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Books for a Well-Read Life: Algonquin Books

Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, published in February by Algonquin Books, was recently named an Oprah 2018 Book Club selection. Congratulations to all: an “instant bestseller” indeed!

But even without this eminently recognizable achievement, Algonquin Books has been in the business of producing smash hits since NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Louis Rubin was running it out of a woodshed behind his house in Chapel Hill back in 1983 (with co-founder Shannon Ravenel).

Acquired by Workman Publishing Company in 1989, and now maintaining offices in both New York City and Chapel Hill, Algonquin’s credo is “Books for a Well-Read Life.”

Over the years, Algonquin has published fiction and nonfiction by NC Literary Hall of Fame inductees Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle, Robert Morgan, and Lee Smith; North Carolina favorites such as Wendy Brenner, Aaron Gwynn, Nine de Gramont, Michael Parker, Drew Perry, and Alan Shapiro; as well as nationally renowned authors such as Roy Blount, Larry Brown, Brock Clarke, and George Singleton.

Algonquin has earned international recognition with numerous bestsellers, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. In 2013, Algonquin launched the Algonquin Young Readers imprint featuring middle grade and young adult books.

Algonquin offers services for book clubs, libraries, and educators. Algonquin authors contribute to their organizational blog, offering insights into what it was like to write their book or highlighting new releases.

Both Algonquin Books and Algonquin Books for Young Readers are currently closed to submissions.

Subscribe to their e-newsletter, and check out the archives, here.

For more information, visit their website at and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They’re worth following: often humorous, always timely, always with one finger on the pulse of what the cool literary kids are up to these days.

Relax: All Your Story Ideas Have, in Fact, Been Done Before

Romeo and Juliet: “Icarus”

The thing about writing fiction is, no matter how flowery your prose, no matter how rich your characters, no matter how many of your metaphors take a reader’s breath away, something has to happen  in your story—there has to be a plot.

“A guy walks into a bar” is not a story. “A guy walks into a bar, meets the love of his life, but learns that if he ever leaves the bar she will die,” however, is (maybe—or at least it’s a start).

Conflict, tension, action: all these are important. It can be tough, though, for us writers to decide what happens next. Sometimes we can’t move forward because we feel as if it’s all been done before.

Well, according to a recent story on the BBC, it has all been done before! Which takes a certain amount of pressure off, when you think about it:

Professor Matthew Jockers at the University of Nebraska, and later researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab, analysed data from thousands of novels to reveal six basic story types—you could call them archetypes—that form the building blocks for more complex stories. The Vermont researchers describe the six story shapes behind more than 1700 English novels…

They created visual representations of the following story arcs:

  • Rags to riches—a steady rise from bad to good fortune
  • Riches to rags—a fall from good to bad, a tragedy
  • Icarus—a rise then a fall in fortune
  • Oedipus—a fall, a rise then a fall again
  • Cinderella—rise, fall, rise
  • Man in a hole—fall, rise

The article gives several examples. For example, Romeo and Juliet is an “Icarus” story:

Romeo and Juliet is naturally considered to be a tragedy in line with Shakespeare’s own description, but when you analyse its sentiment the story appears closer to the Icarus shape: a rise, then a fall. After all, the boy must find the girl and fall in love with her before they both lose each other. The romantic peak happens around a quarter of the way through the play, in the famous balcony scene in which they declare their undying love for one another.

It’s all downhill from there. Romeo kills Tybalt and flees, the Friar’s plan to smuggle Juliet out to join him provides a small bump of false hope to the drama, but once Juliet has drunk the potion nothing can prevent the final, still-searing traged.

For other examples, and the full article, click here.

There are resources out there to help even the most blocked writer move his or her story forward.

Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots by William Cook and Paul Collins (Tin House Books) allows readers to open to any page and “find plots you may never have known existed—from morose cannibals to gun-wielding preachers to phantom automobiles.”

A quick Google search turns up no shortage of plot generator websites.

The UK-based Plot Generator allows you to set parameters and will basically write a short story for you. This site also generates blurbs, blurbs, and much more, including blessing you with a pen name!

Like we said, it’s nice to know there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s kind of freeing. In some ways, we can just pick our favorite story type and run with it.

Morningstar Law Group Negotiates Movie Option

NCWN member Mitch Tuchman, Intellectual Property attorney at the Triangle-based Morningstar Law Group, has taught sessions at NCWN conferences such as “Copyright Infringement” and “Legal Issues for Writers.” Mitch has also been gracious with his time, visiting with some of the NCWN regional meetings, including Writers’ Morning Out in Pittsboro.

In May, Mitch and his team at Morningstar assisted Holloway Literary with the negotiation of a motion picture option for a novel, Not Her Daughter, by Rea Frey, one of the agency’s clients. Mitch also:

“currently provides legal assistance to producers working on a prospective television series. Mitch has also represented authors and authors’ estates in matters related to motion picture/TV options.”

