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Announcing the 2014 SIBA Book Award Finalists

SIBA Book AwardThe Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced the finalists for the 2014 SIBA Book Award, and there are several Tar Heel writers and one North Carolina small press among the distinguished list of names.

The SIBA Book Award recognizes great southern literature from the last year. These titles represent “booksellers’ favorite hand-sells of the year in fiction, nonfiction, children’s, young adult, poetry and cooking.”

Fiction finalists include North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Lee Smith and her novel, Guests on Earth, as well as Jill McCorkle’s Life after Life.

North Carolina native David Sedaris is among the finalists in nonfiction for his collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

Finalists in Poetry include North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and his collection, Concertina, as well as Cathy Smith Bowers’ Collected Poems of Cathy Smith Bowers, published by Winston-Salem’s Press 53.

John Grisham is a finalist in two categories: in Fiction, for his novel Sycamore Row, and in Young Adult for Theodore Boone: The Activist.

Winners will be announced July 4. For the complete list, click here.

Severe Weather This Week

As Richard Wilbur wrote in his poem, “A Storm in April”:

Some winters, taking leave,
Deal us a last, hard blow…


This storm, if I am right,
Will not be wholly over
Till green fields, here and there,
Turn white with clover,
And through chill air the puffs of milkweed hover.

With severe weather sweeping through NC and the Southeast yesterday and last night, and with more expected today, we hope all our members, their families and friends will stay safe. Feel free to use our Facebook page and Twitter handle as a place to check-in with your friends and fellow writers across the state and the nation.

Booktopia Coming to Asheville

Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville will host Booktopia 2014, August 22-24. This nationwide program tends to sell out fast—like, in an hour fast—and registration for the Asheville happening opens soon. Click here to sign up to be notified as soon as registration opens.

From the website:

Booktopia is a series of weekend reader/author retreats hosted by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman of the Books on the Nightstand podcast. Booktopia was envisioned as a way for listeners of Books on the Nightstand to gather together and share their love of books and reading. It has become something much, much more. Booktopia is a place where real connections happen: reader to author, author to author, and person to person. Now in its fourth year, Booktopia has been the starting point for many lifelong friendships, and our Booktopia authors have found lifelong fans. We’ve brought together readers from across the United States, and from Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland.

Authors for the Asheville event include Krista Bremer, Wiley Cash, Kim Church, Denise Kiernan, Ariel Lawhon, E. Lockhart, and Anthony Marra.

Sign up now to be notified as soon as registration opens!

**Please note, this event is now sold out. There will be a Celebration of Authors on August 23, at Malaprop’s, which is free and open to the public.**

Today, Give a Book to Someone You Love

Happy St. George's Day

Happy St. George’s Day

Did you know that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has declared April 23 “World Book and Copyright Day”?

That’s a bit of a mouthful, however, so today is often referred to, worldwide, as “The International Day of the Book.”

Way back in 1995, UNESCO declared:

23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

Of course,  today is also World Book Night, which we highlighted here yesterday.

In Catalonia, Spain, April 23 has been St. George’s Day (The Day of the Rose) since 1436. Traditionally, among other more “spirituous” celebratory gestures, loved ones exchange books on this day. Hint…hint…

As if you needed another excuse to swing by your local indie bookstore on your way home tonight!

Happy International Day of the Book.

World Book Night Happens Tomorrow

Billy Shakes

Billy Shakes

Wednesday, April 23, is World Book Night, an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person. One night a year, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

Each year, 30-35 books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed World Book Night U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers.

Givers pick up their books in the week before World Book Night. On April 23, they give their books to those who don’t regularly read and/or people who don’t normally have access to printed books, for reasons of means or geography.

The 2014 books include Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat & Other Stories, and Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire. For a complete list, click here.

Many bookstores in North Carolina are getting in on the action, including:

For a complete list of events, click here.

Why April 23? It’s William Shakespeare’s birthday, of course!

NCWN: Now on LinkedIn

Thanks to Chuck Thurston, the Regional Rep for Cabarrus and Rowan Counties, the North Carolina Writers’ Network now has a Group page on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a “business-oriented social networking service.” If Facebook is a high school reunion and Twitter is a cocktail party, LinkedIn is a business lunch—a place to build your professional identity, connect with others in your industry, and keep up with current trends and ventures.

To begin using LinkedIn, click here. To request to join NCWN’s LinkedIn Group, click here.

LinkedIn has arguably the cleanest and easiest-to-use discussion forum of all the major social networking sites. Have a question about writing or publishing? Our new Group page is a good place to ask it.

While you’re there, why not look to make connections with others who can be a resource?

Chuck Stone, RIP

Chuck Stone

Chuck Stone, a “pioneering black journalist and an influential journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” died Sunday, April 6, at 89.

Stone served on the North Carolina Writers’ Network Advisory Board and worked as a reporter and editor at several influential black newspapers at the height of the civil rights era, including The New York Age and The Chicago Defender.

From his obituary in the Raleigh News & Observer:

From 1960-63, Stone was editor and White House correspondent for The Washington Afro-American. During that period, he met Philip Meyer, now an emeritus professor at UNC but then a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers. Meyer recalled that the he and Stone met when they both moved into a northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood as part of efforts to integrate it.

