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NC Literary Hall of Fame

 

 

Anthony S. Abbott is Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College. He is the author of two novels and seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which, The Angel Dialogues, was published by Lorimer Press in March of this year. His 2011 collection, If Words Could Save Us, was the co-winner of the Brockman Campbell Award of the NC Poetry Society. His 2003 novel, Leaving Maggie Hope, won the Novello Award. He taught English and creative writing at Davidson for nearly forty years, and was chair of the department from 1989 to 1996. He also served as President of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, The Charlotte Writers' Club, and, most recently, the North Carolina Poetry Society. He teaches writing workshops in Charlotte, Davidson, and Winston-Salem.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Tony will teach the workshop "Poetry 101." It's everything you wanted to know about poetry but were afraid to ask (in ninety minutes). We will review the basic elements of poetry—imagery, metaphor, form and free verse, sound and rhythm, and look at some ways these various elements can be combined to make a fresh and moving poem. The instructor will supply examples.

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If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
I would be Mary Oliver. I would love to have her remarkable ability to look at things and see into them. I find her vision absolutely stunning.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
“Passionate, engaging, original.”

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Don’t be afraid. Write what you have to write, and don’t edit it. Hold on to it, and one day you will know what to do with it. If you don’t write it when you first have it, you will lose it.

In 2013, Forbes named Charlotte among its list of Best Places for Business and Careers. What makes Charlotte such a vibrant place to visit and live?
I have lived in Davidson, a small town twenty miles north of Charlotte, for fifty years. When we came to Davidson, people welcomed us openly and made us feel part of the community. That warm and caring community continues to nurture us fifty years later.

Why do you feel it's important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
When I first started writing, I had almost no contact with other writers, with people like me. Conferences give us a chance to be with one another and feel the support of others like ourselves. In North Carolina, especially, writers are a genuine community. You might meet someone at a conference who will become a true friend….

Saturday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "Words in Civic Life." Does creative writing have a role to play outside the covers of a book?
Of course it does. I didn’t really know how black people felt until I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Poems, novels, essays change us—they allow us to experience what it is like to be someone else from the inside. Literature is a humanizing force

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop, panel, or Mart?
Often people who are just starting out lack the tools to adequately shape their vision. I hope my workshop will give them some of those important tools and do it in an interesting and helpful way. I want them to have fun while they are learning.

What does it mean for writers to "Network?" Any tips?
When we founded the North Carolina Writers' Network we realized that many writers lived in communities where they felt isolated from many of the important things going on in writing centers like Raleigh, Durhm, Chapel Hill. To Network really means to be in touch with what is going on and to become a part of it. If Sharon Olds is coming to Duke, I want to know about it even if I live two or three hours away. A network can help keep me alive as a writer.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
The Bible.

Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
I have enjoyed Poetry very much. For fiction, The New Yorker is absolutely essential. Wonderful stories.

Can writing be taught?
Yes. You can’t teach talent or genius. A gift is a gift, but we can always help people improve. We can teach people to be better writers than they are.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
I really don’t know. Frost, Yeats, Eliot, Dickinson, Whitman, Olds, Oliver—poets I dearly love. And Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Have you ever had writer’s block? What is one thing that helped you overcome it?
The most important thing is life experience. When something powerful happens, then we write about it. With no life experiences, we dry up inside. Passon comes from life. Then we write about it.

Someone writes an unauthorized biography about your life. What would the title be?
The Man Who Limped Toward Heaven.

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Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.

 

Zelda Lockhart’s poetry can be found in Obsidian Journal, a publication of North Carolina State University; Calyx: A Journal of Women’s Art and Literature, and the North Carolina Literary Review, among others. She is the award-winning author of the novels Fifth Born, Cold Running Creek, and Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle. She was the Piedmont Laureate for North Carolina’s Triangle region, won a Barnes & Noble Discovery Award, and was finalist for both a Hurston/Wright Award and a Lambda Literary Award. She lives in Hillsborough on the 3.5 acres of land that she recently converted into LaVenson Press Studios, which offers a series of workshops, hosts a literary magazine, and feeds participants from its organic garden. Visit the Studio’s website, www.LaVensonPressStudios.com, or Zelda’s website at www.zeldalockhart.com.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Zelda will lead a workshop titled "The Mirror Exercise: Producing a Whole Short Work in Less Than an Hour." In this workshop, participants produce raw material from “The Mirror Exercise,” which is a segment of Zelda’s forthcoming book, The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript. The four short prompts of this exercise help participants produce a whole short piece of fiction, memoir, or poetry during the workshop. This includes a quick training on how to get in the creative zone quickly and access your best work. This workshop teaches invaluable skills for maintaining daily writing while leading a very busy life.

