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Course Descriptions

Friday, November 3

12:00 pm: Pre-Conference Tailgate (Sponsored by the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities and the Charlotte Art League)

Ekphrastic Is Not a Dirty Word:

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 Pre-Conference Tailgate will be held at the Charlotte Art League, 4237 Raleigh Street, in Charlotte’s NoDa Arts District.

3:00–8:00 pm: Registration Opens

5:00 – 8:00 pm: Exhibit Tables Open

8:00–9:00 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 Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Garden & 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.

9:00-9:30 pm: Tommy Tomlinson Book Signing

Saturday, November 4

7:30 am – 7 pm: Registration, Exhibits, & Book Sales Open 

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

8:00–9:00 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.

9:00 – 10:30 am: Session I

Objects May Be Closer: Activating Story Settings with Bryn Chancellor

Often writers slip into the habit of relegating setting—a story’s where, when, weather, and whatsits—to mere background or filler, making it storytelling’s “lowlier angel,” as Eudora Welty calls it in Place in Fiction. But activating our places, eras, and objects can galvanize all aspects of a story, including characterization, tension, plot, and movement. We’ll examine craft techniques and short examples but focus primarily on writing through targeted prompts.

Sticks & Stones: Turning Grief Into Verse with Angelo Geter

The saying “sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a phrase that has been used for countless years to illustrate the idea that words don’t hurt. However,  we all know that words have a large impact. The key is how we use them, particularly when it comes to grief and loss. This workshop will explore how poetry can transform our relationship with grief by using elegies, language and imagery to relinquish pain, give power and honor our losses.

Manifesting Your Book in the World: Securing an Agent, Money, and Time with Brooke Shaffner

This class discusses two key writers’ statements for fiction and narrative nonfiction writers: the project statement needed to secure time and funding to complete a manuscript-in-progress and the query letter needed to secure a literary agent once your manuscript is complete. We will examine the structure and components of successful agent queries and project statements and discuss how to encapsulate your book or manuscript-in-progress in a couple of paragraphs. We will discuss the value of a project statement, not just in securing grants, fellowships, and residencies, but in clarifying a manuscript-in-progress and why it matters to you and the world. We’ll also consider the query letter—which, if all goes well, becomes your submission letter to publishers, press release, and book cover copy—as an act of manifesting your book’s entry into the world.

Reality Lit: Substance, Structure, Style: Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Rebecca McClanahan

The literature of reality, sometimes referred to as creative nonfiction, offers writers the chance to combine fact and lived experience with imaginative literary approaches. This class combines close reading of model essays and excerpts, guided discussion of students’ manuscripts, and instruction in approaching three essential elements of artful nonfiction: 

  • Substance (What is it made of?)  
  • Structure (How it is shaped? How does it move?) 
  • Style (What makes it new? What makes it you?) 

See Master Class web page for application details.

Master Classes continue through Sessions II & III.

Building the World: Fiction Master Class with Aaron Gwyn

This master class will be an intensive look at how fiction writers construct fictional worlds from words—realistic, fantastic, and otherworldly. 

See Master Class web page for application details.

Master Classes continue through Sessions II & III.

So What’s the Use of Meter, Anyway?: Poetry Master Class with Morri Creech

In an age that writes mostly in free verse, one might wonder what the use of meter is in contemporary poetry. Yet meter provides a supple music, weaving and, occasionally, contrasting speech rhythms with the natural cadence of meter to create surprisingly nuanced verse; it helps create surprising content by freeing the intuitive side of the brain from the tyranny of the rational; and it helps free verse writers by sensitizing them to stress patterns lurking under the music of the line. In this class, we’ll be learning the basics of prosody by looking at a few key examples, as well as composing original lines that correspond to a metrical pattern. With any luck, we’ll come to see the benefits of prosody in an age that favors freedom over constraint.

See Master Class web page for application details.

Master Classes continues through Sessions II & III.

Manuscript Mart with Amy Bishop-Wycisk, Jamie Chambliss, Kristina Sutton Lennon, and Betsy Thorpe

10:30 – 11:00 am: Break

11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Session II

Greater than the Sum of the Parts (CNF) with Patrice Gopo

Personal essays are a popular genre, and sometimes essayists consider the possibility of turning their work into a collection. The thought of taking essays and forming a book can feel daunting and perhaps intimidating. What order? What structure? Often, the biggest challenge is figuring out which essays fit in the book. In this session, participants will learn tools and ideas to help writers find ways to think about how a group of essays might become a book. Using these ideas and tools, writers will learn something more about their writing and the larger story of their work.

