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.

Carolyn Forché and the “Poetry of Witness”

By Alexia Paul and Lisa Rubenson

As part of CPCC’s 2019 Sensoria Festival (April 5-12), the public will have two opportunities to hear acclaimed poet and memoirist Carolyn Forché discuss her work and her recent memoir, What You Have Heard is True. Forché is Sensoria’s 2019 Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lecturer. Both events are free and will take place on CPCC’s main campus, Tuesday, April 9 at 8 pm in Tate Hall and Wednesday, April 10 at 10:30 am in Halton Theatre.

We’re grateful to Ms. Forché for taking time to answer these questions shared by Charlotte Lit members and Sensoria volunteers, Alexia Paul and Lisa Rubenson.

Q: Why did you choose the written word as your path to storytelling over other means of self-expression?

A: I have always written poetry and stories, since I was nine years old, so there was never a question about my mode of expression.

Q: What role does poetry play in today’s social discourse?

A: Poetry has been called “the natural prayer of the human soul.” It is the oldest of the arts, related to ritual and song, and so it remains a powerful force in the human community, although stronger in some cultures than in others. In today’s social discourse in the United States, poetry is almost invisible, but it is culturally vibrant and ascendant, particularly in those communities who have been silenced or subject to repression. In times of crisis, poets are called upon to speak, even in the United States. This has been especially true in the first two decades of this century.

Q: Please tell us about the first time you discovered the power of words to change people’s understanding of the world around them.

A: My first experience of this would have been in childhood, reading and listening to stories and poems at home and at school, and the discovery of the power of words would have happened again and again. But as I grew up, I perceived that not everyone felt this way. Not everyone understood the power of language. But I have seen its power at work throughout my life. It is not only experience that changes human understanding. It is the articulation of that experience.

Q: Does empathy drive you? Hold you back? Is empathy rooted more in hope or despair?

A: Empathy is a gift, and it is one that can be nurtured and expanded. It is absolutely essential for writers to cultivate the empathetic imagination. This is the portal into the larger world of human experience beyond the self. I don’t think empathy is rooted either in hope or despair. Empathy gives us the capacity to touch others, to move beyond the bounds of ourselves. I would say that the capacity for empathy is the foundation of everything else in our spiritual, artistic, and social lives. There is no art without it. If hope is based on clear awareness, then empathy provides it.

Q: Tell us about your writing practice. When do you know it’s time to shift from experiencing/observing/asking and start writing? Or is there a dividing line at all?

A: I keep notebooks, small notebooks that capture my scribbles, that preserve moments I would otherwise forget. When I write, I must be alone if possible, and for a stretch of time uninterrupted. That is all that writing requires: time, solitude, paper, and pen. The poem begins always with a blank page, in a state of not really knowing anything. One discovers the poem as one writes. For prose, especially prose about a certain subject, place, or time, we must sometimes do research, or otherwise prepare ourselves, but there comes a point when such preparation must be set aside. The writer is again one with the paper.

Q: How was the experience of writing a memoir different from writing poems?  Is it a different muscle?

A: For me, the experience was very different. I am a slow writer, and I write many versions of something before I find the right one. That is true of both poetry and prose. But one must hold the whole work in the mind at once. That is a more difficult task with poems, which tend to be shorter, than with long-form prose. One must stay inside the work, live in the world, and this requires a greater commitment of time: days, weeks, months, and years of time. I wrote my prose memoir over a period of fifteen years. In the first phase, I narrowed my subject down to one particular part of my life. In the second, I wrote many hundreds of pages. In the final phase, I found the shape and structure. And I discovered the story that was trying to be told.


After beginning her career at The William Morris Agency, Alexia Paul honed her writing and editorial skills at the Joy Harris Literary Agency in New York, where she sold books to publishers such as Random House and Little Brown. Since the launch of Alexia Paul Editorial here in Charlotte in 2005, she has helped over one hundred clients create or perfect their work. Alexia lives in Plaza Midwood with her husband and two children. Learn more: alexiapaul.com.

Lisa Rubenson is a writer, editor, arts appreciator and Charlotte Lit member. Read more of her work here.

CPCC’s Sensoria Festival 2019 – April 5-12

Editor’s Note: Please join Charlotte Lit and CPCC on Monday April 8 to celebrate Judy Goldman, Sensoria’s 2019 winner of the Irene Blair Honeycutt Lifetime Achievement Award in Literary Arts. A reception in Tate Lobby at 6 pm is followed at 7 pm by the Award Presentation and a reading by and conversation with Goldman. Charlotte Lit is honored to partner with CPCC to present this award.


The writer’s role as truth-teller

By Alexia Paul and Lisa Rubenson

A thriving literary community demands diverse voices. So its a point of pride in Charlotte that Sensoria – CPCCs annual literary arts festival attracts a wide spectrum of writers.

