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Course Descriptions

Friday, November 18

12:00 pm: Pre-Conference Tailgate (Location: TBD)

3:00–9:30 pm: Registration & Book Sales Open

5:00 – 9:30 pm: Exhibit Tables Open

8:00–9:00 pm: Keynote Address by Jason Mott

Bestselling author Jason Mott has a BFA in Fiction and an MFA in Poetry, both from UNC Wilmington. His poetry and fiction has appeared in various literary journals. He is the author of two poetry collections: We Call This Thing Between Us Love and “…hide behind me…”  He is the author of four novels:  The ReturnedThe Wonder of All ThingsThe Crossing, and Hell Of A Book. The Returned, Jason’s debut novel, was adapted for television and aired on the ABC network under the title Resurrection. Jason’s fourth novel, Hell Of A Book, released in June 2021, was a Jenna Bush Hager “Read With Jenna” Book Club pick, Carnegie Medals For Excellence in Fiction Longlist selection, a 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist selection, a Joyce Carol Oates Prize Longlist selection, the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Prize for Fiction winner, and the winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction.

9:00-9:30 pm: Jason Mott Book Signing


Saturday, November 19

8:00–9:00 am: All Stories Connect Panel Discussion with Writers for Democratic Action

9:00 – 10:30 am: Session I

Setting the Scene (all-genre) with Wiley Cash

What is the difference between scene and summary? When should you use one over the other? And what are the components of effective scenes? These questions and others are answered in this workshop. I’ll also discuss how to open scenes, how to use objects in scenes to their greatest effect, how to use scenes to reveal dynamic characterizations, and how to establish the mood of a scene before shifting the scene to change the mood.

Breed a Needle: Revision as Composition (poetry) with Melissa Crowe

On the subject of “blundering” as a generative act, the poet Kay Ryan writes that “rooting around in a haystack long and fruitlessly enough could conceivably breed a needle.” While we’re accustomed, perhaps, to regarding revision as the act of polishing what has already been written, in this session we’ll experiment with revision as a mode of composition, a process of discovery, a deep and persistent engagement with the draft. Through a series of exercises designed to keep us returning to and reimagining our work, we’ll blunder together in pursuit of the wildest, most finely crafted poems possible.

Literary Magazine and Contest Submission Secrets and Skills with Margaret Bauer

During this workshop, from her perspective as both an editor and a writer regularly submitting her own essays and poetry to literary magazines, Margaret Bauer will talk about resources for finding the right literary magazines for your work, submitting to contests, following submission guidelines, preparing your writing for submission, responding to “rejections,” and other tips toward successful publication. Bring your questions.

The Warp and the Woof: Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams

The expression, borrowed from the practice of weaving, indicates that which is foundational. The warp refers to the threads in material that run lengthwise, the woof to those that run across. In this class, we will look at the fabric of your nonfiction, evaluating where the work would benefit from tightening, loosening, or layering. We will look at samples of published pieces, use generative exercises, and discuss revision techniques. We will consider hard questions about urgency, about mattering, and ultimately remind ourselves of how the best nonfiction is constructed—unspooling the weave to see how language, image, tension, voice, research, and so forth were threaded to make the tapestries that take our breath away. Participants will explore the possible, from concept to completion, and leave with the resources to elevate their flash pieces, essays, and full-length manuscripts.

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.

How to Move through a Story—Pacing in Fiction: Fiction Master Class with Sayantani Dasgupta

In this fiction workshop, we will examine the nature and function of pacing in short stories. Pacing determines how swiftly (or slowly) a story develops. It establishes the inherent rhythm of a story. It tells the reader how long they need to stay in a particular moment before moving on to the next one. We will use a short story by Lesley Nneka Arimah, as well as your own submitted work, as our main texts. Arimah is the winner of several awards including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her debut collection of stories, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. (The stories will be shared with you prior to the workshop so please read them before we meet.) We will pay close attention to how Arimah chooses what to include in a story, how long she stays in a given moment and with which character, and how these decisions push the stories to move in unexpected directions.

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.

Beautiful Cacophony: Poetry Master Class with Anna Lena Phillips Bell

Meter and rhythm express a body’s movement through time. They can thus help us to bring both the pleasures and the dangers of embodied experience into our poems. And when used skillfully, they can keep readers engaged where image or narrative alone might not. As Patricia Smith says, “The content has to be something that draws the reader in, but so does the sound. If I can take something horrible and lend music to it, you have to read it. If I can take something beautiful and add some sort of cacophony to it, you have to read it.” In addition to considering each other’s poems, in this class we’ll try exercises to support experimentation with meter and rhythm—via metrical and free verse, in modes both bold and subtle, and in the company of examples from poets such as Smith, Anna Maria Hong, Amit Majmudar, and A. E. Stallings.

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.

Manuscript Mart with KaToya Ellis Fleming, Zoe Aline Howard, Mary Alice Stewart, and Pam Van Dyk

10:30 – 11:00 am: Break

11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Session II

The Fundamentals of Building a Novel with Jason Mott

This class will cover outlining, creating characters, revisions . . . “all that stuff,” in the words of National Book Award winner Jason Mott.

