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NC Literary Hall of Fame



Fred ChappellGreensboro, NC—Fred Chappell, described as North Carolina’s “resident genius,” will deliver the keynote address at the 2010 North Carolina Writers’ Network Spring Conference, which takes place Saturday, April 24, from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. in the Elliott University Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The annual event, cosponsored by UNCG’s Center for Creative Writing in the Arts, draws writers from across North Carolina and beyond for intensive workshops in fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, poetry, and publishing, led by distinguished writing faculty. This year’s conference will also feature a Publishing Panel with book and journal editors, a Faculty Reading, an Open Mike Reading for conference attendees, and “Lunch with an Author,” in which attendees share lunch and personal conversation with one of the authors on the faculty.

In 2004, Fred Chappell retired after 40 years in the UNCG English department. During this time he published 26 books of poetry, fiction, and critical commentary. His awards include the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize, the North Carolina Award in Literature, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, eight Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Awards, the Prix de Meilleur des Livres Etrangers (Best Foreign Book Prize) from the Academie Francaise, the Mihai Eminescu Medal from the Republic of Moldova, and the Thomas Wolfe Prize. He was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2006. He served as North Carolina’s Poet Laureate from 1997 until 2002. His latest book of poetry is Shadow Box, published in 2009 by LSU Press. His latest work of fiction, Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories, was published last year by St. Martin’s Press. He lives with his wife, Susan, in Greensboro.

Conference participants may select from a variety of half- and full-day workshops, including “Inspiration Station,” a poetry workshop with poet and Asheville Poetry Review editor Keith Flynn; “Gimme a Break: Breaking Into Nonfiction Publishing,” with author and publisher Malcolm Campbell; “The Morning After: Reclaiming Your Life as a Writer” with NC State University professor Sheila Smith McKoy; “The North Carolina Screenwriter, and Screenwriter as Filmmaker” with Nathan Ross Freeman, the director of the award-winning feature film Mr. Bones; and “The Greatest Writing Prompt Ever” with poet Scott Owens.

Other instructors include Holly Goddard Jones, Chris Roerden, and John McNally on fiction, and Cynthia Nearman and NCWN executive director Ed Southern on nonfiction.

Registration for the conference—made possible with support from UNC Greensboro and the North Carolina Arts Council—is $99 for Network members, $150 for nonmembers.

To register, call 919-251-9140 for more information.


NORTH CAROLINA—Final judge Sheri Reynolds, best-selling author of five novels, named Paul Byall of Savannah, Georgia, the winner of the 2010 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize for his story “Sequestered.” Reynolds said of this story, whose main character, Maggie, finds herself sequestered as a jury member at a murder trial, “This writer brilliantly controls the story’s tempo, moving between scene and summary, between details of the murder and the trial itself. The story is controlled, complicated, and graceful.” Byall will receive $1,000 from the NC Writers’ Network and possible publication in the Thomas Wolfe Review.

Paul Byall was raised in Ohio and studied at Miami University (Ohio) and the University of California. He is the 2008 recipient of the New South Short Story Award and has been a finalist for numerous fiction awards. His first published story, written while a student at the University of California, was selected as one of the one hundred distinguished stories of the year by The Best American Short Stories anthology. He currently lives and writes in Savannah, where he has recently completed a novel, Salvation’s Fire.

Reynolds also selected two honorable mentions: “Official Business” by Mark Connelly of Madison, Wisconsin, and “Burial Ground” by Tracy Knight of Raleigh, North Carolina. Of “Official Business” Reynolds wrote, “Set in post-war Poland, this story follows a single day in the life of a doctor and researcher who is relieved of his duties and taken into custody by the government. In prose both spare and vivid, this writer provides a snapshot of place, time, and politics through a very compelling character.”

And of Knight’s story Reynolds said, “In ‘Burial Ground’ an eleven-year-old watches her brother struggle to bury a beloved dead cat. The narrative voice here is lush, poetic, mysterious, insightful—and still believable. I love the visionary quality of the writing.”

Both Connelly and Knight are experienced fiction writers. Connelly has an MA in creative writing and a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. His fiction has appeared in numerous journals and his novella, Fifteen Minutes,received the 2004 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize from Texas Review Press. Knight is a native North Carolinian, who lives and works in Raleigh. Two of her stories were selected in 2008 as finalists for the Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award sponsored by the Salem College Center for Women Writers. She has a BA in English from Meredith College and has studied fiction writing at North Carolina State University.