Last year, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith left Sensoria-goers beautifully awed. Her searing take on our countrys forever us-and-them struggle hit close to home for a city seeking healing in the wake of civic unrest and protests over racial injustice. The year before, Sensoria welcomed George Saunders, who received the 2017 Man Booker Prize for his novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

Sensoria now continues its 26-year tradition of showcasing a range of literary talent. Poet-turned-memoirist Carolyn Forché has spent her career chronicling the painful intersection of the individual and the larger forces of war, violence, and protest in Latin America. Her term, poetry of witnessreflects a life spent giving voice to those unable to share their own in times of turmoil and persecution.

Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib is himself a poet of witness, using his kinetic wit to tap into the often devastating reality of growing up black in America. Music is a through line in his work, welcoming us in to his worldview and giving us a beat by which we can stay connected to his story.

Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché’s haunting new memoir begins in 1978 when Leonel, a mere acquaintance, requests that she travel to El Salvador to bear witness to a civil war in which 75,000 civilians would die at the hands of a repressive regime. At the time, Forché was a 27-year-old American poet. Doubtful of her purpose on this mission, she continually asks, why me? Why not a journalist or historian? Does her role as a poet augment or diminish her credibility?

As we read, we are witnesses to her witnessing this historic atrocity unfold. The book is almost painfully intimate and demands we not look away, just as Forché chose to not look away. What You Have Heard is True asks the questions: what is the responsibility of storytellers to record and reflect the world around us? What role do poetry and prose have in pursuing and achieving social justice? As she weighs the decision to go to El Salvador, Forché accepts the weight of responsibility: I knew that if I didnt accept his invitation, I could never live as if I would have been willing to do something, should an opportunity have presented itself. I could never say to myself: If only Id had the chance.

What You Have Heard is True is a testament to the power of the written word to remember even the most horrific circumstances. In a 2017 interview, Forché said:

 [Leonel] believed that poetry would affect the world. And it would affect the world not only in our time but in the times to come, because in Latin America, and in many other countries, and in our own country, I would argue, poetry does survive the age. Were still reading Walt Whitmans poems about nursing soldiers wounded in the Civil War. Were still reading. [Source]

Were still reading. Were still writing. And, it matters. – AP

Hanif Abdurraqib 

Photo by Andrew Cenci

As poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib tells us on the cover of his new book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Questhe has written a love letter to a group, a sound, and an era.The memoir is part homage to the rap group whose music foregrounded the authors experience growing up black in the 1990s in Columbus, Ohio, part autobiography, and part primer on the black communitys contribution to music-making through time.

Abdurraqib seamlessly intertwines the rise, fall and reimagining of A Tribe Called Quest with his own coming-of-age story. His writing moves in and out of the personal and universal, the cultural and historical, amplifying the impact of artists in a community and a shared cultural experience on the journey of a people.

Large lessons emerge from Go Ahead in the Rain. For one, we needn’t have grown up listening to hip-hop or rap to understand their importance and feel their legacy reverberate across a generation. Abdurraqib shows us that music can anchor us in time, place and visceral emotion, before setting us free to imbue it with our own meaning.

And, we dont have to have experienced anothers pain in order to bear witness to it. One way we do this is through art, by allowing ourselves to be moved to the edge of our senses by the lyricism of an image or feeling, turned to prose. Meditating on the idea of mercy as a momentary suspension of fear, Abdurraqib writes:

All of this is about mercy. Im talking about what it is to be from a place that promises to love you while holding a gun to your neck. Im talking about what it feels like to have the gun lowered, briefly, by the hands of some unseen grace. Sometimes, it is a protest that stretches long into a night, or sometimes, it is a reading where a room hears familiar words and cries along with you as you read them out loud. But sometimes, it is a perfect album that arrives just in time to build a small community around you. To briefly hold a hand over your eyes and make a new and welcoming darkness of the world outside, even when it is on fire. (p. 186)

More than a love letter to a group, sound and era, Go Ahead in the Rainis also a love letter sent straight to the heart of every reader. LR


Carolyn Forché has two appearances at CPCC’s main campus on Tuesday April 9 and Wednesday April 10. Hanif Abdurraqib speaks at CPCC’s main campus on Thursday April 11 and again later that evening at Goodyear Arts. See the Sensoria website for full details about the weeklong lineup of events. Note: in some cases, an event might be associated with more than one time and location.


After beginning her career at The William Morris Agency, Alexia honed her writing and editorial skills at the Joy Harris Literary Agency in New York, where she sold books to publishers such as Random House and Little Brown. Since the launch of Alexia Paul Editorial here in Charlotte in 2005, she has helped over one hundred clients create or perfect their work. Alexia lives in Plaza Midwood with her husband and two children. Learn more: alexiapaul.com.

Lisa Rubenson is a writer, editor, arts appreciator and Charlotte Lit member. Read more of her work here.