Form Is a Verb Too: On Empowering the Formal Imagination in Poetry with Dan Albergotti

Many beginning poets are intimidated by the idea of form and formal traditions. Free verse seems easier, safer, not so daunting. Formal verse seems monolithic, rigid, difficult—not to mention old-fashioned. But what if we imagine form not as a constraining structure, but as a liberating vehicle? What if we see it not as a noun, but as a verb? This class will consider the generative possibilities of form in not only formal, but also free verse. We will examine ways that the poet can seize form as an action rather than bowing to it as an edifice.

He Did What?: Translating Actions into Words (all-genre) with Ed Southern

Describing actions—whether it’s Achilles fighting Hector or Jack and Jill going up the hill—is the essence of storytelling. Describing actions well, though, can be trickier than any other aspect of writing. How do you capture both the practical and emotional impact of physical movements? How do you convey the how and the why? How do you do justice to an act that took far less time to perform than it will to read about? How do you make clear to the reader what happened without sacrificing the story’s pace? How do you decide what to include, what to imply, and what to leave out entirely? This class will look at ways to answer those questions using examples from fiction and creative nonfiction, as well as a few in-class exercises, as time allows.

Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams (cont.)
Cont. See Above.

Fiction Master Class with Sayantani Dasgupta (cont.)
Cont. See Above.

Poetry Master Class with Anna Lena Phillips Bell (cont.)
Cont. See Above.

Manuscript Mart with KaToya Ellis Fleming, Zoe Aline Howard, Mary Alice Stewart, and Pam Van Dyk

12:30 – 1:30 pm: Luncheon with Celia Rivenbark

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: Break

2:30 – 4:00 pm: Session III

A Key Ingredient: Integrating Research into Your Writing (all-genre) with Dana Sachs

Imagine that you are in your kitchen cooking soup. You toil over this dish, not just chopping your onions into big chunks, but carefully mincing them, eyes stinging, tears running down your cheeks. You’re putting everything you have into this soup because you want it to be delicious. Now, imagine that the recipe also calls for a key ingredient—maybe a potato, maybe a chicken, maybe salt. Would you leave it out?

Research is a key ingredient in prose and poetry, but writers can fail to recognize its value and leave it out. This class will focus on how to use research—whether compiled from archival or historical investigation, interviews, travel, or other sources—to make your writing richer, more compelling, and more vitally connected to the world around it. In the class, we will discuss avenues for research in your current writing projects, look at examples of well-placed research within published work, and engage in a short exercise that aims to help you integrate research into your writing. If possible, please bring a smartphone or computer to class to help you with this exercise. 

The Moment of Change: Writing Transformative Poetry with Amber Flora Thomas

Do you feel like you keep writing the same poem over and over? Join me as we explore how to enter and exit poems, letting the natural restlessness of the imagination seek a transformative gaze for these urgent times. This is a generative workshop where participants will discuss, write, and leave with a handout of my favorite writing prompts to explore later.

Write Like an Editor with KaToya Ellis Fleming

So, you’ve written a book. Or a short story. Or an essay. Now comes the dreaded next step—revision. This workshop will give you some pointers on how to write with an editor’s eye. Learning some basic editing skills and knowing the differences between the different types of editing (Yep! There’s more than one!) can help you make stronger choices in your writing. Knowing how to strike the correct balance between action and exposition or dialogue and description can make the editorial process a little less painful and result in you having to kill fewer of your darlings (although some darlings’ deaths are inevitable, and we’ll discuss how to handle these). 

Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams (cont.)
Cont. See Above.

Fiction Master Class with Sayantani Dasgupta (cont.)
Cont. See Above.

Poetry Master Class with Anna Lena Phillips Bell (cont.)
Cont. See Above.

Manuscript Mart with KaToya Ellis Fleming, Zoe Aline Howard, Mary Alice Stewart, and Pam Van Dyk

4:00–4:30 pm: Break

4:30–5:30 pm: Faculty Readings

6:00–7:00 pm: Happy Hour

7:00–8:00 pm: Network Banquet featuring “North Carolina in Words, Pictures, & Music” with Bland & Ann Cary Simpson

Bland and Ann Cary Simpson will read, and show and discuss photographs, from their recent UNC Press book, North Carolina:  Words, Pictures, Music, and Bland (a member of the Tony Award-winning Red Clay Ramblers and the Coastal Cohorts) will round out the evening with a handful of songs from his celebrated musical King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running:  Songs & Stories of the Carolina Coast.

