White Cross School Blog


NC Literary Hall of Fame




RALEIGH—The short story “Papa’s Gifts” by Raleigh writer Sandra Headen has won the first-ever Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize.

Headen will receive $1,000, and The Carolina Quarterly will consider “Papa’s Gifts” for publication.

This award was initiated by Cedric Brown, a Winston-Salem native and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to honor the best in short prose by African-American writers in North Carolina. Founding donors also include Carol B. Alan, MD; E. Patrick Johnson, PhD; and Reginald Shuford, JD.

Final judge Rion Amilcar Scott selected “Papa’s Gifts” from among twelve finalists for the inaugural prize.

“‘Papa’s Gifts’ is the type of story that seems to exist in a hazy limbo, like something overheard between sleep and wake until the ending startles you to attention,” Scott said about Headen’s entry. “Papa of the title will stay with me for his ordinary strict father menace that morphs into something more chilling by the end.”

Following a career in teaching and research at universities in Chicago and Chapel Hill, Headen became an independent consultant and began writing historical fiction. Her debut novel, Warrior on the Mound (originally titled Cato’s Last Home Run) won the On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Scott also selected “May Day Miracle,” a memoir excerpt by Charlotte’s Barbara Johnson, for Honorable Mention.

“‘May Day Miracle’ gives us a simple but heroic quest to root for. Seeking a fresh outfit for a May Day ceremony becomes a quest for dignity despite the indignities of rural poverty,” Scott said. “When the narrator's heart breaks, the reader's does, too, and when she triumphs, it washes over the reader and becomes our triumph as well.”

Barbara Johnson was born to a sharecropping family in Leasburg and graduated from Bennett College. Her work has been performed at the Matthews Playhouse, Queens University of Charlotte, and the Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius.

Both Headen and Johnson are members of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

The Jacobs/Jones contest, sponsored by the NCWN and administered by the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, is open to any African-American writer whose primary residence is in North Carolina. Entries may be fiction or creative nonfiction, but must not have been published before (including on any website, blog, or social media), and must be no more than 3,000 words.

“The literary award was borne out of my frustration with being unable to readily find much fiction or creative nonfiction that conveys the rich and varied existence of Black North Carolinians,” Brown said. “I wanted to incentivize the development of written works while also encouraging Black writers to capture our lives through storytelling.”

The full competition guidelines are listed below and can be found at www.ncwriters.org.

Rion Amilcar Scott’s short-story collection, Insurrections, was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His work has been published in journals such as The Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, and The Rumpus, among others. The World Doesn't Require You, his sophomore story collection, is forthcoming from Liveright.

The Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize honors the nineteenth-century writers Harriet Jacobs and Thomas H. Jones. Jacobs was born in 1813 near Edenton, escaping to Philadelphia in 1842, after hiding for seven years in a crawl space above her grandmother’s ceiling. She published her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, under a pseudonym in 1861. Jacobs died in 1897 and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1997.

Jones was born into slavery near Wilmington in 1806. Able to purchase the freedom of his wife and all but one of his children, he followed them north in 1849 by stowing away on a brig to New York. In the northeast and in Canada, he spoke as a preacher and abolitionist, writing his memoir, The Experience of Thomas Jones, in 1854, as a way to raise funds to buy his eldest child’s freedom.

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


GREENSBORO—What does it mean to be a “Writers’ Writer”?

Does it mean that someone is a writer who is appreciated by their peers, who works hard, who commands the craft in a nuanced way that other writers truly appreciate? Yes, sometimes it implies a lack of commercial success, but what writer is in it for the money and fame, really?

The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2019 Spring Conference, Saturday, April 27, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, will celebrate the ethos and hard work of writers everywhere with a full day of workshops and sessions meant to inspire participants to hurry back to their own desks and get down to the hard work of putting words on a page.

Registration is open.

Michael McFee will give the Keynote Address.

McFee is the author or editor of sixteen books. His most recent collection of essays is Appointed Rounds(Mercer University Press, 2018); his latest volume of poems is We Were Once Here (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017). A professor in the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill for decades, he received the 2018 North Carolina Award for Literature, the state’s highest civilian honor.

Susan Harlan will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction, “Writing Personal Essays and Memoir.” Harlan teaches English literature at Wake Forest University. Her most recent book,Decorating a Room of One's Own: Conversations on Interior Design with Miss Havisham, Jane Eyre, Victor Frankenstein, Elizabeth Bennet, Ishmael, and Other Literary Notables, which began as a column for The Toast, was published by Abrams in October 2018.

Around the corner, Jeff Jackson will lead the Master Class in Fiction, “Exploring and Exploding the Possibilities of Story Structure.” Jackson’s latest novel is Destroy All Monsters: The Last Rock Novel, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It received rave reviews in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and NPR, as well as praise from Don DeLillo, Janet Fitch, Ben Marcus, and Dana Spiotta. His first novel Mira Corpora was a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

The Poetry Master Class, “Investigative Poetics,” will be led by Amy Catanzano, who publishes across genres and is the author of three books in addition to significant essay projects and digital literary forms. Her recent book, Starlight in Two Million: A Neo-Scientific Novella, received the Noemi Press Book Award. Multiversal, published by Fordham University Press, received the PEN USA Literary Award in Poetry and the Poets Out Loud Prize with Fordham University Press.

