It’s School O’Clock—Time to Commit to Your Craft

Yellow buses are making rounds through residential streets and stores are stocked with blank notebooks waiting for their first words and fresh boxes of pencils. Here at Lit, we’ve been busy gathering together classes, workshops, and events with your favorite writers to help you commit to your craft, no matter your genre. You can find full class listings now in our new online catalog and coming soon in the gorgeous print version. In the meantime, here are a few highlights.

4X4CLT Poster Release Party and Master Class

Our first event of the new season is the next release of our 4X4CLT poetry + art posters. The September edition features poems by Jennifer Chang, whose Some Say the Lark won the Poetry Society of America’s 2018 William Carlos Williams Award. Her poems are paired with art by Tom Thoune and photography by Cordelia Williams. Please join us for the free release celebration at The Light Factory on Friday September 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Chang teaches a master class — “On Fragments” — Saturday September 7 beginning at 9:30 am at Charlotte Lit, and registration is open now.


Next up is the first of our free monthly Wednesdays@Lit gatherings. On September 11 at 6:30 pm, David Radavich brings together a group of friends for a staged reading of his collection America Bound: An Epic for Our Time. We’ll gather in Charlotte Lit’s beautiful new Studio Two, home to plants, books, and lots of comfortable seating. For the October 16 Wednesdays@Lit we’re pleased to welcome NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, in partnership with Pedestal Magazine. (She teaches a master class the following day.)

New Classes—and a Fall Mountain Retreat

Are you interested in starting or deepening your journal practice? Writing a children’s book? Exploring the path to publishing? We’ve got classes just for you. Looking ahead, you’ll find more special events in October, including a mountain retreat with Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly.

Get Immersed

If you already have a dedicated writing practice and you’re ready for the next level, consider our MFA-style group workshopping in poetry with Dannye Romine Powell and our six-week immersions: novel immersion with Paula Martinac, and memoir immersion with Gilda Morina Syverson.

Our mission is to celebrate the literary arts by educating and engaging writers and readers through classes, conversations, and community. We hope you’ll peruse our new season and see what engages you. Sharpen your pencils!

North Carolina Writers Conference Focuses on Community

Anyone strolling the sidewalks of South Main Street in Lexington, NC, the last Saturday in July must have felt a certain rhythm of community calling from inside the Edward C. Smith Civic Center, where more than 100 writers had gathered that day and the previous evening for the annual North Carolina Writers Conference.

What began in 1950 as a pilgrimage to Manteo to attend The Lost Colony and support writer Paul Green has become an annual event open to all who love the written and recited words of kindred spirits. That spirit was beating like a drum circle this year as Barbara Presnell and her leadership team of Terri Kirby Erickson and June Guralnick served up a program to honor not only the state’s literary traditions but also the innovative movement toward change.

The Conference opened Friday night with a tribute to Richard Walser, a Lexington-born (1908-1988) educator and North Carolina’s foremost chronicler of the state’s literary heritage. The homage to Walser included a showing of the film Their Native Earthmoderated by Jim Clark.

Saturday morning Barbara Presnell welcomed participants by thanking everyone for their help (no one said no, she claims, which speaks to the spirit of North Carolina’s writing kinship). After honoring those authors and poets recently deceased and enticing us to make a visit to the old timey hardware store and candy shop on Main Street, Barbara had the room buzzing with energy. First, two lively and thought-provoking panels.

“Growing into Words: How Our Writing Changes as We Age” with writers Pat Riviere-Seel, Larry Earley, Joe Mills and David Radavich, plus Lynden Harris, a community collaborator who encourages those without a voice—immigrants, death row prisoners—to tell their stories. And what advice did the panelists leave us as we age? Trust the process, serve humanity in our writing, support new writers, take the work more seriously than we take ourselves.