Center City Literary Festival Offers Time and Space to Contemplate Artful Language

We’re busy. Monumentally busy. Our technology-fueled world, with its manic glut of information, steals our sleep, seizes us by the scruff. We spend hours trapped in cars and cubicles and comment sections, our eyes lost in screens, our ears tuned to beeps and clicks, our thumbs typing tiny screeds.

That is precisely why, though it seems counterintuitive, I offer you one more thing to do: the 2019 Center City Literary Festival.

After two decades of attending and planning literary events, I am more than ever convinced of their power, of how they let us express our shared humanity—our joys, our sorrows—and show us how writing and art can sustain us, especially in times of change and upheaval.

But they also force us to slow down, to redirect our attention to the contemplative space of artful language. Even more than reading, listening to a poem or story engages the mind and body; we listen with our ears, eyes, and hearts. Such attention allows our poor inundated senses to recharge, electrified by words and voice. Further, like theater, we immerse into this space as an audience—individual and collective.

Heck, at the very least, we get to sit down. Rest. Drink a (free!) beverage and nosh a (free!) snack. Gaze slack-jawed at the luminescent Charlotte skyline from inside UNC Charlotte Center City building, that translucent green, off-kilter stack in the heart of the city.

The free public festival runs in two parts. During the day, we feature children’s storytelling such as dancers and puppetry along with fun kids’ activities such as creation stations (coloring, crafting, and character-building) and scavenger hunts.

In the evening, we welcome award-winning authors for a reception, readings, book signings, and socializing. We are committed to inviting a diverse lineup of renowned and emerging writers, including those from UNCC and the Charlotte area. In the past two years, we have hosted Nikky Finney, Jill McCorkle, Eduardo C. Corral, Gary Jackson, Dustin M. Hoffman, Paula Martinac, and Siobhán Campbell.

The 2019 festival on Saturday, March 30 2019, will bring you Tony Earley, acclaimed writer of five books and North Carolina native; Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, poet and prose writer and winner of a Whiting Award; Patrice Gopo, a Charlotte-area creative nonfiction writer and 2018 NC Arts Council fellow; and Allison Hutchcraft, a poet and creative writing instructor at UNCC.

Please, come and take a load off for a couple of hours. Revel in language. Remind yourself of the best of who we are.


2019 Center City Literary Festival

Saturday, March 30, 2018

UNC Charlotte Center City campus
320 E. 9th Street, Charlotte 28202

(Adjacent to First Ward Park and a quick stroll from the 7th Street Market and light rail station)


Bryn Chancellor’s first novel Sycamore (Harper, 2017) has been hailed as a “hypnotic debut” (O: The Oprah Magazine) and “a transporting vision of community, connection and forgiveness” (Publishers Weekly). Her story collection When Are You Coming Home? won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. Honors include the Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. A graduate of Vanderbilt University’s MFA program, she is an assistant professor at UNC Charlotte.

4X4CLT in 2019: Love, Animals, Larks and Lola!

We couldn’t have asked for a better start to this year’s 4X4CLT poetry and art poster series, with February’s release featuring poems from Terrance Hayes and art from Susan Brenner and J. Stacy Utley. We’re excited to announce the rest of the 2019 4X4CLT lineup coming in May, September, and December. Read on to learn how you can help bring this series to your part of town and earn your own personal set of 4X4CLT posters.

May 2019 4X4CLT: Nickole Brown & Jessica Jacobs — as part of their Love and Animals Tour
Friday and Saturday May 17 & 18

Asheville poets and former Authors’ Lab coaches Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs are back for a return engagement as 4X4CLT poets. Their poems were featured in the first year of the series and we’re grateful to share their work with our expanded audience.

Nickole Brown is the author of Sister(2007), with a new edition by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018. She is the editor of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program, the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, and the Hindman Settlement School. Her chapbook, To Those Who Were Our First Gods,won the 2018 Chapbook Prize. She lives with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, in Asheville.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of three books of poetry. Her second full-length collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, has just been released from Four Way Books. She is on the faculty of the Brandeis Collegiate Institute and serves as Associate Editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal. Jessica lives in Asheville with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown.

May 4X4CLT Release Party at Free Range Brewing: Nickole and Jessica will be with us for a reading at Free Range Brewing in NoDa on Friday May 17 from 7 to 9 pm. Free and open to the public.

May 4X4CLT Master Class at Charlotte Lit: They will team teach the master class “Writing Through Conflict” at Charlotte Lit on Saturday May 18 from 10 am to 1 pm. In this workshop, after 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 help you build a foundation of facts before feelings, from which you will then be guided to consider multiple perspectives—enabling you to write through conflict with both nuance and power, as well as empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Register


September 2019 4X4CLT: Jennifer Chang
Friday and Saturday September 6 & 7

Poet Jennifer Chang is the author of two books of poetry, The History of Anonymity Some Say the Lark. She teaches at George Washington University and co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a non-profit that supports Asian-American literature.


