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NC Literary Hall of Fame

 

 

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CHARLOTTE—"Don't quit your day job" is sage advice for writers: few authors can make ends meet with what they earn from their writing alone. 

Still, a day job is not necessarily ideal for the writer either, as regular employment can really put a crimp in the time one has to write, much less take care of all the promotional activities that go along with publishing a book. 

Susan Rivers, who will lead the session "'You Talking to Me?' How Less Really Can Mean More When Writing Dialogue" at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference, has a solution.

Susan Rivers’ debut novel, The Second Mrs. Hockaday, was a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Award 2017 and was one of four finalists for the SIBA Southern Book Prize 2018 for Southern Fiction. Rivers began her writing career in West Coast theater, where she studied with Sam Shepherd, and where her plays were produced at the Eureka Theater in San Francisco, at Seattle Repertory Theatre, and in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum. She is a veteran of the Playwrights Festival at Sundance Institute for the Arts and the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, where she worked with Sarah Jessica Parker and studied with August Wilson and Lloyd Richards. Rivers was awarded the Julie Harris Playwriting Award for Overnight Lows and a New York Drama League Award for Under Statements. She lives and writes in upstate South Carolina.

The NCWN 2018 Fall Conference runs November 2-4, at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. Registration is open.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating publishers based in North Carolina, so we asked Susan to answer the following prompt:

"Congratulations! You've inherited a large fortune, on the condition that you use it to start your own publishing house. What kind of books are you going to publish?"

Here's what Susan said:

"It's a good thing I've been bequeathed a 'large fortune' for my publishing venture, because I'm going to need it, if all my friends in the industry are to be believed. They tell me that producing books is a labor of love and therefore is almost always a non-lucrative form of labor, albeit profitable on many other levels.

"Before we get to what kinds of books I would specialize in, let's talk about establishing programs aimed at keeping those writers who I publish and who are not blessed with trust funds continuing to write productively.

"For fiction writers, there's an assumption that getting that first novel or collection of stories accepted for publication is the big nut to crack. We all fantasize about it, believing that signing the contract and then screaming our triumph from the rooftops is the end of the story. Fade to black. Scratch that item off the bucket list ('1. Write great American novel and hold first copy in hands. Die of happiness.') What we don't understand until the novel is out and then the paperback has followed, we're done touring and the advance is mostly spent because we are no longer teaching four sections of Freshman Comp every semester but the bills for utilities and car insurance and health care premiums persist, annoyingly, is that we must somehow find paying work while we write Book 2. And this work has to allow for occasional weekend-long book conferences, mid-week library visits, three-day symposiums, and the like, which adjunct teaching assignments do not permit nor do most 9-5 day jobs.

"In NYC, when I finally met the head of my publishing house, Algonquin, Elisabeth said 'I wish I could tell all my writers not to quit their day jobs.' Her point was already taken, as I'd come to realize that a debut novel can be considered reasonably successful if it sells well enough to cover the author's advance and is still in bookstores a year after its launch, without anyone getting rich from it. This is the stage when many writers regret not having trained as bartenders or dog groomers, or wish they lived close enough to an urban center to work as an UBER driver, because such people can take appointments as needed or work shifts between gigs. And doing gigs is how one keeps the first book alive while writing the next one.

"To resolve this problem and put writers minds at ease, as part of my publishing house's commitment to writers we publish, I would establish a Work for Writers bureau, hiring literary-minded job recruiters with the ability to find short-term employment for our writers who need it. This work would allow the writing to go forward and limit the panic attacks and insomnia that might ensue otherwise.

"As for the types of books I would publish…

"Since 2016, we have witnessed the rise of identity politics—the cult of the personality—until it has permeated all aspects of American culture, including the marketing of certain authors. I worry about this, because the emphasis on 'brand' seems to promote superficial concerns where you least want to see them, in the literary marketplace.

"In combating that trend, I would begin by naming my literary fiction publishing house 'Cyclops,' to send the message that our editors employ only one lens when considering material for publication, and that is the value and quality of the writing. At Cyclops we will be blind to gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, ethnicity, region of birth (if born in the U.S.), immigration status and origin (if not), photogenic or 'media-genic' attributes, visibility (or lack of) on social media and advanced degrees obtained (or lack of).