“Writing for Change” (some would call them political poems) with Antionette Kerr, nonprofit leader and media correspondent, as moderator; Diya Abdo, a Jordan native, Guilford professor, and director of Every Campus a Refugee; Joseph Bathanti, Appalachian State professor and writer in residence, recent NC Poet Laureate, and writing liaison to prisoners and Viet Nam veterans; and myself, a writing facilitator with folks without homes and rabble-rouser for racial and environmental justice. All these writers are using their craft to amplify the stories of the marginalized in our midst, or in the words of Tracy K. Smith, to use writing as a means “to unsettle something, to trouble the reader.”

Entertainment at lunch was a brilliant recognition of the Charlotte Writers’ Club and the Charlotte Writers’ Club North, researched and written by talented poet Dede Wilson and presented by David Radavich.

After lunch, there would be no time to sleep off the turkey sandwiches and chocolate desserts. Who could sleep anyway through the next segment of the day’s program: a documentary film by screenwriter and filmmaker Palmer Holton, produced for ESPN Films and entitled When the King Held Court. Picture Elvis Presley’s obsession with racket ball (who knew?) told by those who could report it first hand, interspersed with graphic novel animation and music selected by Amy Winehouse’s drummer. That drum beat was moving us into the future for sure.

The next presentation, “Outside the Box,” was an electric hour with four spoken-word performance poets who had us on the edges of our seats while they recited without falter their creations. Kudos to Jo DeLosSantos, Dasan Ahanu, Ashley Lumpkin, Josephus III and Shane Manier for turning the conference into one that could now be described as 69 years young rather than old.

Dannye Romine Powell Honored

Beginning in 1977 the NC Writers Conference’s final act has been a banquet honoring a writer of high esteem like Reynolds Price, Fred Chappell, John Ehle, Shelby Stephenson, James Applewhite, Tony Abbott, Ruth Moose, Robert Morgan, Kathryn Stripling Byer and others.

This year’s honoree was Charlotte’s own Dannye Romine Powell, author of four books of award-winning poetry, book editor of the Charlotte Observer from 1975-1992, returning in 2013 to the book page after twenty years as the Observer ’s local front columnist. In her book, Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers, she explores the creative process with those she had the privilege of interviewing: James Dickey, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, Lee Smith, and William Styron, among others.

The banquet decor had Dannye written all over it: freshly-ironed white linens on round tables with grass green runners, Mason jars filled with black-eyed Susans, descendants of those originating in poet Susan Laughter Meyers’ garden in Summerville. Four fellow-writers, Kim Church, Bob Anthony, Angela Davis Gardner and Joseph Bathanti serenaded Dannye with accolades: Generous in her book reviews. Passionate for books and their authors. Kind, warm, supportive to fellow writers. Fierce in her poetry, and musical. Funny as hell. Too many to repeat them all here. Bathanti tells it like this: When he was a new graduate and wannabe writer, he barged into Dannye’s office one day to suggest he might help her write reviews. Instead of showing him the door, she showed him a treasure trove of books and hired him on the spot to be one of her readers. That selfless spirit and belief in talent yet untapped is a gift Dannye brings to all North Carolina writers (and wannabes ) who are lucky to have been graced by her presence.

Barbara Conrad is the author of three poetry collections: The Gravity of Color, Wild Plums, and her most recent, There Is a Field (2018). She is also editor of Waiting for Soup, an anthology from her writing group at a center for homeless neighbors. Her poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Atlanta Review, Nine Mile, NC Literary Review, Broad River and several anthologies, such as Kakalak and Southern Poetry Anthology. Her poetry ranges from ironic takes on life to hard truths about social injustice.

What I’m Reading This Summer

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of summer reading picks from Charlotte Lit staff. Here, Charlotte Lit col-founder Paul Reali shares what he’ll be reading this summer.

Each time I pick up my iPad with the Kindle app, or pick through the stack on my nightstand, my different selves do battle. Which Paul is doing the reading tonight?

