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Jaki Shelton Green Named NC Poet Laureate

From our friends at the North Carolina Arts Council:

Jaki Shelton Green, NC Poet Laureate

Governor Roy Cooper today announced that poet, teacher, and community arts advocate Jaki Shelton Green will serve as North Carolina’s ninth poet laureate.

“Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature,” Governor Cooper said. “Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”

Green is the first African American and the third woman to serve as the state’s ambassador for poetry and the spoken word. She will be installed during a public celebration later this summer. Green succeeds Shelby Stephenson, who was named poet laureate Feb. 2, 2015.

A native of Orange County, Green has been active in North Carolina’s literary and teaching community for more than 40 years. She has penned eight books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and written one play. She is a 2014 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee and was the recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2013.

“Jaki is an award-winning poet with a strong commitment to use poetry as a platform for building bridges across race, religion, age, gender, and identity,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “What a welcome addition she is to the tradition of poet laureates in North Carolina.”

Green currently teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. Over the last 40 years, she has taught poetry and facilitated creative writing classes at public libraries, universities and community colleges, public and private schools and with literary organizations across the U.S.

“I am deeply touched to be named poet laureate,” Green said. “To serve as North Carolina’s representative for poetry and the spoken word is a tremendous honor.”

She plans to focus her efforts on the creation of documentary poetry, working with North Carolina communities to explore the ways they document their unique regional histories and significant historical events.

As a community arts advocate, Green has created and facilitated programs that serve various audiences and populations, including the incarcerated, homeless, chronically and mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, public and private schools, literacy programs, immigrants, and community economic development and social justice nonprofits.

“The Poet Laureate program is one of the most important ways that we celebrate and share our state’s literary heritage with the people of our state,” said Wayne Martin, Executive Director, N.C. Arts Council. “The Poet Laureate is a symbol of North Carolina’s achievements in poetry and our writers’ contributions to our national cultural legacy.”

Green’s awards also include a 2017 Duke University Faculty Travel Grant to the Alhambra Cultural Center International Prose Poem Symposium in Marrakech, Morocco, and the 2016 Kathryn H. Wallace Award for Artists in Community Service, through the Triangle Community Foundation. She was named inaugural N.C. Piedmont Laureate in 2009, and won the Sam Ragan Award for Contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina in 2007. She has judged poetry for schools, anthologies, and celebrated prizes such as the Julie Suk Poetry Award, North Carolina Poetry Society, the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival, and Poetry Out Loud.

Green’s poetry has been widely choreographed by dance companies including the Chuck Davis African American Dance Company in conjunction with the Kennedy Center and the Nasher Museum at Duke University; Murmurations Dance; Two Near the Edge Dance Company; Danca Nova Dance Company, in collaboration with the Colorado Naropa Dance Institute; and Miami City Ballet.

About the North Carolina Arts Council
The North Carolina Arts Council builds on our state’s long-standing love of the arts, leading the way to a more vibrant future. The Arts Council is an economic catalyst, fueling a thriving nonprofit creative sector that generates $2.12 billion in annual direct economic activity. The Arts Council also sustains diverse arts expression and traditions while investing in innovative approaches to art-making. The North Carolina Arts Council has proven to be a champion for youth by cultivating tomorrow’s creative citizens through arts education. Learn more at

Chapel Hill Kicks Off Great American Read Series

You may have noticed in yesterday’s NCWN Weekly e-Blast an opportunity for readers to let UNC-TV know about their favorite book. In return, readers have the chance to win some righteous Great American Read schwag and be named “Reader of the Week.”

As part of the build-up to the re-launch of GAR, there’s a lot of stuff happening around the nation. Here’s a press release we received earlier this week from the Chapel Hill Public Library:

“How do stories of love help us navigate relationships in our own lives? Why are we drawn to heroic characters? And what do villains, monsters, and evil forces tell us our own darkest desires? As part of PBS’ Great American Read, Chapel Hill Public Library is hosting a series of panel discussions to ask these big questions about how literature helps define the human experience. The first talk, titled “What We Do For Love,” starts at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.

“Chapel Hill Public Library, in partnership with UNC-TV and Carolina Public Humanities, has received a grant from the American Library Association to create a series of five panel discussions based on the five themes from the PBS series: What We Do for Love, Heroes, Other Worlds, Who Am I?, and Villains.

“The Great American Read is an eight-part television series and multi-platform initiative that celebrates the joy of reading. The television show features interviews with celebrities, superfans and everyday Americans discussing the way particular books have influenced them. The talks at CHPL bring the focus more firmly into the community by featuring authors, academics, and locals from the Triangle community.

