Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Wallace’


Marianne Gingher On “Long Story Short”

September 13, 2009

Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-Five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers offers a concise, comprehensive, and compulsively readable collection of short-short stories. Concise on two counts: In total, the stories number less than 200 pages, and the longest of the stories is less than 1,700 words (the shortest is a mere 95). Comprehensive: The authors featured here make up a who’s who of writers with ties to the Old North State, including Russell Banks, Doris Betts, Will Blythe, Wendy Brenner, Orson Scott Card, Fred Chappell, Angela Davis-Gardner, Sarah Dessen, Pamela Duncan, Pam Durban, Clyde Edgerton, Philip Gerard, Gail Godwin, Randall Kenan, John Kessel, Michael Malone, Doug Marlette, Margaret Maron, Jill McCorkle, Lydia Millet, Robert Morgan, Michael Parker, Bland Simpson, Lee Smith, June Spence, Elizabeth Spencer, and Daniel Wallace, just to sample the list of contributors. And as for compulsively readable: Despite the pile of books I should have read first, as soon as Long Story Short arrived in the mail, I couldn’t resist reading at least one of the stories. Since that one was so short, I tried another. And then a third. And, as with a box of bon-bons, before I knew it….

The anthology, edited by Marianne Gingher (who also contributes a story) and published by the University of North Carolina Press, is a timely one. While Gingher points out in her introduction that short-shorts are as old as Aesop, there seems to be a growing trend toward the popularity of very short fiction in all of its forms: flash fiction, sudden fiction, microfiction, even twitter fiction and hint fiction. While many of the stories in this collection tend toward the traditional, to my mind, the book as a whole offers an array of different storytelling strategies and narrative structures, and they’re short enough that you’re able to re-read them easily to figure out how they work. Pam Durban’s “Island,” for example, struck me as so marvelous when I read it the first time that I turned around and read it again, aloud, to my wife. (And the stories are ripe for discussion too: Tara (a flash fiction writer herself) and I disagreed about whether Durban’s piece was as effective as it could be — where the heart of it was, where it might have been cut further, how it all played out.)

Today (Sunday, September 13), Gingher debuted the new collection on the closing day of the North Carolina Literary Festival, and tonight the book will be the focus of the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation’s 50th anniversary, but even if you miss those events, there are plenty more opportunities to catch readings by the contributors. (See a full list at the bottom of this post.) In advance of the NCLF, Gingher and I talked about the book via email, and I’m grateful for her time (especially in the midst of all the festival’s busy-ness!) and glad to share our interview here.
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N.C. Events: Regulator Bookshop Hosts Local Launch for “Love Is A Four-Letter Word”

August 20, 2009

Since my interview with Michael Taeckens a few weeks back, he’s been making the rounds with a series of appearances throughout New York City, promoting the hot new anthology Love Is A Four-Letter Word: True Stories of Break-ups, Bad Relationships, and Broken Hearts. This Friday, however, Taeckens will be debuting the book on his own turf, with the first official tour stop in North Carolina. Contributors Wendy Brenner, Margaret Sartor, and Patty Van Norman will join Taeckens for a reading and signing on Friday, August 21, at 7 p.m. at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop.

This weekend also marks the start of the N.C. Literary Festival‘s “Authors on the Road” program, bringing some of the state’s leading writers to various venues in advance of the Sept. 10-13 festival. Charles F. Price, author of Nor the Battle to the Strong: A Novel of the American Revolution in the South, and Daniel Wallace, author most recently of Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, will kick off the program on Saturday, August 22. Price appears at Pack Memorial Library at 2 p.m., and Wallace will cover the other end of the state with a 3 p.m. appearance at New Hanover County Public Library in Wilmington. For a complete list of participants, visit the NCLF “Authors on the Road” page here.

Also of note this weekend is an appearance by Mark L. Van Name with his new science fiction book, Overthrowing Heaven, the third book in his Jon and Lobo series (after One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack). He’ll be at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village on Sunday, August 23, at 2 p.m.

For more events, check out the MetroBooks Calendar at right!

