Map of NC

Map of NC

April 19, 2021

“It Becomes Its Own Living Thing”: An Interview with North Carolina Poet Terry Kennedy

by Emma Bornstein (Social Media Intern) In celebration of National Poetry Month, I had the honor of meeting with North Carolina poet Terry Kennedy. He is the author of a poetry collection, New River Breakdown, which is hailed by poet Kelly Cherry as “an elusive and haunting narrative of loss, love, and recovery.” While Kennedy grew up moving around the country, he has called North Carolina “home” for the last 20 years. More precisely (with his flair for writerly homages): “As Fred Chappell says, I’ve ‘put my roots down in Greensboro.’” Kennedy is the Director of the MFA Writing Program at University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and editor of The Greensboro Review and storySouth. With its sprinklings of writer trivia, humor, and shape-shifting poems, I hope you enjoy this conversation with an enchanting local poet! --- (This interview is edited for length and clarity.)


Emma Bornstein: We like to ask all our author interviewees this question: Why do you think the North Carolina Literary Map is important for authors? 


Terry Kennedy: Outside of its natural archival and teaching purposes, I feel like the NC Literary Map is important as a record of North Carolina’s changing landscape and culture.  If you dig into the work of Doris Betts, Fred Chappell, Jacki Shelton Green, Randall Kenyan, Jill McCorkle, Reynolds Price . . . you’re not only reading great literature, you’re learning about the landscape, how places and things looked, what people ate, how they talked. These things get lost over time. But with the Map, they are, in many ways, still living. 


Bornstein: If you could pick any poet to eat dinner with, dead or alive, who would it be?


Kennedy: Since we’re talking about the Lit Map, I would say I’d love to have another dinner with Robert Watson. Bob was a great storyteller. And not just stories about the other interesting poets and writers he met and hung around with. He and his wife, the painter Betty Watson, traveled all over the world. His baby doctor was William Carlos Williams. One time, some of the kids from the Manson family brought him and Betty a plate of homemade cookies. Of course, they didn’t know who they were at the time. They thought they were just these nice hippie kids that lived on the farm down the road.


Bornstein: What does your writing process look like? How long does it take you to write a poem?

Kennedy: I’m a very slow writer. I might work on a poem for 5-10 years before I send it to a literary magazine for consideration. And even then, I would probably tell you that it’s not finished. There are poems in my first book, New River Breakdown, that I’m still editing. But back to the first part of the question: it’s important for me to move between mediums while I’m drafting a poem. I always start by writing longhand in some notebooks my wife makes for me. And then I move to my Uncle’s manual typewriter. It’s a 1950’s Royal Portable. I have several typewriters, but that one is my favorite. And then I’ll move back to longhand again. That switching around forces me to think about the poem in different ways. Interesting things happen subconsciously when you write by hand. And the typewriter forces you to really think about the terminal edge of the page and, by association, the length of the lines in your poems. 


Bornstein: What’s the biggest myth about writing or reading poetry?


Kennedy: For me, the biggest myth about poetry is that it’s hard to understand; that there’s some magic key to unlocking a poem's meaning. Poems are not mysteries to be unlocked. And outside of the completely artificial world of academia, they do not have any more inherent meaning than the redbud tree outside of my office window. An author might have a specific idea or intent when writing a poem, but once it leaves the author's desk and goes out into the world, it becomes its own living thing. And a thing that changes with each person it encounters. When I read a poem, that poem mixes with all of my expectations and experiences and becomes something new. The same thing happens when you read that same poem. Your expectations and experiences change that poem yet again. This is how poems travel through time; why something written by Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson can still be relevant in 2021.


Bornstein: Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your poems?


Kennedy: The poems in my new manuscript use the natural world as a vehicle for describing the inner world of the speaker. Nothing new there, but, while working on the poems, I did spend a lot of time looking at the landscape. How the light changes as it sifts through the trees across the day. What the grass looks like after a quick summer rain. And also thinking about how the landscape has changed over time. How a hill that has been stripped bare because of construction, fills back in. And along those lines trying to remember what it looked like before. 


Bornstein: What advice do you often give to new writers?


Kennedy: The most important thing for new writers to do is read. Read everything. And read widely. Read The Norton Anthology, read collections of poems (from both the small and micro presses as well as the big houses), read literary journals. It’s important to understand the range of what is being written as well as what has been written. In the very big picture, poetry is a conversation. You can’t be a part of the conversation without knowing what’s being said.

