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N is for North Carolina, the “Writingest State”

April 16, 2015

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While other states may challenge the epithet, I have reason to believe that North Carolina, the Land of the Long Leaf Pine, the Tar Heel State, once known as the “Good Roads State,” really is the “Writingest State.” I’ve always loved writing–maybe as much as I love reading. Once I moved here, though, I discovered the most supportive literary community imaginable.

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The old motto “Think global; act local” certainly applies.  One of the best discoveries I made a few years back, when I got started writing poetry again, was the once-a-month phenomenon that is Poetry Hickory.  For more than 100 months now, Scott Owens has hosted this second Tuesday meeting at Taste Full Beans, a downtown coffee show he now owns.  Every month, participants hear readings by a couple of poets with recent published chapbooks or collections.  Beforehand, Writers’ Night Out kicks off, often with a workshop by the  one of the featured writers.  The open mic usually gives a chance at the microphone for experienced readers and novices as well. The crowd that attends, many regulars and other drop-ins, ranges from thirty to fifty on some nights.

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From my connections there, I’ve become involved first in the Poetry Council of North Carolina and then the North Carolina Poetry Society, comprised of poets who actively support writers in the state.  The North Carolina poet laureate post is also much more than just a title (as the governor found out in the past year when he tried to circumvent the nomination process to name his own selection–stirring up quite a brouhaha).  Fred Chappell, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Cathy Smith Bower, Joseph Bathanti, and now Shelby Stephenson have actively promoted poetry in the state, making appearances at school and small town libraries, as well as at more prestigious events.

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Poetry is just a part of the body of great writing in the state.  Through the North Carolina Writers Network and through my involvement in North Carolina English Teachers Association and its Ragan-Rubin award, honoring Sam Ragan and Louis Rubin and my college’s Laurette LePrevost Writers Symposium, I have met Ron Rash, Clyde Edgerton, Wiley Cash, Allan Gurganus, Silas House, Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, Marianne Gingher, and so many more.  Over and over, I have seen that established, successful writers nurture aspiring writers.

Maybe there’s something in the water here, something in the air.  I think I’ll drink deeply, take a big breath, and then I’ll sit down and write.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 18, 2015 4:12 am

    Based on all the things you’ve told me about writing in NC, I know your epithet is correct! And you’re the writingest writer in the state!!

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