Three decades later, Meyer would recruit Stone to Chapel Hill to teach journalism. On Sunday, Meyer recalled his friend’s sense of humor, intellect and his ability to diffuse tension situations. “He was very smart. He could take a long-range view of events,” Meyer said. “He was a great diplomat.”

He was such an effective diplomat that when a group of heavily armed inmates attempted to escape from Philadelphia’s notorious Graterford prison in 1981, they told police negotiators they wanted one thing: Chuck Stone. After two days, he negotiated their surrender, and the six hostages the prisoners had taken emerged alive and unharmed.

They knew Stone from his weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News, and from his work as one of the first black journalists in the mainstream press.

And any writer can probably relate to this quote from Maria Gallagher, a former Daily News writer: “If he liked you, he loved you. If he didn’t like you, he’d write about you.”

Instructors Return to Conference: As Attendees

Rebecca Black

Who knows? You may find yourself sitting next to Stegner Fellow and NEA grantee (and poet!) Rebecca Black….

There might be no better proof of the value of our writing workshops than the fact that four former NCWN conference instructors have registered for the 2014 Spring Conference on Saturday, April 12, in the MHRA Building on UNCG’s campus.

Paul Austin (Fall Conference 2012), Rebecca Black (Spring Conference 2012), Terry L. Kennedy (Spring Conference 2013), and Jan B. Parker (Fall Conference 2012) will all be sitting in workshops, attending readings, and lunching side by side with other conference-goers. Plus, Jacinta V. White, who will lead a special session of “One City, One Prompt” at this year’s Spring Conference, is looking forward to sitting in on some workshops earlier in the day.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Where else can you “sit at the feet” of the current Piedmont Laureate, Carrie Knowles? Or learn how to write a children’s book with award-winning author Kelly Starling Lyons? Or share lunch with James Applewhite Poetry Prize winner John Thomas York?

Pre-registration closes at midnight on Sunday, April 6. For more information, and to register, click here.

Goggin Repeats as NC Representative for Poetry Out Loud

The dynastic Casey Goggin

The dynastic Casey Goggin

Moore County high school student Casey Goggin was crowned the North Carolina champion of the 2014 Poetry Out Loud Competition for the second year in a row. That’s back-to-back championships for the sixteen-year-old from Pine Crest High School—officially making him a dynasty. At least in our books.

Goggin recited complex poems “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth, “Chorus Sacerdotum” by Fulke Greville, and “To Elsie” by William Carlos Williams. He was challenged by thirty-three other students from across the state in the annual recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and coordinated by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

He will compete in the national finals in Washington, DC, April 29-30.

Runner-up was Alisha Hartley from Central Academy of Technology & Arts in Union County with her recitations of “The Blues Don’t Change” by Al Young, “Invitation to Love” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, and “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee.

The Poetry Out Loud Competition features students in grades nine through twelve. Competitors at the state and national finals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents; all poems must be selected from the Poetry Out Loud print or online anthology, which is updated every summer.

Goggin receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital for the Poetry Out Loud National Championship. There, the North Carolina representative will compete for a $20,000 college scholarship. His school receives a $500 stipend to be used for purchasing poetry books; Hartley won $100, and her school received a $200 stipend for buying poetry books. All students participating in the semi-finals receive free memberships to the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society.

For more information on Poetry Out Loud, click here.

For a complete list of students competing at the North Carolina regionals, click here.

Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer

Three years before Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Elizabeth Spencer published The Voice at the Back Door, one of “the earliest novels recounting racial tension in the South.”

Spencer was nominated for the 1957 Pulitzer Prize. But instead of awarding what is arguably literature’s most distinguished honor to a female writing truthfully and unblinkingly about the small-town American South, no Pulitzer Prize in fiction was given that year.

Or so the story goes.

Now a new generation of readers can appreciate the work of one of North Carolina’s literary giants through a new documentary, Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story. This film offers a window into an extraordinary author’s life and work, viewed through the prism of her Southern lineage. It features archival photography and film clips, re-enactments, and interviews with many of today’s most important writers of the American South.

Bookmarks, in collaboration with RiverRun, will screen Landscapes of the Heart on Tuesday, April 8, at 6:30 pm, at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem. This event will be free and open to the public.

Elizabeth Spencer was born in Carrollton, Mississippi, in 1921 to a storytelling and book-loving family in a community steeped in the oral traditions of the South, and subsequently set many of her works in the hill country and deltas of Mississippi and Louisiana. The author of nine novels, many fine short stories, and the famous novella The Light in the Piazza, Spencer has received the Award of Merit Medal for the Short Story from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, of which she is a member. She has also been awarded the Cleanth Brooks Medal by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. Many of her stories and short fiction have been collected, including in The Southern Woman (2001), published to wide critical acclaim.

Now in her nineties, Spencer published a new collection of short stories, Starting Over, in 2014 (Liveright Publishing Corporation). One of the stories in this book, “On the Hill,” was called “one of the best stories I’ve ever read” by Malcolm Jones in the New York Times Book Review.

For more information about Landscapes of the Heart, click here.