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David Menconi Says: Don’t Worry about Speed, Just Get Your Writing Done

RALEIGH—Former Piedmont Laureate David Menconi  will lead the session “Creative Nonfiction 101” at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2021 Fall Conference, November 19-21, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham/RTP.

Conference registration is open.

Author/journalist David Menconi spent 34 years writing for daily newspapers, 28 of them at The News & Observer in Raleigh. He has also written for Rolling Stone, Billboard, Spin, and The New York Times, also serving as the Triangle’s Piedmont Laureate for 2019. His latest book, Step It Up & Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk (University of North Carolina Press, 2020) won the 2021 North Caroliniana Society Book Award and first runner-up in the culture category of the Eric Hoffer Awards. His next book will be a history of the folk label Rounder Records, to be published in 2022 by UNC Press.

This year, NCWN is asking authors for “one good piece of advice,” either something they were once told that they never forgot, or something they wished they could go back and tell their younger selves.

“The bigger the project, the smaller you should think,” David says. “This especially applies to books, where it’s easy to go down the rabbit-hole of despair if you dwell too much on the scope of the whole thing. But if you can break it down into chunks or segments you can work on one at a time, it’s manageable.

“In my case, when writing a book, I think of each chapter as a lengthy magazine article; a separate entity while I’m working on it, but part of the whole. Start the process rolling and as long as you can keep moving forward, don’t worry too much about how fast or slow it’s going. That’s what gets it done.”

From longform features to books, “Creative Nonfiction 101” will cover how to find CNF stories, how to write CNF stories, and how to sell CNF stories. The class will discuss pointers about what editors are looking for, and how to make them happy enough for repeat business. 

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. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will give the Keynote Address. Marianne Gingher will lead the Creative Nonfiction Master Class. Other sessions for truthtellers include “To Tell the Truth” (creative nonfiction) with Cat Warren and the “Community Journalism” lucheon panel discussion sponsored by PEN America.

Register here.

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