Mitch Tuchman is an intellectual property attorney in the RTP office of Morningstar Law Group. Before he became an attorney, Mitch spent fourteen years as the head of the publications department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has also been a freelance writer for more than four decades. Consequently a significant focus of his legal practice is in the realm of copyright matters. Mitch understands copyright issues from the author’s perspective because he has been both a writer and publisher himself. Mitch writes and speaks frequently on copyright law, most recently about the nine unsuccessful plaintiffs who sued James Cameron, claiming his motion picture Avatar infringed their works.

Based in Raleigh, NC and established in 2011, Holloway Literary is a full-service agency that represents writers in romance, women’s and southern fiction, mystery, thriller, historical, literary, science fiction and select young adult.

Morningstar Law Group was featured on our blog last year. Their practice, which extends across industries as diverse as life sciences to arts to software, includes areas such as Copyright and Licensing, Intellectual Property, Trademark Licensing, and much more.

In related news, Nikki Terpilowski, an agent at Holloway Literary, will participate in the Manuscript Mart and the Sunday morning panel, “Agents & Editors,” at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference, November 2-4, in Charlotte. (Registration opens on or around September 1.)

For a full write-up of the movie option deal mentioned in our opening, in none other than Deadline Hollywood, click here.

What’re ‘Ya Readin’? Squire Workshops Edition

Paul Cuadros

The North Carolina Writers’ Network 2018 Squire Summer Writing Workshops happen July 19-22 on the campus of NC State University in Raleigh.

Three instructors will lead three workshops over the course of the long weekend: Paul Cuadros (Creative Nonfiction); Rob Greene (Poetry); and Elaine Neil Orr (Fiction).

We caught up with our instructors recently to ask what they’ve been reading. After all, the best writers are the best readers! Turns out, they’re reading some pretty great stuff, which collectively would make for a solid summer reading list.

Paul Cuadros
“I am reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Wonderful memoir and journalism book that tapped into the political feelings of people in Middle America.”

Rob Greene

Rob Greene
“As always, I’m reading literary magazines and submissions at every opportunity.

“I am also reading Kwame Dawes’ personal narrative A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock.

“I am planning to read more of my University of Birmingham research supervisor Luke Kennard’s work, and I am rereading Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son as well as Lucille Clifton’s Good Woman and Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio’s The Poet’s Companion again and again in order to prepare for the workshop and also selfishly—to make some new poems of my own.”

Elaine Neil Orr

Elaine Neil Orr

“I just finished reading Charlie Lovett’s luscious and smart mystery/drama, The Lost Book of the Grail. We’re going to be appearing together at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem in July to talk about our books with book clubs. I also just finished Lost in the Beehive by Michele Young-Stone. Her novel about a lesbian woman’s search for her true destiny is memorable and rich. I met Michele at Greensboro Bound where we were on a fiction panel together.

“I’m looking forward to reading Gigi Amateau’s novel, Claiming Georgia Tate. Gigi generously read my book and appeared with me at The Fountain Bookstore in Richmond last month. I know her novel is going to be smart and powerful. It’s about a young girl who was being raised by a grandmother but when the grandmother dies, she is sent to live with her father. In addition, I’m looking forward to reading What Luck, This Life, a CNF book by Kathryn Schwille coming out with Hub City in September. Betsy Teter gave it to me as a gift, so I get a sneak peek. It’s about what happens in a small Texas town in the aftermath of a space shuttle break-up.

“And finally, Michael Ondaatje, Warlight. It may be Christmas before I get to it, but I will. I’m a huge Ondaatje fan.”

Registration for the NCWN 2018 Squire Summer Writing Workshops is open through July 5. Register at

Bearing Up: A New Collection of Personal Stories

By Randell Jones

Bearing up. It’s not always easy to do…or write about.

But that writing challenge was taken on this winter by over twenty-five North Carolina writers who joined authors from Kentucky to share personal essays on making do and overcoming adversity when faced with daunting and peculiar life challenges.

Bearing up.

Bearing Up is the collective result of forty writers responding to the Call for Essays issued last fall for the “Personal Essay Publishing Project—Winter 2018.” The book was released in April by Daniel Boone Footsteps Publishing to commemorate the 250th anniversary of events in the life of America’s pioneer hero Daniel Boone.

A new Call for Essays of “PEPP-spring 2019” is now open. Visit to learn more.

North Carolina writers from across the state submitted their personal essays for consideration. The writers included fresh, new voices looking to be published for the first time as well as seasoned storytellers, including two poet laureates.

The stories they shared are moving and current.

