NC Literary Hall of Fame



Anthony S. Abbott is Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College. He is the author of two novels and seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which, The Angel Dialogues, was published by Lorimer Press in March of this year. His 2011 collection, If Words Could Save Us, was the co-winner of the Brockman Campbell Award of the NC Poetry Society. His 2003 novel, Leaving Maggie Hope, won the Novello Award. He taught English and creative writing at Davidson for nearly forty years, and was chair of the department from 1989 to 1996. He also served as President of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, The Charlotte Writers' Club, and, most recently, the North Carolina Poetry Society. He teaches writing workshops in Charlotte, Davidson, and Winston-Salem.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Tony will teach the workshop "Poetry 101." It's everything you wanted to know about poetry but were afraid to ask (in ninety minutes). We will review the basic elements of poetry—imagery, metaphor, form and free verse, sound and rhythm, and look at some ways these various elements can be combined to make a fresh and moving poem. The instructor will supply examples.

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If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
I would be Mary Oliver. I would love to have her remarkable ability to look at things and see into them. I find her vision absolutely stunning.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
“Passionate, engaging, original.”

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Don’t be afraid. Write what you have to write, and don’t edit it. Hold on to it, and one day you will know what to do with it. If you don’t write it when you first have it, you will lose it.

In 2013, Forbes named Charlotte among its list of Best Places for Business and Careers. What makes Charlotte such a vibrant place to visit and live?
I have lived in Davidson, a small town twenty miles north of Charlotte, for fifty years. When we came to Davidson, people welcomed us openly and made us feel part of the community. That warm and caring community continues to nurture us fifty years later.

Why do you feel it's important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
When I first started writing, I had almost no contact with other writers, with people like me. Conferences give us a chance to be with one another and feel the support of others like ourselves. In North Carolina, especially, writers are a genuine community. You might meet someone at a conference who will become a true friend….

Saturday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "Words in Civic Life." Does creative writing have a role to play outside the covers of a book?
Of course it does. I didn’t really know how black people felt until I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Poems, novels, essays change us—they allow us to experience what it is like to be someone else from the inside. Literature is a humanizing force

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop, panel, or Mart?
Often people who are just starting out lack the tools to adequately shape their vision. I hope my workshop will give them some of those important tools and do it in an interesting and helpful way. I want them to have fun while they are learning.

What does it mean for writers to "Network?" Any tips?
When we founded the North Carolina Writers' Network we realized that many writers lived in communities where they felt isolated from many of the important things going on in writing centers like Raleigh, Durhm, Chapel Hill. To Network really means to be in touch with what is going on and to become a part of it. If Sharon Olds is coming to Duke, I want to know about it even if I live two or three hours away. A network can help keep me alive as a writer.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
The Bible.

Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
I have enjoyed Poetry very much. For fiction, The New Yorker is absolutely essential. Wonderful stories.

Can writing be taught?
Yes. You can’t teach talent or genius. A gift is a gift, but we can always help people improve. We can teach people to be better writers than they are.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
I really don’t know. Frost, Yeats, Eliot, Dickinson, Whitman, Olds, Oliver—poets I dearly love. And Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Have you ever had writer’s block? What is one thing that helped you overcome it?
The most important thing is life experience. When something powerful happens, then we write about it. With no life experiences, we dry up inside. Passon comes from life. Then we write about it.

Someone writes an unauthorized biography about your life. What would the title be?
The Man Who Limped Toward Heaven.


Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.


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