“Thursday’s talk features Susan Friedman, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Compass Center for Women and Families; Mary Floyd Wilson, Chair, Department of English at UNC Chapel Hill; Jonathan Weiler and Anne Menkens, Co-Authors, Divorce: A Love Story; Barbara Claypole White, Author, The Promise Between Us; Erin Knightley, author, The Viscount Risks it All; Max Owre, Executive Director, Carolina Public Humanities will moderate.

“Flyleaf Books will have copies of titles from the Great American Read’s list of 100.

“Panelists and dates for upcoming talks can be found on the library’s website at

“More than 220 public libraries applied for cash grants to support at least three public programs related to the series. Grantees were selected through a peer-reviewed, competitive application process managed by the ALA Public Programs Office. In addition to the cash grants, CHPL receives a DVD collection of the series with public performance rights and a hardcover copy of the companion book, The Great American Read: The Book of Books by PBS.”

Tangled Up in Blue Crow Publishing

It’s immediately clear, upon visiting the website for Blue Crow Publishing, that these are people who love books.

You would think that a passion for all things literary would go without saying, but few publishers seem to show the unbridled enthusiasm and the heart-pounding, unconditional romantic feelings these editors have for the printed word.

Blue Crow Publishing always tries to deliver on five principle statements of belief that ultimately have the authors’ best interests in mind. These include:

  • Authors should be treated with honesty and respect
  • Books should be beautiful and of high quality
  • Great writing is not limited by genre
  • The best books are sometimes overlooked by publishers
  • All authors deserve a voice, especially those whose writing the publishing world has so often turned its back on

To these ends, Blue Crow Publishing carries three imprints:

Authors include Lauren Falkenberry (The Bayou Sabine Series), Katie Rose Guest Pryal (The Hollywood Lights Series), and Avery Laval (Sin City Tycoons).

Blue Crow authors are frequently interviewed on blogs, including popular sounding boards run by Emily Colin and USA Today. For the full news round-up, click here.

Impressively, they accept submissions all year ’round—a rare practice these days, indeed. However, Blue Crow Books and Goldenjay Books are accepting submissions right now through referral only; Raven Books is open to unsolicited manuscripts.

Visit Blue Crow Publishing on the web at or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

NC Literary Awards Deadline Looms

Each year, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources hosts The North Carolina Awards, which aim to promote interest in the literary arts all across the Tar Heel State.

We thought you might be interested in four awards in particular, all of which have deadlines of July 15.

The Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction recognizes “the most significant work of original fiction writing published over the course of the last year by a North Carolina author.” Sponsored by the Historical Book Club of North Carolina, Terry Roberts won in 2016 for That Bright Land.

The Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry is given to “the most significant work of original poetry published over the course of the last year by a North Carolina poet.” Sponsored by the Roanoke-Chowan Group of Writers and Allied Artists, NC poet laureate and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Shelby Stephenson won in 2016 for Elegies for Small Game.

The American Association of University Women’s Award for Young People’s Literature honors “the most significant work of original juvenile literature published over the course of the last year by a North Carolina author.” Sponsored by AAUW of North Carolina,  Sheila Turnage won in 2016 for The Odds of Getting Even.

The Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction is given for achievement in nonfiction, this award honors Sam Ragan, poet, critic, publisher, founder (and inductee) of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, and the first secretary of the present North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Sponsored by the NC Literary and Historical Association, Karin Zipf won in 2016 for Bad Girls at Samarcand: Sexuality and Sterilization in a Southern Juvenile Reformatory.

All but the Ragan Old North State Award (est. 2003) were established in 1953.

For a work to be eligible for consideration for these competitions:

  • It must be an original book published during the twelve months ending June 30 of the year for which the award is given;
  • Its author(s) must have maintained legal or physical residence, or a combination of both, in North Carolina for the three years preceding the close of the contest period; and
  • Three (3) copies of each entry must be submitted to the Awards Coordinator for the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association no later than July 15 of the year for which the award is given.
  • In reaching a decision, members of each panel of judges will consider creative and imaginative quality, excellence of style, universality of appeal, and relevance to North Carolina and her people.

For the Old North State Award, the extent to which the author has covered the subject, making use of all available source materials, giving a well-balanced presentation, and accomplishing the purpose the author set out to achieve also will be considered. Technical and scientific works are not eligible. All works will be judged without regard to length.

In the fiction category, self-published and subsidy published works will not be considered.

For full guidelines, and to submit, click here.

The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources oversees the state’s resources for the arts, history, libraries and nature. They’re home to the state’s twenty-seven historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, thirty-nine state parks and recreation areas, the NC Zoo, the N.C. Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the NC Arts Council, State Preservation Office, Office of State Archaeology, the African American Heritage Commission, and the Office of Land and Water Stewardship.

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.