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The Fall Conference Is More Than Classes

The NCWN Fall Conference lets you chart your own course through the weekend, picking the classes and workshops of most interest and relevance to your own work: Poetry? Prose? Publishing? We’ve got a class on it.

Before and in-between those classes, though, are the conference’s general sessions, open and interesting to all writers. These sessions will help you look at your writing in new ways, and have some fun while you’re at it.

Register now for the 2023 Fall Conference, November 3 – 5 in Charlotte, so you don’t miss out on these offerings and so much more:

Friday, November 3

12 – 1 PM                       Pre-Conference Tailgate: Ekphrastic Is Not a Dirty Word (Sponsored by the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities and the Charlotte Art League)

Join poets Paul Jones and Christine Arvidsen for a little light exercise to get the creative juices flowing. They’ll talk about ekphrastic poetry (and prose)—what it is and how it can be done—and then set you loose on the collection of the Charlotte Art League, a short drive or light-rail ride from the Fall Conference venue, to try it out for yourself.

(If you plan to tailgate, you may enjoy reading Paul’s “A Little Essay on Some Ekphrastic Poems,” which also includes some useful links to useful ekphrastic resources and poems.)

The Pre-Conference Tailgate does not require advance registration, nor is it limited to Fall Conference participants. Anyone who wants to write is welcome.

The Charlotte Art League is at 4237 Raleigh Street in Charlotte’s NoDa Arts District.

8 – 9 PM                          Keynote Address by Tommy Tomlinson

Tommy Tomlinson is the author of the memoir The Elephant In the Room(Simon & Schuster, 2019), about life as an overweight man in a growing America. His new book, Dogland, about the Westminster Dog Show, comes out in April 2024. Tommy is the host of the podcast SouthBound at WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR station, and he also does weekly commentaries for the station. He also has a Substack newsletter called The Writing Shed. He has written for publications including EsquireESPN the MagazineSports IllustratedForbesGarden & Gun, and many others. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte. 

Saturday, November 4

8 – 9 AM                         All Stories Connect Panel Discussion: Writing as a Vehicle for Social Change (Sponsored by PEN America)

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” is one of the most ridiculous thoughts ever written. But so, too, is “poetry makes nothing happen” (if you take it out of context, at least, and most people do). Writing shapes how we see the world, which directs how we move through the world, but writing does this best when it doesn’t seem to be trying to.

In times of great change—even of upheaval—how can and should a writer respond? Is witness enough? When does advocacy become alienation, and prose turn into preaching?

Three Charlotte writers—Patrice Gopo, Kimmery Martin, and Jay Ward—who have dealt in different ways with social issues will address these questions and many more.

Patrice Gopo writes stories steeped in themes of place, belonging, and home. She is the author of two essay collections: Autumn Song (University of Nebraska Press American Lives Series) and All the Colors We Will See (a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection). Her debut picture book, All the Places We Call Home, is based on one of her essays. In addition to other honors, she is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award. Patrice lives with her family in Charlotte.

Kimmery Martin is an emergency medicine doctor-turned novelist whose works of medical fiction have been praised by The Harvard Crimson, People magazine, Newsweek and The New York Times, among others. A lifelong literary nerd, she interviews authors, teaches writing seminars, and speaks frequently at libraries, conferences, medical schools, and bookstores around the United States. Kimmery completed her medical training at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She lives with her husband and three children in Charlotte, where she serves on the Board of Trustees of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library and teaches Narrative Medicine courses at the local medical school and in the medical community.

Junious ‘Jay’ Ward is a poet and teaching artist from Charlotte. He is a National Slam champion (2018), an Individual World Poetry Slam champion (2019), author of Sing Me A Lesser Wound (Bull City Press 2020) and Composition (Button Poetry 2023), and the City of Charlotte’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Ward has attended Breadloaf Writers Conference, Callaloo, The Watering Hole and Tin House Winter Workshop. His work can be found in Columbia Journal, DIAGRAM, Diode Poetry Journal, Four Way Review, and elsewhere.

12:30 – 1:30 PM           Luncheon with “Digging Up Buried Stories” panel discussion

Sometimes the best stories are those that have been buried, on purpose or not. Such stories can be comic or tragic, full of delight or of horror; they can be unearthed in libraries or bustling cities, in out-of-the-way corners or places we thought we knew well. Whatever their nature or source, they help us see our world as we haven’t before.

In this discussion a historian and a journalist will talk about the hidden stories they’ve found and told, the methods they use for that finding and telling, and how writers in any genre can adapt these methods for their own work.

Hilary N. Green is the James B. Duke Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham University Press, 2016) and has a forthcoming co-edited volume The Civil War and the Summer of 2020 (Fordham University Press, 2024) with Andrew L. Slap.  She is currently finalizing a second book manuscript under contract with Fordham University Press. Entitled Unforgettable Sacrifice, the book explores how everyday African Americans remembered and commemorated the Civil War from 1863 to the present. In addition, she is the Chief Reader for the AP US History exam, the Digital Media Editor responsible for Muster, the blog for the Journal of Civil War Era,and the co-series editor with J. Brent Morris of the Reconstruction Reconsidered, a University of South Carolina Press book series.

Jeremy Markovich is a longtime journalist based in North Carolina. His work as a producer in local television news in Charlotte earned him two regional Emmy awards, and his longform profile of NASCAR driver Dick Trickle was featured in the Best American Sports Writing 2014. He’s a former columnist at Charlotte magazine, a former senior writer and editor at Our State magazine, and has written for SB NationCBS SportsPolitico, and more. He also created, produced, and hosted Away Message, a podcast about remote places, lost artifacts, overlooked people, and forgotten stories from across North Carolina. In 2021, he joined Wake Forest University as the director of communication for the Program for Leadership and Character, and has also served as an adjunct journalism professor, teaching magazine writing. Today, he writes the North Carolina Rabbit Hole newsletter, which goes deep on the strange minutiae of the greatest state in the nation (this one). He was also a raft guide at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, but that was a long time ago. He now lives in Oak Ridge with his family.

7 – 8 PM                          Network Banquet featuring the Saturday Literary Mystery: The Mind of the South Is Missing!

Thieves have stolen a rare and valuable signed first edition of The Mind of the South, the classic 1941 book by Charlotte News writer W. J. Cash, from the private collection of a high-ranking Charlotte bank executive.

The thieves have sent the owner a ransom note for the safe return of this prized volume, demanding 500 fridge packs of Cheerwine, 100 crates of Lance Toast-Chee crackers, and a metric ton of Bridges’ Barbecue–all secured inside one of Carolina Trucking’s original shipping containers.

Not content with their ransom demand, the thieves have begun to taunt the owner, sending him obscure questions about North Carolina literature and history. They claim that the correct answers to these questions will provide clues to the stolen book’s location. So far, though, the owner is stumped, as are the police.

Where can they turn for help before the book disappears forever?

How about a room full of North Carolina writers?

Each table will work as a team to answer the trivia questions, decipher the clues, and figure out where The Mind of the South is hidden. The first team to solve the mystery will win a writerly (i.e., cheap) prize.

Sunday, November 5

8 – 9 AM                         Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion: Agents & Editors (Sponsored by NC Humanities)

Never mind. You don’t care about finding an agent or getting published. You write only for the love of the words.