Register now!

 

What are you reading right now?
I am reading my own manuscript, The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript, over and over to clean it up. I'm also reading Catching Fire, so that I can engage intelligently with my daughter as she talks about Katniss and President Snow and those guys.

Where is your favorite place to write?
On my screeened-in porch, watching the hummingbirds come to the bergamot in summer, watching the wild turkeys in fall, watching the deer and red crested piliated woodpeckers against the bleak backdrop in winter, and watching listening to the tree frogs in spring.

If you weren't a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
If I wasn't writing and teaching about writing, which is really expressing and teaching about expression, I'd be expressing in some format (singing, dancing, playing the guitar—all things I do), and I'd be teaching about it.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
My children.

If you could switch places with one fictional character, who would it be?
None of them, they have some hellish lives.

What do you hope attendees takeaway from Fall Conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop?
I'd like for attendees to leave feeling hell-bent on expressing themselves from an emotional, psychological, and spiritual base, because that is the vulnerable stuff that good art is made of.

Charlotte is known as both "The Queen City" and "The Hornet's Nest." Does one of those nicknames ring more true for you than the other?
No, I think Charlotte is cool. My son, partner, and granddaughter recently moved from there, and I miss visiting. So, my association with the city is one of walks to the coffee shop, ice cream shop, and chalk drawings on the sidewalk with the grand.

Sunday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "The Many Paths to Publication." What's the first thing you ever published?
I believe it was a poem: "The Same Jesus," published in Sinister Wisdom Journal in 1995.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
Soul-Stirring, Life-Affirming, Spritually-Death-Defying. :)

What is the most frustrating or rewarding part of the writing process?
Frustrating: When the coffee was decaf. Rewarding: When the coffee was espresso.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Invest in Kleenex for the tears, and a corset for the gutt-busting laughter.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
The English-French dictionary. The English language is too analytical. Doesn't work well for a poet's heart.

Describe your ideal literary festival. Who would give the keynote address? Who would be the featured readers? What else?
It would be in a clearing in the woods. The keynote would be given my these two gangster hawks that hang around my house who yell all the time to let everyone know how tough they are. The featured readers would be the coyotes who are stealing, raiding, and pillaging everything they encounter. In their exposition, they'd give the backstory of why they formed gangs, what they were afraid of, and how they hope to find redemption. What else? What else is there after all that. Wait, yes, there would be the most amazing vegetarian feast served up on the backs of box turtles. Giggle—no, I don't drink.

Do you steal hotel pens?
Of course!!!!!

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Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.

 

Moira Crone, whose works have appeared in The New Yorker, Oxford American, and Fiction, is the award-winning author of six books, including her newest novel The Ice Garden. Her previous book, The Not Yet, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award for best science fiction paperback of the year in 2013. In 2009, she received the Robert Penn Warren Award from the Southern Fellowship of Writers for the body of her work. Her website is www.moiracrone.com.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Moira will lead a fiction workshop titled, "World-Building." World-Building, a term from speculative and science fiction, means creating an imaginary, alternative setting for a story, which can include history, customs, beliefs, ecology—and conditions contrary to what we encounter in “reality.” An author who switched from realism to speculative fiction with distinguished results talks about developing such an invented world—either slightly divergent from our own, or made up from whole cloth—and writing stories within it. She gives exercises to jumpstart the process.

Register now!

 

If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
In terms of breadth of vision and the stakes in life, Tennessee Williams, or Flannery O’Connor. For language, Truman Capote or Carson McCullers.

Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
Riveting, vivid, wise.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
That the most important thing to develop as a writer is an understanding of the difference between kinds of negativity. There is a negative view of one’s work that is needed—you must be critical and look for all things that are lacking when you revise and edit. But there is a negative view of one’s work that is destructive—what this feels like is, you see so many flaws you don’t see what the worth of the entire enterprise could be. But an artist can’t be nihilistic. She’s making something—however flawed. Being a writer, or anyone who does creative work, means believing in the invisible, the imaginary, and then make it manifest. Great faith and small faith should always be cultivated, even when rejection comes from others, or hard criticism is needed, or you don’t know what to do next. All creative people have a sense of a vacuum, which propels them to go forth and make something to fill it. This sense of absence shouldn’t be a cause for despair—that’s the mistake. It should be energizing, but not taken too seriously.