This summer, my selves will be battling over these titles. This is not be a traditional summer reading list, because nothing here has anything to do with summer, most are not new, and there are no beach reads here (well, maybe one). Summer for me is the time to trim my stack, not add to it.

For the Writer: The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby. One of the bibles of writing. Authors Lab coach Kim Wright uses the author as a verb, as in: “Did you Truby the manuscript?”

For the Reader (and Writer) of Mysteries: When Will There Be Good News, by Kate Atkinson, the third Jackson Brodie mystery. Atkinson writes mysteries that read like literature.

For the Reader of Literature: Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss. I’m one day into this and I think it wins the daily battle until I get to the end. Charlotte Lit co-founder Kathie Collins called this the book she’d wished she’d written.

For the Reader of Local Writers: Clio Rising, by Paula Martinac. Charlotte Lit teacher and Authors Lab coach has written another winner with distinct voices and memorable characters. I defy you to ever forget Livvie Bliss or Clio Hartt.

For the Editor: I’ll be reading my own mystery novel in progress, which is going through one (I swear just one) last (absolutely last) final (absolutely dead final) revision to get that word count down to 80K.

For the Parent of Teenagers: Untangled: Guiding Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, by Lisa Damour Ph.D. The subtitle says it all. A fascinating and sometimes frightening read.

For the Runner: Run Less, Run Faster, by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Ross. The perfect book for running like a 40-year old on 50-something legs.

For the Fun-Lover: Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A 30-year old one-off collaboration by two fantastic writers, and that has had an active fandom ever since. Read this beforeyou watch the new Amazon mini-series and you’ll appreciate it all the more.

Summer Reading Picks by Lisa Zerkle

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of summer reading picks from Charlotte Lit staff. Here, Lisa Zerkle, curator of the 4X4CLT poetry and art poster series, shares her choices for top books.

Just finished

The Wall, by John LancesterThis near-future dystopia plays out in a country that could be Great Britain where young people are conscripted into two-year deployments as guards along a vast border wall. They’re tasked with preventing incursions by Others, desperate refugees who have left their home countries for a slim chance of getting past the Wall. Fast-paced and disturbingly plausible.

I’m a huge fan of short story collections for their brevity and variety. I heartily recommend these two remarkable, recently released short story collections, both of which are worth reading for their skilled construction alone.

Sing to It, by Amy Hempel is written in a Lydia Davis-style compression. “I leave a lot out when I tell the truth. The same when I write a story,” Hempel has said of her stories. I imagine her sliding words out of her drafts Jenga-style to see if the center still holds. The first two “stories” of ‘Sing to It” are so brief and rich they could double as prose poems. I found her risk-taking style thrilling and entertaining.

Your Duck is My Duck, by Deborah Eisenberg. A recent New York Times review called this collection “cannily constructed, and so instantly absorbing that it feels like an abduction.” Her skill at spoofing a celebrity adjacent tell all in the second story, “Taj Mahal,” is a wonder.

Reading now

The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay began as a practice in the daily appreciation of delight. Beginning on his birthday, Gay pledged to write a brief essay about some experience of delight. I love Gay’s poetry and couldn’t pass up this new book of essays. They are delightful, but not puffery alone. He takes on difficult topics but addresses them with his signature faith in humanity.

Evicted, by Matthew Desmond. A heart-wrenching and clear-eyed look at the affordable housing crisis. True stories of tenants and landlords stuck in challenging circumstances, many of which are caused by thorny, systemic problems. It’s an unflinching, difficult portrayal of families for whom an unexpected $100 expense can mean homelessness. I’d put this one in the hands of every banker bro in Charlotte if I could.

The History of Anonymity and Some Say the Lark, two collections of poetry by Jennifer Chang, who is Charlotte Lit’s featured poet for the September 4X4CLT. Chang is a lyrical poet who draws on themes of family and the natural world.

