Skip to content

Native Son, Famously Adapted by NC Playwright, Receives New Treatment

Richard Wright’s 1939 novel Native Son sold 250,000 copies in hardcover within three weeks of being published. Not without controversy for its unflinching portrayal of the racial divide in America that existed at the time, Native Son has remained in print despite being frequently banned and challenged.

North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Paul Green adapted the novel for Broadway. Directed by Orson Welles, it ran for 114 performances in 1941. Wright also adapted his novel for the stage.

(North Carolina Writers’ Network members, of course, will be familiar with the play Native, written by North Carolina’s Ian Finley, which tells the story of the fateful collaboration between Paul Green and Richard Wright during the adaptation of Wrights’ Native Son. An excerpt from this play was performed at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference.)

Now, Native Son will be introduced to a new generation of citizens through an adaptation by Nambi E. Kelley, running September 11-29 at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. The production will be directed by Colette Robert.

The Chicago Tribune called this show “gutsy, powerful, relentless.” The show runs ninety minutes with no intermission. Playmakers offers this warning:

Due to rough language, adult situations, and racially-charged scenarios in pre-Civil Rights Era Chicago, we encourage all patrons to use their own discretion in determining the appropriateness of the material.

For tickets, click here.

Other venues around the Triangle will offer opportunities for community engagement.

On Monday, August 26, the Stanford L. Warren Branch of Durham County Public Libraries will host a discussion of Native Son with PlayMakers’ cast and directors.

Through August 8, the Chapel Hill Public Library has issued a call for artists. Anyone who submits an original poster-size work based on the novel or its adaptations will receive four tickets to the show. One grand-prize winner will win $500.

For more on Richard Wright’s Native Son, click here.

Ruocchio Wins Manly Wade Wellman Award

From our friends at The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation:

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation is proud to announce the winner of the 2019 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy, the result of juried selection from the list of finalists, in turn the result of juried selection from an eligibility list of over 80.

The award was presented on Friday, July 12, 2019, at Congregate 6 at the Red Lion Hotel High Point to Raleigh author Christopher Ruocchio for Empire of Silence, published by DAW.

Pitched variously as Dune meets The Book of the New Sun or Dune meets Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Empire of Silence begins a science fantasy trilogy recounting the story of Hadrian Marlowe, heir to an interplanetary fortune, rogue, fugitive, slave pit gladiator, and infamous star-killer, combining deep world-building and beautiful, quotable prose.

The Manly Wade Wellman Award was founded in 2013 to recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy novels written by North Carolina authors. The 2019 award covers novels published in 2018.

The award is named for long-time North Carolina author [and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee – ed.] Manly Wade Wellman with the permission of his estate.

The finalists were the result of juried selection from the final eligibility list, presented in alphabetical order by author last name:

Past winners include A.J. Hartley, John G. Hartness, and Gail Z. Martin.

North Carolina’s first, and for many years preëminent writer of speculative fiction, Manly Wade Wellman’s adult writings were a mix of history, biography, folklore, fantasy, mystery, and true murders. Although his work has been called “science fiction,” he successfully blended his varied interests to create a genre now referred to as “speculative fiction.”

His fascination with Appalachian history and folklore form the basis for his fantastic Silver John series, which features a virtuous folk-ballad-singing young hero who battles supernatural forces of evil in the North Carolina mountains, defending the innocent and timid. Wellman’s numerous works of speculative fiction also include a Martian murder mystery, tales of loathsome alien invaders, and Twice in Time, the story of a man who falls into the fifteenth century and becomes Leonardo da Vinci.

Fresh Literary Tour Coming to Bookstore Near You

From our friends at Dead Rabbits Press and Southern Fried Karma:

This August, two indie presses—Dead Rabbits Books and Southern Fried Karma Press—will embark on the “Fugitives & Rabbits: A Collaborative Literary Tour” across North Carolina in an effort to bring writers, readers, and publishers together to expand and uplift the literary community.

Dead Rabbits Books is a small press based out of New York and Seattle with the mission to publish books that matter in ways that matter. The aim is to make their publishing process as transparent and writer-centric as possible—with a heavy emphasis on the literary community. Having started as a reading series in 2014, Dead Rabbits launched a press in autumn of 2018. Their first title will be out in September 2019.