Into The Deep: Writing the Poem That Leaves Us Breathless with Junious “Jay” Ward

We’ve all had the experience of jumping into the ocean, waves high as our heads, feet flailing wildly beneath us, using every ounce of energy to make it back to the boat just so we can explain to the Captain, once we’ve caught our breath, that we really can swim. Ok, I admit, that was my experience on vacation last year. I thought I could swim, but once I got into truly deep water I panicked. It is likely, though, that all of us have had the experience of reading a poem that makes us lose track of everything we thought was important, leaving us, by the end, breathless and in wonder. How did the poet do that? 

Often there are memories or emotions that we struggle to write about, or conversely recurring themes that find their way into our poems whether we want them to or not—perhaps there is a poem we want to write but have avoided for fear of not doing it justice. In this workshop we’ll jump into the deep water together, discussing poems from Jenny George, Kevin Young, and Yusef Komunyakaa. We’ll examine three methods of approaching difficult topics in our own work. Participants will leave the workshop with a rough draft and practical tools for future poems. 

Is Independent Publishing Right for You? with Kathy Izard

Do you have a finished (or almost finished) manuscript but are stuck on the next step? Should you keep querying agents and hoping for a book deal or are there other paths to publishing? Award-winning author and certified book coach, Kathy Izard has published four books three ways (independent publishing, hybrid publishing and traditional publishing) and has learned how to navigate the complicated publishing world. Kathy’s first independently published book received a national 2017 Christopher Award for Inspirational Nonfiction and led to a book contract with a Big Five Publisher.  

Join Kathy as she walks you through the many ways to becoming a published author of adult or children’s books and help decide the path that is right for you. 

Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Rebecca McClanahan (cont.)

Cont. See Above. See Master Class web page for application details.

Fiction Master Class with Aaron Gwyn (cont.)

Cont. See Above. See Master Class web page for application details.

Poetry Master Class with Morri Creech (cont.)

Cont. See Above. See Master Class web page for application details.

Manuscript Mart with Amy Bishop-Wycisk, Jamie Chambliss, Kristina Sutton Lennon, and Betsy Thorpe

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 historian Hilary N. Green and journalist Jeremy Markovich 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.

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

Making Messes: How Character & Plot Thrive on Mistakes with Amber Wheeler Bacon

Fiction often relies on bad behavior and making messes. In an interview about writing his movies, Ethan Coen said that many of his stories begin when he takes a situation or problem and gives it to a character who is incapable of dealing with it. Mistakes are then made, and they pile up, moving the narrative forward. In this class, we’ll look at the movie Raising Arizona and a few pieces of literature where characters create difficult problems for themselves and then have to solve them. 

Come to this workshop prepared to write! We’ll be doing some exercises in character development with bad behavior and mistakes in mind. Problems in fiction often stem from interactions between characters. We’ll pay close attention to what kinds of interactions might create the best problems for your characters, and how these can relate to the broader narrative within a story. 

Poetry and Its Paradoxes with John Amen

Poetry is often moving for the way in which it embeds paradoxes – cohesion and dissolution, concreteness and mysteriousness, narrative and nonlinearity. How do we tighten our poems, on one hand, while giving them space, on the other? In this workshop, we’ll explore ways to broaden our atmospheres, prompted by unknowing as much as knowing. We’ll experiment with shifts in perspective, with word choices, with perception and its relationship to art. The session will include time for writing, discussion, and processing in small groups or dyads. 

The Writing Life: Lessons Learned from Bestselling Authors with Charlotte Readers Podcast (Sarah Archer, Hannah Larrew, and Landis Wade)

Want to learn about writing and the writing life from bestselling authors David Baldacci, Ron Rash, Wylie Cash, Jill McCorkle, Clyde Edgerton, Jason Mott, and others?  Charlotte Readers Podcast cohosts Landis Wade, Sarah Archer, and Hannah Larrew share lessons learned from their 500+ author interviews that led to their 8 books in The Write Quotes series. Topics include the writing process, inspiration, research, techniques, characters, community, revision, editors, the emotional writing journey, and publishing and book marketing. Come ready to learn, share, and be inspired.  

Creative Nonfiction Master Class with Rebecca McClanahan (cont.)

Cont. See Above. See Master Class web page for application details.

Fiction Master Class with Aaron Gwyn (cont.)

Cont. See Above. See Master Class web page for application details.

Poetry Master Class with Morri Creech (cont.)

Cont. See Above. See Master Class web page for application details.

Manuscript Mart with Amy Bishop-Wycisk, Jamie Chambliss, Kristina Sutton Lennon, and Betsy Thorpe

4:00–4:30 pm: Break

4:30–5:30 pm: Faculty Readings

6:00–7:00 pm: Happy Hour (Sponsored by Charlotte Lit)

7:00–8:00 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.