Up next

Normal People, Sally Rooney. The second foray from the “it” novelist of the millennial generation

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. I thought I was the only one who’d not read this novel that came out in 2016, but the public library currently has 91 hold requests on its 40 copies.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers. Everyone I know who read this book, a 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner, loved it. Ann Patchett calls “the best novel ever written about trees.” I’ve dragged my feet so long on this one it’s now available in paperback (sustainably sourced, of course).

Summer Reading Picks by Tamela Rich

Editor’s Note: Charlotte Lit’s staff is using the summer months to catch up on our reading and we thought we’d share our lists with you. First up—program coordinator and all-around, can-do woman, Tamela Rich’s selections for both pleasure reads and writing research.

If I had a nickel for every book I own and have started but not finished…I’d buy more books!

I picked up two new titles at Park Road Books and laughed with the bookseller about my habit of buying new books when I haven’t finished others. He said, “When you buy a book, you’re buying the promise of time to read it.” That resonates. Buying a book does feel like I’m buying the time to read it. Buying time…what a concept.

I bought:

Prairie Fever, by Michael Parker

I studied with Michael last year at the The Appalachian Writers’ Workshop at Hindman Settlement School, where he told us about this, his sixth novel, based in family lore.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep

I read the New York Times Book Review each week. That’s where I learned about the mystery surrounding Harper Lee’s first and only work of nonfiction, and the shocking true crimes at the center of it.

I’m reading:

Clio Rising, by Paula Martinac

A book set in the literary world of New York in the 1980s is doubly fun for this reader-writer. The protagonist hails from western North Carolina, and tells her story in witty first person. Paula is my Authors Lab mentor, which is why I bought Clio, but the fabulous writing is why I’m enthusiastically reading it!

Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap, by Judy Goldman

Judy is a masterful memoirist who teaches the craft at Charlotte Lit. My husband and I are reading Together together.

Research Reads:

My novel-in-progress follows a teenage girl from a Kentucky coal camp up the “Hillbilly Highway” to Detroit in 1943 where she hopes to make enough money to support her family back home. She encounters a world far beyond her understanding, including the country’s sexist and racist public health response to the syphilis epidemic that raged in the final years before antibiotics. These are terrific books that have helped me flesh out mine (working title, The Varney Girls).

The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, by Bridgett M. Davis

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, by Kevin Boyle

Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination, by Herb Boyd

The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison ‘Promiscuous’ Women,’ by Scott. W. Stern

Celebrating Love & Animals with Poets Nickole Brown & Jessica Jacobs

Charlotte Lit is thrilled to welcome back Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs as featured poets for our May 4X4CLT poetry and art poster series.

Back in 2016, when 4X4CLT was newly launched, Nickole and Jessica graciously agreed to read and teach at this virtually unknown new Charlotte nonprofit for writers. On the afternoon of the release party, we learned the venue we’d arranged for the reading could no longer host us. So Jessica and Nickole read instead to a packed room (truly packed—over 50 people jammed into the original Charlotte Lit studio) gracefully rolling with the chaos. Now that Charlotte Lit and 4X4CLT are more established, and even have a bit of grant funding to our name, we thought it was only right to invite them back to celebrate. They’ll share their poetry at the spacious and welcoming Free Range Brewing on Friday May 17 from 7 to 9 pm as we celebrate the latest edition of the poster series featuring their writing.

Their appearance is one stop on their “Love & Animals” book tour in honor of Jacob’s latest collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, and Brown’s Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner, To Those Who Were Our First Gods.

Jacob’s collection—the “Love” part of the the tour—centers on her relationship with Brown, her wife. She writes of her childhood in Florida, missed connections, a cancer scare, long-distance runs, and the joy of finally finding true love. Gabrielle Calvocoressi (previously featured in a 4X4CLT poster release) says the collection “tells of love and everyday life in a way everyone deserves to hear about but many of us never do.” Jacobs is also the author of Pelvis with Distance, a biography in poems of Georgia O’Keefe, and the chapbook In Whatever Light Left To Us, which was the precursor to her new collection.