Based out of Atlanta, SFK Press cultivates diverse voices—literary expressions from Brooklyn’s Williamsburg to Chicago’s Wicker Park. The artist’s path to reach a wider audience is no longer under the exclusive control of corporate gatekeepers that measure acquisitions purely through economic return. Such is the founding premise of SFK Press, whose mission is to publish a million stories speaking to “Y’all Means All.”

Armed with strong missions and values, Dead Rabbits’ and SFK’s literary kinship sparked after a chance meeting through their mutual book designer, Olivia Croom. Since then, a fruitful and innovative partnership has grown, Fugitives & Rabbits merely the latest iteration of that collaboration.

Fugitives & Rabbits has scheduled seven stops through the first week of August, including a climactic celebration at the end of the week in Winston-Salem. Each event is free and open to the public.

Along with a basic schedule for all events, each stop will be tailored to fit the needs of the community therein. Attendees can expect to hear the work of burgeoning authors from each press, meet with the publishers and editors about finding an audience for their work, and join in conversation that connects the literary community. Both presses hope to share their knowledge of the publishing industry while also learning from attendees about how they can support local literary communities. Additionally, many of these events will be recorded and appear on the Dead Rabbits Podcast in an effort to shine a light on writing and work done locally.

● August 5, 7:30 pm: Scuppernong Books in Greensboro
● August 6, 6:00 pm: Bookmarks in Winston-Salem
● August 7, 5:30 pm: Sunrise Books in High Point
● August 8, 6:00 pm: Firestorm Books in Asheville
● August 9, 7:00 pm: Main Street Books in Davidson
● August 10, 12:00 pm: Walls of Books in Cornelius
● August 10, 7:00 pm: Closing Celebration at Finnigan’s Wake in Winston-Salem

Free Registration can be found here:

The Facebook Events can be found here:

The goal of the tour is to promote our presses’ writers—some of whom are from North Carolina—and give them a platform to share their work. We also want to empower writers by arming them with our knowledge of the publishing industry. We hope to make connections with local writers and literary communities to find both manuscripts/voices to publish and passionate folks who want to get more involved in the literary community. Additionally, we want to learn from writers within the NC lit community about what they want to see and how we can improve publishing and the literary community as a whole.

We knew, when toying with the idea of this collaboration, that we wanted to collaborate on a tour of the east coast, between our two presses’ headquarters (New York and Atlanta). SFK Press has released several books by authors from North Carolina and the Editor-in-Chief of Dead Rabbits had lived there for a long time, so had several connections and knew the region well. Both publishers are aware of the thriving literary community in the state, so North Carolina felt like a perfect, welcoming place to launch a collaborative tour.

Featured Authors & Books:

Emerald City by Brian Birnbaum: Set in Seattle, Emerald City follows Benison Behrenreich, the hearing son of Deaf royalty. His father, CEO of a multimillion-dollar Deaf access agency, has bribed Myriadal College officials for Benison’s spot on their powerhouse basketball team, where he struggles to prove himself and compensate for his father’s sins.

Julia Paolantonio has recently lost her father to a drug relapse. Her mother ships her off to live with her estranged granddad, Johnny Raciti, during the summer before her freshman year at Myriadal. Johnny offers her a deal: bring him Peter Fosch—tormented college dropout and the best drug runner west of the Cascades—and he’ll give Julia’s freshly widowed mother a board seat on his mobbed-up securities firm.

When Benison’s father is arrested for defrauding government subsidies for the Deaf, the Behrenreichs are left vulnerable to his company’s ruthless backers—namely Johnny Raciti—forcing Julia and Peter to navigate the minefield left in the aftermath.

Release Date: September 15, 2019.

Swapping Purples for Yellows by Matthew Duffus: Homecoming celebrations and big donor gifts don’t always mean high spirits as a troubled university couple each seek divergent paths to heal their damaged household. When a billionaire grad school dropout unveils plans for a major gift, the Sutherlands must endure the bizarre rituals of rich alumni and reunion receptions. Rob drinks and rants. Molly rolls dice and dreams of winning her own identity. Their gifted teenage daughters push and pull at the rules in opposite directions. Over the course of the weekend, they each confront their deepest secrets and undeniable flaws. A splendid debut novel that navigates a twisted trail of comical regrets and heart-wrenching uncertainty.

