Happy Trails to Tommy Hays, who announced his retirement as the Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Tommy taught for the program for twenty years.
A novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, Tommy’s middle grade novelâ€¯What I Came to Tell Youâ€¯wasâ€¯an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA).â€¯Haysâ€™ novelâ€¯The Pleasure Was Mineâ€¯was a finalist for the SIBA Fiction Award and chosen for numerous community reads. His other novels areâ€¯Samâ€™s Crossingâ€¯andâ€¯In the Family Way,â€¯winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.â€¯A Trustee of the North Carolina Writersâ€™ Network, he received his BA in English from Furman University and graduated from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He also teaches in the Converse College Low Residency MFA.
“I can’t think of a better job, working with such motivated and engaging students and such kind and dedicated writer/teachers,” Tommy said in a Facebook post. “I’ve enjoyed working with schools and organizations in the community to coordinate our classes as well as organizing and hosting Writers at Home, our reading series with Malaprops. Still it does feel like it’s time for a change.”
The Great Smokies Writing Program is a joint effort between the UNC-Asheville departments of English, Creative Writing, and the Asheville Graduate Center. The program offers opportunities for writers of all levels to join a supportive learning community in which their skills and talents can be explored, practiced, and forged under the careful eye of professional writers. The program offers classes every season; registration for Summer 2020 is open now.
The Great Smokies Writing Program also facilitates The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. Sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, this prize awards $1,000 and possibly publication in The Thomas Wolfe Review annually to a work of fiction under 3,000 words.
â€œHays is a gifted storyteller, offering up an effective balance of credible emotion, understated wisdom, and gentle humor,” said The Bulletin in a starred review of What I Came to Tell You.
Tommy led the Master Class in Fiction at the NCWN 2011 Fall Conference and the 2015 NCWN Fall Conference; he led a fiction session in 2019.
â€œTommy Hays writes beautifully,” said Claudia Smith Brinson in The State. “His subject matter, his sense of the South and Southerners, his ability to reflect on the deep in the ordinary are reminiscent of James Ageeâ€™s A Death in the Family and Eudora Weltyâ€™s Delta Wedding.”
The North Carolina Writers’ Network would like to offer our deepest appreciation for Tommy and his contributions to the North Carolina literary world. We look forward to reading all the great stuff he’ll write with all his newfound “free time!”