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ASHEVILLE—Joseph Bathanti is a former poet laureate of North Carolina and a recipient of the 2016 North Carolina Award in Literature, the state's highest civilian honor.

The author of seventeen books, Joseph is McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Education & Writer-in-Residence of Appalachian State University’s Watauga Residential College, in Boone. He served also as the 2016 Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence in Asheville.

During Saturday's luncheon at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, there will be excerpts from the staged readings of Brothers Like These, a collection of poems and prose by some of those who Joseph worked with during his time at the VA.

The NCWN 2019 Conference runs November 8-10 at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore. Registration is open.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries. As part of this year-long appreciation, Joseph generously allowed us to reprint this excerpt from his essay, "A Catechism of Books" (North Carolina Libraries, Spring/Summer, 2002). 

"By the time I left Pittsburgh for North Carolina with a master’s degree in English (what else?), I knew I wanted to be a writer. I applied to VISTA, was accepted, and assigned to work with prison inmates in and around Charlotte, an assignment that ended up being quite congenial to writing. But I didn’t know anything about writing except that it took a lot of longing—which I’ve always been good at. Well before I ever had a North Carolina driver’s license, I had library card at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public library on Tryon Street in downtown Charlotte. Not so downtown then, and the library not half so glittering. But it was charming and devout, and it was there that I first became acquainted with, actually saw in the flesh, so to speak, the first little magazines and periodicals I was destined to publish in, though at the time nothing seemed more remote.

"I was puttering away on my poems and stories, and I needed somewhere to send them. I’d pull them off the periodical wall: Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, The Carolina Quarterly, South Carolina Review. To actually see and touch those magazines, to be able to copy those names and addresses into the little pocket notebook that surely all writers carry to accommodate the capricious muse, made me feel like a writer. It wasn’t long before those rejection slips started pouring in.

"Then there are the little, often tiny, North Carolina libraries that over the past many years have endeared themselves to me. Nothing spectacular about them at all, their architecture is merely functional, frequently stark, sometimes merely a storefront such as the one in Old Fort, in McDowell County, where children were able to check out not only books, but toys, where I found a cassette tape of French monks singing Gregorian chants, recorded live on Easter morning—in the 14th century for all I knew.

"These little libraries stand as outposts in their respective counties, peddling much more than books. The Hampton B. Allen Library, for instance, in downtown Wadesboro in Anson County, stands as the nexus of the county’s culture. When we lived in Anson County, it hosted a lecture series, the bloodmobile, a support group on adolescent pregnancy, the community theatre, and was also headquarters to Moonsong Productions when Stephen Spielberg was in town filming The Color Purple. It was also the site of a baby shower our friends had for my wife and me a few weeks before our first son was born.

"I can bow my head and recite the litany of libraries, a long prose poem, I have traveled to in this fair state, and in each one there was a surprise waiting for me in the persons of North Carolina citizens fiercely devoted to the word."

Brothers Like These is comprised of stories and poems written by Vietnam combat veterans in Classroom B, an out-of-the-way room in the basement of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville. They gathered to write every Wednesday for almost two years under the guidance of former state poet laureate, Joseph Bathanti of Appalachian State University, and Dr. Bruce Kelly, a primary care physician at the VA. Brothers Like These  is an enduring testimony to their shared sacred sense of community, love, and brotherhood. These are stories and poems, large and small, funny and heartbreaking, that only these men can relate in their own inimitable styles—stories and poems not just invaluable to succeeding generations of soldiers, but to every citizen of our country, and beyond. Brothers Like These, the staged reading, premiered on August 31, 2016, at the Asheville Community Theater to a packed house and has now been performed in a number of other venues across North Carolina. A companion book to Brothers Like These was published in 2017 by St. Andrews University Press.

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Master Classes will be led by Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs (Poetry) and Jeremy B. Jones (Nonfiction). Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.

Register here.

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.

 

ASHEVILLE—The North Carolina Writers' Networks exists to serve all writers, and rely on the support of our members. We also rely on our generous sponsors to host big events such as the NCWN 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, in Asheville.