Release Date: August 6, 2019.

The Skin Artist by George Hovis: The morning Bill Becker awakes to find the butterfly tattoo bleeding on his chest, his upwardly mobile life begins its downward spiral. Exiled from a corporate career and from the failed marriage he left behind in a gated Charlotte community, Bill becomes obsessed with a tattooed dancer named Lucy, who is running from a trauma buried deep in her own past. Lucy and Bill wrap themselves in new skins of ink, wrought by the same artist, a shaman who convinces them that every design will alter their future. Ultimately, both Bill and Lucy must leave the city and return to the Carolina countryside to confront the skins they have shed many years ago.

New Vivian Howard Show Explores Recipes that Connect Us All

Vivian Howard is perhaps best-known as the founder of the restaurant Chef & the Farmer, the hidden gem of all hidden gems tucked away in Kinston.

Since the restaurant’s founding in 2006, it’s been given a AAA Four Diamond Award seven times; awarded the Wine Spectator Award for Excellence; and Howard herself is a six-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Best Chef in the Southeast.

She’s a beloved television personality as well: A Chef’s Life, the award-winning PBS documentary series centered on the cooking traditions of eastern North Carolina, ended last year after a successful five-season run.

Now she’s turned her attention to storytelling.

Her upcoming PBS series, South by Somewhere, will feature Howard traveling:

through the South meeting with restaurant chefs and home cooks to learn about their specialties and culinary traditions. The chef/TV host will head to North Carolina to eat collard sandwiches with native Lumbee home cooks, she’ll sample convenience store pepperoni rolls in West Virginia coal country, she’ll eat grits and rice middlins with Gullah chefs in South Carolina, and will break bread with Chef’s Table alum Mashama Bailey at her restaurant The Grey in Savannah, Georgia.

It is, as the INDY says, “in-depth” Southern Storytelling, discovering the recipes (and stories) that connect us all.

Howard’s most recent book is Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South. In it, she celebrates the flavors of North Carolina’s coastal plain in more than 200 recipes and stories.

Look for South by Somewhere in the winter or spring of 2020, on PBS.

The Fair Price of Books that May Not Even Be Books at All

While we take every opportunity to encourage book lovers to support their local indie bookstores, we’re not blind: we understand there are many, many ways to aquire books at less than retail price. From whole sale bookstores to Scribd to the Kindle Unlimited program, it’s pretty easy these days to get your hands on a steeply discounted book, or in the case of subscription services, books that cost…well, we really don’t know how much those books cost, do we?

These are the questions being grappled with today by French bibliophiles, according to a recent article in the Economist (log-in required).

“A law passed in 1981 bans the sale of any book at anything other than the price decreed by its publisher,” says the article. “But the advent of e-commerce and e-readers has prompted questions…. Can you fix the price of a book if it is part of an all-you-can-read subscription service? Are audiobooks books at all? And what of authors who self-publish?”

According to The New York Times, “audiobook sales have doubled in the last five years while print and e-book sales are flat.” So with more people listening to their books and no growth in people actually reading, are they the same medium, or different?

Psychology Today offered a fine counterpoint opinion piece, which I’ll summarize here: while listening to audiobooks can be good because you’re engaging with literature at times you wouldn’t be otherwise, such as when you’re washing dishes or working out at the gym, that engagement is not the same engagement as when you’re reading a physical book. Listening to audiobooks is passive; reading is active.

Ultimately, I think it’s fair—necessary even—to consider audiobooks and written texts as fundamentally different mediums. Asking which is superior is a bit like asking, “Should I see the movie or read the book?” or even “Should I read the summary article or the entire book?” They are different forms based on the same work. Which one you should engage depends on what you are willing to give to it (time, above all) and what you hope to get out of it.

Either way, publishers and authors (and in the case of audiobooks, the narrators) need to be paid, regardless of how much the book is selling for.

So what do you think? Same medium, or different?

