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ASHEVILLE—Dale Neal, whose new novel Appalachian Book of the Dead: a Southern Buddhist Thriller is out now from SFK Press, will lead the multigenre session "Why Not Ask?" at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.

Conference registration is open.

Dale Neal is a novelist and veteran journalist in Asheville. His previous novels are award-winning Cow Across America and The Half-Life of Home. As a reporter, he traveled everywhere from Upper Paw Paw in Madison County to Karachi in Pakistan, covering culture, books, religion, business, science, and technology for the Asheville Citizen-Times. His short stories and essays have appeared in Arts & Letters, North Carolina Literary Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Dale to give us his best library memory. He generously shared the following:

"I grew up reading as an escape from the world, favoring Tarzan of the Apes, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Zorro, Mad Magazine, Marvel Comics.

"But it was in the library at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem where I finally grew up in my reading.

"Here on the wall of oak shelves, in the daylight beaming through the high glass windows, stood the books that adults read. I can still remember reaching overhead, there on the top shelf at the corner, under the A’s of the Fiction section. I pulled down an old tattered hard-back, A Death in the Family, by someone named James Agee.

"Here was the book that didn’t allow me to escape this world, but showed me my own life in its pages.

"Over and over, I read that incantation of 'Knoxville Summer 1915.' Agee was writing of a world not alien to me, a suburban childhood not all that different from my own, of being with his family, loved and protected, but somehow still alone in a strange world. I didn’t know books could talk to me about my own life:

"'After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto here; and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home, but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.'"

Most writers like to think of themselves as shy introverts, wallflowers, bashful bystanders. We like to be observers, making witty notes about characters in our heads. But making up all those stories and poems all in the privacy of our own imagination can be awfully daunting task. Why not simply ask people about their stories? We may be surprised how much people are willing to talk, which can be a godsend not just to creative nonfiction writers, but to fiction writers and poets.

"Why Not Ask?" will talk about talking to other people, interviewing tips, how to conquer our own self-consciousness, and how to respectfully use other people’s stories in our own work. Come prepared to talk to others.

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction. Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.

Register here.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.

 

ASHEVILLE—Alli Marshall is the author of the novel How to Talk to Rockstars and the arts editor for Asheville's alt-weekly, Mountain xPress.

She's also a performance poet: her most recent collaborative show, “Flyer in a Dark Chamber,” debuted at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in August. She has performed theatrical spoken word at Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, Asheville Percussion Festival, and the {RE}Happening. In May, she curated the inaugural Dear Satyr: An Evening of Erotic Spoken Word. Alli was the 2016 winner of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize for her short story “Catching Out.” She holds an MFA from Goddard College.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, Alli will moderate the panel "Writing Out Loud" with Kevin Evans, Lockie Hunter, and Steve Shell

The NCWN 2019 Conference runs November 8-10 at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore. Registration is open.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries. As part of this year-long appreciation, Alli generously allowed us to print her poem, "Petaluma Regional Library." As follows:  

PETALUMA REGIONAL LIBRARY

In the endlessness of ’91 I — who had only
just arrived to Northern California, to
the West Coast, to college — longed for escape.

Sometimes I’d skip class to hitchhike
into town, dreaming down dusty roads
of the future to which I’d eventually wake. Dreaming

of a California that was already slipping
through my hands. I only knew
of the sunflower farms and the cliffs

of Big Sur and the drugs I’d take, maybe,
in Golden Gate Park, if I could scrape together
bus fare. In the library I’d pore over books

on macrame and permaculture. Treehouse
design. How to renovate a VW camper. How
to live off the land (though I was still living

off my parents). A picture was taking
shape. The hazy, over-exposed Polaroid
of it, edges blurred, blond bleached

to white. Thinking if I could read up
on Sonoma County, circa 1972, I could somehow
will it back into being. An education in fiction,

in the nonfiction section. I studied bead craft
and the brief-but-irrefutable rise of Janis Joplin
like a senior seminar, like an extra-credit course.

My library card was a litany of fantasy,
a catalog of childhood intersecting
real life. Autumn only grew more golden, the coast

more restless, the bay trees more
perfumed. Everything was calling. Everything
was a dissertation on desire and how to name it.

During the panel discussion "Writing Out Loud," Asheville-based writers will discuss the adventures, challenges, and best practices of performative work, such as live readings, poetry slams, radio appearances, and the theatrical applications of spoken word. The conversation will also include thoughts on curating literary events, from the selection process to marrying diverse voices onstage, to marketing the event. Panelists have worked in radio, print media and education. Their combined experiences include organizing and performing at events such as The Moth StorySLAM, the Asheville-Biscuithead Slam Poetry Series, WordPlay Radio Show, the Juniper Bends Reading Series, Asheville Poetry Cabaret, and HomeWord Youth Poetry open mic. 