We wanted to take a moment to thank them.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville's Great Smokies Writing Program is a Blue Ridge Level sponsor. The program offers opportunities for writers of all levels to join a supportive learning community in which their skills and talents can be explored, practiced, and forged under the careful eye of professional writers. The program is committed to providing the community with affordable university-level classes led by published writers and experienced teachers. Each course carries academic credit awarded through UNC Asheville. Two of their faculty—Mildred Barya and NCWN trustee Tommy Hays—will lead sessions at the NCWN 2019 Fall Conference.

Additional conference programming is supported by:

The sponsor of Keynote Speaker Ron Rash's book signing on Friday evening, Asheville FM 103.3 keeps Asheville thriving by producing diverse and eclectic programming that inspires our listeners to build connections across our communities and to discover new music and ideas.

The Flatiron Writers Room will host the Pre-Conference Tailgate on Friday afternoon at 12:00 pm. Member A.K. Beninghofen will lead a session designed to get participants' creative juices flowing leading up to the conference. The Pre-Conference Tailgate is free and open to the public; one need not be a member, or even to have registered for the conference, to attend. The Flatiron Writers Room is an outgrowth of the Flatiron Writers, who have been writing and providing workshops and events for the western North Carolina writing community since 1993. They host workshops and events; in addition, their space is available for rent to writers who want to teach, host a book launch, or hold a writers’ group or book club meeting. Their goal: to nurture a vibrant and supportive writing community--inspired by Asheville’s rich literary history--while providing writers with quiet, affordable space in which to write, and classrooms in which to teach or participate in classes and workshops. 

Overall support is provded by the generous contribution of the North Carolina Arts Council, which, over more than a half-century of leadership, has provided resources for arts programming, education, and leadership across the state.

The winner of the Linda Flowers Literary Award will be announced at Saturday's luncheon, sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council. Founded in 1972, the North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities dedicated to exploring and celebrating our state’s heritage, history and people. Through programs and partnerships, the Council preserves and shares the stories that bring North Carolina’s culture to life and enrich the lives of residents across the state.

One of the most popular conference programs—Happy Hour!—is sponsored by NCWN trustee and Board Secretary Alice Osborn: Author/Book Coach/Editor. Alice serves as a critiquer for NCWN's Critiquing and Editing Service; she's the author of three poetry collections; and she's also a singer-songwriter. Her new album is Searching for Paradise.

Another well-attended program is Sunday morning's breakfast panel discussion, "Agents & Editors," sponsored by Smoky Mountain Living.  Smoky Mountain Living is a magazine covering the Southern Appalachians and celebrates the area’s environmental riches, its people, culture, music, arts, history, and special places. Each issue brings the Appalachians to life. Published six times each year, SML is a magazine for those who want to learn more about where they live and those who want to stay in touch with where they love.

The Thomas Wolfe MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lenoir-Rhyne University will sponsor the Opening Reception on Friday evening. LR’s Master of Arts in Writing is designed to prepare students for careers in creative writing, the teaching of writing, and/or the development of advanced writing skills as a powerful tool within one’s chosen profession. This program is offered through the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative on its Asheville campus. It offers graduate-level courses in narrative training across disciplines in Thomas Wolfe’s hometown. Drawing on the creative, social, historical, and intellectual legacy of Thomas Wolfe, the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative upholds the practices of positive aesthetics—exploration, eloquence, and attention in developing expansive and insightful narrative.  Program director Laura Hope-Gill will lead the session "Write with the Wolfe—a Poetry/Prose Poetry Rebellion."

Saturday night's Open Mic readings for the brave of heart will be sponsored by Western Carolina University's Department of English. Professor Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction, "Exploding Your Drafts." Faculty members Maryedith Burrell ("Screenplay: Fake vs. Fiction") and Catherine Carter ("It Looks Like a Hairball" (Poetry)) will lead sessions. And WCU professor Ron Rash will give the conference Keynote Address. WCU's MA in English helps students prepare for a host of professional careers, including community college teaching, writing and editing positions, research-intensive professions, law and library schools, professional or technical writing and doctoral programs. Students take a broad array of classes and choose a concentration in one of three areas: Literature, Professional Writing, or Rhetoric and Composition. 

