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How to Celebrate National Mystery Series Week

Henderson County author Joe Perrone, Jr., a former regional rep of NCWN, brought this to our attention: October 1-7 is National Mystery Series Week.

A very cursory amount of Googling turned up no details, really, about what National Mystery Series Week entails. It  may or may not have been launched by (now defunct?) Purple Moon Press as a way to “celebrate those continuing characters who return time and again to solve the case.”

An even more cursory amount of Googling, which was little more than the sleep-deprived mouse clicks of an impatient communications director, couldn’t turn up much about Purple Moon Press either. So, who really knows?

The holiday itself is listed on several holiday websites, so it must exist!

But it’s the Wild West as far as holidays go: the possibilities for how to celebrate are endless.

At the very least, it seems like a goood excuse for reader’s award sites like IndieBrag to send out e-newsletters highlighting some of their more popular indie mystery series.

National Mystery Series Week also is a great chance for us to read through and celebrate our favorite mystery series, from NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Margaret Maron’s Judge Deborah Knott series set in central North Carolina; to the Harrison Weaver mysteries by Joseph LS Terrell set along the Outer Banks; to the magical mysteries of Serafina by Robert Beatty, set in Asheville around the Biltmore Estate.

Of course, Joe Perrone, Jr. is the author of several mystery series himself.

And that’s just for starters! And just in North Carolina!

From cozies to procedurals, thrillers to the hard-boiled, this is the week to celebrate the puzzles, twists, and characters that keep us turning pages.

Hey, even completely made-up holidays can be fun.

Here’s to National Mystery Series Week!

Dr. Newton Smith, RIP

By Glenda Council Beall
Program Coordinator, NCWN-West

Dr. Newton Smith

It is with a sad heart that I report that Dr. Newton Smith, NCWN-West Treasurer since 2009, and longtime member of NCWN-West, passed away.

Newt was an active and loyal member of NCWN-West, and I could always count on his support. His help with A Day for Writers, our writing conference a couple of years ago, made everything run smoothly. He acted as emcee for our tribute to Kathryn Stripling Byer. He could always be counted on to step up when asked or when needed.

On his Facebook page, condolences are pouring in from former students and friends.

We will miss him.

Our new treasurer will be Rosemary Royston, one of the Georgia Representatives and former program coordinator for NCWN-West. I greatly appreciate Rosemary taking this volunteer position.

***

Dr. Newton Smith was raised in Greer, South Carolina. He studied electrical engineering at Georgia Tech and literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a former associate professor and professor emeritus at Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee. He was the author of the collection Camino Poems: Reflections on the Way from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Finisterre.

For his full obituary, click here.

For more information about NCWN-West, visit www.netwestwriters.blogspot.com.

 

New Literary Podcast for NC

A literary podcast launches October 2 called Charlotte Readers Podcast: Where Authors Give Voice to Their Written Words. This is a show that features Charlotte-area authors and those who visit the Queen City.

Author Landis Wade, a member of the NC Writers’ Network, encourages authors to read and talk about their award-winning, published, and emerging works, which he says are the kind of stories and poems that touch the emotions, followed by the kind of questions and answers that seek depth and insight into the readings.

The show offers complete stories and poems, the kind that have a beginning, a middle, and an end, as well as book excerpts, but Landis says not to worry, because good authors tend to skip “Once upon a time” and start closer to the middle, with that “dark and stormy night.”

The mic is open to multiple genres in multiple forms, including short stories, flash fiction, essay, memoir, humor, narrative nonfiction, long fiction, and more.

Landis will have an exhibitor table for the podcast at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference in Charlotte.

Learn more at www.charlottereaderspodcast.com and www.facebook.com/charlottereaderspodcast.

Technology Can Help You Write Better

At the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference, CharlotteLit’s Paul Reali will lead the session “Technology Toolkit: Software and Tech Stuff for Writers.”

He’ll discuss “Scrivener vs. Microsoft Word (and the seven things that will make you go to Scrivener and never come back); online grammar and proofreading tools; how to back up and never lose your work (external drives, Dropbox, backup services, etc.); and other tools for the tool kit, such as dictation software, timers, and note-takers.”