Bornstein: What, in your opinion, makes a good poem?


Kennedy: That’s an easy one. If it physically moves you—you know, you feel something in your stomach—it’s a good poem.

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Terry Kennedy’s book, New River Breakdown, is published and distributed by Unicorn Press. You can also find him on the Map.

March 4, 2021

Your Tour Guides to Fictional Places: Watch the Quarantine Tour's Launch Reading

Last month, in partnership with the NC Writers’ Network and North Carolina Literary Review, we launched the NC Quarantine Literary Tour—a virtual tour of fictional places created by nine North Carolina authors.

During the February 18th launch event, attendees were treated to a whirlwind reading by accomplished writers across the state, excerpting their or others' work in imaginary landscapes. From Leah Hampton's peaceful dip into Wilma Dykeman's Thicketty Creek; to Carole Boston Weatherford's disquieting look into Charles W. Chesnutt's insurrectionary Wellington; to Clyde Edgerton's hilarious portrait of Listre residents—it was a night to remember!

If you missed the live event, we have good news: a recording of the reading is now available! Now you can explore the Quarantine Tour with our brilliant tour guides anytime. Access the video of the launch reading here.

And don't forget: you can always take the Quarantine Tour solo on the Map!

February 16, 2021

Introducing the North Carolina Quarantine Literary Tour: An Interview with Ed Southern of NC Writers’ Network

by Emma Bornstein (Social Media Intern)


It’s almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of us are still stuck at home. So if we can’t tour North Carolina’s literary sites in person, why not visit the places that aren’t really there?


In partnership with the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame and North Carolina Literary Review, we’re thrilled to announce the new North Carolina Quarantine Literary Tour—a virtual tour of fictional places created by nine North Carolina authors. This unique experience will be available directly from our website, on our Literary Tours page.


On Thursday, February 18th at 7pm (ET), the North Carolina Writers’ Network is hosting a free online reading to launch the Quarantine Tour. According to NCWN: “During the February 18 event, the Quarantine Tour will ‘stop’ at each site through an excerpt by the place’s creator”—read by a “cross-section” of North Carolina writers—”describing their fictional setting.”

This week, I met with Ed Southern, author and Executive Director of NCWN, to discuss the Quarantine Tour and Thursday night’s reading.


---
(This interview is edited for length and clarity.)

Emma Bornstein: Tell me about your involvement in the North Carolina Quarantine Literary Tour.

Ed Southern: The way I got involved is that the North Carolina Writers Network oversees the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame [NCLHOF], and I serve on the advisory board for the North Carolina Literary Map. Representing the NCLHOF, I approached the Map about doing this [virtual tour]. And then we brought in Margaret Bauer, [Editor] from North Carolina Literary Review, as a resource for suggestions of places [to include], and also of information about some of these authors and the works in which these places are featured.


Bornstein: Could you tell me a little about the Tour? How did it get started?


Southern: Back in the spring [last year] when we first went into lockdown, we thought it would be fun to present a literary tour to places you can’t actually go, since you weren’t supposed to go anywhere anyway. Fictional locales that were created by authors who have been inducted into the NCLHOF. You can’t really visit Tims Creek, or Altamont, because it doesn’t really exist. So we thought it would be a fun [thing] since people were stuck online.


Honestly, we weren’t able to get it together quickly enough, and we thought: “Well okay, we won’t worry about it, because surely we’ll be out of quarantine in another month or two.” Ha. Then in the fall, when it became obvious that we’re not getting out of lockdown anytime soon, we decided to pick it back up again and put it together.

To reiterate, we hope it’s a fun way to visit the state when you can’t really visit the state.


Bornstein: You talked about the decision behind selecting fictional locations as opposed to real locations. What was the process for deciding which authors to include? Was there anything in particular that drew you to these nine authors?


Southern: The two criteria were that they had created a fictional North Carolina locale for use in their work, and they were inducted into the NCLHOF. But these were all folks [who] came quickly to mind. Most of these locales were fairly famous—even though they’re not real, they’re well-known from these authors’ works. All of Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott mysteries are set in Colleton County. Several of Clyde Edgerton’s books are set in Listre. Thomas Wolfe is famous for creating Altamont, which is very obviously Asheville but not really. If you’re familiar with North Carolina literature, these were fairly easy to come up with.


