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By Ed Southern

The 2016 SIBA Discovery Show was a success for the NCWN members who had their titles on our display table. Various booksellers picked up at least one sample copy of every title, and some titles were gone by the end of the show.

Here’s hoping that those copies are read, and enjoyed, and those titles are ordered for bookstore shelves across the Southeast.

SIBA was also, for me, a chance to catch up with old friends, to hear and discuss the latest industry news, to find out about the forthcoming books that publishers and booksellers are most eager to see and sell, and to remind myself why I got into the book business in the first place.

At the moment I’m reading Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of the Imagination, a work of memoir-as-literary criticism, which posits the notion that readers and writers hold dual (or, sometimes, triple) citizenships—in their countries of birth or residence, and in “the republic of the imagination,” the great community created by books.

SIBA is one of several events—like the Network’s conferences and residency—that renews my loyalty to, and faith in, this republic every year. The book business is a business, and not one for the faint of heart. Nearly everyone in it, though, got into it because at least one book transported and transformed them, once upon a time.

The week before this year’s SIBA Discovery Show saw the announcement that in 2018, the show will move from its traditional format and September date and join with the Great American Bargain Book Show (GABBS), held each March at the AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia.

The show will be much bigger, and, for many, easier to reach. I’m always glad to have another fall weekend free for watching college football, too.

I wonder, though, if a March show will give new books—particularly books from debut authors or small presses—the same pre-holiday buzz that the September show has. Laying aside my sentiment, my many happy memories of SIBAs past, that’s my main concern about this change: Will a March SIBA be as welcoming to the Republic of the Imagination’s newest citizens?

NCAC Artist Fellowships

Kim Church reads at NCWN's 2014 Spring Conference. © Jan B. Parker

Kim Church reads at NCWN’s 2014 Spring Conference. © Jan B. Parker

The North Carolina Arts Council is now accepting applications for Artists Fellowships. Songwriters, composers, and writers are encouraged to apply. The deadline is November 1.

Fellowships are awards of merit to individual artists to recognize excellence, as evidenced in a recent body of work. These unrestricted $10,000 grants are intended to allow artists to continue developing their work by providing them with the time, equipment, or other support necessary to practice their art.

Non-student U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens who have been year-round residents of North Carolina for at least one year are eligible. Applicants must also plan to be physically present in the state during the grant period.

The Arts Council has a sweet new web portal which seems pretty easy to use: Applications must be submitted online.

Fellowship recipients are selected by panels of artists and arts professionals with expertise in the discipline under review. The recommendations of the panels must be approved by the Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources. The primary criterion that panelists will consider is artistic merit. There are no quotas in the selection of fellowship recipients. The Arts Council seeks diversity and balance in the panels it convenes to review the applications, but artistic merit is the determining criterion for awards. Financial need is not a criterion.

2015 recipients in literature included Sheila Webster Boneham (prose); Wiley Cash (prose); Kim Church (prose), Julie Funderburk (poetry); and Lee Zacharias (prose).

For more information, and to apply, click here.

See Us at Bookmarks Tomorrow!

The North Carolina Writers’ Network will have an exhibitor’s booth at tomorrow’s Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors in downtown Winston-Salem. Come out and say hello!

The Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors features more than forty authors in a full weekend of readings, panels, booksignings, tons of exhibitors, and a kid-friendly area for families. The festival happens in and around the Milton Rhodes Center for the Creative Arts at 209 Spruce St. North, in Winston-Salem. For full details, click here.

Plenty of Network members are on the slate, including Danny Bernstein, Bonnie J. Doerr, Gary Heidt, Bridgette Lacy, Debbie Moose, Betsy Thorpe, and Ross White.

The Network will sponsor two Slush Pile Live! events at the festival: one at 10:15 am and one at 3:45 pm, both on the City Stage on Spruce Street. Panelists include Gary Heidt, Cheryl Klein, and Betsy Thorpe. The event will be moderated by NCWN executive director Ed Southern.

This is an interactive event for aspiring writers to get immediate feedback on their work from editors and agents. Here’s how it works: a panel of editors and agents will listen to submissions being read out loud and raise their hand when they hear something that would make them stop reading had the sample been submitted to their company. The panel will discuss the sample, offering constructive feedback. All anonymous—all live!

Those interested in having their anonymous work read should bring a hard copy of up to 300 words of prose from a single work. Submissions should be double-spaced. No names should appear on the submission. Please bring your submission to the Information Booth between 9:30 and 10 am for the 10:15 am program or between 3 and 3:30 pm for the 3:45 pm program. Submissions will be chosen at random. Not all submissions are guaranteed to be read due to time limits.

For the full festival schedule, click here.

Pitch Your Book on #PitMad

Ok, all you tweeters. Circle Thursday, September 8, on your calendar. That’s the next #PitMad event, a chance for you to pitch your book to agents (and sometimes, editors) over Twitter, all in 140 characters or less!

