GREENSBORO—Writers gravitate to nonfiction for all sorts of reasons: for the therapeutic benefits of unlocking the past; to breathe life into heroes and people who've influenced us; to uncover hard-hitting truth.

Whatever our reasons for sticking to the facts when we write, the North Carolina Writers' Network 2020 Spring Conference, Saturday, April 18, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Grerensboro, has us covered.

Registration is open.

M. Randal O'Wain will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction, "The Art of Writing Memoir."

We all have a story inside of us that is itching to be shared with others and as nonfiction writers we have the drive to put these memories on paper. How do we reconstruct the past and all of the messy components of life onto the page? How do we breathe personality into the people we love, and how do we illustrate the settings and landscapes that made us who we are so that a reader can experience these meaningful life events with compassion and empathy?

During our workshop period, we will practice the foundations of writing memoir artfully through exercises and readings that exemplify compelling narrative persona, vivid imagery, sensory details, and turn anecdotes into satisfying narratives that are relatable and fulfilled.

Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class.

M. Randal O’Wain is the author of Meander Belt: Family, Loss, and Coming of Age in the Working Class South (Nebraska, 2019) and the short-story collection Hallelujah Station (Autumn House, 2020). He is an Assistant Teaching Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellow at Alderson Federal Correction Institute in West Virginia.

Other class options for creative nonfiction writers include "Narrative Medicine: Stories of Illness & the Power of Reflective Writing" with Aimee Mepham and "Writing Your Life: Turning Personal Stories into Universal Narratives" with Bridgette A. Lacy.

"Narrative Medicine" will provide a brief introduction to the field of narrative medicine—the scholarly and clinical movement that centers the power of story in health care—and the wide-ranging ways it can be practiced by writers who are patients, caregivers, or simply want to explore the connection between writing and healing. We will read and discuss select short pieces about health and illness, followed by practicing several reflective writing prompts/exercises that allow writers to explore their relationship with writing’s therapeutic potential.

Aimee Mepham is Assistant Director of the Humanities Institute at Wake Forest University where she is co-chair of the Story, Health, & Healing initiative. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis and has taught writing workshops at Indiana University, Washington University in St. Louis, Wake Forest University, and Salem College. She is also the Creative Nonfiction Editor of Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing. Her work has appeared in Meridian, River Styx, and Hobart, among others, and has also been performed twice by Liars’ League NYC, a live literary journal featuring professionally trained actors reading original short stories by writers.

Bridgette A. Lacy writes about the big and small moments of life, ranging from losing her sense of smell to a brain tumor to crafting essays on Sunday Dinner. Join her for a ninety-minute creative nonfiction class, "Writing Your Life," where she’ll discus turning our private moments into literary gold. To make readers connect to our story, our work must show the turmoil, the joy, and those private moments that resonate in our own lives. During her class, she will share some techniques for focusing our life stories and fine-tuning them for publication.

Bridgette A. Lacy is an award-winning journalist and author. She served as a longtime features writer for The News & Observer in Raleigh. She’s the author of Sunday Dinner, part of the Savor the South series by UNC Press and a finalist for the Pat Conroy Cookbook Prize. Lacy is also a contributor to The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food (Eno Publishers, 2016) and 27 Views of Raleigh: The City of Oaks in Prose & Poetry (Eno Publishers, 2013). Her work has appeared in Our State, Salt, and O.Henry.

Additional course offerings include "Public Speaking for Writers" with Cameron Kent and "What a Long Strange Trip: From Manuscript to Finished Book" with Robin Miura and Lynn York of Blair, Publisher.

Additional programming includese faculty readings, an open mic for conference participants, an exhibit hall packed with publishers and literary organizations, and “Lunch with an Author,” where conferencegoers can spend less time waiting in line and more time talking with the author of their choice. Spaces in “Lunch with an Author” are limited and are first-come, first-served. Preregistration and an additional fee are also required for this offering.

Spring Conference is sponsored in part by UNCG’s Creative Writing Program, which will provide coffee for conference-goers during registration and check-in. Other sponsors include Written Word Media and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Learn more and register at


CULLOWHEE—For the second year in a row, NCWN members swept first, second, and third place in the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition.

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin of Cullowhee won first place for her essay, “Plum Song.” She will receive $1,000, and Ecotone will consider her essay for publication.

“This piece draws you in through its poetic lyricism, singing of the garden's wonders,” final judge Jane Wong said of “Plum Song.” “The synesthesia in this essay particularly stood out to me—full of gratitude for each plant, each creature.”

Cabanis-Brewin is an award-winning business writer and editor by trade but in her real life she farms, keeps chickens, bees, and the occasional pig and writes about Southern Appalachia. Her poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals throughout the Southeast. Her chapbook Patriate was the 2007 Longleaf Press Open Chapbook competition winner and her essay “White Lobelia” was a runner up in the 2012 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition.

Wong selected “Champ” by Judy Goldman for second place, saying, “Engaging familial nostalgia, love, and pride, this essay thoughtfully asks us to consider closeness in a family. And how, in discovering more about each other, we discover ourselves.”