Attendees also have the option of taking classes a la carte.

Poets can sign up for “Metaphor and Memory in Poetry” with Ashley Lumpkin, author of three chapbooks and a competing member of the Bull City Slam Team since 2015; and “The Wonder of Falling” with Charlotte Matthews, whose most recent book Whistle What Can’t Be Said (Unicorn Press, 2016) chronicles part of her experience with stage-three breast cancer. Prose writers who like to invent can explore “Writing Speculative Fiction: World Building to Shape Story” with Krystal A. Smith, whose debut collection of speculative fiction, Two Moons: A Collection of Short Fiction, was released last year by BLF Press; and “The Art of Dialogue” with Kathryn Schwille, author of the novel What Luck, This Life, selected by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as one of the best southern books of 2018.

Writers of prose who prefer to stick to the truth can enjoy Eddie Huffman’s “Real Characters: Capturing People in Nonfiction Prose.” Huffman is a veteran journalist and author of John Prine: In Spite of Himself and a forthcoming biography of Doc Watson for the University of North Carolina Press.

The NCWN 2019 Spring Conference also offers general sessions focused on the business and craft of writing.

North Carolina’s literary power couple, Ed Southern and Jamie Rogers Southern, will team up to teach “The Basics of the Book Business, Parts I & II.” Ed is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the author of four books, including the short story collection Parlous Angels. He received the 2015 Fortner Award from St. Andrews University for his service to the literary arts in North Carolina.

Jamie Rogers Southern has been working with Bookmarks, a literary arts nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem, since 2011, currently as Operations Director. She also has worked as Education Coordinator for the American Booksellers Association, and as manager of the Alabama Booksmith in her hometown of Birmingham. In 2018, she received the Winston-Salem Under 40 Leadership Award from the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

Joseph Mills, whose book This Miraculous Turningwas awarded the North Carolina Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for its exploration of race and family, will lead the session “Stepping Back from Your Writing,” meant to help participants assess their works in progress. A faculty member at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills holds an endowed chair, the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities, and was honored in 2017 with a UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.

In addition, guaranteed to help attendees build the intestinal fortitude necessary to weather the furious storms of publishing, NCWN will host its fifth annual “Slush Pile Live!”

During this popular program, poetry and prose will be read aloud in two rooms in front of panels of editors and publishers, who will raise their hands as soon as they hear something in the pieces that would make them stop reading if they came across the submission in a slush pile. Many attendees have commented how much they learn in this hour of rapid-fire tidbits of wisdom and common sense.

Familiar features remain, including faculty readings, an open mic for conference participants, an exhibit hall packed with publishers and literary organizations, and “Lunch with an Author,” where conferencegoers can spend less time waiting in line and more time talking with the author of their choice. Spaces in “Lunch with an Author” are limited and are first-come, first-served. Preregistration and an additional fee are also required for this offering.

Spring Conference is sponsored in part by the North Carolina Arts Council and UNCG’s Creative Writing Program, which will provide free parking for Spring Conference registrants in the Oakland Avenue Parking Deck, across Forest Street from the MHRA Building (behind Yum Yum Better Ice Cream and Old Town Draught House). 

Learn more and register at www.ncwriters.org.


CLEVELAND, OH—We live in a world dominated by sound bites, inflammatory headlines, and 30-second soapbox diatribes. More often than, not, it is the loudest voice that gets heard.

How then should poets respond? Is there room for poets to move in the spaces between, in the margins and mortar, and to do so in a powerful way that lets them cut through the noise and touch readers in an authentic way? 

On Tuesday, March 12 at 7:00 pm, poet Leila Chatti will lead the online class "Hush: Writing the Quiet Poem."

Registration is closed.

This course is capped at forty (40) registrants, first-come, first-served. There is a $30 fee to register.

In a time of seemingly endless bustle and noise, a quiet moment can be rare or too easily overlooked. In this workshop, we’ll turn the volume down and discuss how to notice and render the poetry of these “ordinary” moments. Using the work of masters such as Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, Li-Young Lee, and Louise Glück, we will learn how to best use the tools of breath, space, syntax, and the line, and to recognize and communicate the power and beauty in what does not shout for attention, but quietly demands it.

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of the chapbooks Ebb (Akashic Books, 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors' Selection from Bull City Press. She is the recipient of scholarships from the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place, and the Key West Literary Seminar; grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation; and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Cleveland State University, where she is the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Publishing and Writing.

Her poems have received awards from Ploughshares' Emerging Writer's Contest, Narrative's 30 Below Contest, the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, and the Academy of American Poets. In 2017, she was the first North African poet to be shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. She is the Consulting Poetry Editor for the Raleigh Review and her work appears in Ploughshares, Tin House, American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere.

"Hush: Writing the Quiet Poem" is the North Carolina Writers' Network's fourth and final offering in their 2018-2019 Winter Series of online classes.

"This program is a great way for writers from all over North Carolina to connect without having the hassle of driving somewhere and finding parking," said NCWN communications director Charles Fiore. "Online classes offer top-shelf instruction for a fraction of the cost, and the software itself is very intuitive and easy to use."

The online class "Hush: Writing the Quiet Poem" is available to anyone with an internet connection, or who even owns just a telephone. Instructions for accessing the online class on Tuesday, March 12, will be sent to registrants no less than twenty-four hours prior to the start of class.

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


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