December 2019 4X4CLT: Lola Haskins
Friday and Saturday December 6 & 7

Lola Haskins is the author of many collections of poetry, including Asylum, to be released in June 2019 by Pitt. She’s also published a variety of other writings including her excellent book of advice for poets, Not Feathers Yet, and essays about the natural world regarding her home state of Florida. Haskins has collaborated widely with musicians, dancers, and visual artists.


Love 4X4CLT? Want to serve as an ambassador?

4X4CLT is growing! Thanks to the hospitality of many local businesses, our poetry and art poster series is now on display at upwards of 90 locations across the greater Charlotte area. These hosts invite their patrons to have chance encounters with poetry and art. We’re grateful for their support.

The task of spreading the 4X4CLT love across town has become more than one or two people can handle. We’re looking for a few volunteers to adopt a part of town and make deliveries to these friendly locations. The number of locations varies in each part of town, but is usually between four and ten. 4X4CLT posters are released quarterly and the deliveries are made within the two weeks of the release party. Areas of greatest need are Steele Creek, Beatties Ford Road corridor, and Davidson. We’d like to expand our reach in the University area and Pineville/Matthews if anyone has contacts with local businesses in these areas. As a thank you, ambassadors will receive their own personal set of posters each quarter. Interested in helping out? Contact Lisa Zerkle at lisaz@charlottelit.org for more details on adoptable neighborhoods.

An invitation from Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Community Read

By Marline L. Casseus, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library

This year’s Community Read with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is bigger, bolder and better than ever before. There are important topics to discuss, many partners hosting events and discussions, and plenty of ways for readers of all ages to get involved. Best of all, the Library is bringing award-winning and New York Times best-selling author, Angie Thomas to Charlotte for a sold-out event at CPCC on March 19.

Everyone in the community is invited to participate in Community Read 2019 by reading the books, talking about them, and attending library and partner programs. Together with its sponsors, partners and local community, the Library strives to open books and open minds.

This year’s main Community Read title is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The novel deals with sometimes controversial issues that are important nationally and locally in the Charlotte community. Community Read will launch conversations in Library and partner locations that will help the community heal, strengthen ongoing relationships, and ultimately help make a stronger community. This year’s complete selection of companion titles with related themes are:

  • For adults and teens: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • For middle grades: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
  • For young children: Love by Matt de la Peña

Community Read is presented by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in collaboration with more than 30 community partners, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Community Building Initiative and many more.

This year’s goal is to engage 10% of the Charlotte community – 100,000 people – with Community Read through the Library and with partner organizations.

How can I get involved?

Community Read is for everyone. Everyone is encouraged to read one or more of the Community Read books. While The Hate U Give is intended for teens and adults, companion titles Wishtree and Love are suitable for younger readers. The Library hopes families will read them together and participate in programs designed for children. Everyone in the community is also invited to participate in at least one program or discussion. The current listings of Library-led and partner-led programs for all ages are linked to the main web page. Everyone is also invited to get involved through social media (#CommunityRead2019) to celebrate a love of reading together by posting and sharing relevant contents.

Where can I get a copy?

All three titles are available at Library locations in print and digital formats. Also, the Library expanded its digital license to permit simultaneous downloads of audiobooks and e-books during the month of March.

Additionally, generous investments from presenting sponsor Bank of America and from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation and Foundation For The Carolinas have allowed for the purchase of more than 2,000 copies of the book for distribution at Library and partner locations, while supplies last.


Editor’s Note: Jaime Pollard-Smith and Elizabeth West, CPCC English instructors (and Charlotte Lit workshop leaders) have expanded their “Levine Reads” book discussion to include all CPCC campuses in collaboration with the library’s Community Read of The Hate You Give. More info is here.

We’re throwing a(nother) party!

If you know Charlotte Lit at all, you probably know we like to throw a party.

Every year at this time, we do something interesting, party-wise. Four years ago we made our debut with a 100-person event at The Light Factory featuring poet Linda Pastan. A year later, in February 2017, we celebrated our first birthday and the 100th of Carson McCullers in the very house where she lived while writing The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. (It’s now Copper Restaurant.) Last year, we went to play in the garden—Wing Haven Gardens, that is—where we paid tribute to trees (and gave all participants a seedling to plant), and were entertained by Bryn Chancellor, author of Sycamore, and Martin Settle, reading from his collection Maple Samaras.

This year on March 3, Charlotte Lit celebrates its third birthday at Mint Museum Randolph, with special guest Judy Goldman. Tickets are $50 and include hors d’oeuvres from La-Tea-Dah’s, dessert from Sunflour Baking Company, wine and beer and other beverages, and a signed hardcover copy of Judy’s new memoir, Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap. (Charlotte Lit Supporting Members receive one free ticket, and McCullers Society Members receive two). Register here!

