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Divine Poetry in the Land of the Longleaf Pine

Naming the Scars by Marty Silverthorne

Naming the Scars by Marty Silverthorne

“Here’s to the land of the longleaf pine,” declares North Carolina’s State Toast.

This is, in fact, its opening line. Before the rhododendron, before the scuppernong, comes the seemingly omnipresent longleaf pine.

The non-profit Longleaf Press, housed at Methodist University in Fayetteville, publishes both chapbooks and full-length poetry collections. Founded in 1997, they are open to writers from around the world.

The majority of their authors come to them through annual contests, include Jeanne Julian (Blossom and Loss, 2015); Barbara Presnell (Los Hijos, 2002, and Unravelings, 1997), and Crystal Simone Smith (Running Music, 2014).

Longleaf Press sponsors an annual Poetry Chapbook Contest, which is now open for submissions. The contest is open to residents of North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, and Florida who have not yet published a full-length collection of poetry.

Interested? Send 18-23 pages of poetry along with a $20 entry fee by May 4: www.methodist.edu/longleaf/contests.htm.

Longtime friend of the Network Marty Silverthorne won the 2017 Poetry Chapbook Contest for Naming the Scars. For more about Marty, and to read a sample poem, click here.

Chapbooks are $10 each (or two for $15). Full-length collections are $14.50. Order here.

Visit them on the web: www.methodist.edu/longleaf/index.htm.

US Government Releases Proposed Budget for FY 2019

NEAYesterday, the Trump Administration released their proposed budget for FY 2019.

From Americans for the Arts:

The Trump Administration’s proposed FY 2019 budget calls for the termination of our nation’s cultural grant-making agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

If you value any of the above government programs, you can take action here.

The link allows you to contact your U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and ask them to protect the programs you value. You can use the language provided or tell your own story.

Short on time? You can tweet at your U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators too! Your voice can make a difference. Congress will now officially begin hearings on this request, so your message to your elected officials is timely.

If it seems like all this happened before, well, it kinda has. Again from the Americans for the Arts website:

  • On November 20, 2017, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee fully restored the funding level for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at $150 million each for FY 2018.
  • In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the appropriations bill that included $145 million for the NEA and NEH.
  • Final FY 2018 funding is anticipated by March 23rd, the date current funding is set to expire, as part of the short-term funding patches Congress is passing while working to write final funding bills.

To read the full budget proposal, click here.

If you value government funding of the arts, please reach out to your government representatives, and let them know.

Josef Petersen: Writer and 3-Time Olympic Medalist

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are underway in PyeongChang, South Korea.

In the coming weeks, many of us will watch these sporting contests with a mixture of appreciation—for the remarkable athleticism and work ethic on display—and utter incomprehension—because in truth, very few of us have ever hurtled down a luge track at 87 mph, or vaulted ourselves from a sheet of ice into the air balanced on nothing more than thin metal blades.

Nor would we be able to, even if we trained for a thousand years.

As artists, however, we’re allowed to take affront at our exclusion from this global event. Art competitions were integral to the founding of the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee believed art competitions needed to be included alongside athletic feats in order to truly represent the ancient Grecian ideal, to single out humanity’s best.

And so, between 1912 and 1948, writers, architects, playwrights, musicians, and more garnered 146 Olympic medals in categories ranging from “Lyric and Speculative Works” to “Solo and Chorus Competitions.”

In the 1948 London Games, Finnish civil servant Yrjö Lindegren (The Centre of Athletics in Varkaus, Finland) took home the Gold in “Town Planning.” In the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, American Frederick William MacMonnies (Lindbergh Medal) took Silver in “Reliefs and Medallions.”

And writers, of course, were legion. Writerly Olympic categories included “Mixed Literature,” “Dramatic Works,” “Epic Works,” and “Lyric and Speculative Works.”

Danish writer Josef Petersen was a force to be reckoned with. Although he never won Gold, he took Silver in the 1924 Paris Games in the category of “Mixed Literature” for his manuscript Euryale. In 1932, he again won Silver in “Mixed Literature” for his work The Argonauts. And in 1948, his The Olympic Champion (in a brazen example of ego run amuck and / or pandering to the judges) took Silver in the category of “Epic Works.”

From Wikipedia:

Josef Peterson was the son of a vicar and was a maternal grandson of the Norwegian poet Johann Sebastian Welhaven. Petersen, who worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent, has never been fully recognized by Danish literary historians, though his work was respected by contemporary critics for its knowledge of and identifying with Antique cultures. His best known book is Kongeofret (1923, i.e. The Royal Sacrifice) with Oriental motifs, moreover his Columbus novel En Verden stiger af Havet (1935, i. e. A World Rises of the Sea) must also be mentioned.

