Logo for: North Carolina Writer's Network

Course Descriptions

**Registration is closed**

Friday, November 19

12:00 pm

Pre-Conference Tailgate with Arshia Simkin

(Location: Redbud Writing Project, 719 N. Person St., Raleigh, 27604)
Sponsored by Redbud Writing Project

Saturday, November 20

8:00–9:00 am

All Stories Connect Panel Discussion

“From Lore to Lit and Back Again,” with the NC Folklife Institute

From Charles Chesnutt and Paul Green to Kathryn Stripling Byer and John Ehle, North Carolina’s writers have used the state’s folklore and folk life as a rich resource. This discussion will explore the intersections between what is passed down and what is put on the page. The panelists include folklorist Sarah Bryan, the executive director of the North Carolina Folklife Institute, and three contemporary North Carolina writers who draw from folklore and folk life in their work: Tyree Daye, Han VanderHart, and moderator Ed Southern.

9:00 – 10:30 am: Session I

Getting Back into the Writing Groove (fiction) with Heather Bell AdamsOnline Option

Sponsored by Freedom.to

Maybe your creativity has suffered during the past year. Or you used to eagerly anticipate picking up your pen, but now you dread it. Perhaps you’re trying to decide what to write next. Let’s re-connect to your authentic writer self and find the spark that will ignite your manuscript. In this workshop, we’ll explore ways to identify the heart and soul of your project and develop strategies for setting goals and confronting obstacles. After our time together, my hope is that you’ll emerge anew—unstuck and re-oriented, and maybe even excited about writing again.

Dealing With Ghosts (poetry) with Han VanderHart

What is it that haunts your poetry? This class is concerned with how to write into ghostly presence and ghostly absence in your work—how to approach the spectral histories of your writing. We will look at who and what are treated as ghosts in American poetry—specifically focusing on examples from C.D. Wright and Deborah Luster’s collaborative One Big Self, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Aracelis Girmay’s The Black Maria, and Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead. We will also write responsively to a ghostly prompt together, and discuss practical resources (cemeteries, genealogy, family oral traditions) for engaging your ghosts.

Writing Scripted Audio Fiction with Tamara Kissane

Have you considered adapting your theatre scripts into audio fiction pieces? Would you like to dip your pen in writing for audio? As podcasts grow exponentially, audio storytelling is flourishing, providing opportunities for writers to create robust contemporary audio dramas. These aren’t your grandpa’s radio plays!

Join playwright and audio dramatist, Tamara Kissane, and get started down this burgeoning path. Topics include: the hallmarks of audio as a medium, pros and cons, practical tips and considerations, writing for audio vs. adapting to audio, and more.

To Tell the Truth (creative nonfiction) with Cat Warren—Online Option

Lee Gutkind, dubbed the “Godfather behind creative nonfiction” by Vanity Fair, described fine nonfiction succinctly, “True stories, well told.” John McPhee took a little longer to describe it. That’s because he’s been a contributor to The New Yorker since 1963 and gets to go on as long as he wants: “Things that are cheap and tawdry in fiction work beautifully in nonfiction because they are true. That’s why you should be careful not to abridge it, because it’s the fundamental power you’re dealing with. You arrange it and present it. There’s lots of artistry. But you don’t make it up.” In this class, we’ll look at how great narrative nonfiction writers, from Truman Capote to Rebecca Skloot to Ta-Nehisi Coates, combine deep reporting and researching with fictional techniques. And you’ll practice some hands-on exercises in creative nonfiction, where you’ll steal cheap and tawdry fictional techniques to create your own true stories. Well told, of course.

Creative Nonfiction Master Class: Writing the Artful Memoir with Marianne Gingher

It’s a wild ride, life. Messy and unruly. Yet for all its rambunctiousness, you’re trying to lasso it to the page. The more you write, the more complicated telling true stories seems. Some days you doubt your skill at writing a narrative that others might find compelling. How much truth is too much and how much is too little? How might you generate some sense of dramatic urgency or suspense? How do you make a quiet life seem interesting? Do you find yourself prone to digressions? Is your project suddenly feeling too unwieldy? The workshop will focus on crafting personal narrative and memoir with special emphasis on selectivity, streamlining, and editing. Participants will also be introduced to “flash” non-fiction as an editing tool for longer form narratives. Suggested readings: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard; “Winter in the Abruzzi,” by Natalia Ginsburg from her essay collection The Little VirtuesThe Boys of My Youth, by Joanne Beard; and two excellent online magazines: Creative NonFiction and Brevity.

