ASHEVILLE—The North Carolina Writers’ Network calls this “The Writingest State”—all of it, Manteo to Murphy, Calabash to Crumpler. We find and welcome writers from all parts of North Carolina, with no city or region holding a monopoly on literary talent or output.
But we have to admit: Good writers sure are thick on the rocky ground of the mountains, to which the Network’s Fall Conference returns this year.
The NCWN 2019 Fall Conference runs November 8-10 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.
Asheville and the surrounding mountains offer a true bounty for the literary arts. Authors who led master classes in 2015, the last time the Network held its Fall Conference in Asheville, will be leading single sessions this year, not replaced but graciously making room for other talented instructors. Even with agents and editors, award-winning authors, and a former NC Poet Laureate on faculty, the Fall Conference line-up represents only a sampling of Asheville’s abundant literary culture.
New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.
Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller Serena and Above the Waterfall, in addition to four prizewinning novels: The Cove, One Foot In Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; five collections of poems; and six collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O. Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.
On Saturday morning, the North Carolina Humanities Council will present the winner of the Linda Flowers Literary Award during the “All Stories Connect” breakfast panel.
In an embarrassment of riches, Saturday’s Luncheon will feature former North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and a special reading from Brothers Like These. Brothers Like These is comprised of stories and poems written by Vietnam combat veterans in Classroom B, an out-of-the-way room in the basement of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville. Under Bathanti’s guidance, they gathered to write every Wednesday for almost two years. These are stories and poems, large and small, funny and heartbreaking, that only these men can relate in their own inimitable styles—stories and poems not just invaluable to succeeding generations of soldiers, but to every citizen of our country, and beyond.
Saturday Night’s Annual Banquet features Asheville’s home-grown music collective, Pan Harmonia, who, in celebration of their 20th season, will offer the premiere of a music and poetry fusion work, “Rubble Becomes Art,” a triptych of songs composed by Dosia McKay inspired by poetry by North Carolina writers Sally Atkins, Valerie Foote, and Cathy Larson Sky.
Sunday morning will once again offer the popular “Agents & Editors” panel. The weekend also features beloved programming such as faculty readings, open mics, and an exhibit hall packed with vendors, including the official conference booksellers, Malaprop’s.
There might be some classes happening too.
Master Classes will be led by Abigail DeWitt, Jeremy B. Jones, and the poets Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs.
Abigail DeWitt, who will lead “Body & Soul—Studies in Character Development: Fiction,” is the author of three novels including News of Our Loved Ones, chosen as an Editor’s Choice by BookBrowse and the Historical Novel Society.
Other fiction sessions include “Pre-Writing Is a Matter of Pre-Trusting” with Kevin McIlvoy; “Thievery, Loss, & Scars: A Fiction Workshop” with Heather Newton; and “If You’re Afraid to Write About It, Write About It” with NCWN trustee Tommy Hays.
Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction, “Exploding Your Drafts.” Jones is a professor at Western Carolina University and the author of Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland, which was awarded gold in memoir in the 2015 Independent Publisher Book of the Year awards and named the 2014 Appalachian Book of the Year in nonfiction.
In addition, creative nonfiction writers may take “Power Up the Truth You Tell” with Christine Hale and “The Limits of Perception: Invention & Speculation in CNF” with Tessa Fontaine.
The Master Class in Poetry, “Coming Back to Your Senses,” will be led by Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs.
Brown teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program and is the author of two poetry collections and the chapbook To Those Who Were Our First Gods, winner of the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize. Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books) and Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press), winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary and Julie Suk Awards.
Poets may also register for sessions including “Write with the Wolfe—a Poetry/Prose Poetry Rebellion” with Laura Hope-Gill; “Capturing the Persona Poem” with Keith Flynn; "Ekphrasis: Growing Art from Art" (poetry) with Eric Tran; “It Looks Like a Hairball” with Catherine Carter; and “Freedom & the Imagination” with Mildred Barya.
For those who write across genres, or betwixt genres—or for those just looking for more generalized writing sessions—Dale Neal will lead “Why Not Ask?” and Meta Commerse will lead “Story Medicine 2.0.” Also, Alli Marshall, Kevin Evans, Lockie Hunter, and Steve Shell will sit on the panel, “Writing Out Loud.”
If you feel you’ve got a manuscript ready to take to market, or you’ve already published and want to know how to maximize sales, plenty of sessions will focus on the business of books. Gold Leaf Literary Services will walk registrants through “The Elements of the Industry”; Meg Reid, the director of Hub City Press, will let authors know “What Writers Should Know about Book Design”; Catherine Campbell will teach how to “Write Your Best Agent Query Letter”; Luke Hankins, founder and editor at Orison Books, will lead “The Ins and Out of Small Press Publishing”; and Anne Fitten Glenn will offer “Creative Ways to Promote Your Book (and Yourself).”
Writers for stage and screen can sign up for “Screenplay: Fake vs. Fiction” with Maryedith Burrell and “Improv’s Increasing Role in Comedy Writing” with Tom Chalmers.
Screenwriters may also apply for the Elliot Bowles Screenwriters Scholarship, which the Network will again offer in 2019. This scholarship will allow up to four screenwriters to attend the NCWN 2019 Fall Conference, provide two-nights’ lodging at the conference, and give each recipient a complimentary one-year membership with the Network. Any North Carolina resident who has written an unproduced/unoptioned screenplay may apply for the Elliott Bowles Screenwriting Scholarship.
The Network also will offer again the Mary Belle Campbell Scholarships to poets who teach, which will cover conference registration for up to three poets who teach full-time.
Sponsors of the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2019 Fall Conference include a Blue Ridge Level Sponsor, UNC Asheville's Great Smokies Writing Program, as well as Asheville FM 103.3; the Flatiron Writers Room; the North Carolina Arts Council; the North Carolina Humanities Council; Alice Osborn: Author/Book Coach/Editor; Smoky Mountain Living; The Thomas Wolfe MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville; Katie Winkler and Teach.Write.; and WNCW 88.7.
Pre-registration closes November 1. 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.