Although I suppose it should be a reality check for us all that even authors who are Olympic medalists can fade into obscurity, or fail to receive the recognition they probably deserve during their lifetimes.

So, watch the Olympics. Root for your favorite athletes, or the underdogs. Appreciate the purity of a well-swept ice curling sheet.

But remember, there was a time when writers like us might have competed too. And we might have stood shoulder to shoulder on the podium as Olympic champions.

What Other States Offer Literary Halls of Fame?

On Sunday, October 7, the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame will induct five new members. Dr. James W. Clark, Jr., Randall Kenan, Jill McCorkle, Penelope Niven, and Marsha White Warren will join the sixty writers currently enshrined.

We’re not the only Southern state to offer a Literary or “Writers” Hall of Fame.

The Alabama Writers Hall of Fame was founded in 2014 by the Alabama Center for the Book and the Alabama Writers’ Forum. The inaugural class of a dozen writers included Rick Bragg, Zora Neal Hurston, Helen Keller, and Harper Lee. Nine additional authors were inducted in 2016, including Fannie Flagg, Truman Capote, and Sequoyah, whose “syllabary made it possible for Cherokee spoken language to be codified.”

The Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame limits themselves to one or two inductees per year, and their requirements for induction are strict: a writer must have been born in Arkansas and “published a minimum of three books, recieved a significant literary award, and/or presented ample proof of journalist ability with news columns, editing, or credits for screen or staged plays.” Inductees include Kevin Brockmeier, Lily Peter, and Clovita Rice.

The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, housed at the University of Georgia, has welcomed sixty-two writers thus far, including Pat Conroy, Flannery O’Connor, Janisse Ray, and Alice Walker. They base inductions on an open, public ballot, which is then voted on by a Board of Judges.

Inductees to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame “must be 1) published; 2) someone whose writing is of enduring stature; and 3) someone connected in a significant way to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” Since 2013, inductees have included Barbara Kingsolver, Hunter S. Thompson, and Robert Penn Warren.

The South Carolina Academy of Authors facilitates the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, enshrining luminaries such as Dorothy Alison, Mary Alice Monroe, and Ron Rash. They take a “Big Hall” approach, and yes, there’s some overlap: the Carolinas may quarrel over the right to claim writers such as Wilbur J. Cash or Louis D. Rubin, Jr., both of whom (rightly, in this author’s opinion) have been inducted into both the North and South Carolina Halls.

Florida and Mississippi offer a Hall of Fame for artists and notables, but not one exclusively for writers. And if anyone knows of something similar in Tennessee or Virginia, please offer a URL in the comments below!

Finally, although not Southern, the Chicago Writers Hall of Fame certainly deserves a mention: through “educational programming, awards, exhibits, and other special events,” the Hall positions itself as a “repository of detailed information about Chicago’s past, present, and future literary life.” Inductees include Sherwood Anderson, Saul Bellow, Shel Silverstein, and Carl Sandburg—who was, of course, inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2016.

Bull City Press Charges into 2018

“Bull City Press started because I wanted to be a cheerleader for other people,” founder and Executive Director Ross White said in a 2014 profile in INDY Week.

Founded in Durham in 2006, Bull City Press began as a publisher of a literary imprint, inch (profiled on this blog last year), then grew into a publisher of poetry chapbooks. In 2015, they launched a line of fiction and nonfiction chapbooks when they merged with Origami Zoo Press.

And cheerleaders they have become, working tirelessly on behalf of their authors by throwing SRO events at major literary conferences and hosting a salon-style reading series in Hillsborough and Durham.

New releases in 2018 include the chapbook of poems from.from by 2013 Frost Place Chapbook Competition winner Jill Osier; Leila Chatti’s debut Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the Editor’s Choice from the 2017 Frost Place Chapbook Competition; and the short-story collection Three Stories about the Human Face by Ryan Napier, which was pulled from the 2017 summer open reading period.

Past authors include Michael Martone and Michael Parker (fiction); B.J. Hollars (nonfiction); and poet Emilia Philips, who will lead the Poetry Master Class at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2018 Spring Conference.

BCP reads manuscripts of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction during their summer open reading period, June 5 – July 5. They also sponsor the Frost Place Chapbook Competition (October 1 – January 5, annually) that awards publication, $250, and a five-and-a-half-day residency at the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, to the author of an unpublished poetry chapbook of 20-25 pages.