Please submit up to 1,500 sequential words from a single work, along with your current CV in a separate attachment, on the same day that you register for the conference. Submissions should be saved in an MS Word document, using double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman font, with numbered pages, and sent as an attachment to masterclass@ncwriters.org. The Word document’s file name should include your own last name, and the title of the work and your name should appear on the submission itself. If accepted into the Master Class, your submitted work will be shared with other Master Class registrants.

Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class.

Fiction Master Class: Get Out Your Jungle Red Fingernails or How to Write Your Way Off the Plateau of Mediocrity with Mesha Maren **Closed**

In this seminar we will explore constraint-based writing techniques that will help us to surprise our own selves with our writing, avenues towards that white-hot flame of risk that resides at the center of all great writing. We will look at prompts and constraints that writers such as Amy Hempel, Mary Robison, Gordon Lish, and Robert Stone have used to enliven their writing as well as a few original constraints that I myself have developed and we will talk about methods to help ourselves shake it up and use our hard-earned writing skills in brand new ways.

Writers who have participated in workshops for any extended length of time come to know, in an almost subliminal way, what other workshop participants are going to say about our work. We know the basics, of course, and could chant in our sleep: show don’t tell, use active language, Freytag’s triangle, sentences must work on more than one level! We also come to know the specifics of our teachers and peers: Professor X will question my use of poetic language or Professor Y will tell me I’m not starting the story in the right place. And we begin to realize what will be praised for. Professor Z loved my descriptions of pine trees, we think, so I’ll put some beautiful pine trees in my next story and hope that Professor A praises me too. And in this way we can, if we are not careful, become very comfortable with crafting our precious little pieces. We coast along the plateau of mediocrity, painstakingly writing our short stories just like Professor X taught us to. We are following Freytag’s model (or very carefully not following it), we are emulating the masters, we are following the advice of Professors X, Y and Z and we are hoping fervently that our piece will be praised at the workshop table. But are we writing the most blindingly brilliant and shatteringly original literature that we could possibly imagine? No, probably not. We are afraid of falling because we know how falling feels and finally now we are kind of not falling down all the time, but that is exactly when we must learn to get our own jungle red fingernails, stop being afraid and push ourselves to write wilder and deeper.

Please submit up to 1,500 sequential words from a single work, along with your current CV in a separate attachment, on the same day that you register for the conference. Submissions should be saved in an MS Word document, using double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman font, with numbered pages, and sent as an attachment to masterclass@ncwriters.org. The Word document’s file name should include your own last name, and the title of the work and your name should appear on the submission itself. If accepted into the Master Class, your submitted work will be shared with other Master Class registrants.

Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class.

Poetry Master Class: Entering “The Cave of One’s Self” with Tyree Daye

The poet Vievee Francis introduced the concept of entering “the cave of one’s self” during my grad school years at North Carolina State University. Vievee encouraged me to explore my narrative, to investigate my symbols, and to break them open and to look inside of them. My narrative is that I’m black, Southern, raised by a single mother. Knowing my narrative helps me understand why tobacco fields and dirt roads show up in my poems. By identifying and exploring my symbols, I can begin to telescope inside them, making the language I use to speak about them fresh, and discover why these symbols were given to me. I believe our images come from God and are our egoless souls trying to make us see our connection to the world. In our workshop, I will ask students to enter “the cave of one’s self” through several writing exercises.

Please submit three poems, totaling no more than five pages, on the same day that you register for the conference, along with your current CV in a separate attachment. Poems should be saved in a single MS Word document, using single-spaced, 12-point, Times New Roman font, and sent as an attachment to masterclass@ncwriters.org. The Word document’s file name should include your own last name, and your name and the title of each poem should appear on the submission. If accepted into the Master Class, your submitted work will be shared with other Master Class registrants.

Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class.

11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Session II

Adaptation (all genre) with Daniel Wallace—Online Option

Our time together will be spent talking about the pleasures of adapting work from one form to another, from stories and novels to script and film, with examples from his own experience provided by the author. Discussion will follow.

Re-writing the Eye: A People’s Look at Ekphrastic Poetry with Fred Joiner

This workshop will look at poetry that is in conversation and intersects with other disciplines of art, with an emphasis on writers and artists from under-represented communities. This is a step in “re-writing” how we view works of art (and the artists that produce them), the museum and gallery, agency, and voice as writers. It is also an invitation to re-think/re-write how poets and creative writers might approach engaging visual art critically. Think Fred Moten, Simone White, Kevin Young, Dionne Brane, & so on & so forth: https://www.blackekphrastic.com.

