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.
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.