Bornstein: You mentioned that one of the initial challenges was not knowing how long we were going to be in quarantine. Were there any other challenges that came up when the Tour was being developed, or when you were planning the launch event?


Southern: I think the biggest challenge was finding the time to do this. Everyone was so busy trying to adapt to the changed circumstances. But all of the authors who we contacted were very eager to contribute an excerpt or allow us to use an excerpt. I’m glad to have a couple of them actually reading with us at the Thursday event—Clyde Edgerton and Jill McCorkle will be reading. But then we have other Hall of Fame inductees like Bland Simpson and Carole Boston Weatherford, who will be reading excerpts by other authors as part of this Tour. 


Bornstein: What is something you personally find interesting about the Tour?


Southern: I had a lot of fun looking at the ways that these authors describe these places. Rarely do they stop the narrative to describe the physical setting. Obviously, they’re all in the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, they’re all accomplished authors, they’re all good at what they do. And it was sort of a master class in itself to watch how they work descriptions into the course of the action, and how oftentimes you’d then have descriptions that weren’t physical or geographic. Instead, they were describing people. Randall Kenan, in the excerpt we used from him, he’s describing the food that people cook and eat in Tims Creek—which in some ways is a much more visceral and evocative description than if he had laid out the map of the town.

Bornstein: So it’s very much speaking to the imagined culture, rather than focusing just on the geographical aspect.


Southern: Very much so. It’s wonderful to watch how each of the authors did that. How each of the authors—and this is kind of a cliché—made the reader see the place from their words on the page.

Bornstein: What do you hope people will walk away with from this Tour and Thursday night’s reading?

Southern: I hope they will feel like their imaginations, at least, have journeyed around the state, even if their bodies are stuck at home for a little while longer. I hope, beyond that, that people get a new or renewed interest and appreciation for the breadth and depth of North Carolina writing.

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You can register to attend the North Carolina Quarantine Literary Tour launch via NCWN’s website. The deadline for registration is Thursday, February 18 at noon.

Can’t attend the reading? A recording of the event will be available at a later date, and you can take the Tour “solo” anytime on our website.

Sources: “See the State by Not Going to Places that Aren't Really There: Take the North Carolina Quarantine Literary Tour” (8 Feb. 2021). NC Writers’ Network. https://ncwriters.org/index.php/our-members/network-news/11822-qt-2021 

July 21, 2020

Between the Covers Bed & Breakfast Literary B&B

Today's bookstore highlight is Old Books in downtown Wilmington, NC.  Old Books is another personal favorite of mine! I lived in Wilmington, NC for 24 years and visited Old Books many times (including at their second location at 22 N. Front St.)! Old Books, while its seen a name change and a few locations over the years, has been a staple in Wilmington since 1982! They also have a wonderful Literary History Walking Tour (which I've also experienced first-hand). A Literary Loft above the bookstore available as a nightly rental, and Between the Covers Bed & Breakfast Literary B&B located in the owner's home. Old Books is currently located at 249 N. Front Street, across the street from its original location, in The Gaylord Building. 

Between the Covers Bed and Breakfast is located in the Rohler family home (the family that owns Old Books) in the Historic Carolina Heights neighborhood. The rooms are themed around Maya Angelou, Tom Robbins, Zelda Fitzgerald, Nicholas Sparks, and a North Carolina Poets Laureate Garden.  The Between The Covers a NC Literary Bed and Breakfast websites states that it is a full service Bed and Breakfast. Your stay includes a three-course breakfast in their lovely dining room, with all day coffee, beverages and snacks buffet located in their Butler's pantry. 

Diana and Lloyd Rohler who acquired Old Books in 1982 from original owner, Richard Daughtry, built one the largest private libraries not associated with a college in North Carolina! When their daughter, Gwenyfar Rohler, who is the current managing partner of Old Books, inherited her family home in 2014 and she began restoring the home to it's former glory and transforming it into the literary Bed and Breakfast it is today.  Between the Covers Bed & Breakfast celebrates the same things that the North Carolina Literary Map does: books, and the state's rich literary tradition.  I'm looking forward to staying in the Maya Angelou room one day!  Check out all the rooms offered on their website!
Two books I've purchased from Old Books (I was super into theatre at the time) and my Bibliophiles Rock! sticker 