Brown’s award-winning chapbook is also a precursor. She’s at work on what she calls “a bestiary of sorts” that references animals “in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way.” Many of the poems from To Those Who Were Our First Gods—the “Animal” part of the book tour—will make their way into a future collection. Brown is also the author of a biography-in-poems called Fanny Says, and a novel-in-poems, Sister.

On Saturday May 18, Brown and Jacobs will team teach “Writing through Conflict,” a master class in poetry, at Charlotte Lit. Both exceptional editors and instructors, they’ll lead a discussion of ways to approach those moments or events that sometimes feel too difficult to fully think about let alone put on the page. A multi-part writing prompt will follow to help class participants build a foundation of facts before feelings, from which they will then be guided to consider multiple perspectives—enabling them to write through conflict with both nuance and power, as well as empathy and compassion for themselves and others.

The May 4X4CLT release party and master class round out Charlotte Lit’s programming until fall. Brown and Jacob’s inspired poetry and instruction will hold you through the summer.

Putting Pen to Paper with Megan Rich

“Begin in media res, in the middle of the action. Begin in dialogue that allows your readers to feel the tension. Don’t worry about background or set up right now—just let yourself go into the scene.” With that, a rough dozen or so writers spend the next thirty minutes in quiet except for the tapping of keys and scratching of pen on paper.

Every Wednesday morning from 9:30 to 10:30 at Charlotte Lit, author Megan Rich offers advice and inspiration, along with a guided prompt to kick writers into gear. She leads “Pen to Paper” a free, open workshop for writers at all levels of experience. It’s a varied group—some are published writers working on memoir, YA, or novels; some not ready, yet, to claim the title “writer”—all benefiting from Rich’s gentle encouragement.

Rich is working on her third book, a novel. Her other works include a YA novel and a travel memoir. When she says ‘an editor will tell you to find your character’s greatest fear and write that scene’ or ‘an agent will want you to describe your project in an elevator pitch,’ she knows of which she speaks.

Each hour-long session begins with brief introductions before Rich discusses the writing prompt. She offers the exercise and then adds specific examples of how it might take shape. Maybe it’s finding inspiration in nature or how to build authentic tension in a scene, fodder for the next thirty to forty minutes of dedicated writing time that form the core of each class.  At the end of this time, Rich calls the group back together and asks if anyone would like to share. “Is there any word or phrase that gave you a rush of excitement as you wrote it?,” she’ll ask.

Rich is keen to help burgeoning authors recognize the initial spark of joy and possibility in their words before self-criticism and deflation set in. Sharing is always optional, but for the writers who do, Rich will commend a moment from their work, noting a particularly arresting detail or an excellent beginning line.

Held in Charlotte Lit’s airy new Studio Two, Pen to Paper is a low pressure way to start or re-start a writing practice.  Members are welcome to stay after class to write in the comfortable space. Visitors may try out the studio for free in the hour following class. Writing can be a lonely business but it doesn’t have to be done alone. It’s heartening to write alongside others who are trying their hand at creation, especially under the guidance of a supportive, experienced instructor like Megan Rich.

Megan Rich has written two books, a YA novel and a travel memoir, and is working on her third —a literary-fiction novel inspired by The Great Gatsby. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, she completed a thesis of original poetry for which she received the Virginia Voss Memorial Award for Writing. She was recently awarded first place in the Confucius Institute’s North Carolina Essay Prize for an excerpt from her travel memoir. Megan is a current member of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project program, located in Denver, Colorado. She has taught English and Creative Writing for twelve years serving diverse students in traditional and non-traditional settings. You can find more information about her at her Goodreads profile.

