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Laura HerbstGREENVILLE, NC—Laura Herbst of Pittsboro is the winner of the 2014 Doris Betts Fiction Prize for her story “The Cliffs of Mobenga.”

Herbst will receive a prize of $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and her story will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2015 issue. Herbst also won this year's Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition for her essay about breast cancer.

Herbst has a master's degree in creative writing from North Carolina State University and has published fiction in such venues as The Sun. Her nonfiction has been published in, among other publications, The New York Times, the Raleigh News & Observer, and Popular Science. She lives near Chapel Hill with her husband, where she is at work on a novel set in the imaginary village of Mobenga.

According to Herbst, “The Cliffs of Mobenga” was inspired by her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer and a Fulbright scholar in West Africa. She says her stories are rooted in the moral and imaginative nourishment she received from villagers in Togo.

NCLR fiction editor Liza Wieland explained her choice of Herbst’s story for the prize: “I was deeply moved by this story, by its evocation of place, its deft drawing of character, and by the emotional complexity of the young narrator, who is both attentive translator for her uncle's mission in West Africa and privately grieving daughter. The last sentences, which fairly tremble with raw defiance, are simply extraordinary.”

Wieland has also invited two finalists from the 2014 competition to revise and resubmit their stories for publication consideration, “World Without End” by Taylor Brown of Wilmington and “Big Joy Family” by Jude Whelchel of Asheville.

“I admired ‘World Without End’ for its dark and beautiful writing about murder and vengeance in a coal-mining community,” Wieland said of Brown’s story. “I am reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s injunction that the use of violence in fiction should never be an end in itself, but should show the qualities in the characters which are least dispensable—in this case loyalty and a deep sense of justice.”

Regarding Whelchel’s story, Wieland said, “‘Big Joy Family’ weaves past and present, infants and the elderly, Chinese and American culture into a moving and expansive story that poignantly captures our lives today: messy and crowded with birth and dying, sacrifice and love, punctuated by moments of intense sadness and profound illumination.” Whelchel also recently shared first place for the Network’s Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize.

In all, ninety-seven stories were submitted to this year’s competition. Five other stories were named as finalists: “Developments” by Malinda Fillingim of Leland, “The Box-Maker” by Michael Gaski of Greensboro, “A Donor Heart” by Charles Higgins of Hillsborough, “Thirteen Deer” by Chris Verner of Salisbury, and “Breathing at the End of the Light” by Hananah Zaheer of Durham.

Liza WielandThe annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts, and is sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.

Published since 1992 by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, the North Carolina Literary Review has won numerous awards and citations.

Fiction Editor Liza Wieland is the author of three collections of short stories, three novels, and one collection of poetry. Her fourth novel, Land of Enchantment, will be published by Syracuse University Press in spring 2015.

A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2014 issue, featuring the winner from the 2013 Betts competition, as well as the 2015 issue, featuring Herbst’s winning story from this year’s competition. Go to www.nclr.ecu.edu/subscriptions/ for subscription instructions, and subscribe by June 1 to avoid postage charges.

 

Susan Levi WallachDAVIDSON, NC—Susan Levi Wallach of South Carolina and Jude Whelchel of Asheville, NC, have been selected by final judge Marianne Gingher of UNC-Chapel Hill as the co-winners of the 2014 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. They will split the $1,000 first-prize award. 

Wallach’s story, “A Still Life,” mesmerized Gingher.

“I haven’t been able to get this story out of my head since I read it," Gingher said. "The language is vivid, lyrical at times, visceral....There isn’t a single false moment or overwrought sentence in this spare, heartbreaking story.”

Wallach is a freelance editor with an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her story, “Another Day for Monkeys,” won the 2013 Porter Fleming Literary Competition in fiction.

Gingher felt equally strong about Jude Whelchel’s “Mother in a Boneyard World."

Jude Whelchel“What I admired most,” she said, “was the musicality of the ‘voice’ in the story....The marvelous stoicism of Dew’s mama touched and heartened me. She seems to be a force in the world as unstoppable as Motherhood itself.”