Some savvy writers are already taking advantage of the technological tools at their disposal, including mobile apps.

In a recent online article, The Writer magazine featured 15 apps to make life easier—and more fun—for the writer on the go.

Want to be more productive? You might consider using an app such as Evernote, “organizational software for saving everything like a virtual file cabinet.”

Taking a lot of notes? What about Keep My Notes, a “handy digital notepad that takes text, audio, and finger-written notes.”

The review also includes apps for journaling, the office, distraction blockers, dictionaries, and “fun” apps that test your writing knowledge or turn your writing into Google-able quotes.

For the full article, click here.

One glaring omission from The Writer article? Freedom, coincidentally a sponsor of our 2018 Fall Conference.

Freedom helps you focus on what really matters most to you: writing. Freedom is used by over 750,000 people worldwide to control digital distractions like social media, email, videos, online shopping, chat, games.

Schedule a Freedom session and block the websites and apps that you find most distracting. Freedom syncs across all your computers, phones, and tablets.

Freedom users report gaining 2.5 hours, every day!

Freedom is sponsoring the Fall Conference session “Shut Up and Write” with Michele T. Berger.

This session will ask registrants to do exactly that: Shut up, and write. Think of it as study hall, except you’re writing instead of reading (or passing notes—none of that, now). Registrants for this option will get ninety minutes of glorious, uninterrupted silence in which to dream, plan, create, or edit.

Fall Conference registration is open.

Emergency Assistance for NC Writers

With parts of I-40 and I-95 still closed and plenty of inland cities in North Carolina still feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence, we were glad to get an e-mail last week from Isabel Howe, the Executive Director of The Authors League Fund.

The Authors League Fund “provides emergency assistance to professional writers facing unexpected financial crises. [They] give direct assistance to pay for pressing needs, whether rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, medical expenses, or other necessities.”

The application only requires two simple pages, and the turnaround time is usually less than two weeks.

CLICK HERE to apply for relief.

The Authors League Fund also maintains an extensive resource list that includes organizations that support writers as well as crisis advice for the general public.

“Note that PEN, The Haven Foundation, the ASJA, the Dramatists Guild Fund, and Poets in Need might also be essential resources for writers in your area right now,” says Ms. Howe. “The resource list will be especially helpful for self-published or emerging writers who do not qualify for our assistance.”

For more information, visit www.authorsleaguefund.org or find them on Facebook.

This Revolution Will Not Be Televised

It’s not every day that reading feels revolutionary.

Anachronistic, sure, like when you’re reading a book in public and people stare at you like you’re rubbing two sticks together to make a fire. Reading can even occasionally feel countercultural, like rocking a fanny pack without irony. But revolutionary?

Banned Books Week, which runs September 23-28, 2018, is a reader’s best chance to link arms with their comrades and march-step in song. Do you hear the people sing?

416 books were banned or challenged in 2017. Here are the Top 10:

10. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, Shelagh McNicholas (Illustrator) (addresses gender identity)

9. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, Henry Cole (Illustrator) (features a same-sex relationship)

8. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (features drug use and profanity)

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (violence, racial slurs)

6. Sex Is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth (Illustrator) (sex-ed)

5. George by Alex Gino (includes transgender child)

4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (violence, religious themes)

3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier (includes LGBTQ+ characters)

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (profanity, sexually explicit situations)

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (discusses suicide)

No doubt these books address heavy themes; more than half address gender identity and sexuality.

But remember, in the past, banned books have included the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic; Sophie’s Choice by William Styron; The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier; and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

In some ways, perhaps, today’s banned books are tomorrow’s classics.

And this revolution will not be televised.

Instead, you’ll find it inside a book.

This Is Our Home

By Ed Southern, Executive Director
North Carolina Writers’ Network

This is our home, this state—every corner, every inch.