Top Summer Reads from Park Road Books

Oh, how we writers love our independent book stores. They host our readings, sell our books, and provide jobs for our friends and neighbors. Besides, they’re some of the only people who love books as much as we do. In this post, the marvelous book sellers at Park Road Books have winnowed down their favorite reads for summer. The only thing left to choose? Poolside or beachside.


In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (June 4)

Azalea “Knot” Centre is determined to live life as she pleases. Let the people of West Mills say what they will; the neighbors’ gossip won’t keep Knot from what she loves best: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, Knot is starting to learn that her freedom comes at a high price. Alone in her one-room shack, ostracized from her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home.

Otis Lee is eager to help. A lifelong fixer, Otis Lee is determined to steer his friends and family away from decisions that will cause them heartache and ridicule. After his failed attempt as a teenager to help his older sister, Otis Lee discovers a possible path to redemption in the chaos Knot brings to his doorstep. But while he’s busy trying to fix Knot’s life, Otis Lee finds himself powerless to repair the many troubles within his own family, as the long-buried secrets of his troubled past begin to come to light.

Set in an African American community in rural North Carolina from 1941 to 1987, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love

Substitution Order by Martin Clark (July 9)

Kevin Moore, once a high-flying Virginia attorney, hits rock bottom after an inexplicably tumultuous summer leaves him disbarred and separated from his wife. Short on cash and looking for work, he lands in the middle of nowhere with a job at SUBstitution, the world’s saddest sandwich shop. His closest confidants: a rambunctious rescue puppy and the twenty-year-old computer whiz manning the restaurant counter beside him. He’s determined to set his life right again, but the troubles keep coming. And when a bizarre, mysterious stranger wanders into the shop armed with a threatening “invitation” to join a multimillion-dollar scam, Kevin will need every bit of his legal savvy just to stay out of prison.

A remarkable tour of the law’s tricks and hidden trapdoors, The Substitution Order is both wise and ingenious, a wildly entertaining novel that will keep you guessing—and rooting for its tenacious hero—until the very last page.


Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (May 14)

Casey McQuiston’s debut is a fun, quirky romance set in an alternate reality that boasts a more beautiful world after November 2016, in which the First Son falls for the Prince of Wales. With an enemies-to-lovers romance between the First Son and the Prince of Wales, an intricate and well-developed familial bond, and a hopeful political landscape, this book is salve on an open wound.

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim (June 11)

When Natalie Tan returns to her home in Chinatown following her mother’s death, she finds that the neighborhood she grew up in is in danger of being sold off and gentrified. Using her grandmother’s cookbook, she re-creates recipes meant to heal the wounds of the neighborhood in order to save it. Roselle Lim’s debut is a delightful, cultural novel with recipes, magic dumplings, and a touch of romance.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal (May 14)

This whirlwind Arabian-inspired fantasy by debut author Hafsah Faisal is filled with heart-stopping twists, tight-knit and unbreakable friendships, a slow burn romance, and bright, lyrical prose that left me breathless. Readers of fantasy novels such as Children of Blood and Bone and City of Brass will devour this tale that left me drawn into the story long after it was over.


The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver (May 14)

Deaver is back! This time with an intriguing new protagonist by the name of Colter Shaw. Raised by a bi-polar survivalist, Shaw becomes a “tracker” who finds missing people. On his current case Shaw finds himself in the world of computer gamers and the intrigue of Silicon Valley. This is a “can’t put it down” thriller.

Recursion by Blake Crouch (June 11)

I liked Crouch’s previous novel, I loved this one. Straddling a fine line between being science fiction and a thriller, Recursion explores the ideas of memory, perception, identity, and reality. At its core, this page-turner explores the concept of a technology that can be used to capture memories and let its user experience them again.


Broken Things by Lauren Oliver (YA)

This fantastic book is like reading a mix of Pretty Little Liars, The Slender Man and Bridge to Terabithia. A page turning, gripping thriller about three friends, a secret, and a mystery.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi (YA)

A beautiful take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Set in Brooklyn, Pride deals with gentrification, class struggles while still staying remarkably true to its roots.

