would be so obvious it wouldn’t need to be stated, but…it happens all the time.

5. Make it Easy for an Agent to Say Yes. Agents are “inundated and overwhelmed, mostly overworked and underpaid. They’ve got fifty submissions that arrived in their inbox today, they had fifty yesterday, and will have fifty tomorrow. It’s relentless.” So help them say “yes.” Send a clean manuscript. Follow their guidelines. Don’t overpromise. Be professional.

6. Don’t Submit Your Book Until It’s Fully Polished. See #5.

7. Develop a Coping Mechanism for Rejection. David subscribes to the Godfather model: It’s never personal; it’s “always business.”

8. Keep Up-to-Date. Shelf Awareness, Publishers Marketplace, agent blogs (and Twitter feeds)…all great places to stay on top of the publishing industry, to see who’s signing who and for how much.

Panel.Agents and Editors 3

“Agents & Editors” panel, 2014 Fall Conference: © Sylvia Freeman

9. Go to Writers Conferences, Seminars and Workshops. Something like the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Fall Conference perhaps? November 20-22 in Asheville. Registration opens around September 1.

10. Join a Writers Group. Looking for one near you? Click here (members only).

11. Attend Readings at Bookstores and Libraries. Every Thursday we send out the Member Readings e-blast, which lists readings and events by our members. Not a subscriber? Click here.

12. Write a Killer Query. “Three paragraphs. The first is always customized. Why should this agent be your agent? The second paragraph is your pitch. The third paragraph is a short bio.”

13. Persevere and Follow Up. “Keep submitting until they say yes or the agent tells you to go to hell. [David] tries to have the Zen attitude that it doesn’t matter whether they say yes or no. Because when someone says no, it’s like you bought another lottery ticket. You have increased your chances of winning.”

The Book Doctors are Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. They are dedicated to helping writers everywhere get their books published. Successfully. Between them, they have a quarter of a century’s worth of experience turning talented writers into published authors. Their services include:

  • Book proposal development
  • Manuscript review/Developmental editing
  • Line editing
  • Coaching, midwiving and general emotional/mental/spiritual support
  • Self-publishing Services
  • Ghostwriting

Visit their website at

Beating Writer’s Block? Improving Fluency? There’s an App for That

By Austin Evans

Do you ever have the urge to write, but you’re not sure what to write about? Need ideas for inspiration? Or maybe you would simply like a fun challenge during those moments in your day when you would otherwise pass time scrolling through your inbox or social media.

For that, there’s Writing Challenge, an app of “Creative Prompts and Ideas to Spark Your Inspiration and Beat Writer’s Block.” The app is available for download for $1.99. It’s compatible with iOS and Android devices and provides a unique, game-like approach to writing by prompts.

Once the app is up and running, you simply presses “start” and the app generates a prompt. If you like the prompt, you can begin writing, but you can also scroll through multiple prompts until you find one that catches your eye.

Now, here is where Writing Challenge separates itself from traditional prompt generators: every minute you write (you can change the duration to whatever length of time you want) the app throws an additional prompt to keep you on your toes and keep the creative juices flowing.

For example, the first prompt may be to write a story including the words “kiss,” “revenge,” and “poet.” Once your time is up, another prompt will appear, urging you to add a specific setting (an abandoned house, say). Then it will prompt you to add a certain type of character, or a particular action, or a fresh idea for every given length of time you write.

Perhaps the app’s greatest function is that it strips away those doubts and inhibitions that can so easily pop up while writing, forcing you to write quickly and without editing (though you can always edit once the story is finished—and you should!). You may not churn out a tour de force in your time with the app, but writing stories in such a low-stakes, game-like environment can be a huge boost to a writer’s fluency and confidence.

Speaking of fluency and confidence, the app comes in a version tailored for kids, called Writing Challenge for Kids. This version is also $1.99 on both iOS and Android devices, and follows the same game-style format as the original version.

The app’s description in the iTunes Store says the app is for kids ages seven to fourteen, parents who want to make their kids play with their creativity, teachers who want to improve creativity and writing skills in their classrooms, and even for writers of all ages who want to write books for children.