Goldman is the author of six books: two memoirs, two novels, and two collections of poetry. Her most recent book, Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap, was named one of the best books of 2019 by Real Simple magazine. Together also received a starred review from Library Journal. Goldman’s work has appeared in USA Today, Washington Post, Real Simple, Literary Hub, Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Ohio Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and more.

Asheville’s Patricia Poteat took third place for her essay, “Lullaby,” of which Wong said, “Speaking of grief and healing, this piece begins with the sound of a train and expands its metaphorical power.”

Poteat’s creative work has appeared in The Great Smokies Review and in Voices, a collection of essays about child advocacy work in North Carolina. “Witness,” a work of creative nonfiction published in the journal Zero Dark Thirty, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has been a finalist for the Doris Betts Fiction Prize, Glimmer Train's "Family Matters" competition, the Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize, and New Millennium Writings’ annual short story and flash fiction competitions. She is the author of Walker Percy and the Old Modern Age (LSU Press) and scholarly essays on topics in religion and modern culture.

Sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and administered by the creative writing department at UNC Wilmington, the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition encourages the creation of lasting nonfiction work that is outside the realm of conventional journalism. The contest is open to any legal resident of North Carolina or member of the NC Writers’ Network.

Rose Post worked for the Salisbury Post for fifty-six years as a reporter, feature writer, and columnist. She won numerous state and national awards for her writing and earned the NC Press Women's top annual award four times. She received the O. Henry Award from the Associated Press three times, the Pete Ivey Award, and the School Bell Award for educational coverage. Nationally, she won the 1989 Ernie Pyle Award, the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award for human-interest writing, and the 1994 National Society of Newspaper Columnists' Award.

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


WINSTON-SALEM—Charlotte writer Barbara Johnson-Davis, whose “May Day Miracle” received Honorable Mention last year, has won this year’s Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize for her new story, “The Last Straw.”

Johnson-Davis will receive $1,000, and The Carolina Quarterly will consider “The Last Straw” for publication.

Final judge Bridgette A. Lacy selected “The Last Straw” from nine other finalists for the prize.

“‘The Last Straw’ is a moving story about a young girl choosing a formal education over the family business of farming,” Lacy said. “The stakes are high, taking her final senior exams or planting tobacco. This story feels so authentic and rooted in rural North Carolina, where low-wealth families are often forced to make that choice. The heartfelt dialogue between the father and daughter really resonated with me.”

Johnson-Davis was born to a sharecropping family in Leasburg, and graduated from Bennett College. Her work has been performed at the Matthews Playhouse, Queens University of Charlotte, and the Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius. She is a member of both the Charlotte Writers’ Club and NCWN.

Lacy also selected “Redemption Song,” by Greensboro’s Carolyn Tucker, for Honorable Mention.

“This story reflects North Carolina’s stormy landscape on two levels: damaging hurricanes and the mass incarceration of black men. Both issues have the capacity to devastate the lives of people of eastern North Carolina and beyond,” Lacy said. “This author captures a moment of grace as a family tries to save each other. The wife heads to church to wait out a storm, while her incarcerated husband and son persuade the prison warden to release them so they can defend and protect the local community.”

Tucker studied Computer Science and worked for more than thirty years in information technology. A 2013 layoff freed her to follow her passion for the written word. Her short story “Three Women Who Love” has been published in the anthology When She Loves.

The Jacobs/Jones contest, sponsored by the NCWN and administered by The Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, is open to any African-American writer whose primary residence is in North Carolina. Entries may be fiction or creative nonfiction, but must not have been published before (including on any website, blog, or social media), and must be no more than 3,000 words.

“This award was initiated by Cedric Brown, a Winston-Salem native and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to honor the best in short prose by African-American writers in North Carolina.

The literary award was borne out of my frustration with being unable to readily find much fiction or creative nonfiction that conveys the rich and varied existence of Black North Carolinians,” Brown said. “I wanted to incentivize the development of written works while also encouraging Black writers to capture our lives through storytelling.”

The full competition guidelines can be found here.

Bridgette A. Lacy is an award-winning journalist and author. She served as a longtime features writer for The News & Observer in Raleigh. She’s the author of Sunday Dinner, part of the Savor the South series by UNC Press and a finalist for the Pat Conroy Cookbook Prize. Lacy is also a contributor to The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food (Eno Publishers, 2016) and 27 Views of Raleigh: The City of Oaks in Prose & Poetry (Eno Publishers, 2013). Her work has appeared in Our State magazine, Salt, and O.Henry.

A member of the Carolina African-American Writers’ Collective, Lacy will be part of the keynote celebration at this year’s Spring Conference, and will teach a class on creative nonfiction.

The Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize honors the nineteenth-century writers Harriet Jacobs and Thomas H. Jones. Jacobs was born in 1813 near Edenton, escaping to Philadelphia in 1842, after hiding for seven years in a crawl space above her grandmother’s ceiling. She published her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, under a pseudonym in 1861. Jacobs died in 1897 and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1997.

Jones was born into slavery near Wilmington in 1806. Able to purchase the freedom of his wife and all but one of his children, he followed them north in 1849 by stowing away on a brig to New York. In the northeast and in Canada, he spoke as a preacher and abolitionist, writing his memoir, The Experience of Thomas Jones, in 1854, as a way to raise funds to buy his eldest child’s freedom.

The non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit


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