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N.C. Literary Festival Announces Participants for “Authors on the Road”

April 13, 2009

Randall Kenan Joins North Carolina Literary Festivals "Authors on the Road" Program

In a February 9 interview, Amy Baldwin, director of the North Carolina Literary Festival, discussed a new initiative in 2009, “Authors on the Road,” which she described as “a program designed to bring the NCLF to the entire state of North Carolina and to further highlight our talented North Carolina authors.” The program’s six events, at libraries across the state, help to preview the official festival, Sept. 10-13 at UNC-Chapel Hill. Earlier today, the NCLF officially announced five of the participating writers:

  • Saturday, August 22, 3 p.m., Daniel Wallace, New Hanover County Public Library, Wilmington
  • Tuesday, August 25, 7 p.m., Allan Gurganus, Sheppard Memorial Library, Greenville
  • Tuesday, September 1, 6:30 p.m., P.T. Deutermann, Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center, Fayetteville
  • Tuesday, September 1, 7 p.m., Joan Medlicott, Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, Hickory
  • Tuesday, September 8, 7 p.m., Randall Kenan, Forsyth County Public Library, Winston-Salem

A sixth event will take place at Asheville’s Pack Memorial Library, but the author and the date are still to be announced. 

These authors are the first to be added to the festival’s web site, with more participants forthcoming. 

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North Carolina Literary Festival Alive & Well, Says New Director Amy Baldwin

February 9, 2009

In November 2007, an article in the (Raleigh) News & Observer suggested that there might not be a future for the North Carolina Literary Festival because the “university librarians who have organized the event say it may no longer be practical to pull it off.” A month later, a second article championed UNC Chancellor James Moeser for finding funds and “rescuing the popular but difficult-to-organize event.” But still, the sense persisted that the festival might not find firm footing. Even as recently as this past Christmas — a full year after those N&O articles — I had friends and book-lovers asking me if I’d heard anything about the festival’s prospects for the future. 

logoThe good news for all: The festival is indeed taking place. Mark your calendars now for September 10-13, 2009, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

New festival director Amy Baldwin took a few moments recently to talk about what’s in store later this year — and to chat about the festival’s new website, which debuts today.  

Art Taylor: What can fans of past festivals look forward to at the 2009 event?


Amy Baldwin

Amy Baldwin: The North Carolina Literary Festival (NCLF) theme is “A Celebration of Reading and Writing,” and that’s exactly what festival goers will experience when attending the festival. In addition to many distinguished keynotes, the festival will feature North Carolina favorites, emerging artists, well-known southern writers, and world-class authors from around the country. The author sessions will be varied in content and will include readings and discussions, and the festival will be full of exhibits, performances, book signings, and book sales. Highlighting a variety of writing styles and categories, the festival will be brimming with artistic and musical performances from multi-talented authors.  And as always, the festival activities are free and open to the public, which is particularly important in this economic time.

I know it may be a little too early to announce keynote speakers or participants at this point, but any specifics on when we can expect announcements in that regard?

The NCLF will start posting participating author names on the website at the end of April and will continue to  release names up until the festival in September. I am happy to share with you one of our keynotes now, though because we are excited about our new Children’s Area, a special feature of the festival intended for children 12 years of age and younger, and consisting of a Children’s Stage, autograph area, and activity areas. The Children’s Stage is a venue where artists who write and create works geared towards youth will interact with and speak to the festival audience. Approximately 15 speakers will participate over the two weekend days (authors, illustrators, storytellers, pop-up book creators, etc.)  Partnering with various local, national and international organizations, the books represented will be diverse and will cover a wide range of topics. After each session the authors/illustrators will be available to sign autographs. There will be several activity areas where children will be given the opportunity to make bookmarks, book bags, or something similar in nature, and participate in other educational activities related to reading, writing and illustrating.  This area will also include a venue where children can have their picture taken with character mascots. 

Brian Pinkney

Brian Pinkney

With that said, and in collaboration with the Susan Steinfirst Lecture, I am pleased to announce that author and illustrator, Brian Pinkney, will be one of our many keynotes in the Children’s Area. Mr. Pinkney has illustrated two Caldecott Honor books, The Faithful Friend, by Robert D. San Souci, and Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, by Andrea Davis Pinkney.  Mr. Pinkney’s own books include Hush, Little Baby; Cosmo and the Robot; Max Found Two Sticks; JoJo’s Flying Side Kick; and The Adventures of Sparrowboy, winner of the 1997 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. He has received the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration and three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards.   