For more information on the apps, head to the App Store on your device, or check them out online using the hyperlinks above.

Happy writing!

Squire Summer Writing Residency Offers “Supportive Community”

2013 Fiction Workshop

2013 Fiction Workshop

They say word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool. So we’re not going to list the reasons you should attend NCWN’s 2015 Squire Summer Writing Residency, July 23-26 at East Carolina University in Greenville. We won’t go on and on about our awesome faculty (Jan DeBlieu, Amber Flora Thomas, Luke Whisnant) or how solid the open mic readings always are.

We’re just going to let a few past attendees tell it like it is:

“I attended the Squire Summer Writing Residency in 2013. Although I’d been writing for some time by then, it was my first residency program and it was a wonderful introduction to the format. I spent two-and-a-half days with a talented group of fiction writers, and we critiqued each other’s work and wrote new pieces under the guidance of our extremely gifted teacher, Elizabeth Lutyens. The feedback I received from this group helped me restructure and refine the novel I’d been working on, and I went on to finish that novel and begin a second one. Even more important, the time in the residency offered a much needed infusion of support and encouragement.

“The group of fiction writers I met during the Squire Summer Writing Residency got along so well that eight of us have continued to meet. We are a diverse group: we range from new college graduates to retirees; we come from the United States, Canada, and England. We write short stories, novels, and memoirs; some of us write spare, direct prose, some create poetic post-apocalyptic fiction, and a few craft exquisite Southern tales. Amazingly, all of us have strong voices, and more amazingly, we all appreciate and respect the diversity of voices within the group.

“I am forever grateful that I attended the Squire Summer Writing Residency. The level of instruction was first-rate and the talent and hard work of the participants was inspiring. I highly recommend the program to anyone who would like to improve their writing, and who would like to do so in the midst of a like-minded, supportive community.”
—Allison Freeman, Durham


Janet Ford

Janet Ford

“After a career teaching in North Carolina public schools, my writing practice needed a jumpstart, and I found it at the Squires Summer Writing Residency. Whereas my work left me neither the time nor the energy for a long term commitment such as a creative writing class, those three days among writers who shared a common focus provided just the alternative I needed. Thank you, Squires!”
—Janet Ford, Taylorsville


“The first NCWN Squire Summer Writing Residency I attended eight years ago gave me encouragement that changed my life and to this day inspires me.

“The second NCWN Squire Summer Writing Residency I attended three years ago gave me friendships and support that promise to thrive for years to come.

“Both have enriched my life immeasurably. I am deeply grateful to the Network, and specifically the Squire family, for their on-going support of this remarkable program.”
—Carol Phillips, Silk Hope


“When I attended the Squire Summer Writing Residency in 2013, when it was held on the Western Carolina University campus, I had no idea the far-reaching impact the experience would have, not only on my writing, but on my writing relationships. I participated in the poetry sessions led by Kathryn Stripling Byer, who is as skilled at teaching as she is at crafting her own poetry. In the time we spent together, she focused on every poem submitted in advance by each participant in the group. Her candid, genuine, respectful critiques were useful beyond the specific poem in question.



“We had the opportunity, through open mic readings, to hear from participants in other groups, which also proved valuable. In the months since the residency, I have maintained contact—and friendships—with several writers from my group, and I see others at state writing events, which feels like a homecoming. The NCWN personnel made sure everything ran smoothly, and we had plenty of opportunity to share in an informal setting.”
—Nancy C. Posey, Hickory


“Imagine, if you can, a room full of thoughtful readers who have all read your manuscript with the precision of a good editor and are ready to get you on your way to publication. If you can imagine this, then you will be at home at the NC Writers’ Network Squire Summer Writing Residency. Last summer, I vetted a manuscript that eventually won me second place in The Asheville Writer’s Workshop Literary Fiction contest! Whether you are a veteran writer who wants to fine tune a manuscript or a beginner who wants to learn more about the craft, the Squire Summer Writing Residency is for you.”
—Pam Van Dyk, Raleigh


Registration for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Squire Summer Writing Residency closes Wednesday, July 8. Register now!