Over the course of twelve hours, authors make their best pitches and agents respond, either by tweeting themselves or through direct messaging. Created by Brenda Drake, this online event has grown exponentially. It’s so popular, in fact, there are some new ground rules this time around:

So our new rule is that you may only tweet three (3) pitches (they can be different pitches or the same pitch) per project for the day. You may pitch more than one project. I suggest every four hours or so tweet a different pitch. Or tweet during breakfast, lunch, and dinner breaks.

The pitch must include the hashtag #PitMad and the category (#YA, #MG, #A, #NA, #PB etc.) in the tweet. The “#” is important to include. It will sort the categories to make it easier for the agents/publishers.

Here’s an example of a #PitMad tweet, from author Anthony Awtrey:

When an immortal water spirit catches the attention of a hired killer, her best friend must save her. #pitmad #SFF

Keep in mind, of course, that #PitMad is public. While most agents and editors have nothing but good intentions, there are cautionary tales out there, so be sure to vet anyone who contacts you—and there’s no obligation to send your manuscript just because someone asks for it.

For full #PitMad information and requirements, click here.

The event runs 8:00 am to 8:00 pm EDT on Thursday, September 8. Good luck!

St. Andrews Welcomes Black Mountain College Festival

In the more than half-century since it closed in 1956, Black Mountain College, an experimental college once located in the western North Carolina mountains, has taken on the stuff of myth and legend.

Founded on the heels of “the closing of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, and the beginning of the persecution of artists and intellectuals on the European continent,” many of whom eventually made their way to Black Mountain College, the school was:

owned and operated by the faculty and was committed to democratic governance and to the idea that the arts are central to the experience of learning. All members of the College community participated in its operation, including farm work, construction projects and kitchen duty. Located in the midst of the beautiful North Carolina mountains near Asheville, the secluded environment fostered a strong sense of individuality and creative intensity within the small College community.

Among its poets and students were Robert Creeley, Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Hilda Morley, and Jonathan Williams.

In 1974, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, now St. Andrews University, “held the first Black Mountain College Festival to celebrate the history, the mission, and the arts of Black Mountain College.” This Fall, the Black Mountain College Festival returns to Laurinburg for a semester-long celebration of scholars, artists, poets, writers, musicians, inventors, and dancers who will be on-hand to revel in the past—and welcome the future.

“St. Andrews is trying to emphasize its connection to Black Mountain College primarily through Ron Bayes,” said Dr. Ted Wojtasik, co-chair of the Black Mountain College Festival and creative writing professor at St. Andrews. “We used to have a lot of Black Mountain College poets come here to read, like Jonathan Williams and Robert Creeley—who were friends of Ron’s. He was in that generation, but he wasn’t physically at Black Mountain College.”

Ron Bayes is a 2014 inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

The Black Mountain College festival events include “poetry readings, prose readings, art exhibits, dance performance and open mic readings for anyone to express their artistic abilities.” Basil King and Martha King, both alumni of Black Mountain College who met and married after meeting there, are scheduled to read poetry and prose on Thursday, October 27, at the Ronald H. Bayes Lounge of Orange Hall on the St. Andrews campus. There is also the possibility that Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound, may appear. The festival concludes November 19 with a panel discussion on the future of Black Mountain College on Saturday, November 19.

For more information on the Black Mountain College festival, click here.

New Website for NC Arts Council

NC Arts Trail

NC Arts Trail

The North Carolina Arts Council launched a new website this month:

Graphic-based, efficient, and modern, the new site highlights favorite programs through a slideshow on the home page and offers easy access to other features through a drop-down menu up top.

The site and the new A+Schools website are mobile friendly and were designed by the Arts Council’s graphic design and website manager, Hal Earp.

Visitors can jump to the North Carolina Arts Council’s social media accounts at the bottom of the page.

Feedback? Found a link that doesn’t work? Contact NCAC at

Joseph Bathanti Receives North Carolina Award

© Sylvia Freeman

© Sylvia Freeman

Former North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti has received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the highest civilian honor in the state.

A longtime friend of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and a familiar face at Network events (he was most recently the featured guest at Saturday’s Fall Conference luncheon, in 2014), Bathanti is the author of ten volumes of poetry, three novels, and a short-story collection. He is the recipient of some of the state’s most prestigious literary awards and teaches creative writing at Appalachian State University.

Bathanti is admired and respected by his literary peers. He came to North Carolina in 1976 to work for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), noting that he had a master’s degree in English and no idea what work he wanted to do. His assignment was teaching at the state correctional facility in Huntersville. There, he met his wife Joan, who taught the Pittsburgh native about grits. His interactions with the incarcerated taught him the importance of allowing others to tell their personal stories. He came to love North Carolina and writes of this state and his native Pennsylvania equally. He serves as an ambassador of letters, and has worked with military veterans to tell their stories as well. Through all of his teaching posts and populations, he brings an appreciation for the human spirit and the humanity of us all.