The Ancient Nine by Ian K. Smith

This book is a suspense thriller that takes you deep inside one of our country’s elite Ivy League universities and its secret societies. Based on real life events, Ian K. Smith weaves a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page.


My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Wickedly funny and dark, Braithwaite tells the story of how far a woman is willing to go to protect her sister, who has a nasty habit of killing her boyfriends. She soon finds herself second guessing her protective stance when a friend of hers is poised to be the next victim.

Alice isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

In this perfectly creepy road trip mystery from the author of Welcome to Night Vale, Keisha takes up a job as a cross country truck driver to locate her missing wife, Alice, who she keeps seeing in the background of national news stories. Supernatural mysteries follow her on her journey, including a dangerous, man-eating, cryptid who knows too much of Alice for Keisha’s liking.

Charlotte Lit it grateful to Park Road Books for sending us their top picks for summer reads. Be sure to check their events calendar for upcoming readings by local authors. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and visit them in person at the Park Road Shopping Center.

Meet the Book Babes

As a child, reading was magical for me. It allowed me to transcend space and time. To travel to new worlds, worlds that might not even exist within our own. I’d stay up late with a flashlight under a blanket, reading until my eyes grew tired. I’d hang on every word of the story.

Back then, even the simple act of going to the library felt like a holy one. I’d leave with a brand new stack of books, ready to jump into new adventures. My mom was patient as I thumbed through spine after spine, trying to choose the perfect titles. She wouldn’t even try to limit my selections.

Somewhere along the way, I grew up. And although I’ve been a lifelong reader, that magic sort of flickered out at a certain point. I still went to the library. I still read. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t feel like a thrill anymore.

It’s sort of like going to Disney World as an adult. All of a sudden you notice the machines making the characters move. You aren’t in awe of the firework display because you’ve seen it before. You’re tired because it’s humid and lines are long. And you’re more concerned with the suddenly high price of a hot dog. “What do you mean, it’s $15?”  You might get excited for a brief moment seeing Cinderella’s Castle or feeling your stomach drop on Splash Mountain, but the magic is mostly gone.

Last fall, I brought up this phenomenon with three of my best friends: Abby, Emily and Laura.

We all love to read and constantly recommend new books to each other. We swap favorites until the pages start to look worn. It’s something that has always bonded us.

We discussed our beloved childhood books, reminisced about Reading Rainbow, and laughed over the pure thrill of going to a Scholastic Book Fair at school.

This was the day that Book Babes CLT was born.

We officially launched this past February. Book Babes is equal parts book review website and book Instagram (or #bookstagram). Our goal in creating it was to make an approachable place for readers and non-readers alike, to find book recommendations and fall in love with reading again (or possibly for the first time).

One thing we realized: picking out a new book to read can be surprisingly overwhelming. As adults, we have to make choices all day. What are we going to wear? What are we knocking out from our to-do list? What are we having for dinner? Picking out a book no longer feels like a luxury. Its like reading roulette – and if you pick wrong, you waste hours of your time.

Our strategy is simple: we find books we enjoy, and we pass them along to you. Were not the New York Times Book Review. Were honest, at times irreverent, and most of all, we just want you to actually like the next book you pick up. Oh, and we drink a lot of wine.

If you love murder mysteries, Lauras reviews will be your best friend. The more murder, the better. Abby loves to read literary fiction, and shes a sucker for nonfiction that promises to improve your life. Emily reads poetry and fiction with strong female leads, usually the self-deprecating kind. As for me, I still love books with adventure. I review everything from memoir to dystopian fiction.

Our hope is that we become that friend you trust to recommend a good book. Our dream is that we somehow reignite that flicker of reading magic youve been missing.

Were starting with book reviews but weve got a lot more in the works we can’t wait to share.