8:00–9:30 pm: Open Mic Readings

Sunday, November 5

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

7:30 am – 12 pm: Registration, Book Sales, & Exhibit Tables Open

8:00 – 9:00 am: Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion: Agents & Editors (Sponsored by NC Humanities)

9:00 – 10:30 am: Session IV

Writing Atmospheric Fiction with Kelly Mustian

“I was so thoroughly lost in that world that I was unaware of my own!” This reader’s response is what we all hope for when creating settings, both physical and emotional. In this session, we’ll break out some individual elements of atmospheric writing and explore using harmonious language, symbolism, cadence, and relatable personal experience to enrich the worlds our characters inhabit and to fully immerse readers in those settings. Our source material will be primarily literary and historical fiction, but these techniques can serve a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.   

The Voice of the Poem with Julie Funderburk

Voice gives a poem urgency, creating the sense that its utterance is necessary. Voice gets the reader’s (and editor’s) attention. Though there’s overlap, a poem’s voice isn’t quite the same as the writer’s style. In a written text, the sense of someone speaking to you is a created effect, and a poem can seem flat on the page without it. This session will explore where voice comes from as we read example poems together (hint: for first-person poems, the pronoun “I” is not enough). I’ll also share some ideas for experimenting with the dimension of voice. 

Working Through the Emotional Phases of Writing with Betsy Thorpe

As a long-time book editor (celebrating thirty years in the business), Betsy Thorpe has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours on the phone with nervous writers, holding their hands throughout the entire process of writing—from book idea to promoting the finished product. Some of these emotional stages that writers go through are perfectionism, feelings of inadequacy, over-confidence, anxiety/shyness, outright fear, anger, pure joy, disappointment, jealousy, nihilism, and pride. In this class, you’ll learn you are not alone in experiencing the many emotions of being a creator and be given tools to use so that you do not alienate your friends, family, and co-workers as you work through the ups of process of writing and publishing a book. 

We Know Your Why, Tell Your Who with Jennifer Moxley

In this interactive workshop, Jennifer Moxley of Sunshine Media Network explains the value beyond the why you’re called to your work and genre and proves the who behind it is more important. She helps you start to identify your who, what makes you unique, what makes you special—and therefore relatable and marketable. She digs into the “every kid gets a trophy” philosophy and how that, and corporate America, forced us all to hide our Who from the world. As someone who helps you get good at telling your own story, Jennifer will break down easy steps of where to begin, what to say, and why it will help the bottom line. To prepare best for this workshop, start with writing down five to seven things that identify who you are as a writer. 

Manuscript Mart with Amy Bishop-Wycisk, Jamie Chambliss, Kristina Sutton Lennon, and Betsy Thorpe

10:30–11:00 am: Break

11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Session V

Write Your Values with Misha Lazzara 

In this course we’ll spend time naming, examining, and further understanding our own personal values, then we’ll focus on how to use those manifold values to infuse our work with deeper meanings. Values can span from philocalism to asceticism, religious or spiritual beliefs, humanist, naturalist or ecological concerns and more. Our beliefs, ideals, and spiritual or material interests need not steer our work toward pedantry or dogmatism, but can instead guide our storytelling to greater depths and help keep us engaged with our projects through completion.  

Writing the Political Poem with A. E. Hines

In our era of social media and political divisiveness, poets often draw from the latest headlines in their writing. But whether such poems spring from joy or outrage, the poet’s task remains: to create a work of art that outlives the news cycle. We will examine several poems that accomplish this, and discuss how the poets use language to tap universal themes that harness the emotion sparked by current events. Bring your preferred writing tools, as participants will be invited to select a current (or recent) event, and with supportive and nonpartisan prompts, generate new work. 

When Good Presses Go Bad with Tracy Crow

Independent presses play a vital role in providing publishing pathways for today’s marginalized and emerging authors. But what happens when the publishing experience with an indie becomes less than desirable, or when the indie promises more than is actually delivered? In this session, we’ll discuss the machinations of book publishing — from the contract to the book release, and beyond — with an eye toward the potential pitfalls and the pleasures of working with an indie press. 

Stories are Medicine: Indigenous Storytelling in the Digital Age with Brittany Danielle Hunt 

This workshop will explore Indigenous storytelling methodologies in the 21st century by examining the work of The Red Justice Project, a podcast centering missing and murdered Indigenous peoples in rural North Carolina.  Dr. Hunt will also discuss storytelling in her children’s book Whoz Ya People? and how both this book and the podcast are mechanisms of change in the Lumbee community. 

Manuscript Mart with Amy Bishop-Wycisk, Jamie Chambliss, Kristina Sutton Lennon, and Betsy Thorpe