The North Carolina Award will be presented to seven distinguished North Carolinians on Thursday, September 22, at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. Governor Pat McCrory will present the awards at the 7:00 pm banquet and ceremony, following a reception for the recipients at 6:00 pm.

The 2016 honorees include Joseph Bathanti of Vilas for Literature; Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum of Chapel Hill for Science; Robert J. Brown of High Point for Public Service; James C. Gardner of Rocky Mount for Public Service; Dr. Assad Meymandi of Raleigh for Fine Arts; and Dr. Aziz Sancar and Dr. Paul L. Modrich of Chapel Hill for Science. The awards are administered by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“It is an honor to pay tribute to these remarkable individuals who have made North Carolina better by their extraordinary involvement in this state,” said Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Each has enriched the lives of our citizens and propelled North Carolina onto the national and world stages.”

Greensboro’s Visual Poetry Project

Between now and November, in downtown Greensboro, poetry lovers can take a self-guided walking tour and see eleven different sculptures that have been created in response to poems.

Sponsored by the Writers’ Group of the Triad, The Visual Poetry Project paired eleven poets with eleven different artists in the ekphrastic tradition:

Sculptures are generally located on Elm street between the main library and ArtMongerz gallery (across from the Mellow Mushroom). For example, if you see a fountain in Scuppernong bookstore then you should look for the poem on the side. All sculptures should have a journal to allow you to leave comments.

For a complete list of sculpture/poem locations, click here.

Poets include North Carolina Writers’ Network members Michael Gaspeny and Walt Pilcher. To see a sampling of the sculptures and poems, click here.

On Friday, September 2, starting at 6:30 pm, there will be an organized walking event starting at the Greensboro Central Library, 219 N. Church St. Contributing poets will be on-hand to talk about their individual poems.

For more information, contact Cathie Holcombe at or visit the event’s Facebook page.


There’s a theory of movie-making, espoused (if not invented) by t.v. and film critic Chris Ryan, that if you “put dope actors in your movie,” your movie will be good.

That seems to be the running theory behind Genius, out this summer, which follows the story of American Southern writer Thomas Wolfe and his connections with New Yorker Maxwell Perkins, the publisher. The cast includes Colin Firth (Maxwell Perkins); Jude Law (Thomas Wolfe); Nicole Kidman (Aline Bernstein); Guy Pearce (F. Scott Fitzgerald); and Laura Linney (Louise Saunders).

While this theory that good actors can compensate for a mediocre script often works just dandy (see all three—sorry, four—Hunger Games movies), that doesn’t seem to be the case with Genius. It’s been dubbed “hammily acted” (The Guardian), “unappealingly lit” (The Daily Telegraph), “like CPR on a lifeless body” (The Hollywood Reporter), and said to posses “all the life of a flower pressed between Look Homeward Angel’s pages eighty-seven years ago” (Variety).

Not exactly ringing endorsements, especially given the movie’s 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Still, those interested in Asheville’s favorite son, Thomas Wolfe, and his editor Perkins, who also edited F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, might stomach the bad lighting and wretched acting to find something of value.

This blogger couldn’t actually find any theaters currently showing the movie, so viewers might do better to simply pre-order the DVD, or wait for Netflix.

Sally Buckner Receives The Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Shelby Stephenson and Sally Buckner

Shelby Stephenson and Sally Buckner

This Thursday, August 11, Sally Buckner will be honored with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina is The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It is awarded to persons for exemplary service to the State of North Carolina and their communities that is above and beyond the call of duty and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.

In her long career, Sally Bucker taught at every level from kindergarten through graduate school, and retired after twenty-eight years on the faculty at Peace College. A former journalist, she published poetry, plays, nonfiction, and short stories in many journals and anthologies. In 1991, she was the editor of Our Words, Our Ways, an anthology of literature designed to accompany eighth-grade studies of state history. Her first collection of poems, Strawberry Harvest, was published by St. Andrews Press in 1996. In 1999, she was the editor of Word and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry, published under the auspices of the NC Poetry Society by Carolina Academic Press.

Other recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine include poet Anthony S. Abbott (1992), NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Kathryn Stripling Byer (2010), and author, journalist, and public relations leader Joe Epley (2004). For a complete list of recipients, click here.

The ceremony takes place on Thursday, August 11, at 4:00 pm at the Glenaire Retirement Community auditorium, 4000 Glenaire Circle, in Cary. This event is free and open to the public.

Buckner will be honored by NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee and current NC poet laureate Shelby Stephenson. NC playwright June Guralnick and the NC Arts Council’s Literature and Theater Director David Potorti will make remarks.

For more information, contact David Potorti at 919-807-6512.