"It's inevitable that some of this information will be apparent from the subject matter, the context, and/or the distinctive voice of the writer in the manuscript, however, as the owner of Cyclops Books none of this will subjectively affect my decision to accept an author's work for publication now will it factor into the sales and marketing plan for that work. I want my company's judgments to be based purely on the merits of the writing—the worth of the craft rather than the craftsman—publishing and promoting those works of prose that are transformative, timeless, beautifully written and deeply human."

Fiction can get bogged down in an excess of description and exposition: “telling” rather than “showing.” In filmed and staged texts, no description is possible, and dialogue must do the heavy lifting: providing exposition, character and plot development, and showing conflict. Dialogue can function just as effectively in fiction, while engaging the reader more fully, if it works on multiple levels to define relationships and objectives and is authentic to the character’s time, setting, and situation. In her session at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference, Susan will share techniques with writers for pinpointing the goals of individual speakers in a scene and maximizing the power of subtext, helping participants to turn up the dramatic power in their dialogues.

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 Judy Goldman (Creative Nonfiction), Maureen Ryan Griffin (Poetry), Randall Kenan (Fiction), who, as a 2018 inductee into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, also 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.

 

CHARLOTTE—On Saturday night of the North Carolina Writers' Network 2018 Fall ConferenceIan Finley will present an abbreviated staging of his new play Native, which explores the relationship and developing tensions between Paul Green and Richard Wright as they try to adapt Wright’s classic novel Native Son for the stage.

Ian also will lead the session "Dramatic Structure, or The Story of My Tattoo."

Fall Conference runs November 2-4, at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. Registration is now open.

Ian Finley holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School at New York University. He served as Resident Playwright for Burning Coal Theatre Company, a small, professional theatre in Raleigh, from 2004 through 2012. In 2012, he was named the Piedmont Laureate in the field of Playwriting and Screenwriting by the arts councils of central North Carolina. He is the author of The Nature of the Nautilus (winner of the Kennedy Center’s Jean Kennedy Smith Award), And There Was War in Heaven (finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), Native, The Greeks, 1960, Jude the Obscure, Suspense, A Perfect Negroni, 11:50, and the Our Histories cycle of site-specific plays for Burning Coal.

This year, NCWN has been celebrating publishers based in North Carolina, so we asked Ian to answer the following prompt:

"Congratulations! You've inherited a large fortune, on the condition that you use it to start your own publishing house. What kind of books are you going to publish?"

Here's what Ian said:

"Because there are a limited number of publishing houses focused on scripts, it's a big challenge for emerging playwrights to get published. They may have well received productions in major cities, but if those cities aren't Chicago, Seattle or New York, getting the validation and boost of a published script is a big challenge. I would love to start Curtain Up Press, a publisher specifically focused on (and actively searching out) writers who have had productions in cities outside of The Big Three and getting them in print. There is incredible theatre from DC to Atlanta (including in North Carolina!); wouldn't it be great to see that in our bookstores too?"

In his session, which is part of an effort by NCWN to expand offerings for writers of stage and screen, Ian will discuss how above all, drama requires conflict. More than in any other form of writing, forces in opposition to each other are the engine of your script (and the way to hold the audience’s interest). Understanding dramatic structure is the key to turning up the conflict, holding your story together, and ultimately developing theme. Useful at every stage of the writing and revising process, dramatic structure is the most valuable tool a writer can wield.

The special performance of Native will be followed by a panel discussion on the play’s themes, and how writers today still grapple with its questions, featuring Paul Green scholar Margaret Bauer, playwright Ian Finley, NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, and Native cast members.

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 Judy Goldman (Creative Nonfiction), Maureen Ryan Griffin (Poetry), Randall Kenan (Fiction), who, as a 2018 inductee into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, also 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.

 

SOUTHERN PINES—On Sunday, October 7, at 2:00 pm at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in Southern Pines, the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame will welcome five new inductees.

James W. Clark, Jr., Randall Kenan, Jill McCorkle, Penelope Niven, and Marsha White Warren will join the sixty inductees currently enshrined.

