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Ssuan SteadmanSusan Steadman has written for and about the stage throughout several decades as a professional theatre practitioner. Her wide-ranging plays include The Cinderella Chronicles (YouthPLAYS, 2012), performed in five countries, and The Thing with Feathers, which recently appeared in the South Florida Arts Journal and was presented at a national theatre convention. Susan’s competition-winning dark comedies, such as Filling Spaces and Tuesdays We Go to Playgroup, have delighted audiences from New Jersey to Texas. Her publications include Dramatic Re-Visions (ALA), a critically lauded reference work; magazine and journal articles; and contributions to books including Notable Women in the American Theatre. With a Ph.D. in Theatre from LSU, she has taught at universities, schools, camps, and conferences. Along the way, she has staged nearly seventy productions and served as artistic director of a professional theatre for sixteen years. A Dramatists Guild member, she resides in Wilmington, where she launched the Port City Playwrights’ Project.

Susan will lead a workshop at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference titled, "Creating Compelling Characters: What Playwrights Can Learn from Actors." Many approaches to acting also provide valuable tools for the playwright. This workshop will focus on motivation, subtext, choices and economy. Guidelines to improvisation, such as “show, don’t tell,” will also be explored. Through the analysis of short scripts and in-session writing exercises, participants will gain insight into the development of unique characters.

 

What was your favorite book as a child?
Little Women.

If you weren’t a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
Photographer.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wished they had?
You need to be tough.

Any memorable rejections?
To paraphrase Tolstoy: All acceptances are similar. Each rejection is memorable in its own way.

Hemingway wrote standing up; Truman Capote wrote lying down. What posture do you write in?
Slouched back in my desk chair, legs sprawling, when thinking. Hunched over my keyboard when actually writing.

The Cape Fear Coast is a hotbed for the film industry. In your opinion, what has been the best book-to-screen adaptation?
For the most part, as we all know, a film can’t compare to a book. I’m drawing a blank here.

What was the worst?
I don’t know where to start! Memoirs of a Geisha made a fascinating book into a boring film I couldn’t continue watching—but that’s just one of many.

Why do you feel it’s important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
Writers need to discover and recharge, and the conference offers a number of opportunities: meeting other writers and engaging in informal conversation that may be dotted with “aha” moments; attending specific workshops and discovering an approach or tool you can adapt to/use in your own work; getting away from your office (or alcove or kitchen table) and, especially for those with families, enjoying “me” time.

Do you have pet peeves as a reader? As a writer?
As a reader, I have no tolerance for grammatical errors. Reading local newspapers, for example, has become painful. As a writer of stage plays, my pet peeve is productions which ignore my instructions.

Are you scheduled in the time you set aside to write, or is your writing time more flexible than that?
Yes and yes (sorry). I usually write from mid-morning until 2:00 or so, when I break for exercise, snack, or both. On the other hand, inspiration may hurl me into my office at any time of day or night. I’ve also known productive bouts writing on a legal pad at the hairdresser’s or while a passenger on a long car trip.

Do you write to discover, or do you write point-to-point (for example, from an outline)?
I start in discovery mode—“What might happen if?”—then move to an outline (or at least a list of plot points and character traits). All too soon, the characters take on a life of their own, and I can be heard yelling at the screen: “No, I didn’t want you to do that!”

What was the first thing you ever published?
Feature articles in the newspaper of the town in which I attended college.

Who is your favorite North Carolina author?
As a relative newcomer, I’m still working on this one. North Carolina is home to an incredible number of talented writers.

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Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference is now open.

 

Philip Gerard is the author of nine books of fiction and nonfiction, including Down the Wild Cape Fear (2013) and The Patron Saint of Dreams, the winner of 2012 Gold Medal for Essay/Creative Nonfiction from the Independent Publisher. He teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Gerard will lead the Creative Nonfiction Master Class at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference. One of the hardest things for a nonfiction writer to do is to write a detailed, dramatic, factual scene of an event that actually happened, but that he or she was not present to witness. In this workshop, participants will address practical tools of the craft that can be applied to creating such vivid scenes—incorporating a method Gerard calls “triangulation” that uses corroborating, disparate sources to stage a moment of drama acted out by real people in a real place, while remaining loyal to the truthfulness of events. This workshop will look at how this technique can apply also to memoir, to scenes in which we as authors participated, bringing them to a heightened level of suspense and emotional engagement for the reader. In the end, the practical application of craft can lead to an artistic result.

 

What was your favorite book as a child?
It was and remains The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

If you weren’t a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
I'd be on Willie Nelson's bus playing side-man.

What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wished they had?
Be active and tuned in to your publisher—selling the book is the beginning, not the end, of the process.

Any memorable rejections?
A publisher once wrote of a novel: "I loved this book. It's the book I would want to get under the Christmas tree and would buy copies of for all my friends. Unfortunately, it's not right for us."