“Some of the writers recounted the experiences of a relative or ancestor whose story they knew as family lore or from personal knowledge,” said Randell Jones, editor and publisher. “Others shared their own experiences, some facing sexual harassment, violence, and rape. The topics covered a wide range, but they all dealt with people facing real challenges head on‐and not always successfully. Some of the stories would bring you to tears,” Randell added, “but some were laugh-out-loud funny. All were well told.”

Each story leaves the reader pondering a lesson or a message gleaned from the experiences of others.

Lisa Miracle Ballard of Huntersville wrote in “The Gift” about how hearing the story of a Kentucky grandmother she had never met restored Lisa’s will to recover from a near-deadly collision: “Folks paid her with a chicken or a bag of meal; Granny was a healer.”

Bruce Spang of Candler wrote in “No Forwarding Address” about his brother’s last days in failing health: “My brother sat in a chair in the corner of the living room, a walker stationed by him. He smiled weakly at me. His legs, thick and covered with bandages, were exposed. I thought, as I took him in, ‘He’s dying.’ I kissed him on the forehead.”

Diane Pascoe of the Wilmington area shared with humor some childhood memories in “Show-and-Tell Goddess”: “When I found the deer’s leg in the toy box, I knew I had my ticket to fame.”

Valerie Paterson of Greensboro shared a horrifying tale in “Me Alone” of being attacked several times by different men and her resolve to help protect other women from her experience: “This was rape in the middle of nowhere‐a country road in the middle of French farmland, in the dark, in the middle of the night with no one around.”

Howard Pearre of Winston-Salem wrote in “Omaha” of his father’s sense of duty preparing to lead men onto the beaches, D-Day 1944: “If they made it onto shore, they knew barbed wire and mines awaited them.”

Cherie Cox of Charlotte wrote about her feisty, 107-year-old, poet and teacher cousin in “You Can Do This”: “When asked her age on job applications, she simply wrote ‘atomic.’”

Margarette Dunn of Fayetteville wrote about her younger brother, stricken with polio at age five, in “Bracing for Life”: “Though this independent streak and his mischievousness got him into trouble this time, his innovative thinking helped him to help himself for the rest of his life.”

Copies of Bearing Up are available online at or from some of the writers. Find information there also about the Personal Essay Publishing Project—Spring 2019.

A Region’s Many Parts: UNC Press

A region’s culture is defined by many things. This is especially true for the American South, where, through port cities such as Charleston and New Orleans, a diverse community of people has tried to get along with one another—and sometimes not—for longer than America has been a country.

Perhaps no press better exemplifies the South in all its glorious contradictions and contributions than the University of North Carolina Press, which publishes books about topics as diverse as sports, dentistry, food, and much, much more.

The University of North Carolina Press (est. 1922) was the first university press in the South and one of the first in the nation.

Their audience is general readers, while publishing “excellent work from leading scholars, writers, and intellectuals” that help UNC Press be a progressive force while celebrating and exploring the region’s history and culture.

Recent titles include Distilling the South: A Guide to Southern Craft Liquors and the People Who Make Them by Kathleen Purvis; a collection of essays, Edna Lewis: at the Table with an American Original, edited by Sara B. Franklin; and a biography of Bernardo de Gálvez, a hero of the American Revolution, by Gonzalo M. Quintero Saravia.

Right now they’re running a promotion: 40 percent off American History titles. Click here for more information, including the discount code.

UNC Press also publishes scores of journals by “scholars, research centers, and scholarly societies” that “explore a range of fields primarily in the humanities and social sciences.” They also work with Appalachian Heritage and the North Carolina Literary Review, literary journals that publish original fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction in addition to scholarly articles.

We highlighted the NC Literary Review on our blog last year.

Authors interested in publishing their book with UNC Press should keep in mind that UNC Press publishes trade and scholarly titles about our region. They do not publish original fiction, poetry, drama, memoir, or festschriften [“a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar”—ed.].

They do have many, many other areas of interest, including special series. For more information about what they publish, and how to craft a proposal, click here.

You can browse all of the titles published by UNC Press at their website,; or follow them on Facebook; Twitter; or Instagram.

Want to Hear a Poem? Dial 585-546-2531

There’s real pleasure in hearing a poem read aloud. Certain rhythms and textures reveal themselves aurally that may not pop in quite the same way were we only to read them on the page.

There’s pleasure too, these days, in using a telephone. Phone booths are making a comeback, for  example.

While we may never return to the wart-like, wall-mounted landlines of our youth (or some of our youths), dialing a phone number and hearing someone pick up on the other end can remind us of minor miracles. For a lot of folks under thirty, using a telephone is not an every-day, or even an every-week, occurrence. (Don’t forget to call your parents, kids.)

