Sunday, June 28, 2009

North Carolina Writers Network Begins Local Writers Night Out

Musings for May 22

If you are or want to be a poet in North Carolina, there are at least three organizations you need to be familiar with. I’ve discussed two of those, the Poetry Council of NC and the NC Poetry Society, in prior columns. The third is actually the largest. The North Carolina Writers Network, whose services are suitable not just for poets but for all writers, claims more than 1800 members. Ironically, NCWN is also the newest of the three organizations, having come into existence less than a quarter of a century ago in 1985.
The mission of NCWN is quite straightforward. NCWN “connects, promotes, and serves the writers of this state.” They “provide 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.” Of perhaps greater interest is NCWN’s statement of belief: “We believe that writing is necessary both for self-expression and community spirit, that well-written words can connect people across time and distance, and that the deeply satisfying experiences of writing and reading should be available to everyone.” If you read last week’s “Musings,” you already know how much in concert I am with these beliefs.
So, what does all this mean that NCWN actually does? NCWN is probably best known for its two annual Conferences which feature two days’ worth of workshops, readings, and presentations by some of the country’s best-known writers designed to provide the kind of education needed by developing writers in every genre and in every stage of development. They are also known for their newsletter, which used to be printed monthly but now exists primarily in a weekly email format and continues to provide writers with vital lists of literary activities around the state and publication opportunities around the country.
This same sort of information is available on the Network’s impressive website, The website includes a “Submit It” section that lists publication opportunities, a “Hats Off” section that acknowledges recent achievements of NCWN members, a calendar of literary events in NC, links to other sites providing services to writers, articles on writing and writers, classified ads for jobs, books, residencies, etc., and an opportunity for online publication in the new feature “Writing the New South.”
The Network also sponsors a Summer Writing Residency for 50 writers at Warren Wilson College. This 2-day residency provides intensive workshops with some of the area’s best writers in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Finally, the Network sponsors more than $30,000 in annual awards for writers including the Doris Betts Fiction Prize, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, the Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition, and the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Award.
The one complaint levied against the Network over the past few years is that it has become too big, causing it to lose touch with the majority of those it serves. Current Network Director, Ed Southern, has responded to that criticism by creating a network (no pun intended) of regional representatives to help disseminate information, facilitate publication opportunities, and serve as a liaison between the network and its local members. About a month ago I agreed to be the regional representative for Catawba, Caldwell, Alexander, Burke, and Lincoln Counties. Since then I have begun holding Writers’ Night Out meetings before Poetry Hickory readings on the second Tuesday of each month. We meet at 5:00 at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. We’ve had only one meeting so far, where we networked with each other, shared opportunities, news, etc. and agreed that we might also occasionally critique each others’ work. We are open to new participants and remain flexible regarding the nature and purpose of the group. For more information, you can contact me at or 828-234-4266.

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