For twenty years I’ve been applying. The first time I applied for a grant to write an epic poem about the life of John Lawson and his Indian guide, Eno Will. Sort of an Odyssey for the New World. Well, … Continue reading
No, that’s not a typo. It’s a Conference. Way back in the day, sometime in the 1950s, Paul Green and a bunch of his friends got together and had some drinks and went skinny dipping in Albemarle Sound. As legend goes, he stood and said, Welcome to the first meeting of the North Carolina Writers Conference. And so it began.
This weekend in Asheville, an all volunteer organization is meeting again, and if there’s skinny dipping it will have to be in the hotel pool. It’s gotten kind of formal, with panels and readings and honorees. But it’s really just a meeting of writers–some with published books, some journal editors, some activists and educators–who think it’s worthwhile to know their fellow NC writers better.
There will be panels on mentoring, the old home place in fiction, and a kind of competitive call and response poetry reading that includes the former poet laureate of NC bucking poems with some neighbor poets.
And yes, there will be drinking, but I’m guessing for most of us it won’t be in the heroic vein. We will get to know Ann Deagon, the wonderful feminist poet, a bit better. We will get to know ourselves better. And somewhere down the line we will know we are part of a group that meets every year just to meet. A conference, a confluence, a swimming hole, a front porch, a church, whatever metaphor you choose.
Siler City, once known as a big-town destination for Andy Griffith and his TV sidekick Barney Fife, is still known for its chicken trucks and trains and livestock auction house. It’s also got many fast food restaurants, a Wal-Mart, and Tiendas with fabulous fresh Mexican food. New to the mix, and growing and thriving now for nine years is the North Carolina Arts Incubator, a cluster of galleries, artist studios, a coffee shop and community college pottery program right in the old part of downtown in whistling distance to the train crossing.
People are starting to get it that something exciting is happening here. Some of the people who are getting it are writers.
In late summer of 2010, I started teaching writing workshops in the back studio of the Incubator in Siler City. Just today I met a couple who are moving to the area from Singapore. I’m not saying they moved for the Incubator–they hadn’t heard of it before today. But I am saying that one of them signed up for a writing workshop because it sounded good and she wanted to write about foreign travels, and well, this seemed like a cool place to write.
It is a cool place to write.
Since Monday, writers have been gathering here for free workshops sponsored by the Incubator and funded by a grant from ChathamArts.
And in a small back room, with a lamp, a bookshelf full of favorite books, and a laptop, I’ve been cooking up writing exercises, consulting on manuscripts, and having heady conversations about Jack Kerouac and the hitchhiking adventures of fictional and actual people (okay, including my youthful self).
What a great way to spend a week! More to come!