You can chat with Bull City Press staff in the exhibit hall of the NCWN 2018 Spring Conference, Saturday, April 21, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Registration is open.

Learn more about the press at www.bullcitypress.com, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Exploring the American Writers Museum

Last weekend, I had the chance to visit the new American Writers Museum in Chicago, Illinois. I’d been looking forward to checking it out, having followed its initial fundraising efforts several years ago through its opening in the summer of 2017.

The result is an interactive full-immersion museum experience for book lovers. You know how you take your kids to a children’s museum, and there’s all this stuff there for them play with and touch, all in the name of learning? The American Writers Museum is kind of like that, but for adults who love to read.

Here, American literature is a living, breathing transformation, not something to view behind glass, but instead an ever-changing, organic thing that you can see, hear, taste, and take with you when you leave.

My traveling companions and I blew an entire morning here. Only an afternoon appointment (and lunchtime hunger pangs) pulled us away, kicking and screaming, because we really would rather have stayed.

There were way too many highlights to list, but here are a few:

1. The first exhibit is a touch screen that allows visitors to choose a state, then learn more about select writers from that state. Of course, I had to see who a Chicago museum chose to represent North Carolina. Harriet Ann Jacobs, William Sydney Portier (O. Henry), and Thomas Wolfe, it turns out, a respectable showing—North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductees, one and all.

2. I thought I knew a lot about writers and books, but the research accomplished by this museum truly made for an exceptional experience. Did you know Emily Dickinson baked award-winning pies? Or that Chester Himes—author of If He Hollers, Let Him Go, one of my favorite novels—wrote a famous detective series in a genre known as “black noir”? Or that Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards and then pieced them all together? Maybe you did, but I sure didn’t!

Really, all the exhibits went way beyond superficial homage and offered a true deep-dive into cherished American works by American authors.

3. Several exhibits offer passages read aloud, from John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not” speech to a scene from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, to a selection from Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day (read by LeVar Burton!) to displays that allow you to view videos, admire chotskies, and smell scents related to certain literary passages, and more.

4. The museum lets visitors vote for their five favorite books: people still read and love To Kill a Mockingbird and the major works of John Steinbeck. Harper Lee’s famous novel and at least three of Steinbeck’s better-read works were on the Top 10 favorite books. (Yes, I definitely voted for five books written by my friends. Guilty as charged. And I won’t be shamed!)

5. North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Carl Sandburg embodies the Illinois-North Carolina connection. World-famous for his poem “Chicago,” Sandburg also raised prize-winning goats at his home Connemara in Flat Rock. He’s represented throughout the museum, being one of the Windy City’s most beloved poets, including as part of a striking exhibit of black and white photographs shot by James Jones.

Like I said, really too much to write about here. But if you find yourself in Chicago, it’s absolutely necessary to make time in your itinerary for a visit.

Tickets are an insanely reasonable $12 for adults ($8 for seniors and students), which seems like an absolute steal compared to other Chicago tourist attractions.

Just leave yourself plenty of time to geek out!

One last thought: toward the end, there’s an exhibit that allows you to create sentences with words offered up at random. Here’s the sentence I came up with, which, looking back, might easily be viewed as a subsconsious tribute to one of Chicago’s favorite sons and acrobatic wordsmiths, Saul Bellow:

Speedy world, yet racing, he sees what forever feels happiest.

Eat your heart out, Saul!

And yeah. I bought the hat. And a refrigerator magnet.

St. Andrews University Press Approaches 50 Years of Excellence

St. Andrews University Press, based in Laurinburg, is about to turn fifty: a testimony to their legacy of excellence.

Founded as America’s first undergraduate press in 1969, St. Andrews University Press has since published over 200 titles of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama, including North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductees Fred Chappell, Sam Ragan, Shelby Stephenson, and founding editor Ronald H. Bayes.

The aim of the Press and the St. Andrews Review is to provide a place for established, establishing, or emerging voices to be heard. We are particularly interested in giving voice to emerging poets and writers in our home state of North Carolina.

They’re the de facto publisher of all scholarship on the famous Black Mountain College, and they publish a literary magazine, CAIRN: The St. Andrews Review, as well as an undergraduate rag, Gravity Hill. They also publish the annual winner of The Lena M. Shull Book Contest, sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society.

St. Andrews is involved with the greater North Carolina literary community as well, helping to facilitate the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Mentor Series, where promising student poets at the middle school, high school, college/university and adult level the opportunity to work with a distinguished published poet.

For more information, visit https://www.sa.edu/st-andrews-university-press or follow them on Facebook.