Upcoming Literary Events: Winter-Spring 2019

Here at Charlotte Lit, we’re excited about our ongoing Beautiful Truth initiative, with community writing workshops every weekend in January, a February 1 & 2 visit from poet Terrance Hayes, AND a community public reading event in March. But we’re not the only ones lining up excellent literary events for this new year.

Up this week, Queens University’s MFA faculty holds two readings that are free and open to the public. Local favorites Judy Goldman and Tommy Tomlinson each have new memoirs coming out in the next two months. Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts holds a reading coordinated by Park Road Books. As part of their Community Read, the library hosts Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give. All of this and we haven’t even mentioned the UNCC Center City Literary Festival and the Sensoria Festival at CPCC. Take a look at this event listing and invite your friends to join you in celebrating the literary arts in Charlotte.

Tuesday, January 8 at 5 pm – Queens University MFA Faculty Readings: Morri Creech and Jenny Offill, Ketner Auditorium, Sykes Building

Writer in Residence Morri Creech is author of four collections of poetry, including his latest, Blue Rooms, and The Sleep of Reason, a 2014 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Fiction Writer Jenny Offill is author of the novels Dept. of Speculation and Last Things, which was chosen as a notable or best book of the year by The New York Times, The Village Voice, The L.A. Times, and The Guardian (U.K). Sponsored by The Arts at Queens.

Friday, January 11 at 8:30 pm – Queens University MFA Faculty Readings: David Christensen and Marcus Jackson, Ketner Auditorium, Sykes Building

David Christensen is the Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada. Poet Marcus Jackson is author of the recently released collection Pardon My Heart. A Cave Canem fellow, he is also author of the collection Neighborhood Register, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harvard Review and The Cincinnati Review. Sponsored by The Arts at Queens.

Tuesday, January 22, 2018  at 7:30 pm – Davidson College Abbott Scholars Event: Chris Hudgins “From Davidson to Stockholm,” Lilly Family Gallery

Chris Hudgins will discuss Tony Abbott as a mentor, a “Scholar Adventurer” who led Hudgins to his life’s work, to a love of the plays of Harold Pinter and many other dramatists. Hudgins will focus on his scholarly and personal experiences with Harold Pinter (Nobel Laureate, 2005) and on three of the unpublished film scripts Pinter provided Hudgins during their twenty-four-year friendship: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Remains of the Day, and Lolita.

Thursday, January 24 at 7:30 pm – Queen University: Novelist Jeff Jackson, Ketner Auditorium, Sykes Building

The English Department Reading Series presents local author Jeff Jackson, who will read from his mesmerizing novel Destroy All Monsters, a book that’s been called a “taut, atmospheric rock and roll thriller.” His previous novel Mira Corpora was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Admission is free and open to the public. Sponsored by The Arts at Queens. Info

Thursday, January 31 at 7 pm – Main Street Books, Davidson: Tommy Tomlinson

Tommy Tomlinson is a household name in the Charlotte area due to his profoundly enjoyable podcast “Southbound,” which he records in partnership with WFAE. Between recording sessions, Tomlinson has written for Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Garden & Gun, and other publications. Written with the same insight and mesmerizing tone that have catapulted “Southbound” to the top of many podcast playlists, Tommy Tomlinson’s memoir The Elephant in the Room is a searing, honest, and candid exploration of what it’s like to live as an overweight man in a growing America. Info

Friday February 1 & 2, Beautiful Truth at Charlotte Lit

Charlotte Lit is thrilled to bring Terrance Hayes to our city as part of our Beautiful Truth Initiative. Hayes is the author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry; Lighthead, which won the 2010 National Book Award for poetry; and other works. He is artist-in-residence at New York University, and is a MacArthur “Genius” Award Recipient.

  • Friday, February 1 from 7-8:30 pm: Terrance Hayes Reading and Talk, Midwood International and Cultural Center Auditorium.

Hayes will discuss using personal narratives to share our stories; and we’ll also celebrate the release of the quarterly 4X4CLT poetry+art posters, featuring poetry by Terrance Hayes and art by Susan Brenner and J. Stacy Utley. Tickets

  • Saturday, February 2 from 10 am to Noon: Writing Workshop 

Led by Terrance Hayes for writers and educators, in the Charlotte Lit studio. Limited to 24 participants. SOLD OUT.

  • Saturday, February 2 from 2-4 pm: Community Conversation about sharing stories for social change, facilitated by Terrance Hayes in The Light Factory. Free, but limited to 40 participants. To request an invitation, email kathie@charlottelit.org.

Wednesday, February 6 at 4:30 pm, Davidson College: Chelsea Hodson, Hance Auditorium/Chambers Building

Chelsea Hodson is the author of the book of essays, Tonight I’m Someone Else, and the chapbook, Pity the Animal. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Bennington College and has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell Colony and PEN Center USA Emerging Voices. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times MagazineFrieze Magazine, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at Catapult in New York and at Mors Tua Vita Mea in Sezze Romano, Italy.