In advance of the festival, you’ve also been planning a small series of “preview” events.  Can you tell us more about the genesis of that idea? And can you provide any specific information on the series for readers who might want to attend?

A new addition to the festival,Authors on the Road,” is a program designed to bring the NCLF to the entire state of North Carolina and to further highlight our talented North Carolina authors. I spoke with over 200 individuals when I first became Director of the festival to obtain their thoughts about the festival, and literature in general. During those conversations I learned that people all over the state were interested in the festival, although  not everyone is able to attend due to distance. With assistance from one of our Premier Sponsors, the NC State Library, Authors on the Road is collaborating with six libraries throughout the state to bring a piece of the festival to various areas within the state: Buncombe County Public Libraries (Ashville), Patrick Beaver Memorial Library (Hickory), Forsyth County Library (Winston-Salem), Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center (Fayetteville), Sheppard Memorial Library (Greenville), and the New Hanover Public Library (Wilmington.) With input from each library, a chosen North Carolina and NCLF author will visit each area to participate in a reading and discussion program two to three weeks prior to the festival. Each library will host one author, and a total of six authors will participate in the program. We are in the process of finalizing details, but the author names, and the dates, times and locations in which they will be speaking will be posted on our website shortly.

Regarding the just-launched website:  Even though there’s no programming information at this point, there’s still plenty to admire there already in terms of artwork and design.

I’m delighted that you noticed the artwork because we felt that it would be wonderful and relevant to have a local illustrator create our logo and accompanying designs. We were so pleased when author and illustrator, Daniel Wallace, agreed to lend his artistic talents to the festival. Daniel is the author of four novels (most noted for Big Fish which was turned into a movie) and a children’s book, and his illustrations have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Italian Vanity Fair, and many other magazines and books. He is a perfect example of a multi-talented North Carolina author, and we will continue to reveal additional illustrations as more materials are released.  

It’s great news that the festival is definitely taking place this year, but 2009 also promises to be a tough time both for arts organizations and for the book publishing industry.  What are the particular challenges that a festival like this faces in this economic climate?  Is the present footing (and future footing) more secure than a year ago?  And what can fans of the festival do to help out now?

Planning a festival of this size and caliber is definitely a big undertaking and requires significant resources. The NCLF is evidence that our community is highly supportive of reading and writing and the roles in which our libraries play in our community.  UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, Duke and NC Central have all continued with their financial investment to the festival — even during this time of budget cuts — and have plans to continue their commitment in the future. Our festival sponsors and individual donors, including many who are new to the NCLF, are also showing their support through financial contributions and assisting with marketing the festival. I believe that our community will continue to make reading and writing a priority by supporting the festival in years to come.  

During these difficult financial times, corporations are targeting their corporate giving to specific areas of interest, and it is our responsibility to partner with those organizations that support reading, writing and the arts. So to answer your question regarding what can fans of the festival do to help out now: They can make a financial donation to the festival, they can register to volunteer at the festival, and they can encourage others to attend the festival.    

Finally, in that regard, a simple question:  Why a book festival at all?  What does North Carolina gain from the North Carolina Literary Festival?

The NCLF is of great value to our community for many reasons. First and foremost, the community has been outspoken in their desire to sustain the literary festival, stating its importance in and relevance to our community. The festival affords our community with the opportunity to watch and listen to their favorite authors in person read from their works and discuss their writing history, as well as interact with the authors during the question and answer portion of each session. For book lovers, this is a thrilling and memorable experience. For many, obtaining an autograph from their favorite author is unforgettable. The festival also educates the community with the incorporation of sessions that pertain to diversity, social, national and world issues, history, politics, science and health. The festival reinforces the involvement that the libraries have in our communities, and helps to promote the use of libraries and the research services provided by libraries. Because learning to read is crucial in our earlier years, the festival provides an interesting and interactive learning opportunity for our youth. Teachers are able to share a particular author’s work with their students in the classroom then allow their students to interact with that author at the festival. Two full days of children’s sessions and activities also allows families to enjoy the event and provides an avenue for children to become engaged in reading and writing.  