The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame celebrates and promotes the state’s rich literary heritage by commemorating its leading authors and encouraging the continued flourishing of great literature. Inductions are held every other year. A list of inductees, as well as samples of their work and video clips of past inductions, can be found online at www.nclhof.org.

The afternoon will include readings of the inductees' work by Lynn Duval Clark, Sharon P. Holland, and Jill McCorkle; remarks by Talmadge Ragan of Weymouth and Ed Southern of the North Carolina Writers' Network; and the annual presentation of the Artist's Award, this year to Madison Geer, a woodworker from Charlotte. J. Peder Zane will serve as the Master of Ceremonies. Light refreshments will be served following the ceremony.

This event is free and open to the public.

Dr. James W. Clark, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of English at North Carolina State University. A native of Vaughan in Warren County, Clark holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, and focused his academic career primarily on the cultural geography and literary history of North Carolina, his native state. He has served as president of The Thomas Wolfe Society, The NC Literary and Historical Association, and won the R. Hunt Parker Award for his contributions. In 2017, he completed a decade as president of The Paul Green Foundation, and still serves as president of The North Caroliniana Society.

Randall Kenan, a native of Duplin County, is the author of a novel, A Visitation of Spirits; two works of nonfiction, Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century and The Fire This Time; and an award-winning collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead. He edited and wrote the introductions for The Cross of Redemption: The Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin and The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Whiting Writers’ Award, the North Carolina Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Rome Prize. He is professor of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Jill McCorkle has the distinction of having her first two novels published on the same day in 1984. Since then she has published four other novels and four collections of short stories. Five of her books have been named New York Times notable books, while three of her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories anthologies. McCorkle has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. She is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. McCorkle has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tufts, and Brandeis where she was the Fannie Hurst Visiting Writer. She was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard for five years where she also chaired Creative Writing. She currently teaches creative writing in the MFA Program at NC State University and is a core faculty member of the Bennington College Writing Seminars. A native of Lumberton, she lives with her husband, photographer Tom Rankin, in Hillsborough.

Penelope Niven was the critically acclaimed author of Carl Sandburg: A Biography; Steichen: A Biography, and Thornton Wilder: A Life. She was also co-author, with the actor James Earl Jones, of Voices and Silences. Carl Sandburg: Adventures of a Poet, a biography for children, received a 2004 International Reading Association Prize “for exceptionally distinguished literature for children.” Her memoir Swimming Lessons was published in 2004. Niven received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the state’s highest civilian honor, for her work as a writer and a teacher. She founded and directed the national Carl Sandburg Oral History Project, and was three times a recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. She lectured across the United States and in Switzerland, Canada, and Great Britain, and was principal consultant for the PBS film biography Carl Sandburg—Echoes and Silences. She also served as a consultant for television films on Sandburg, Jones, Steichen, and Wilder. At the time of her death in 2014, she lived in Winston-Salem, where she spent twelve years as Writer-in-Residence at Salem College. A native of Waxhaw, she also held two honorary doctorates, among other honors and awards.

Marsha White Warren was an elementary school teacher, poet, and children’s book author when she became Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network in 1987, only two years after its founding. She would serve in that role until 1996. During those years she helped Sam Ragan develop and open the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, as well as serving on numerous state and national literary boards and as a consultant to literary centers in Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Idaho. In 1991, she also became director of the Paul Green Foundation and is still with the Foundation after twenty-seven years. In that position, she has overseen $575,000 in grants to nonprofits that support the arts and human rights. Her awards include the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, R. Hunt Parker Memorial Award for Lifetime Contributions to Literature, Sam Ragan Award for Contributions to the Fine Arts, and an Honorary Doctor of Letters from St. Andrews College. She lives in Chapel Hill.

The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame was founded in 1996, under the leadership of poet laureate Sam Ragan, and is a program of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Since 2008, the Network and the Weymouth Center collaborate with the North Carolina Center for the Book, the North Carolina Humanities Council, and the North Carolina Collection of the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill to produce the induction ceremony and to promote the NCLHOF and North Carolina’s literary heritage.

For more information, visit the NC Literary Hall of Fame at www.nclhof.org or the North Carolina Writers’ Network at www.ncwriters.org.

 

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