Whelchel’s fiction has appeared in The Sequoya Review and The Potomac Review. A graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, she is an Episcopal priest and mother.

Gary V. Powell of Lake Norman, NC, received an honorable mention for “Rusty Luvs Suzie." Powell, a retired lawyer, has had several stories selected as finalists in national contests, including Glimmer Train, The Press 53 Prize, and The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2008).

“I liked the energy in this story," said Gingher. "The author’s obvious enjoyment of characterizing an entire town through the eyes of a sheriff on the brink of retirement....Strong and endearing characters made this story one of my favorites.”

Marianne GingherGingher, a well-known novelist, short-story writer, and Professor of English and Creative Writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, selected the three winners from a group of eleven finalists sent to her by preliminary judge David Radavich of Charlotte. These included “City Streets” by Enid Harlow, “Summer Enrichment” by Betty Joyce Nash, “The Relic” by Caryn Sutorus, “Altar Call at Possum Trot” by Jessica Walker, “Burial” by George Harrar, “The Second First Time” by Paula Brancato, “Broken Things” by Jane Shlensky, and “The End of Dr. Moses” by Emmet Hirsch. Gingher especially commended “The Burial” and “The End of Dr. Moses.”

These eleven finalists were selected from over 200 entries, the largest number since the competition was inaugurated by the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Contest coordinator Anthony Abbott attributed the increase to the fact that stories can now be submitted online. The final judge for the 2015 competition will be novelist Lee Smith.

 

Jacinta V. WhiteGREENSBORO, NC—Pre-registration for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2014 Spring Conference is now closed. On-site registration will be open 8:00-9:00 am on Saturday, April 12, in the MHRA Building at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Spring Conference offers a full day of workshops, panels, conversations, and more. Nancy Peacock, author of the novel The Life & Times of Persimmon Wilson, will lead a two-part fiction workshop. Jonathan Farmer, Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor of At Length magazine and the poetry critic for Slate, will lead a two-part creative nonfiction workshop.

And this year, the Network will introduce a new programming feature: instead of a traditional keynote address, Jacinta V. White will lead a special session of the national program, "One City, One Prompt."

Other offerings include poetry workshops with Mark Smith-Soto and John Thomas York; fiction workshops with Kim Church and Drew Perry; and a workshop titled “Writing from Experience” led by Steve Mitchell and Carol Roan, appropriate for writers of all genres. The dynamic tandem of Peggy Payne and 2014 Piedmont Laureate Carrie Knowles will teach writers to “Market Your Book—with Imagination.”

The day’s program includes a panel discussion: “Writing about War” with Robin Greene, Paul Stroebel, and Sharon Raynor. Award-winning children’s author Kelly Starling Lyons will introduce would-be authors to the field through her workshop, “So You Want to Write a Children's Book.” And bestselling author Linda Rohrbough will lead a workshop titled “How to Make an Elevator Pitch,” a class that is highly encouraged for those attendees wanting to take advantage of the Speed Pitch special session at the end of the day.

In the special session of “One City, One Prompt,” Greensboro poet and facilitator Jacinta V. White will provide an overview of the One City, One Prompt program, and begin an opening dialogue on this year's theme: “Begin Again.” Jacinta will then provide a prompt and attendees will write. The session will close with sharing of and reflections on the work the prompt produced, as well as some brief information for those who might want to bring One City, One Prompt to their own towns.

In addition to new programming, familiar features will remain, including faculty readings, the open mic for conference participants, an exhibit hall packed with publishers and literary organizations, and “Lunch with an Author,” where conference-goers can spend less time waiting in line and more time talking with the author of their choice. Spaces in “Lunch with an Author” are limited and are first-come, first-served. Pre-registration and an additional fee are also required for this offering.

The NCWN 2014 Spring Conference is sponsored in part by the Greensboro News & Record. UNCG’s Creative Writing Program—a co-sponsor of the Spring Conference—will provide free parking for registrants in the adjacent Oakland Avenue Parking Deck.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.

 

 
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