Re-launched for 2018 and serving up a kitschy blend of nostalgia and innovation, Poem by Phone offers a different poem every day. Listeners who call the number are treated to poems written and read by noted poets, one to two minutes in length. It’s a great way for poets to connect with their readers.

Check it out by dialing:


Poem by Phone is dedicated to the creator of Dial a Poem, John Giorno, who made poems available by phone for a number of years between 1969-2012.

These days, our cell phones do so much, we tend to forget there’s a phone function at all. Why not give that keypad a workout and, when you have a minute or two today, give Poem by Phone a ring?

Like Its Namesake, Eno Publishers Offers Fertile Soil

Although only forty miles long, the Eno River punches well above its weight in terms of its psychological and cultural significance.

For over 700 years, first native settlers and then Europeans made the Eno watershed their home. Now residents of Durham and Orange counties, and others who come from further afield, have aggressively preserved 5,600 acres of its basin.

It is in this same spirt that the non-profit Eno Publishers celebrates and preserves North Carolina and the South. Publishing several titles a year, Eno Publishers focuses on the people and places of the state some refer to as that “vale of humility between two mountains of conceit.”

Recent titles include Hidden Hillsborough: Historic Dependencies and Landscapes in a Small Southern Town. With photographs by noted Hillsborough photographer Elizabeth Matheson and essays and maps by a dedicated group of town historians, Hidden Hillsborough brings this small colonial town to life by tracing its roots to its present-day incarnation as a haven for artists, nature lovers, and a tight community of locals.

Other new titles, The Elizabeth Keckley Reader: Volumes I & II, edited by Sheila Smith McKoy, offer:

a collection of essays and other works inspired by the life of Elizabeth Keckley, a slave in Hillsborough, North Carolina, who eventually bought her freedom. She became a noted seamstress in Civil War-era Washington DC, and was most famously the confidante of Mary Lincoln.

Eno Publishers also presents the 27 Views series, offering anthologies of essays about places in North Carolina such as Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and many more. Editors include Wilton Barnhardt, Rob Neufeld, Daniel Wallace, and Durham mayor Steve Schewel.

Because they are a 501(c)3, donations to Eno Publishers are welcome.

The website is short on submission guidelines, but does offer a contact e-mail. Given their nonfiction focus, it’s probably best to query through e-mail if you think you have a project they’d be interested in.

Vist their website at or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Duke University Press Provides Global Access for All

As the publishing arm of Duke University in Durham, Duke University Press follows the University’s dual commitments to quality and access.

In terms of quality, the press hopes to “advance the frontiers of knowledge and contribute boldly to the international community of scholarship.” In terms of access, the press seeks to promote a “spirit of tolerance” in an international community of scholars as well as nonspecialist readers.

Duke University Press is non-profit, which informs their mission in two distinct ways.

First, this means they put scholarship above commercial interests, refusing to sacrifice long-term goals for short-term profits.

Second, as a non-profit, Duke University Press has learned to adapt, innovate, and form strong global partnerships that enable the press to find, curate, enrich, and disseminate scholarship that is vital to readers working at the forefront of their fields in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics. All of this, of course, is put forward through an efficient, businesslike approach that has sustained them for the past ninety-seven years, since their founding as Trinity College Press in 1921.

Duke University Press publishes more than 120 books a year, some fifty journals, and countless digital collections. New titles include Bright Signals: a History of Color Television by Susan Murray; Erotic Islands: Art and Activism in the Queer Carribean by Lyndon K. Gill; and Territories and Trajectories: Cultures in Circulation by Diana Sorensen.

Prospective authors with full manuscripts should follow the book proposal guidelines for Duke University Press.

If you have an article you think would be a good fit for a journal published by Duke University Press, it’s best to browse by journal on the website and then follow the journal’s specific submission guidelines.

Visit their website at and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

2018 Pulitzer Prize Winners

>Here on the blog of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, we like to try and keep you up to date on national as well as regional literary news. The 2018 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced; here’s a summary of a few of the prizes given out to creative writers:

Fiction: Less (Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown and Company) by Andrew Sean Greer.
“A generous book, musical in its prose and expansive in its structure and range, about growing older and the essential nature of love.”







Poetry: Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Frank Bidart.
A volume of unyielding ambition and remarkable scope that mixes long dramatic poems with short elliptical lyrics, building on classical mythology and reinventing forms of desires that defy societal norms.







General Nonfiction: Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by James Forman, Jr.
An examination of the historical roots of contemporary criminal justice in the U.S., based on vast experience and deep knowledge of the legal system, and its often-devastating consequences for citizens and communities of color.






Drama: Cost of Living by Martyna Majok.
“An honest, original work that invites audiences to examine diverse perceptions of privilege and human connection through two pairs of mismatched individuals: a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his new caregiver.”


Congratulations to all!

For the full list of winners, click here.