Press 53 and the World as It Is

If you’ve been to a North Carolina Writers’ Network event in the past seven years (at least), you’ve seen Press 53 represented in our exhibit hall, on our panels, and in our Critique Service and Manuscript Marts.

They publish a lot of renowned North Carolina writers. Our own Executive Director, Ed Southern, for one. Also, North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductees Doris Betts, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Guy Owen, Shelby Stephenson, and John Ehle, whose Land Breakers series is being re-released as part of a Carolina Classics series.

Also, former NC poet laureates Joseph Bathanti and Cathy Smith Bowers. Also, award-winning fiction writer Taylor Brown. And, frankly, too many NCWN members to list here.

What the Zhang Boys Know (2012), a novel in stories by Clifford Garstang, won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction, and in 2015, earned Garstang the Indiana Emerging Author Award. The story collection One Last Good Time by Michael Kardos won the 2012 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award for Fiction.

Founded in 2005, Press 53 currently publishes short fiction collections and poetry. They also publish Prime Number Magazine, a quarterly online publication of distinctive poetry and short fiction.

Tough and visceral, Press 53’s titles, by and large, offer steady and unflinching stare-downs with the world as it is.

While Press 53 does not accept unsolicited submissions, there are a number of ways to catch their editors’ attention.

The Press 53 Award for Short Fiction (open September 1 – December 31) and the Press 53 Award for Poetry (open April 1 – July 31) offer $1,000 and publication to each winner. Many winners of the Prime Number Magazine awards have also eventually had their collections published by Press 53, who also prefers to publish authors who get involved in their literary community and who appear widely in literary journals.

So, that’s a hint: come on out to the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2018 Spring Conference on Saturday, April 21, at UNCG —where Press 53 publisher Kevin Morgan Watson will be on-hand as an exhibitor and as a panelist for Slush Pile Live!—and say hello. Or sign up for A Gathering of Poets, March 23-25, in Winston-Salem for workshops, readings, and more.

To learn more about Press 53, visit their website at www.Press53.com, or follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Lune Spark Young Writers’ Short Story Writing Contest

Lune Spark Books, a publisher of books and animation for middle grade and younger, seeks nominations from writers, bloggers, and media persons to judge the 2018 Lune Spark Young Writers’ Short Story Writing Contest!

In the spirit of giving back to the community, Lune Spark Books runs a yearly Short Story Contest for children in two age ranges: 10-13 years and 13-16 years, and publishes the top twenty to twenty-five stories from the contest. Members of the North Carolina Writers’ Network are encouraged to nominate themselves to serve as judges.

What you will get:

  • Association with the good cause of encouraging young writers to write fiction.
  • Exposure on our website/ social sites and you will be featured in various promotions. Our contest appears in a large number of searches on the web.
  • Credit in the book that will contain top stories from 2018 contest.

The 2018 contest has a deadline of April 22 for story submissions. The total reading a judge would need to do would not exceed 150 pages of a typical novel.

More details can be found on the link below. If you are passionate about helping young writers, please submit the simple form below and Lune Spark Books will get back to you:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdQFLNVxis_xXrglppOLciGTnsW2IwHtWj3JSSg7kxiE8T1XA/viewform

Please apply by March 2.

Georgia McBride Media Group Weds Fantasy and Romance

Raleigh resident Georgia McBride “founded the #YAlitchat hashtag and weekly chat on Twitter in 2009.” There, she hosted popular authors and began to build the brand that would become the Georgia McBride Media Group.

The Georgia McBride Media Group publishes debut authors as well as USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors. They offer three imprints: Month9Books, Swoom Romance, and Tantrum Books.

Month9Books published their first title in 2012 and their first full list in 2013. Their titles have received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and won the Minotaur Parents Choice Award, among other nominations. Their books have been optioned for tv and film and licensed internationally; many of their authors are repped by agents.

Focusing on the “tweens and teens” market, Month9Books authors include Chris Ledbetter, Leigh Statham, and Georgia McBride (publisher).

Month9Books offers two additional imprints: Tantrum Books for readers ages 7-12, and Swoon Romance for adult readers of books that make you “swoon.”

Tantrum Books authors include Natalie Decker, Rebekah L, Purdy, and Elizabeth Miceli. Tantrum Books authors include Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Jennie K.Brown, and Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Jennie K.Brown.

Swoon Romance is currently open for submissions through March 31 in Young Adult and Contemporary Adult Romance. Month9Books and Tantrum Books are closed to unagented submissions. All three imprints accept agented submissions year ’round.

If you attend enough book fairs and cons you’re sure to see them around. Otherwise you can learn more on the web at www.georgiamcbride.com, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.