Thursday, February 7 at 7 pm: Leonard Pitts, Jr., “Last Thing You Surrender,” Park Road Books (check event listing, venue may change)

In a career spanning more than 35 years, Leonard Pitts, Jr. has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. He is the author of one of the most popular newspaper columns in the country for which he was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary; and of a series of critically-acclaimed books, including his latest, a novel called Freeman.

Thursday, February 7 at 6 pm: An Evening with Tommy Tomlinson, ImaginOn

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation and WFAE are pleased to celebrate the release of Tommy Tomlinson’s inspirational memoir The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America. Tommy will speak and take questions about his experience and his writing.

The evening will begin with wine and light bites, and Park Road Books will be on-site with books for sale before and after the program. This event is free, but seating is limited, RSVP required.

Monday and Tuesday, March 4 & 5, Friends of the Library at Queens University: Cocktail Reception and Luncheon.

This year’s featured authors are Marie Benedict whose book The Only Woman in the Room is a powerful novel based on the incredible true story of Hedy Lamarr, and Tim Johnston whose thriller debut novel Descent was a New York Times bestseller.

Sunday, March 3 from 2-4 pm, Charlotte Lit’s Third Birthday Celebration, Mint Museum on Randolph Road, featuring Judy Goldman, author of the memoir Together (Nan A. Talese). (More details to come.)

Friday, March 15 from 7-9 pm, Charlotte Lit’s Beautiful Truth Community Public Reading Event, Midwood International and Cultural Center Auditorium. Beautiful Truth participants from all over Charlotte will read short narratives written and shared during library workshops. Free, registration required.

Tuesday, March 19: Angie Thomas, ImaginOn

As part of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s community-wide book club known as Community Read, Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, speaks at ImaginOn. Each year, the library chooses book titles for adults, teens, preteens and children, and invites everyone in the community to engage in Community Read.

Saturday, March 30: UNCC’s Center City Literary Festival

The evening author lineup includes Tony Earley, Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, Patrice Gopo, and Allison Hutchcraft. The day events and authors will be finalized soon. Sponsored by the UNC Charlotte Department of English and UNC Charlotte Center City, the two-part festival includes daytime and nighttime events. The day events include children’s authors along with fun kids’ activities such as creation stations (coloring, crafting, and character-building) and scavenger hunts. In the evening, the festival welcomes award-winning authors for a reception, readings, book signings, and socializing. All events are held at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Campus, 320 E. 9th Street. The event is free and open to the public. Info

Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 pm: Jason Ockert, Davidson College, 900 Room

Jason Ockert is the author of Wasp Box, a novel, and two collections of short stories: Neighbors of Nothing and Rabbit Punches. Winner of the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, the Atlantic Monthly Fiction Contest, and the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, he was also a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Million Writers Award. His work has appeared in journals and anthologies including Best American Mystery Stories, Cover Stories, Ecotone, The Iowa Review, Oxford American, One Story, and McSweeney’s. He received his MFA from Syracuse University, and he teaches at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, and in the University of Tampa low-residency MFA program.

April 5 – 14: Sensoria Festival at CPCC

Monday April 8 at 6 pm: The Irene Blair Honeycutt Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts, awarded to poet, novelist, and memoirist Judy Goldman. Dannye Romine Powell will interview Goldman, who will also read excerpts from her new memoir, Together (Nan A. Talese, Feb. 2019).

Tuesday April 9 at 8 pm, and Wednesday April 10, 11:30 am: Carolyn Forche, 2019 Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lecturer, Halton Theatre, Central Campus

What You Have Heard is True (March 2019) is a devastating, lyrical, and visionary memoir about a young woman’s brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. Written by one of the most gifted poets of her generation, this is the story of a woman’s radical act of empathy, and her fateful encounter with an intriguing man who changes the course of her life. (from Random House)

Thursday April 11 at 11 am, Tate Hall, CPCC Central Campus and Thursday April 11 at  7:30 pm, Goodyear Arts: Poet Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib presents poetry and prose, including work from his new chronicle Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest which received a starred review in Kirkus.

Sunday April 28, Main Street Books Davidson: Charles Frazier, author of Varina and Cold Mountain, in conversation with D.G. Martin (location TBD).

Announcing Charlotte Lit’s Beautiful Truth Initiative

We created Charlotte Lit because we believe literature is one of the most important means for understanding ourselves, our relationships, and our world, and we wanted to find ways of sharing literary experiences of all kinds with the Charlotte community. This January, we launch the Beautiful Truth program, one of our biggest and most important initiatives.

The program is based on the simple idea that writing and sharing our stories can heal us. That may sound lofty, but what I know is that writing is the best tool any of us have for talking about the things that matter most—in life, in relationships, in community. Healing comes when we’re able to share our experiences, hearts, and truths with one another. Healing comes when we listen. And when we’re heard.