July 14, 2020

Zelda Lockhart

I'll admit before my involvement with the NC Literary Map, I had not heard of author, Zelda Lockhart.  I found a lot of information about her while researching for my post on July 6th.  Ms. Lockhart's website describes her as an "author, speaker, facilitator, and scholar" and so she is, evidenced by her many acomplishments and extracurricular events.  Zelda Lockhart is also an advocate for black women, using the hashtag: "blackwomenwrite" on most of her social media posts.  Additionally, her website features YouTube videos she has done entitled, "Black Creative Healing".  I am currently reading Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World's Most Notorious Jewel Thief but I can't wait to read her other award-nominated and award-winning books!  Diamond Doris is also advertised as soon to be a movie.  Unpopular opinion: I also love movies based on books.  It's not often that I prefer the movie but I will gladly commit to a film version as well! 

Check out more about Zelda Lockhart by going to https://zeldalockhart.com/https://herstorygardenstudios.com/, & https://lavensonpress.com/.  You can also check her out on the map!

June 29, 2020

#Shelfies!

Hi!

I'm Ashton.  I've been behind the social media posts for the NC Literary Map since May 12th.  :)  I'm an online UNCG MLIS (Masters of Library & Information Science) graduate student and I'm halfway through the program.  I love the North Carolina Literary Map and have been following the account and website for a while! I, up until recently, lived in eastern North Carolina for the past 24 years and love to read!  I mostly enjoy young adult and historical fiction.  I've been a reader, writer, teacher, retail employee, and customer/admirer/advocate of bookshops so I feel like this internship with the map this summer was a perfect fit for me and I hope you've thought so too!  I currently live in northern Virginia with my husband and two cats, Luke & Luna.

I chose not only one of my favorite North Carolina books but one of my favorite books of all: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen!  I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan and I own all her books.  I also own The Choice by Nicholas Sparks (my favorite novel by him) and several books about the Biltmore.  I own various North Carolina trivia books as well: North Carolina Curiosities by Jerry Bledsoe, Ghosts of the Carolina Coasts by Terrance Zepke, Wilm on Film by Amy Hotz and Ben Steelman and Britt's Donuts: Forever Sweet by Daniel Ray Norris and Halyn Prusa. 

Tag us in your #shelfies (a selfie featuring you and your North Carolina book!) It could be what you are currently reading, a favorite NC book, an book written by an NC author, or anything NC literary you want to share with us!  We want to see what you are reading!

We know lots of folks have been cooking/baking during this time too so you can also tag us in your culinary posts from North Carolina cookbooks!  :)

Look for more blog posts from me!  I'm planning on making regular blog posts from now until the end of July (the end of my time with the Literary Map).

April 10, 2019

National Library Week

This National Library Week, take some time to appreciate the people who help make libraries such a special place: librarians! Today we'll highlight a famous local librarian: Louis Round Wilson. Literary Map fans who live in Chapel Hill might have heard his name before, seeing as Wilson Library on UNC Chapel Hill's campus was named in his honor.

Wilson was born in Lenoir, North Carolina in 1876. He was raised by two teachers, and was one day expected to choose it as his profession. While he did go on to work as a professor at various points in his life, librarianship was his true calling. In 1901, he was hired as a librarian at UNC, where he pursued his master's degree in English and was later awarded a PhD. He was offered the chance to move on from his position in 1906, but declined the chance in order to remain dedicated to improving UNC's collections.

He was a firm believer in the value of libraries, eventually helping found the North Carolina Library Association in 1904, which improved the situation of libraries throughout the state. Wilson was an influential member of the Southeastern Library Association, and served as its president from 1924 to 1926.

During this period he pushed for the construction of a new library on UNC's campus, as the then-current one could not support its students' needs. In 1929, the library was finished mere days before the stock market crash. Despite the obvious struggles it faced in the years to come, it survived and even expanded its collection through the crisis via financial donations. For some time, this library went nameless, only referred to as "the library" until 1956, when it was renamed in honor of Wilson, its first librarian. Today it serves as the home of UNC's special collections and archives.

Wilson's accomplishments were so numerous that it is difficult summarizing them in one short blog post, which speaks to how important he was to librarianship in North Carolina. He served as the first dean of UNC's Library Science school, and continued to work in libraries until his retirement. You can read a complete summary of Louis Round Wilson's work at the NC Literary Map. If you're interested in learning more about the man himself, his papers can be found at Wilson Library.

The next time you visit your library, keep in mind Wilson's lifelong dedication to North Carolina libraries, and thank your local librarian!