Out of Many Truths, One Most Beautiful

Over a million people live in the greater Charlotte metro area. While pinpointing a single Charlotte identity can be slippery, each of these million-plus inhabitants has a story to tell.

This is the conceit that inspired Charlotte Lit to launch The Beautiful Truth initiative.

Earlier this year, Charlotte Lit, the non-profit arts center dedicated to celebrating the liteary arts, embarked on an ambitious community plan that recently culminated in the publication of Beautiful Truth, a digital magazine featuring twenty-eight community writers’ essays and poems.

It all began when Charlotte Lit co-founder Kathie Collins designed the multi-phase Beautiful Truth initiative. In January, Charlotte Lit offered twelve public writing workshops to help participants begin to tell their own stories. The workshops were held at Charlotte Mecklenburg library branches, facilitated by a team of twenty-four volunteer writers from curriculum written by Patrice Gopo, author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way (Thomas Nelson, 2018). More than 150 people attended these workshops, with about a third returning in February for two Charlotte Lit workshops on revision.

Finally, participants from the January workshops were invited to contribute to the Beautiful Truth digital magazine. Many of these stories were created from writing prompts.

Contributors include Gopo, Surabhi Kaushik, David E. Poston, Pam Turner, Florence West, Lisa Zerkle, and many more. The collection was edited by Tamela Rich, with a forward by Kathie Collins.

Read the magazine here. (Name and e-mail address required.)

Charlotte Lit was founded in 2016 by Kathie Collins and Paul Reali, who jointly serve as the organization’s executive director. The organization offers year-round programming, including workshops, critique groups, and special literary events.

For more information, visit and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Every Sassy Cat Needs Coddling

Only 1 in 3,000 calico cats are male, and of these, most are sterile. Considered lucky by Japanese sailors, who believed calicos protected them from angry storms and sea monsters, calico cats are overwhelmingly female, independent, sassy—and affectionate. Also, they always appreciate a good pampering.

Calico Paw Books & Gifts in Henderson, which opened in April of this year, has positioned itself as “a mini bookery and spa shoppe for the well-read and pampered woman.” Guys, you can come in too, but from hand-poured candles to stamp cards to author events by writers of YA and upmarket women’s fiction, this store’s focus is on the girls.

They’re looking for local authors to hold events. Interested? Reach out to them on their author contact page.

Reviews on Facebook have complimented the customer service. A nice little “surprise” in the heart of downtown, Calico Paw Books & Gifts is a defiantly local establishment whose focus is on “self-love,” customer satisfaction, and ensuring the quality of their book selection and other products by working with and through trusted distributors.

Follow them on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Final note on calicos: in Irish folklore, they’re said to cure warts!

Please note, this store is located in Henderson, north of Raleigh, not in Western North Carolina!



Arts Council Director to Host Arts Program on WHQR

From our friends at the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, generous sponsors of our 2013 and 2017 Fall Conferences:

Rhonda Bellamy

WILMINGTON—WHQR is pleased to announce a new local arts, culture and events program—Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy—to air on HQR News and Classical HQR beginning July 12.

Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy will be a five-minute interview feature that will air on HQR News (91.3 FM and 98.9 FM) on Fridays at 9:01 am and 3:01 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 7:01 am, 1:01 pm, and 6:01 pm. It will also air on Classical HQR (92. FM 7 fm, 96.7 FM and 102.3 FM) on Fridays at 10:01 am, 1:01 pm and 7:01 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 5:01 am and 11:01 am.

Rhonda will welcome guests from all over the Cape Fear Region, talking about arts, culture, community, and more. Future guests and dates include: weekend of July 19—artists from MC Erny at WHQR Gallery and one other; weekend of July 26—Wilmington Symphony Orchestra.

Rhonda Bellamy is Executive Director of the Arts Council of Wilmington/NHC. She has served on a variety of arts-related boards, including Cameron Art Museum, the Black Arts Alliance, Inc., and the North Carolina Black Film Festival, both of which she co-founded. In addition to her work in the arts, she has more than twenty years of experience in broadcast news. She previously served as news director for Cumulus Media’s five station radio cluster in Wilmington, as well as hosted a daily talk show. Bellamy has also authored and edited three books.