Beautiful Truth is Charlotte Lit’s response to the racial strife and income disparity that have intensified in Charlotte over the last few years. It’s a simple program that brings people from all over the city together into small groups for workshops aimed at developing skills for writing and sharing with one another short personal narratives about our personal lives and life in this community.

These public workshops, held in January, will be followed in February with a weekend of readings and community conversations with renowned poet and speaker Terrance Hayes, and in March by a community-wide open-mic reading event. We hope you’ll join us for all three phases of the program, and encourage others to come, too. Event details are outlined below, but first some background on the impetus for Beautiful Truth.

Imagining a Beautiful Truth

More than forty years ago, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system began what was considered a model for successful racial integration. That model lasted until 2001 when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Charlotte’s race-based student assignment plan. Though school desegregation hadn’t solved Charlotte’s woes––social stratification and poverty being complex issues with multiple causes––it had done something critically important: it put an entire generation of students into learning communities in which black and white students, teachers, and parents related to one another and, to some degree, developed a common narrative about their experience as Charlotteans. Fifteen years later, with our neighborhoods still and our schools again segregated, almost every week brings a new headline that begins, “Charlotte is a tale of two cities.”

Of course, like any large city, Charlotte has many more than two tales to tell. We are individuals with unique experiences and different ways of seeing our hometown. For many, Charlotte is a shining New South city, a banking town with state-of-the-art stadiums and shopping malls––a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. But, if we speak the truth, beauty isn’t a reality for everyone.

As national coverage of protests following the killing by police of Keith Scott made clear, too many Charlotteans experience a community in which marginalization, poverty, and criminal profiling are the norm. Too many of us experience the challenge of surviving in a place where chances of moving out of poverty hover at four percent, dead last among America’s fifty largest cities. These stories are true and need to be heard, but they need not become stories rewritten weekly with fresh examples. We can write a new future for ourselves—and for our community.

Telling Our Stories

The good news is that this kind of writing doesn’t require any expertise. All that’s necessary are some basic writing skills and the willingness to sit down with pencil and paper and listen—first to yourself and then to your neighbors.

Personally, I don’t know what I truly think or feel about any event, concept, or idea until I’ve written about it. Writing clarifies. It forces me to dig a little deeper into my topic, to be more honest with myself.  And doing so, allows me to make connections I couldn’t otherwise make. Even better, when I read my writing to others, I sense that they “hear” me better than they might in ordinary conversation. Likewise, I hear better when I’m listening to someone read their writing. Our written stories simply have more weight.

We can share so much with each other about the deepest truths of our experiences by taking a couple of minutes to reflect and string a few sentences into a paragraph. And those of us who live together in Charlotte have a lot to share. I sure hope you’ll participate in some part, or all of, Beautiful Truth. We need your story; it’s an essential part of the Charlotte story.

Beautiful Truth Events

Community Writing Workshops

Charlotte Lit faculty and volunteers will teach 12 free 2-hour workshops: “Writing & Sharing Your Personal Stories,” each held at a Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branch. Our volunteer writers will lead you through a series of activities that will help you to discover, write, and speak stories of your life in Charlotte, from curriculum created by author Patrice Gopo.

2-4 pm; Saturday, Jan. 5 — Scaleybark; Beatties Ford

2-4 pm; Sunday, Jan. 6 — University City; South County

2-4 pm; Saturday, Jan. 12 — Matthews; Plaza Midwood

2-4 pm; Sunday, Jan. 13 — Main

2-4 pm; Saturday, Jan. 19 — Davidson

2-4 pm; Sunday, Jan. 20 — Independence

2-4 pm; Saturday, Jan. 26 — Morrison; Mint Hill

2-4 pm; Sunday, Jan. 27 — Main

Seating is limited; pre-registration is requested for these events. Please register in person at the library branch, or by phone (numbers are available here: https://www.cmlibrary.org/branches).

Weekend with Poet and Speaker Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

Charlotte Lit is thrilled to welcome Terrance Hayes to our city. Hayes is the author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins, a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry; To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight; How to Be Drawn; Lighthead, which won the 2010 National Book Award for poetry; Muscular Music, which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; Hip Logic, winner of the 2001 National Poetry Series, and Wind in a Box. Hayes is artist-in-residence at New York University, and is a MacArthur “Genius” Award Recipient.

7-8:30 pm, Friday, Feb. 1: Reading and talk on using personal narratives to share our stories. Midwood International and Cultural Center Auditorium. This event includes the release of the next 4X4CLT Poetry+Art Posters, featuring poetry by Terrance Hayes. Tickets available here.

10 am-Noon, Saturday, Feb. 2: Writing workshop led by Terrance Hayes for writers and educators in the Charlotte Lit studio. Limited to 24 participants. Registration is here.

2-4 pm, Saturday, Feb. 2: Community conversation about sharing stories for social change, facilitated by Terrance Hayes in The Light Factory. Free, but limited to 40 participants. To request an invitation, email us. (Due to demand, not all requests can be accommodated.)