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Master Classes will be led by Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs (Poetry) and Jeremy B. Jones (Nonfiction). Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.

Register here.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.

 

ASHEVILLE—Abigail DeWitt, author of three novels, will lead the Master Class in Fiction, "Studies in Character Development," at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.

Conference registraiton is open.

Abigail's three novels are Lili, Dogs, and News of Our Loved Ones. Described by BookList as a work of “masterful artistry,” News of Our Loved Ones was chosen as an Editor’s Choice by BookBrowse and the Historical Novel Society. Abigail's short fiction has appeared in Narrative, Five Points, Witness, the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Drafthorse, and elsewhere. She has been cited in Best American Short Stories, nominated for a Pushcart, and has received grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, the McColl Center for the Arts, and the Michener Society. Follow her on Instagram at @abigaildewittauthor or visit her website: www.abigaildewitt.com.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Abigail to give us her best library memory. She graciously allowed us to print her essay, "A Love Letter to Librarians":

"Of all the characters in all the novels I’ve ever read, the one whose decency and courage moves me most often to tears is the librarian in the appendix to The Sound and the Fury.

"Decades after the beautiful, damned Caddie has been banned from home because of her promiscuity, the librarian, 'a mouse-sized and -colored woman who had never married,' is the only one who stands up for Caddie. She may look the part of the librarian-cliché, but she alone confronts Jason, who banished Caddie in the first place and whose cruelty represents for Faulkner the worst of post-civil war South.

"I sometimes think of that character when I think about my friend Sylvia, a recently retired Bookmobile librarian in our rural Appalachian county. Every year, Sylvia logged close to 12,000 miles, driving up and down winding, often rutted, often one-lane roads. She brought books to the elderly and to people with disabilities, but also to children in federally funded after-school programs, homeschoolers, and anyone who couldn’t get to the library. We are a Tier One, economically disadvantaged county, deep in Trump country, and she sometimes also delivered food along with books.

"On the surface, Sylvia has nothing in common with Faulkner’s librarian. After failing to convince Jason to help her save Caddie, that nameless fictional character finds herself packed into a crowded bus, weeping. She is 'smaller than any other there so that her feet touch…the floor only occasionally until a [man]…pick[s] her up bodily and set[s] her into a seat next to the window, where still crying quietly she c[an] look out upon the fleeing city…' Sylvia lives on a farm and is used to lifting things that are much heavier than a mouse-sized woman. Once, when the brakes went out on the Bookmobile bus as she was navigating a steep, winding road, she rose, pulled on the emergency brake, and drove the whole way down standing up. Sylvia is also happily married to a woman.

"I asked her once if the many Bookmobile patrons who believe homosexuality is a sin knew the truth about her. She shrugged. 'I’m friends with a lot of library patrons on Facebook, so they have to know. They still give me gifts. Candy, homemade sausage, flowers, apple butter.' She continued, 'You can find common ground with anyone through books.'

"I thought about the suspension of judgment that takes place when a fundamentalist Christian offers food to a lesbian without trying to save her, and a liberal offers books to a Trump supporter without trying to save her. I thought how rare such an exchange was—rare, at least, if social media is to be believed—and I remembered this quote, from Duncan Smith’s article, 'Your Brain on Fiction' in the ALA Reference & User Services Quarterly: 'We frequently hear fiction reading described…as an escape…we need to be clear about what readers are escaping from. They are escaping from a narrow, limiting view of the world and journeying to a place where it is possible to experience a deeper connection to our real selves and to live fully in our world.'

"It makes sense that it would be a librarian who would open her heart to Caddie, just as it is Sylvia who creates and fosters an open-hearted exchange between people who, in so many other contexts, might loathe one another. The cliché of the primly disapproving librarian could not be further from the truth: it is librarians, after all, who, by handing us the means to transcend boundaries, are the true revolutionaries in a species so bent on mistrust of what is different."

While Abigail's Master Class in Fiction is now full, there are many excellent options for writers of fiction.

Kevin McIlvoy will lead "Pre-Writing Is a Matter of Pre-Trusting"; Dale Neal will lead "Why Not Ask?"; "Thievery, Loss, and Scars: a Fiction Workshop" will be led by Heather Newton; and NCWN trustee Tommy Hays will lead "If You're Afraid to Write about It, Write about It."

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction; Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs will lead the Master Class in Poetry; Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.

Register here.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.

 

 
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