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Plan, Build, Mess It Up and Do It Again: Fiction at NCWN 2020 Spring Conference

Quinn Dalton
GREENSBORO—At the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2020 Spring Conference, Saturday, April 18, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, fiction writers will learn to better plan their stories and begin assembling structures using scenes as foundational building blocks.

Those who have registered for the Master Class in Fiction may also find that, instead of building something traditionally “beautiful,” they may want to build something a little more messy instead.

Registration for the NCWN 2020 Spring Conference is open.

Class options for fiction writers include “Make a Scene: Emotional Building Blocks of Fiction” with Quinn Dalton and “Planning Your Creativity: Hybrid Outlines” with Jorge D. Cortese.

What is a scene? How do you know when you need one? How do you get “in” and “out” of it? Through discussion and in-class exercises, “Make a Scene: Emotional Building Blocks of Fiction” will help us understand the necessary elements of scenes, how they are built, and how to use them to propel our story.

Quinn Dalton is the author of two story collections and two novels, most recently Midnight Bowling. She also co-authored The Infinity of You & Me under the pen name JQ Coyle with award-winning novelist and poet Julianna Baggott. Dalton has taught creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, and Wake Forest and has published numerous articles on the publishing business and writing craft. Her Spring NCWN course “Make A Scene” is based on her editing experience and a resulting article of the same name.

Most writers are inspired to write a novel starting with a single idea or scene. And they are frequently told that writing is a linear, spontaneous process, not unlike reading, and that outlining would stifle their creativity. The resulting process can disregard the complexities of a finalized manuscript, where parallel tracks need to be in perfect balance. In “Planning Your Creativity: Hybrid Outlines for 21st Century Writing (all genres),” we will learn how to create and use hybrid outlines—combining written and graphic elements—as scaffolds to develop and preserve new ideas, ask questions about plot, save editing time, and control all components of writing: story, character, setting, and theme. To practice, we will outline a new story and create a personalized idea cluster to preserve it for future writing.

Jorge D. Cortese
Jorge D. Cortese is an award-winning scientist and educator. He wrote a regular column for a nationwide newspaper, The Scientist, developed projects for major publishing houses, and created innovative strategies to blend online and classroom teaching. He received the 2015 literary award of The Writers’ Workshop of Asheville and published his first novel, The Sound of a Broken Chain, in 2018. His second novel, The Watchtowers, will be released in 2020. He writes science fiction echoing magical realism and obsesses about time, fate, and the future of humanity. After generously pinning a world map, he settled in Durham and now serves as the NCWN’s Regional Rep for Durham County.

Additional course offerings include “Public Speaking for Writers” with Cameron Kent and “What a Long Strange Trip: From Manuscript to Finished Book” with Robin Miura and Lynn York of Blair, Publisher.

Familiar offerings 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. Pre-registration and an additional fee are also required for this offering.

Xhenet Aliu will lead the Master Class in Fiction, “Messing Up Good.” Registration for the Fiction Master Class is closed.

Many of us seek to produce writing that our readers will recognize as beautiful: seamless structure, lush language, elegant and universal themes. Sometimes, however, the most striking work is the unrecognizably beautiful, stories that still us with misfit imagery, conspicuously crude prose, or disjointed narrative structures. This class will focus on macro and micro methods of unprettying our stories, with discussions on why and when we might consider such effects and how to deploy them in ways that serve our work without sabotaging it.

Xhenet Aliu
Xhenet Aliu’s novel, Brass, was awarded the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year First Novel Prize, was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, was long-listed for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Book Prize, and was named a best book of the year by numerous outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, Real Simple, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her debut fiction collection, Domesticated Wild Things, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction. Aliu’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Glimmer Train, Hobart, American Short Fiction, Lenny, LitHub, Buzzfeed, and elsewhere, and she has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and a fellowship from the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, among other awards, including a special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology. She is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at the UNC-Greensboro and has previously worked as an academic librarian, private investigator, waitress, and secretary.

Spring Conference is sponsored in part by UNCG’s Creative Writing Program, which will provide coffee for conference-goers during registration and check-in. Other sponsors include Written Word Media and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Learn more and register at