Community Open-Mic Reading Event

7-9 pm, Friday, March 15 at Midwood International and Cultural Center.

Beautiful Truth participants from all over Charlotte will read short narratives written and shared during library workshops. Free, registration required.

Thank You…

We are so grateful for the support of our Charlotte Lit community in making these events happen: Author Patrice Gopo for writing a beautiful curriculum for use during the community writing workshops; Cathia Friou for organizing our wonderful team of volunteer workshop facilitators; 20 volunteer workshop facilitators; and our friends at the Charlotte Mecklenburg library for making space, handling registrations, and enthusiastically hosting workshops at branches throughout Charlotte.

We’re also grateful to all of our donors. Charlotte Lit’s Beautiful Truth initiative is made possible in part with generous grants from NC Arts, The Plain Language Group, and Brooke and Justin Lehmann. We’re still seeking additional donors. Can your organization help? If so, please contact kathie@charlottelit.org or paul@charlottelit.org.

Learn, Connect, Enjoy: Making the Most of the NCWN Fall Conference

The fall conference of the North Carolina Writers’ Network returns to Charlotte this year—November 2-4 at Hilton Charlotte University—so we have tips for those who are attending (or still thinking about it). There are deadlines in here, so read on down.

BEFORE YOU GO

Select Workshops in Advance. One sure way to know if you’ll receive a good value for your money and time is to review all five workshop time slots (three on Saturday and two on Sunday) and make your selections in advance.

Bonus tip: choose a backup workshop for each time slot, too. Sometimes you realize once a session is underway that it’s not for you. It’s OK to slip out and try another one.

Carefully Consider the Extras. This conference has extra options that might fit you. Manuscript Mart and Critique Service are 30-minute feedback sessions on 20 pages of your manuscript—the former with a literary agent or publisher, the latter with an accomplished writer. Master Classes are all day on Saturday, taking the place of the three workshop slots. The cost is just $30 extra—although it’s a small gamble, because that’s the reading fee, non-refundable if you’re not placed in one.

Bonus tip: Deadlines for all these are this Friday, October 19.

Save Money. The conference is a great bargain if you register by October 26 (you’ll save almost $200). If you’re not a NCWN member, join! Membership plus the member rate for the conference is less than the nonmember rate.

Bonus tip: If you don’t need a hotel room, you save even more. NCWN’s fall conference rotates here only every four or five years, so this is your best chance for awhile.

AT THE CONFERENCE

Meet New People. The classes are generally excellent, yet meeting writers from across the Carolinas might be the best part. Try sitting with new people at meals, and saying hello to people at break times. Here’s a sure-fire way to break the ice, even if you’re an introvert: ask “where do you live?” and “what kind of writing do you do?”

Bonus tip: Take names. If you meet someone you’d like to be in touch with again, jot down their name and something about them. If you carry a business (or writer) card, offer to exchange cards.

Stretch Yourself. When selecting workshops, consider taking some that are out of your normal wheelhouse. If you’re a fiction writer, consider a session in poetry, for example.

Bonus tip: This is especially easy to do when the time slot doesn’t have something in your genre or form that really excites you.

Thank the Presenters. After a session, or when you see them later at the conference, say a few words to the presenters. Most work very hard getting ready, and it’s nice to feel appreciated, and you might make a lasting connection—most of the presenters are local (and most also teach at Charlotte Lit). Not sure what to say? Try one piece of specific praise (“I found the part about x especially valuable”).

Bonus tip: Most presenters will have books for sale at the conference bookstore, and they’d be happy to sign for you.

AFTER YOU GET HOME

Follow Up with People. Did you collect names and email addresses? Reach out and say hello. Did you meet an agent or editor who expressed interest in your work? Send what you said you’d send.

Bonus tip: No email address? Send a connection request through Facebook or LinkedIn.

Review Your Notes. Most conference materials never again see the light of day, which is a shame: there’s likely a lot of great stuff in there. Did you come up with a story idea, or write a great piece of dialogue, or jot down a book you want to read? Now’s the best time to review and act.

Bonus tip: Do this within the first week, while your memory is fresh and motivation high.

Keep the Motivation Going. You’ll likely leave the conference fired up. While it’s hard to sustain that level of enthusiasm all year, use it as a springboard for your current or next project.

Bonus tip: Decide on your next conference or class and sign up right away. Might we suggest charlottelit.org/classes?

That’s it! We hope to see you there. And please stop by the Charlotte Lit table and say hello.


Learn more and register for the NC Writers’ Network Fall Conference. Hurry! Early bird rates are open until October 26.


Paul Reali is a co-founder of Charlotte Lit, and the author of Creativity Rising and other books on creative problem solving. He will present “Technology Toolkit: Software and Tech Stuff for Writers” at the NC Writers’ Network Conference.