White Cross School Blog


NC Literary Hall of Fame




ASHEVILLE—Alli Marshall is the author of the novel How to Talk to Rockstars and the arts editor for Asheville's alt-weekly, Mountain xPress.

She's also a performance poet: her most recent collaborative show, “Flyer in a Dark Chamber,” debuted at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in August. She has performed theatrical spoken word at Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, Asheville Percussion Festival, and the {RE}Happening. In May, she curated the inaugural Dear Satyr: An Evening of Erotic Spoken Word. Alli was the 2016 winner of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize for her short story “Catching Out.” She holds an MFA from Goddard College.

At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, Alli will moderate the panel "Writing Out Loud" with Kevin Evans, Lockie Hunter, and Steve Shell

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, Alli generously allowed us to print her poem, "Petaluma Regional Library." As follows:  


In the endlessness of ’91 I — who had only
just arrived to Northern California, to
the West Coast, to college — longed for escape.

Sometimes I’d skip class to hitchhike
into town, dreaming down dusty roads
of the future to which I’d eventually wake. Dreaming

of a California that was already slipping
through my hands. I only knew
of the sunflower farms and the cliffs

of Big Sur and the drugs I’d take, maybe,
in Golden Gate Park, if I could scrape together
bus fare. In the library I’d pore over books

on macrame and permaculture. Treehouse
design. How to renovate a VW camper. How
to live off the land (though I was still living

off my parents). A picture was taking
shape. The hazy, over-exposed Polaroid
of it, edges blurred, blond bleached

to white. Thinking if I could read up
on Sonoma County, circa 1972, I could somehow
will it back into being. An education in fiction,

in the nonfiction section. I studied bead craft
and the brief-but-irrefutable rise of Janis Joplin
like a senior seminar, like an extra-credit course.

My library card was a litany of fantasy,
a catalog of childhood intersecting
real life. Autumn only grew more golden, the coast

more restless, the bay trees more
perfumed. Everything was calling. Everything
was a dissertation on desire and how to name it.

During the panel discussion "Writing Out Loud," Asheville-based writers will discuss the adventures, challenges, and best practices of performative work, such as live readings, poetry slams, radio appearances, and the theatrical applications of spoken word. The conversation will also include thoughts on curating literary events, from the selection process to marrying diverse voices onstage, to marketing the event. Panelists have worked in radio, print media and education. Their combined experiences include organizing and performing at events such as The Moth StorySLAM, the Asheville-Biscuithead Slam Poetry Series, WordPlay Radio Show, the Juniper Bends Reading Series, Asheville Poetry Cabaret, and HomeWord Youth Poetry open mic. 

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—Abigail DeWitt, author of three novels, will lead the Master Class in Fiction, "Studies in Character Development," at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.

Conference registraiton is open.

Abigail's three novels are Lili, Dogs, and News of Our Loved Ones. Described by BookList as a work of “masterful artistry,” News of Our Loved Ones was chosen as an Editor’s Choice by BookBrowse and the Historical Novel Society. Abigail's short fiction has appeared in Narrative, Five Points, Witness, the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Drafthorse, and elsewhere. She has been cited in Best American Short Stories, nominated for a Pushcart, and has received grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, the McColl Center for the Arts, and the Michener Society. Follow her on Instagram at @abigaildewittauthor or visit her website: www.abigaildewitt.com.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Abigail to give us her best library memory. She graciously allowed us to print her essay, "A Love Letter to Librarians":

"Of all the characters in all the novels I’ve ever read, the one whose decency and courage moves me most often to tears is the librarian in the appendix to The Sound and the Fury.

"Decades after the beautiful, damned Caddie has been banned from home because of her promiscuity, the librarian, 'a mouse-sized and -colored woman who had never married,' is the only one who stands up for Caddie. She may look the part of the librarian-cliché, but she alone confronts Jason, who banished Caddie in the first place and whose cruelty represents for Faulkner the worst of post-civil war South.

"I sometimes think of that character when I think about my friend Sylvia, a recently retired Bookmobile librarian in our rural Appalachian county. Every year, Sylvia logged close to 12,000 miles, driving up and down winding, often rutted, often one-lane roads. She brought books to the elderly and to people with disabilities, but also to children in federally funded after-school programs, homeschoolers, and anyone who couldn’t get to the library. We are a Tier One, economically disadvantaged county, deep in Trump country, and she sometimes also delivered food along with books.

"On the surface, Sylvia has nothing in common with Faulkner’s librarian. After failing to convince Jason to help her save Caddie, that nameless fictional character finds herself packed into a crowded bus, weeping. She is 'smaller than any other there so that her feet touch…the floor only occasionally until a [man]…pick[s] her up bodily and set[s] her into a seat next to the window, where still crying quietly she c[an] look out upon the fleeing city…' Sylvia lives on a farm and is used to lifting things that are much heavier than a mouse-sized woman. Once, when the brakes went out on the Bookmobile bus as she was navigating a steep, winding road, she rose, pulled on the emergency brake, and drove the whole way down standing up. Sylvia is also happily married to a woman.