Mountains, hills, and fields; rivers, creeks, and seas: we claim it all, held in common with everyone who has found their imaginations rooted, boosted, buoyed by this “goodliest soil under the cope of heaven,” the Old North State, the Writingest State.

Yet here we are, the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s largest literary organization, dedicated and devoted to the writers and writing of our home state…and words keep failing us.

We feel we should say, write, something, some sort of official statement of support and solidarity for and with those affected by Florence and her floods. That’s almost all of us, though, “those affected,” even if the only effects were sleepless nights listening to the wind and rain, and breaking hearts watching the footage on the news.

To those affected more deeply, more thoroughly—those who had to evacuate, those cut off from their homes with no idea when they will return, those who lost their homes—we can and do offer thoughts and prayers, a couch or spare room if we have one, donations to the charities and services helping the displaced and aiding the recovery.

Something about that feels cheap, though, expected and polite. How can we express, with any degree of adequacy, the just compassion and empathy for our neighbors, friends, family, when their lives have been so disrupted, when their ways to and through our shared home—downtown city grids, whole subdivisions, major highways like I-40 and US 74, even the doggone state ports—are under water?

Speaking only for myself, this is one of those times when I’m tempted to feel like the discipline of well-crafted words is trivial, and my devotion to it an indulgence. I feel like I should have stuck to truck driving so I could help haul in supplies, or learned something useful like one of the building trades, or become a firefighter or pilot like I wanted to as a boy. I feel like I should put on hold my duties to the Network, grab my work boots and gloves, and go east, a volunteer.

What can writers do at a time like this? Is it enough to bear witness and keep accounts, as Wilmington’s Taylor Brown did so effectively in Tuesday’s New York Times? Is it worth the effort to study and warn of the effects of changing weather patterns and coastal overdevelopment, when generations of very fine writers—from Rachel Carson to North Carolinians Scott Huler and David Gessner (among many others)—have done just that…and Florence came anyway?

What can an organization like the Network do in a time like this? We can share this list of Hurricane Florence Relief and Recovery Resources, compiled and posted by the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits.

We can have at the Fall Conference collection boxes where registrants can donate needed items for hurricane victims, as we did after Matthew, the last catastrophic, “once-every-500-years” hurricane and flooding to hit North Carolina, all of two years ago. We’re going to get tired of doing that, though, if we’re going to have to do it every other year (or more).

Maybe all we can do, maybe the best we can do, is keep the faith: faith that stories can save lives, too, and that a society needs language and memory just as much as it needs roads and bridges and grids, that in fact you can’t have the one without the other. Maybe the best we can do is keep the light on, if you will, even when the power’s out.

Reading Is Like Burpees for the Brain

If you want rock-hard abs, a slower heart-rate, or biceps like cantelopes, you have to exercise. (It also helps to eat right.) The point is, there are definite steps you can take to acheive your physical goals.

But what if you want to be a better human? To develop deeper empathy? To be smarter?

A recent article in The Big Think, “How reading rewires your brain for more intelligence and empathy,” argues that these goals are no different than a desire to bench-press 350. You can train and develop your most human traits through reading.

Although a quarter of American children never learn to read, recent studies show that reading helps with emotional intelligence (making smarter decisions about those around you) as well as “fluid” intelligence, or the ability to react and interact through thought-out, reasonable ways.

All of these benefits require actually reading, which leads to the formation of a philosophy rather than the regurgitation of an agenda, so prevalent in reposts and online trolling. Recognizing the intentions of another human also plays a role in constructing an ideology.

Novels are especially well-suited for this task. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others.

Reading also boosts memory (important for those of us getting up there in years); helps us develop more meaningful personal relationships; and lengthens our attention span.

Banned Books Week is coming up in just a few days. What better time to make a resolution to pay as much attention to your mind as your waistline?

Get to your nearest library and read me twenty pages, recruit!

An Open Letter to Regional Reps, Present and Future

By Glenda Council Beall, Program Coordinator, NCWN-West

Glenda Council Beall

Dear NCWN-West Representatives and other Regional Reps,

I hear from some of you that the attendance of your free monthly meetings have fallen in recent months.