8:00–9:30 pm: Open Mic Readings


Sunday, November 20

7:30 am – 1 pm: Registration, Book Sales, & Exhibit Tables Open

7:30 – 9:00 am: Continental Breakfast Available

8:00 – 9:00 am: Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion: Agents & Editors

9:00 – 10:30 am: Session IV

Writing Fiction—Especially the Novel with Clyde Edgerton

In this class we will carefully study a helpful definition of fiction, and we will peek into three treasure chests for fictional material (experience, observation, and imagination). We will also look at some old-fashioned ideas about character / plot / theme. We may even do some short, insightful exercises. Driving the show will be a definition of the novel from Josephine Humphries (“A novel is a series of scenes with meaning”) as well as this seed of wisdom from Doris Betts: “Meaning lies within the dramatic scene.” At some point I will strongly suggest that you read Ben Percy’s book Thrill Me. And I will gladly answer any questions (why? how? etc.) about any of my novels, once available in bookstores everywhere.  

Genesis and Revision: The Evolution of a Poem with Mark Cox

We will examine several drafts of a poem in order to explore how ideas surface, how elaboration takes place and how poetic structure can develop. There will be a writing exercise if time allows.

Writing Stories that Are Hard to Read (all genre) with Philip Gerard

As writers, we sometimes want to tackle difficult or divisive subjects, delve into matters that make the reader uncomfortable, dredge up memories some would rather forget, always at the risk of offending, alienating, or simply losing our reader. So how do we do this successfully—address troublesome subjects in a way that is readable, moving, and, yes, even entertaining? We’ll do our best to find some answers to this vexing challenge within the craft of storytelling, finding ways to enlist the reader’s allegiance and empathy without soft-pedalling or dumbing down the subject matter.

Preparing for Your Debut Book with Emily Louise Smith

You’ve sold your first book (or hope to soon)! Hooray! Now what? This class is designed to demystify the publishing process for aspiring and debut authors. Publisher Emily Smith will guide you through the steps—from acquisition to editing to book launch—and will share her insider tips for championing emerging authors and bringing their books to the attention of media and readers. Learn best practices for working with your publisher as you navigate the editorial process, copyedits, fact checks, proofs, the cover, blurb solicitation, the author questionnaire, marketing and publicity, trade shows, book tours, social media, and much more—so that you can help lay the foundation for a successful release!

Manuscript Mart with KaToya Ellis Fleming, Zoe Aline Howard, Mary Alice Stewart, and Pam Van Dyk

10:30–11:00 am: Break

11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Session V

Writing Opening Pages that Hook Your Readers . . . And Never Let Them Go (fiction) with Emily Colin

We all want the same thing: to write books that suck readers in from the very first sentence and entice them to keep reading. We want to be the reason someone tells all their friends, “Wow, I don’t know where the time went! You’ve got to buy this book.” But how do we make that happen? In this lecture, New York Times bestselling author Emily Colin will share her secrets to writing magnetic opening pages that bristle with conflict, feature compelling characters, and lure readers in…one irresistible sentence at a time.

Escape from Pompeii: How to Write While the World Around You Burns (poetry) with Gabrielle Freeman

At the Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia, there is a water ride called Escape from Pompeii that takes riders though falling buildings and sheets of fire to a final drop into the waters below. The ride is thrilling and scary and, well, weird. I mean it’s a ride based on a natural disaster that killed thousands of people. Sometimes, trying to write can feel like this. You’re strapped in and forced to move forward through a world that is disintegrating around you, and you feel helpless to describe what you feel, much less to attempt to make change or make sense through your words. 

In this workshop, we will explore using form poetry, especially the sestina, in order to get out of our own heads and write. While we will focus on poetry, this process-oriented workshop will work for writers in any genre. Through example and guided writing, you will examine how applying restrictions like those in the sestina can actually free your mind to write. Writers will leave the workshop with the beginnings of a new piece of writing, not necessarily a sestina!, and lots of new ideas about how to write while your world is burning. 

Cross-Country Flights and Hollywood Nights: Narrative Nonfiction and Journalism for Major Media Outlets with Brandon Sneed

Author, journalist, and North Carolina native Brandon Sneed takes you inside the art and business of researching and writing in-depth stories about the world’s best athletes and performers for the likes of Sports Illustrated and the New York Times. He will unpack the process of spending a week with surfing legend Kelly Slater following a Super Bowl-level victory leading up to his 50th birthday and Academy Awards presentation, as well as the journey behind one of the most recognized pieces of sports writing this year, “The Caretaker,” about an L.A. physical therapist to the stars battling cancer. He will also discuss other stories he has written, including those about former college football superstar Colt Brennan’s death by drug overdose, former child actor Shaun Weiss’s recovery from addiction, and his own forthcoming venture into independent journalism and nonfiction storytelling with a new newsletter and podcast. Attendees will have plenty of time to ask questions about any part of Sneed’s work and are encouraged to visit his website, brandonsneed.com, ahead of time. 

Working with Independent Bookstores: Becoming a Part of the Community with Nicki Leone

This session will discuss how authors can work with bookstores to benefit both your book and their business.  It will provide insight into how bookstores decide what to stock and what books to support with extra promotion in their stores and on social media, and give an insider’s perspective on the book industry. We’ll talk about some of the dos and don’ts in approaching stores, what to expect and what not to expect, and what to do to create a long-lasting relationship with a business that influences what people are reading in their communities.