How to Give Your Characters Voice (fiction) with Barbara Claypole White**Closed**

Whether I’m creating a secondary teen character or breathing life into a male protagonist with PTSD, character voice is my everything. In this workshop, we’ll talk about how to honor your story by building powerful characters with distinct and memorable voices. We’ll discuss the importance of character research and how to edit by character. POV will also come under our microscope: How many POV characters do you need and how can you weave together multiple POV chapters without slowing the pace? Bring your work-in-progress or a blank page, and we’ll play with different techniques. Character rules, y’all.

How to Get Paid without Anyone Getting Hurt with Alice Osborn—Online Option

We writers are introverts and it’s sometimes tough asking clients to pay us what we are worth. But, my friends, you ARE worth it and the writing and communication skills you bring to the world are invaluable. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to arrive at the money conversation with ease by building that muscle, just like we go to the gym to keep fit. No more undercharging! We will discuss payment systems and how contracts can help prevent job creep with the necessary boundaries so that you are paid more if you do more work; we’ll also cover how to make sure your procrastinating client pays you without resorting to unsavory tactics. Writing can be emotional, but negotiating a proper fee should never be. Alice Osborn’s writing and editing business of 15 years has survived a recession, a pandemic, and a few toxic clients—come to this workshop with your questions and come away from it feeling empowered.

Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Marianne Gingher
Cont. See Above.

Fiction Master Class with Mesha Maren **Closed**
Cont. See Above.

Poetry Master Class with Tyree Daye
Cont. See Above.

12:30 – 1:30 pm

Luncheon with “Community Journalism” panel discussion

Sponsored by PEN America.

“Local news is dyyyiing!” comes the anguished cry. In many places, though, journalists of all ages are filling the breach, using media platforms unavailable just a few years ago: websites, of course, but also podcasts, social media, Substack and other subscription-based delivery platforms, and more.

This panel discussion, “Writing Community: Place-Based Journalism in a Fracturing Age,” will bring together representatives from some of these new outlets to discuss their missions and their means, the advantages they have and the challenges they face, and how writers can both chronicle and influence their communities.

Panelists include Kyle Villemain of The Assembly, Cierra Brown Hinton of Scalawag, and Sara Pequeno of The News & Observer in Raleigh.

1:30 – 2:00 pm

Network Town Hall Meeting
This is your chance to ask questions about, and make suggestions for, the Network.

2:00 – 2:30 pm


2:30 – 4:00 pm: Session III

The Art of Work (all genre) with LC Fiore—Online Option

If you sometimes think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning and just write?” instead of waking up in the morning and going to work or other obligations, and then finding time to write, you’re not alone. But from Chester Himes to David Foster Wallace, from Mary Oliver to Sylvia Plath, there is a long literary tradition of mining our jobs for inspiration. Not only do our vocations inform our avocations, our creative work would be lesser without them. In this conversation / generative workshop, we’ll look at different examples of writing about work, ponder the best and worst jobs we’ve had in our lives, write a bit, and share what we’ve written, if we want to.

A World of Words: The Stories All around Us with Dasan Ahanu

Stories are powerful ways to make concepts tangible in people’s minds. Telling these stories is more than writing what happened, and can be as creative and expressive as our imagination. In this workshop we will delve into narrative perspective, source variety, and nonlinear approaches to storytelling. Together we will embark on an exploration of poetry construction, playful manipulation of syntax and diction, and objective correlative (TS Eliot). We will also talk about how to convey your work to others, from visual presentation to performance.

“I Want to Start with an Earthquake and Build to a Climax” (playwriting) with Ian Finley

For a playwright or screenwriter, the key to keeping the audience engaged is conflict, but it turns out that conflict is also the engine to develop character and draw out theme. In this workshop, we’ll explore the crisis-response cycle: its power to organically drive your story, keep the audience’s attention, and making your writing life easier.