Final judge Sheri Reynolds is the author of five novels, the most famous of which, The Rapture of Canaan,was an Oprah’s Book Club selection and New York Times bestseller in 1997. Her most recent novel is The Sweet In-Between (2008). She is a graduate of Davidson College and Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches creative writing and literature classes at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where she won the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia in 2003.

Preliminary judge, David Radavich of Charlotte, North Carolina, also named six finalists, whose stories were read by Reynolds: “The Changeling” and “Let Us Plough, Let Us Build” both by Mark Connelly; “The Once and Missing Captain of Commerce” by Rodney Nelsestuen of Woodbury, Minnesota; “Rainbow” by Gary Powell of Cornelius, North Carolina; “Brea’s Tale” by Karen Pullen of Pittsboro, North Carolina; and “Lying” by Allen Smith of Alexandria, Virginia.

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

Maureen A. Sherbondy

At an early age I set four goals for myself: (1) earn a college degree, (2) marry, (3) have three children (yes, three, I have always been very decisive) prior to thirty, and (4) publish a book.

By twenty-nine I had checked the first three items off my life’s to-do list. Item four eluded me. Get a book published. Was I crazy? What was I thinking? I hadn’t even majored in English in college. I had no publishing contacts, yet I continued to write and read and refine my craft. Alone. It was a solitary act, this writing business. I managed to send some poems and stories out and get a few pieces published. But a book! This task seemed impossible.

Then in 1996 I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. Everywhere I went, someone was either writing or talking about writing—at the local Starbucks, in the YMCA locker room, at temple. For the four years I had lived in Pennsylvania, I had never once bumped into another writer. This state was different, though. Someone told me about the North Carolina Writers’ Network. I was so excited to hear that an active, thriving organization existed for people like me.

Soon, I signed up for my first NCWN conference and felt both excited and terrified. But the other writers, from Tony Abbott to Dave Manning, were so friendly. I remember people wore nametags with their chosen genres scrawled on their tags. This was a great conversation starter. Many friendships took root and blossomed. Writers whose work I admired taught informative, helpful classes. These workshop leaders were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I took notes, learned how to write better, and discovered local journals. On display tables, workshop leaders and other NCWN authors exhibited their books of poetry, fiction, or essays. I remember drooling over the covers. In my head a little voice whispered, One day my book will be on that table. This tangible goal gave me something to work toward. When my mailbox overflowed with rejection letters, when I lost yet another book contest, I thought about my book displayed on that conference table.

If I had not attended the NCWN conferences, I never would have had my first book published. Every time I attended the Fall Conference, I walked the perimeter of the vendor room, where publishers set up tables and sold their books. There, I met Scott Douglass, owner and editor of Main Street Rag Publishing. Every time I returned to the conference, I talked to him, bought some of his fine books. He was publishing wonderful North Carolina poets and poets from other states.

At the 2006 conference, I once again stopped at his table and spoke with him. By this time, my work had appeared in over a hundred literary journals, and my poetry manuscript had landed on the finalist lists of several book contests. But I was frustrated, still missing that elusive book contract. Would I be sending manuscripts to book contests when I was ninety years old? Was this last goal on my list unattainable?

I will remember this next moment always. Later in the conference, as I was talking to Susan Lefler, a poet friend whom I met years earlier at another conference, Scott Douglass tapped my shoulder and said, “I don’t usually do this, but I am inviting you to submit a book to me for consideration.”

My jaw must have dropped. I could hear my heart pounding. At first, I thought he was talking to someone else. I had been waiting my whole life for someone to say these words. So, the rest is history. I sent the book, and After the Fairy Tale was published in 2007. I was ecstatic.

Until then, I had never thought beyond achieving that book publication goal. After a book is published, actually months before, the author becomes a marketer. Having a new goal of selling my book, I quickly learned that the NCWN was an extremely important promotional resource. I was able to post my Web site link on their Web site, to mention my good news in their Book Buzz, and also to announce my upcoming readings in their calendar. And, of course, I returned to the Fall Conference with my books. Standing over the display table there and seeing my first book was a preeminent life moment. On the outside I was calm and quiet, but on the inside I was jumping up and down yelling, “I did it!”

I strongly recommend joining the NCWN for writers who are interested in improving their craft, meeting a community of supportive writers, learning about the publishing universe, and promoting their books and events. The NCWN has, in Frost’s words, “made all the difference” in my book publication journey.

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