In 2013, Forbes named Charlotte among its list of Best Places for Business and Careers. What makes Charlotte such a vibrant place to visit and live?
I have never been to Charlotte. So I am looking forward to finding out the answer.

Why do you feel it's important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
Writers conferences give everyone a sense of both the art of writing and of reading. Writing is a lonely pursuit. And meeting other writers and editors is a way to stay connected. Listening to writers talk about their works is energizing for readers and for everyone involved.

Saturday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "Words in Civic Life." Does creative writing have a role to play outside the covers of a book?
Novels and stories make worlds. These worlds have an impact upon everyone. They give us a community, and they make us see things about ourselves that, otherwise, we would not see. Reading broadens us, and really, teaches empathy. The teaching of “creative writing,” shows students who otherwise wouldn’t have imagined it, that they can have a voice, a point of view—they have the right to be the “author” or the “authority.” Creative writing classes can lend power and confidence to people, and this is good for everyday discourse in the community—not just in the world of letters. In New Orleans, we have a series of books called The Neighborhood Story Project. Poor young people in a variety of neighborhoods in the city have told their own stories, described their lives from the inside, not as seen by more privileged people who are at a distance. This sort of exploration makes this world a better place. Writing, reading, and the teaching of writing is the very soul of civilized society. In my home in New Orleans I have a salon. Once a month people come and share their art—storytelling, poetry, history, architecture, music, painting—creative life and social life merge. This is, in part, a way for the artists young and old in the city, to bond. This is a civic function, also. It gives artists fellowship.

What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop?
I hope that attendees will come away with greater knowledge of approaches to speculative fiction, if they come to my workshop. Also, in general, I hope people will learn more about the practice of writing, and find out things they can share with others.

What does it mean for writers to "Network?" Any tips?
Real networking is the same as having a lot of genuine friends with whom you share a common interest and a common love. Writing is a form of communication, and if you communicate with other writers you are spending time with people who are really serious about saying what they mean. What better people to communicate with? It is a blessing to know writers and others in writing and publishing—this knowledge supports you. A “network,” is the group you are thinking about when you sit down to write—those you know will react, respond, understand, and help you with your writing. And, in turn, you will read and respond and help those who are part of your circle. The writers I know who have “burned out,” and stopped writing, are those who have isolated themselves from the community of writers, or somehow did not see the importance of the social context of their enterprise.

If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
Works of Shakespeare. Works of Jorge Luis Borges; works of Flannery O’Connor.

Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
Yes, I read literary journals. I read Callaloo. I read The New Orleans Review. I read Image Journal, and Parabola. In the past I have read Hunger Mountain, and Creative Nonfiction. I read the Oxford American.

Can writing be taught?
Many aspects of writing can be taught—technique, how to pace or organize a novel or short story, form and voice, grammar. This cannot be taught: desire to write, ambition to do as well as one can, yearning to do or say something on the page that is really worth saying, and saying well. These things come from the inside of a person and they cannot be taught. And they shouldn’t be. Nobody should become a writer unless she has a strong desire to lead the life. You can teach someone to write good sentences with no errors. You can’t teach them to write unique sentences, or to want to say something unique.

Who has influenced your writing style the most?
I love Grace Paley and Carson McCullers.

Have you ever had writer’s block? What is one thing that helped you overcome it?
Yes, I have had writer’s block. Writer’s block says, nothing is worth saying, or what I have to say will never be good enough—this trips up a person before she even begins. Something else: endless revising of a single piece of writing is an advanced, and severe, form of writer’s block. If you know someone who has been writing the same novel for years and years and years, and not producing anything else—she has writer’s block. This has helped me with writer’s block: Working for a time in another art, such as painting where I am an amateur. Something that frees my brain and helps me drop my internal critic. What is nourishing is recovering the feeling of the naturalness of creative endeavor. Lucinda Williams has a song with the line, “You took my joy, I want it back.” That’s writer’s block. That’s the thing—you need the joy or it’s not worth doing, no matter the other rewards. Once you have your joy back, you can see your writing with fresh eyes.

Someone writes an un-authorized biography about your life. What would the title be?
She Meant It.

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Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.

 

 
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