Hemingway wrote standing up; Truman Capote wrote lying down. What posture do you write in?
Sitting in my writing study.

The Cape Fear Coast is a hotbed for the film industry. In your opinion, what has been the best book-to-screen adaptation?
Deliverance—but it wasn't made here.The director of photography managed to capture the poetry of the country as Dickey wrote it.

What was the worst?
The Prince of Tides: they left out the Prince of Tides.

Why do you feel it’s important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
Writing is solitary. It' s nice to get some encouragement from fellow travelers.

Do you have pet peeves as a reader? As a writer?
Bad punctuation, sloppy word choice, figurative language that seems contrived.

Are you scheduled in the time you set aside to write, or is your writing time more flexible than that?
You have to write like you practice a musical instrument—every day for a period of time.

Do you write to discover, or do you write point-to-point (for example, from an outline)?
Both. An outline is just a treasure map, and not necessarily an accurate one.

What was the first thing you ever published?
A short story called "The Hunters" in the University of Delaware literary magazine. I learned later that it was read out loud by summer campers on the Chesapeake Bay each session at the final campfire—the best audience I never knew.

Who is your favorite North Carolina author?
Ron Rash—for his lyrical intensity and respect for the craft and just plain great writing.

***

Registration for the NCWN 2013 Fall Conference is now open.

 

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH—Registration for the 2013 North Carolina Writers' Network Fall Conference opens in just a few days. The weekend of November 15-17 is going to be packed with workshops, panels, readings, and more, all located at the Holiday Inn Resort in Wrighstville Beach. For writers of all stripes and experience levels, it's one of the most inspirational weekends of the year. And much of it is made possible by the generosity of sponsors.

The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County will sponsor the Welcome Reception on Friday, November 15. Led by Executive Director Rhonda Bellamy, the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County works to establish the region as an arts destination; promote arts-driven economic development; significantly contribute to quality of life in the region; provide a stream of funding to support the sustainability of artists and arts organizations; facilitate communication and collaboration within the arts community; and advocate for the arts at the local, state and national levels. They are now accepting applications for Regional Artist Project Grants from residents in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, and Columbus Counties through September 20.

That night, Clyde Edgerton will give the Keynote Address. This will be followed by a Booksgining and Reception, sponsored by Salt magazine.

Salt is more than a pretty lifestyle magazine. In every issue, they strive to create a magazine of uncommon literary and artistic vision that explores everything from the thriving arts community to their passion for homes and gardens. They celebrate the best of food and wine, and indulge their love of the outdoors. They showcase remarkable people who have shaped Wilmington's past and others who are busy creating its exciting future. Moreover, every issue presents outstanding short fiction and poetry, essays and features that touch the heart and stir the soul.

Saturday morning kicks off with the "Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion: How to Work with a Publisher (So They Want To Work with You)." This panel is sponsored by the Wilmington-based Ecotone/Lookout Books.

Founded as the literary book imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Lookout pledges to seek out emerging and historically underrepresented voices, as well as overlooked gems by established writers. They have published Edith Pearlman's Binocular Vision (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award); Steve Almond's God Bless America: Stories; and John Rybicki's When All the World Is Old: Poems, among others.

Their sister publication, Ecotone, is a semiannual journal that seeks to reimagine place. Contributors have included winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, as well as MacArthur, Guggenheim, and NEA fellows. But they're just as excited to provide a home for exciting new talents.

The Fayetteville-based Veterans Writing Collective will read during Saturday's luncheon. This event is sponsored by the longtime friend of the Network and member of the Board of Trustees, Al Manning. Al is also the Regional Rep for Chatham and Lee Counties, and facilitates Pittsboro's Writer's Morning Out, which meets the second Saturday of every month at Davenport & Winkleperry.

Later that day, Bellamy Mansion will sponsor the Faculty Readings. Bellamy Mansion is one of North Carolina's most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture built on the eve of the Civil War by free and enslaved black artisans, for John Dillard Bellamy (1817-1896) physician, planter and business leader; and his wife, Eliza McIlhenny Harriss (1821-1907) and their nine children. After the fall of Fort Fisher in 1865, Federal troops commandeered the house as their headquarters during the occupation of Wilmington.

Now the house is a museum that focuses on history and the design arts and offers tours, changing exhibitions, and an informative look at historic preservation in action.

Happy Hour immediately follows the Faculty Readings, and these libational sixty minutes are also sponsored by our friends at Salt magazine.

On Sunday morning, attendees will be treated to a second "Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion" titled "Agents and Editors." This panel is sponsored by WHQR 91.3 FM Public Radio. WHQR supports and enhances the artistic life of this region in two basic ways: through their music and cultural programs on the air, and through the other events and promotions they offer. You can stream their station live here.

Registration for the 2013 North Carolina Writers' Network Fall Conference opens soon. Save the dates—and check www.ncwriters.org soon for more information.

 
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