A graduate of North Carolina Central University, she has been honored as Women of the Year-New Hanover Human Relations Commission, YWCA Woman of Achievement in the Arts, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Arts Leaders (StarNews).

WHQR Station Manager says “Rhonda will be a wonderful addition to the WHQR family. Her knowledge of the arts community is unmatched and we are thrilled that she’ll be bringing her history and great voice to WHQR. We can’t wait to feature our local creative community on the air in this new feature.”

Bellamy adds, “It’s my honor to indulge my two passions in life—quality broadcasting and the arts. Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy will showcase the robust creative community that makes southeastern North Carolina such a great place to live, work, and create.”

WHQR Public Media is a non-profit, member-supported, community-based public radio station, broadcasting from Wilmington. A trusted source for NPR and local news, WHQR serves southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina with HQR News at 91.3fm and 98.9fm, and Classical HQR at 92.7fm and 102.3fm. WHQR offers award-winning national and local news, music, entertainment and interaction to expand knowledge, encourage artistic appreciation, engage our community and promote civil discourse.

A Shave and a Haircut…and Storytime

Where I grew up,  there was a laundrymat that also was a rock club, so you could do your laundry, drink a Hudepohl, and take in a live local musical act, all at the same time.

(Sadly, Sudsy Malone’s—revered by rockers who came of age then—closed in 2008 after a 20-plus year run. RIP!)

Businesses do this all the time, of course, perhaps the trendiest current example being the slew of businesses offering “Goats and [Fill in the Blank].”

Barbershops often spin themselves as places not only to get a haircut but also to drink a craft beer, watch sports, enjoy a traditional shave as part of a bachelor party, and more. They’ve always been community hubs.

So it seems natural that Prince Cuts Barbershop in Lexington, Kentucky, has launched a wildly successful “Books and Barbers” program. Kids in Kindergarten through 6th Grade can come in for a haircut and pick out a book they want to read to the barber. Children get to keep the book, and the barbershop will give them three dollars and a sticker on their way out.

This provides male role models for kids who may not have positive influences, and perhaps more importantly, puts books into children’s hands, the overwhelming benefits of which have been long-studied.

I hesitate to mention this to you legion of bibliophiles, who, if you’re like me, are always looking for somewhere to donate books, but yes, Prince Cuts Barbershop is in need of donations: Simon Vanderpool, 606-304-1173.

Doubleback Review Ignites Zombie Apocalypse

Lots of good stuff coming out of Sundress Publications these days, including the resurrection of “dead” creative writing, lost to shuttered journals and defunct online rags.

They’ve launched a new literary journal: Doubleback Review, a publication that “believes out-of-print should not mean out of mind.”

Doubleback Review will print pieces of any genre that were published by a journal that subsequently became defunct. In fact, Doubleback will only publish previously-published work from journals that no longer exist, a notably rare commission for a small indie publication.

“Let us resurrect your dead art,” implores their submission page, “let us love your beautiful zombies.”

This is great news, espeically for those of us who perhaps published stories in online magazines only to see those rags go belly-up and our work disappear into the ether. Doubleback Review offers the possibility that these “lost” published works may live again.

Doubleback Review furthers the mission of Doubleback Books, a Sundress imprint, which creates E-pubs for out-of-print books and collections.

Doubleback Review accepts submissions on a rolling basis for two issues to be published in April and October. Submissions are free. Writers from traditionally marginalized communities are particularly encouraged to submit their work.

For additional information, including submission guidelines and staff bios, visit You can also find Doubleback on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Sundress Publications was founded in 2000. They are entirely volunteer-run, publish chapbooks and full-length works in both print and digital formats, and host a variety of online journals. In 2013, Sundress founded the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) at Firefly Farms, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Nestled in an old-fashioned “holler” just twenty minutes from downtown, this picturesque 45-acre farm is the perfect artists’ residency where visitors can hone their creative crafts as they escape the routine of modern life. SAFTA accepts applications on a rolling basis.

On Tuesday we highlighted Sundress Publications’ new podcast, Shitty First Drafts, in a round-up of quality literary podcasts.