If you host an Open Mic event, consider how it might be made more appealing. Ask those who come each month for their input on how to make Open Mic more interesting and helpful. Reps receive a listing of the members in their county. Contact any new members and welcome them. Invite them to attend.

What about asking someone to give a talk on writing instead of simply a reading? Perhaps a featured reader could take ten minutes of his or her time before the reading to tell about how they write or how they schedule his or her time for writing and working, etc.

Have a short program for writers before a reading and Open Mic event.

Make sure poets and prose writers feel the meeting is helpful to them. If you are the only rep in your county, let’s get another to work with you. It is easy to get discouraged when you work alone. Another mind with new thoughts and ideas could be very helpful. If you are a person who can’t work with others, then this position might not be the best for you.

Leaders think of others first and how to reach the goals of the meeting. Do you give those attending a good reason to come, and do you listen? Becoming a rep is not just a platform to promote a book, although good reps become known and, hopefully, liked and appreciated. This can lead to book sales, but don’t use your volunteer position to promote yourself.

NCWN-West reps are representing mountain writers and all of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. They can better serve when they know and keep up with the North Carolina literary community. Try to give some literary news from the state each time you hold a meeting, such as conference dates and information, online workshops, and contests. Charles Fiore, the communications director for NCWN, and Deonna Kelli Sayed, the membership coordinator, send out notices to us regularly. Read them and share them.

Be sure your local library always has copies of our brochure on hand. New members often come from someone picking up the brochure, reading about us, and seeing what we are all about. That is how I became a member.

Be sure to hand out, or have available, the brochures at every meeting. I will mail them to you when you need more.

Thank you for all you do for writers, and I hope you will contact me if you have any questions or suggestions for our reps or for me.

NCWN-West and all of the regular regional rep meetings are programs of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. We are fortunate to have it, and we must lead with care if we want it to continue.

Thank you,
Glenda Council Beall

**

Glenda Council Beall’s poetry collection, Now Might As Well Be Then, was published by Finishing Line press in 2009. A family history, Profiles and Pedigrees: Thomas Charles Council and His Descendants, was published in 1998.

Glenda hosts Coffee with the Poets and Writers at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville on the third Wednesday morning of the month. She led North Carolina Writers’ Network-West as Program Coordinator from 2007-2009 and was elected to serve as PC again in 2017. She also serves as Clay County Representative for NCWN-West.

Hurricane Resources for the Arts

As Hurricane Florence approaches, our friends at the North Carolina Arts Council have provided the following recommendations for resources for artists and arts organizations.

As follows:

Resources for Arts Organizations:

Americans for the Arts: Visit AFTA’s Disaster Preparedness page to learn more about preparation and disaster relief in collaboration with the National Coalition of Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response (NCAPER).

ArtsReady
Website: https://www.artsready.org
ArtsReady is a national initiative that is a web-based emergency preparedness resource designed to provide arts organization subscribers with customized business continuity plans for post crisis sustainability.

North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office
Website: http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov
For any local arts council or arts organization housed in a designated historic property the agency provides technical assistance after natural disasters. Offices are located in Asheville, Raleigh and Greenville.

Statewide Hurricane Information
Website: https://readync.org/EN/Index.html
A statewide resource for hurricane preparation and recovery.

Resources for Artists:

Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+)
Website: http://craftemergency.org
CERF+ provides emergency grants and loans to craft artists and maintains resources for emergency readiness and recovery for artists in all disciplines.

Studio Protector
Website: http://studioprotector.org/OnlineGuide/DisasterRelief.aspx
A variety of resources for artists including tips on how to obtain assistance from FEMA and the Small Business Administration.

Gottlieb Foundation
Website: https://www.gottliebfoundation.org/emergency-grant
Funding is available to painters, printmakers, or sculptors, who have been working for at least 10 years, and have recently undergone an unforeseen catastrophic event such as a fire, flood, or medical emergency.

We also are keeping up to date a running list of cancellations and postponements for literary events and schools around the state, here.

Stay safe, all.