For Love and Money: Business Professionalism for Writers with Karin WibergOnline Option

If Karin ruled the world, writers would be able to write all day and not worry about money . . . Sigh. But most of us have to pay attention to business as well as craft, so let’s make it as easeful as possible. In this session, we’ll cover the foundations of being a writing professional—things like bookkeeping (aargh!), client contracts (hmm), getting paid (yay!), and processes and tools for looking like a pro. We’ll also explore some of the issues writers tend to struggle with (pricing, anyone?) and ideas for moving past the struggle. You’ll walk away with a checklist of priorities and tips for implementation. Whether you’re trying to get a book deal or land a client, showing up as a professional pays dividends.

Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Marianne Gingher
Cont. See Above.

Fiction Master Class with Mesha Maren **Closed**
Cont. See Above.

Poetry Master Class with Tyree Daye
Cont. See Above.

4:00–4:30 pm


4:30–5:30 pm

Faculty Readings

6:00–7:00 pm

Happy Hour
Sponsored by Blair

7:00–8:00 pm

Network Almost-Annual Banquet

8:00–9:30 pm

Open Mic Readings
(Sign up at Registration Table)

Sunday, November 21

8:00–9:00 am

Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion: Agents & Editors
Sponsored by The Piedmont Laureate Program

9:00 – 10:30 am: Session IV

The Art of the Interview with Georgann Eubanks and Donna Campbell—Online Option

Sponsored by UNC Press

Explore a range of interviewing techniques and polish your listening and observation skills. How much homework on your subject should you do in advance? How far can you veer from prepared questions? How can you put your subjects at ease and inspire trust? How can you get the most out of an interview when the time allowed is very short? We’ll also discuss release forms, the ethics of taking someone’s story, point of view, and the role of the interviewer in framing the final piece. We’ll also conduct in-class interviews with each other as a way to test some ideas. The goal of the class is to help each participant become a more experienced and confident interviewer.

Poetry Nap: Relax Your Way to Great Writing with Mimi Herman

If your life feels like one commitment piled on top of another, with no time for writing, to ease your way into inspiration. You’ll slowly relax, breathe deeply as we rarely get the opportunity to do, and take a journey into the deepest part of yourself. When you emerge from your poetry nap, you’ll be ready to spill ideas and images onto the page, and craft them into poetry. This workshop is designed for writers of all levels.

Conjuring Magic in Fiction with Karen Tucker

In her essay “The Site of Memory,” Toni Morrison says, “If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic.” Together in this class we’ll explore multiple passages and passageways to help us find the hidden magic lurking in even the most mundane of objects and characters. Craft topics include transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, vanishing acts, the reverse trick of rendering the invisible visible, and other illusions. Participants can expect published examples to read and discuss, guided free-writes, and props from a magic bag.

Nerd Cool 101: Making Your Book Shine Online with Ellen C. Bush and Phillip Loken—Online Option

Sponsored by UNC Press

In this crash course on how to effectively promote your work online, we’ll outline the basic principles of metadata, online discoverability, and search engine optimization (SEO); offer tips for engaging with online platforms and social media; and examine a case study of a successful online marketing campaign. An in-class exercise will get you started planning your own campaign, and we’ll answer all your burning questions about promoting your work online. Whether you have a book to promote or just want to establish a more visible platform for your work, this session will help you create an online presence that amplifies your own authentic voice and helps you build new creative connections and relationships.

10:30–11:00 am


11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Session V

The Power of Mindset for Your Writing Life (all genre) with Michele T. Berger—Online Option

We’ll explore the role of author mindset as vital to publishing success. How does a writer keep on the path to publication? We’ll spend time exploring new ways to combat what stops us from writing including: procrastination, perfectionism, distraction, imposter syndrome and feeling overwhelmed with creative ideas. We’ll explore how a variety of diverse and successful writers meet these challenges. This workshop draws on the latest research in neuroscience on creativity, motivation, habit-stacking and resiliency. Participants will leave with an action plan for concrete steps forward. For emerging and established writers.

Creative Nonfiction 101 with David Menconi

From longform features to books, this class 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. 

So You Want to Write a Children’s Book with Kelly Starling Lyons

Have you dreamed of writing for kids? Start your journey with Piedmont Laureate Kelly Starling Lyons in a workshop designed to introduce you to the field. Gain an understanding of children’s book genres. Mine your life for ideas. Get insight into the business of writing for kids including submitting and persevering.

Pathways to Publishing: Know ALL Your Options with Tracy Crow—Online Option

During this session, we’ll explore the various options available through traditional publishing—whether we’re talking a Big 5 imprint, small press, or indie—and why writers actually have more say than they might imagine, and why they might purposefully choose one option over another.