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RALEIGH—At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference, November 4-6 in Raleigh, Clare Beams, author of the forthcoming story collection We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout Books, 2016), will teach the fiction class, "Ending Well: Short Story Endings and Their Lessons."

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference is open.

Flannery O'Connor contended that the key to a short story’s success is “an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both the world and eternity.” Because the weight of these demands often falls on a story’s ending, discovering the right way to end is among the most difficult of a fiction writer’s tasks. Through reading and discussion of brief published pieces, and using a short exercise or two, we’ll explore some of the hallmarks of the great short-story ending: that combination of surprise and inevitability that feels final but never, ever neat. Please bring the last page of a draft of a story you’ve written; you’ll be examining this page with fresh eyes to discover how your ending is working, how it could work even better, and how the flaws in your ending can help you recognize earlier flaws in your story and understand how to address them.

We asked Clare, “What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger writer self?”

"Be patient. With the world's response to your writing, but especially with your writing itself. It needs more time than you're expecting—and more work—to become what you want it to be."

Clare Beams is the author of the forthcoming story collection We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout Books, 2016). Her stories appear in One Story, n+1, Ecotone, The Common, Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and have received special mention in The Best American Short Stories 2013 and The Pushcart Prize XXXV. She is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and currently blogs for Ploughshares. After teaching high school English for six years in Falmouth, Massachusetts, she moved with her husband and daughter to Pittsburgh, where she teaches creative writing at Saint Vincent College and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Register for NCWN's 2016 Fall Conference now at www.ncwriters.org.

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

 

RALEIGH—At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference, November 4-6 in Raleigh, award-winning author Eleanora E. Tate will teach a course on writing fiction for children titled "Don’t Pull the Plug on Your Character's Life Support "

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference is open.

In this workshop for writers primarily of middle grade fiction, Eleanora will offer attendees techniques to use to help resuscitate dreary, boring, ailing, languishing characters. During her years of critiquing manuscripts for the North Carolina Writers’ Network and other writing organizations and institutions, she's read hundreds of aspiring writers ’ manuscripts. Though the plots were feasible, the conflict worthy, the setting admirable, and the point of view workable, the main character (and thus the writer) was unable to carry the story forward to resolution because that character was too weak, uninteresting, or just downright pitiful. Attendees should be prepared to discuss problems they're having with their main character by bringing a one-page excerpt /scene with their character in action. Eleanora will also share insights about some other literary weaknesses she's found over the years and how to try to remedy them.

We asked Eleanora, “What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger writer self?”

"Back in my green salad days, I neglected to sufficiently learn definitions of voice, point of view, story arc, and many other terms of literary craft. Maybe that was because I’d sat through boring junior high, high school, and freshman English classes where the study of craft was by slogging through equally boring short stories and books. Nor did I take the time to learn how to apply them accurately enough to my work. This was hard work!

"I preferred to just write. People said what I wrote was good, so that was enough for me. It wasn’t good enough to get my stories published without extensive editorial direction, however. The result was that I wasted hours fruitlessly revising my writing—fruitlessly because I didn’t know what look for to revise. My short stories were known for my settings and my characters, but writing pages of useless sensory description and honoring characters who had 'authentic' voices and no personality didn’t make for good writing, either. Character traits were important. A character has flaws, is never perfect, with enough appealing qualities that readers will be sympathetic to his or her (or even its) peril, and keep reading.

"In my early days I attended a gazillion conferences (International Black Writers Conference with poet Gwendolyn Brooks; Broadside Press Festival of Writing with founder Dudley Randall; Children’s Defense Fund Children’s Book Roundtables with scores of nationally known black writers like Joyce Hansen, Mildred Pitts Walter, Walter Dean Myers, illustrator Tom Feelings; along with the annual International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, and more). But a particular Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont, which I attended one year as a children’s literature Fellow comes to mind. There I sat in awe as such notable writers as Erica Jong, Tim O’Brien, John Irving, Paul Thoreau, and many other writers voiced thoughts about their stories using literary phrases I’d never heard of. Well, yes, I’d heard of them (ahem, back in high school and college) but hadn’t much paid attention. Psychic distance? What in the world did that mean?

"After years of being with sometimes gentle, often aggravated editors, I finally realized that I needed to do my homework—acquire knowledge about definitions and techniques of craft, and then more skillfully apply them to my work. Simple enough. Well, not so much, but necessary. Now with twelve books, numerous short stories, and years of teaching creative writing and children’s literature under my ample belt, I can give the following advice to today’s writers: absorb basic meanings of as many literary terms as you can (refresh yourself, if necessary), then read like a writer to learn to recognize how other writers illustrate these elements of craft in their work. That’s how you’ll learn so that you can write 'mo better' too. It’s impossible to apply ALL techniques of craft to your writing, but you’ll surely employ some. Your stories, poems essays, and books will be the better for it. Mine are."

Eleanora E. Tate has conducted creative writing workshops in schools, community centers, for SCBWI, and in libraries and universities for children and adults for over forty years. A NCWN critiquer, NCWN conference workshop leader, and former NCWN board member, she’s the author of twelve novels for young readers. Her book Just an Overnight Guest was adapted into an acclaimed television film. In 2015, Tate was honored by the North Carolina Museum of History and the Wake County Library system for her contributions to children’s literature. The South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate previously cited her for her literary and community activism. Her books have been on numerous state children’s book reading lists over the years. She’s a Zora Neale Hurston Award recipient, the highest award given by the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., of which she is a former national president. She was also named to the organization’s “Esteemed Elders Circle.” Visit her website: www.eleanoraetate.com.

Register for NCWN's 2016 Fall Conference now at www.ncwriters.org.

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

 

RALEIGH—At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference, November 4-6 in Raleigh, poet and executive director of Bull City Press, Ross White, will teach the course "Grammar Gone Wild."

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference is open.

Are your stories existentially static? Are your poems lying flat on the line? Even though you know your subject matter is fantastic, sometimes you need a kick-start at the sentence level, a surgical strike on the syntax. In "Grammar Gone Wild," registrants will work through a series of exercises that will ask them to bend, twist, tie in knots, and finally break the rules of grammar to explore the kinetic energy inherent in their poetry and prose.

We asked Ross, “What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger writer self?”

"A community of writers will be a life buoy, so cling to it. In the years since finishing my MFA, I’ve come to realize that when I was reading on my own, I was swimming in a wide sea of isolation, with a whole canon to navigate. The communities I’ve found through the Network, through my MFA program, and through local writers’ groups have held me up when I began to tire, and they’ve also provided the star maps and sextants that have guided me through that sea and helped me find the ocean—the many poets the canon hasn’t quite expanded to include, like Anna Akhmatova and Yehuda Amachai, and contemporary poets who have most influenced me: Aimee Nezhukumatathil, David Rivard, Vievee Francis, Dilruba Ahmed, and about a thousand others."

Ross White is the author of How We Came Upon the Colony and The Polite Society, both from Unicorn Press. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2012, New England Review, Poetry Daily, and The Southern Review, among others. He is the executive director of Bull City Press and teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Register for NCWN's 2016 Fall Conference now at www.ncwriters.org.

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

 

 
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