"I asked her once if the many Bookmobile patrons who believe homosexuality is a sin knew the truth about her. She shrugged. 'I’m friends with a lot of library patrons on Facebook, so they have to know. They still give me gifts. Candy, homemade sausage, flowers, apple butter.' She continued, 'You can find common ground with anyone through books.'

"I thought about the suspension of judgment that takes place when a fundamentalist Christian offers food to a lesbian without trying to save her, and a liberal offers books to a Trump supporter without trying to save her. I thought how rare such an exchange was—rare, at least, if social media is to be believed—and I remembered this quote, from Duncan Smith’s article, 'Your Brain on Fiction' in the ALA Reference & User Services Quarterly: 'We frequently hear fiction reading described…as an escape…we need to be clear about what readers are escaping from. They are escaping from a narrow, limiting view of the world and journeying to a place where it is possible to experience a deeper connection to our real selves and to live fully in our world.'

"It makes sense that it would be a librarian who would open her heart to Caddie, just as it is Sylvia who creates and fosters an open-hearted exchange between people who, in so many other contexts, might loathe one another. The cliché of the primly disapproving librarian could not be further from the truth: it is librarians, after all, who, by handing us the means to transcend boundaries, are the true revolutionaries in a species so bent on mistrust of what is different."

While Abigail's Master Class in Fiction is now full, there are many excellent options for writers of fiction.

Kevin McIlvoy will lead "Pre-Writing Is a Matter of Pre-Trusting"; Dale Neal will lead "Why Not Ask?"; "Thievery, Loss, and Scars: a Fiction Workshop" will be led by Heather Newton; and NCWN trustee Tommy Hays will lead "If You're Afraid to Write about It, Write about It."

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.


DURHAM—Bull City author Jasmine Kumalah has been named the recipient of the 2020 Sally Buckner Emerging Writers’ Fellowship.

Jasmine’s excerpt from her novel-in-progress, Birds Under Water, explores the boundaries of poetry and prose through the story of a girl named Fatima and her migration from the fictionalized country of Bantunia.

Along with a $500 stipend, Jasmine wins a full scholarship to attend the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, in Asheville. She also receives a one-year membership in NCWN.

Jasmine Kumalah is a Sierra Leonean-Togolese American writer based in Durham. She is the author of novella Holding Demons in Small Jars (Lystra Books & Literary Services, 2016). Her essays and art reviews have been published in Black Girl Dangerous, Ayiba Magazine, AADAT online magazine, Interrupt MAG and the anthology Walking the Tightrope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa

“The judges were uniformly impressed with the artistic strength of [her] submitted work sample,” said June Guralnick, who facilitates the fellowship, “and [her] interview candor.”

Jasmine was selected from a list of three finalists, including Hazel Foster and Hampton Williams Hofer, both NCWN members. The judges praised the quality of writing from all this year’s finalists.

This year's judges included NCWN trustee Michele T. Berger; Chris Tonelli; and former NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti.

The North Carolina Writers’ Network offers the annual Sally Buckner Emerging Writers’ Fellowship, in honor of the late poet, editor, and educator. The Buckner Fellowship supports emerging writers whose work shows promise of excellence and commitment to a literary career.

Applicants must be in the early stages of their careers and will not have had yet the support needed to achieve major recognition for their work. No specific academic background is required or preferred. Each year the program will accept applications from writers working primarily in one of four specified genres, rotated over a four-year cycle.

The 2021 genre will be announced at a later date; submissions open for the 2021 Buckner Fellowship on May 1 and run through June 30.

Award recipients are invited to somehow “pay it forward.” Jasmine Kumalah intends to use her year to inspire others to write.

A native of Statesville, Sally Buckner taught every level from kindergarten through graduate school, including twenty-eight years as a faculty member at Peace College, inspiring thousands of young people to find their own unique writing voices. Buckner’s published nonfiction, fiction, and poetry can be found in numerous journals, and in 1986, her collection of poetry, Strawberry Harvest, was published by St. Andrews Press. Other poetry collections include Collateral Damage (2008) and Nineteen Visions of Christmas (2011). Buckner edited two well-known anthologies of North Carolina literature: Our Words, Our Ways: Reading and Writing in North Carolina (1991) and Word and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry (1999).

For more about Sally Buckner, click here.

The North Carolina Writers' Network connects, promotes, and serves writers of this state, providing education in the craft and business of writing, opportunities for recognition and critique of literary work, resources for writers at all stages of development, support for and advocacy of the literary heritage of North Carolina, and a community for those who write.

For more information, visit www.ncwriters.org.


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