Abby, Samantha, Emily and Laura are four real-life besties who love to read – and then talk about what they’re reading, usually over a glass (or three) of wine. They created Book Babes because they think reading is magical, and they want it to be magical for you too.  Follow them on Instagram @bookbabesclt or read their reviews at  

Who you gonna call? Ghostwriters!

“Writers Wanted.”

You don’t see that sign in the windows of any businesses. Plenty of “Help Wanted” and “Cooks Wanted,” but no such pleading for writers. While perhaps not always wanted with our propensity to correct grammar at the drop of a dangling modifier, writers are needed daily by individuals and organizations around the country. Indeed, nearly everyone and every organization has a story to tell and, brilliant and successful as they are in their world, they often do not possess the time, skills, or discipline to write professionally.

Who they gonna call? Ghostwriters!

Everything you read has been written by someone. Yes, obvious, and books, articles, and blogs immediately come to mind. You can’t imagine how many books, articles, and blogs are crafted entirely or in part by ghostwriters (for celebs, sports stars, politicians, business execs, and regular folks for any multitude of reasons). Less obvious are other pieces of writing we encounter every day such as assembly instructions, that IQ test you took online, training modules, compliance courses, website text, speeches, even the directions on your shampoo bottle. “Wash, rinse, repeat,” someone was paid to write that—probably a ghost.

Ghostwriting has a long—and yes, storied—tradition likely with its infancy in the very dawn of writing. Think of those nameless scribes crafting text for royalty when few could read or write. Some even theorize that certain cave drawings were ghosted. Having grown into its own profession, ghostwriting is as robust today as ever. With hundreds of thousands of books published annually and individuals and organizations seeking to get their message and information out, in addition to all the other bits of writing that flow through our daily lives, the demand for ghosts is scary.

Ghosts can engage in any or every phase of the writing lifecycle including advising, conceptualization, structure and organization, research, writing, editing, proofreading, and formatting; and projects can vary in length from days to a year or more. Often ghostwriters will specialize in certain disciplines or genres. The ghost’s name may be on the final product, but probably won’t. We do this for the love of writing, and to sustain ourselves as we pursue our own literary passion.

The reality is that most writers do not support themselves with their own publications. Unless you’re independently wealthy, have a trust fund or patron, or are fortunate enough to live off your spouse without guilt (for some, the hardest part about being a writer), you must support yourself by other means. Through history, writers have worked about every job imaginable to keep the creditors at bay. If you love the challenge of writing as I do, I can’t think of anything that strikes as close to home for a living as ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting is serious business and we are hired as one would engage any other professional. Some of us work full-time and some work part-time. In 20 years as a ghostwriter, I have written nearly everything conceivable, worked with countless individuals and organizations (including projects that lasted for years and continue today), had my brush with the famous and infamous, had clients share more than I ever needed to know, and had my life threatened once! Seriously, who threatens to kill the writer? Sure, lawyers, accountants, even the piano player—that makes sense. But shoot the writer?

I’ve loved every minute of it—met people beyond my world, gained knowledge I may not have been exposed to, all the while honing my writing skills and paying bills along the way. I choose writing because I’m not much good at anything else and I’ve been told I’m better on paper than in person which I’ve ghosted into the compliment I’m certain it was intended to be.

Interested in learning more about life as a ghost? Join Axel for his upcoming class, “Author for Hire: The Joys and Challenges of Ghostwriting” on Tuesday, April 23, from 6 to 9 pm.

Axel Dahlberg has been a professional ghostwriter for nearly 20 years. He has helped countless individuals and some of the largest organizations in the nation conceptualize, structure, write, edit, and format their texts; working in subjects, genres, and industries he hadn’t dreamed about. Axel holds an MFA degree in creative writing from Arizona State University (where he taught writing) and a BA in English from the U of MN. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, Forever Hellos, Hard Goodbyes, endorsed by Make-A-Wish, the National Institutes of Health, the Society of Pediatric Nurses.