From a writer’s perspective, the festival helps to honor and showcase writing and highlights the value of writing. From a community perspective, the festival is a way to support our local writers and the writing community as a whole. Through the promotion of reading and writing, the festival also encourages literacy, which is a serious issue in our nation.  I could list many more reasons why a literary festival is important, but I’ll end with the simple fact that during this current economic time, the festival offers our community members an event that is interesting, engaging, educational and entertaining, and all of it free of charge.

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Tar Heel Tidbits (of the Literary Kind, of course)

October 16, 2008

Several short items about North Carolina literature here.

This Sunday, October 19, is the biennial induction ceremony for the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, which welcomes three new members to it historic ranks: poet James Applewhite, whose latest collection is A Diary of Altered Light; novelist Lee Smith, whose latest book is On Agate Hill (see my review in Metro magazine); and historian William S. Powell, whose monumental Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a must-have title for anyone interested in the state. The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines. 

Another set of North Carolina writers have also been honored recently with North Carolina Book Awards, announced earlier this month by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association and scheduled to be presented formally on Saturday evening, November 8, at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel. The 2008 honorees included Rob Christensen’s The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics: The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina, winner of the Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction; Michael Chitwood’s Spill, winner of the Roanoke-Chown Award for Poetry; Cathryn Sill’s About Habitats: Wetlands, winner of the American Association of University Women Award for Juvenile Literature; and Daniel Wallace’s Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, winner of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction (see my review in Metro magazine). 

Yesterday, I made a return appearance on D.G. Martin’s radio show “Who’s Talking” on WCHL, 1360 AM, in Chapel Hill, N.C. — chatting this time about the essay on Civil Rights Era mystery novels I wrote for Mystery Scene magazine (a podcast of the program is available here). Before the show, we talked off-air about Tony Earley’s books Jim the Boy and The Blue Star — reminding me that Earley is going to be a guest on Martin’s TV show, North Carolina Bookwatch, on UNC-TV next weekend: Friday, October 24, at 9:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, October 26, in an “encore” presentation at 5 p.m. The rest of the fall season, below, follows the same schedule (Friday at 9:30 p.m.; Sunday at 5 p.m.):

  • Louise Hawes, author of Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand, on Friday, October 31, and Sunday, November 2. 
  • Nancy Peacock, author of two novels and the recent nonfiction book,  A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life on Friday, November 7, and Sunday, November 9.
  • Anna Rubino, author of Queen of the Oil Club: The Intrepid Wanda Jablonski and the Power of Information, on Friday, November 14, and Sunday, November 16.
  • Sheila Moses, author of the novel The Baptism, on Friday, November 21, and Sunday, November 23. 
  • And Clyde Edgerton, whose latest novel is The Bible Salesman, on Friday, November 28, and Sunday, November 30. (See my review in Metro magazine, in which I totally missed the fact that the book had begun as a riff on Flannery O’Connor.) 

And in honor of Martin’s upcoming guest Nancy Peacock (and in recognition that I haven’t included much about the “writing life” in these posts lately), here’s a quick excerpt from A Broom of One’s Own:

I tell anyone that wants to write, but isn’t writing, that each of us gets 168 hours every week. Amazingly prolific writers never had more than 168 hours in a week. It is true that they might have had cooks and nannies and even housecleaners, but they never had any more time in a week than we do. And time is everything. Time is the comforting blanket that cloaks all our days, and the rug that we are constantly pulling out from under ourselves. The most important things to remember about time are that you need it and that you have it….

I cringe whenever a writer asks if I’d like to hear about the book he is working on, or in some cases not working on but merely thinking about. “Write it down,” I tell him.

“Oh, I will. But don’t you want to hear about it now?”

No, I don’t.

Don’t break the magical spell of writing a story and waiting for it to evolve, day after day after day after day. Don’t dither away that energy with cocktail chatter. Don’t give your baby any form other than the written word.

Stories want to be born, but they aren’t attached to the form that they take. A story is just as content to be told orally as it is to be written. If I go around telling it to everyone, it’s happy and gone. The tension is over. Talking about a work in progress to anyone but the most carefully chosen person is a death knell.

On that note, I think I’ll get back to work myself.

— Art Taylor

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