Katie Winkler is a trustee of NCWN and the editor of Teach.Write. She'll sponsor Tom Chalmers' session, "Improv's Increasing Role in Comedy Writing" during Session III on Saturday. The Fall/Winter 2019 edition of Teach. Write.: A Writing Teachers’ Literary Journal is now available. Katie lives in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a writer, teacher, wife, and mother in love with all of her jobs. She is the former regional rep for Henderson County and is on the English Faculty at Blue Ridge Community College.

Finally, WNCW 88.7 will sponsor Saturday afternoon's Faculty Readings. Broadcast from Isothermal Community College, The station's call letters "WNCW" stand for Western North Carolina's Window—a name that the creators of the station hoped would represent the way listeners would use the station—as a window to look through and see things they my not otherwise see. It is the mission of WNCW to advance the broadest educational goals of Isothermal Community College through the operation of a full service, professional public radio service that encourages its audience to pursue a quest for lifelong learning. WNCWN can be heard from Spindale to Greenville, SC; Charlotte to Boone.

Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference is open.

 

ASHEVILLE—Meta Commerse, founder of Story Medicine Asheville, will lead the session "Story Medicine 2.0" at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.

Registration is open.

Meta Commerse studied health, history and writing at Goddard College. Her community-based healing work began with a focus on domestic violence prevention. Blending her study and work, she demonstrates story as medicine across genre. She is an award winning writer, performer and seasoned teacher originally from Chicago, living in North Carolina since 2009. Meta founded and launched Story Medicine Asheville in 2011, and continues to empower her students with story medicine applied to today’s topics, both through UNCA’s Great Smokies Writing Program, and as an independent scholar. She is the author of six books, including Landscapes of Abuse (2001), Rainsongs: Poems of a Woman’s Life (2012), her novel The Mending Time (2014), her forthcoming untitled memoir, and her second poetry collection, Rhubarb Pie.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Meta to give us her best library memory.

Here's what she wrote:

"After my divorce, I let my familiar life die naturally and my new life be born. I allowed the empty nest to evict even me. I gave up close friends who’d merely been friends of the marriage. I went on one date with my mailman. I retrieved my dreams from the top shelf of my consciousness to explore at last. As if golden, I bought good pens and paper by the case and began a daily, sacred journaling and gratitude practice.

"Then, in our historic Atlanta suburb, I shed my shock through new and simple ventures. I became a substitute teacher in our neighborhood schools. Other days, I set out on foot, seeking to widen my sphere, starting with a walk/run downtown and back. Sometimes, I’d drive to the mall and power-walk several laps with the regular seniors to the sounds of smooth jazz. Or, I’d drive to our community Recreation Center for a workout and swim. Our newly renovated post office branch had two friendly clerks. I’d check in with them, transact business, and then hear and tell a story or two. Trying to capture its preciousness, I even wrote a snapshot poem about our little town.

"Just around the corner from the post office sat our small library with its kind, generous librarians. Soon immersed in writing a book about my work, I’d also become a graduate student of history. I showed up regularly. Surrounded by people of all kinds, I studied, ordered books, used the internet, and worked hard.

"Eventually, the library sponsored my workshop where I spoke about my healing program with formerly abused women. At about that same time, a woman of color was promoted to the position of Head Librarian. She described the challenges she’d faced while moving up. She was the first WOC to hold that position. So we had one party to congratulate her AND to say good-bye to her retiring predecessor!

"For the past two decades, my library has served as a hub in these ways. There, I enjoy that well of resources and quiet I surely need. It’s true, I’ve gone there just as much for the human contact and belonging, at those times when I’ve needed to embrace major life change. Today, my neighborhood library in WNC is where I chat with librarian friends, where I go to vote, to meet fellow activists, to sample books, films, and music. I also stock my home library by purchasing some of the great books they’ve 'withdrawn' from circulation. It’s a bit disappointing on days when they’re closed and I’ve gone anyway, by habit. Bottom line: My neighborhood library is now the heartbeat of my community."

In "Story Medicine 2.0," we’ll take a look at the hidden value and power of story. Our ancestors’ story medicine was lost to us through modern age “progress.” Reclaiming and exploring this modality now in pressing times, we rediscover story as far more than a way to document our lives as it is to fundamentally change them. If you knew your own story and those of your people, how would this knowledge change your worldview? Your work and sense of purpose? Join us for this heartfelt and eye-opening discussion.

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction; Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs will lead the Master Class in Poetry; Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.

Register here.

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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