Mark West Reflects on 40 Years of Community Engagement in Charlotte

Mark West

Mark West

When we heard that Mark West was celebrating 80 semesters teaching at UNC Charlotte, we knew we had to do something to commemorate the occasion.

Mark has been a tremendous supporter of Charlotte Lit, most notably through his fantastic blog Storied Charlotte, which has become an integral part of our community’s literary landscape. It’s almost as if it hasn’t happened until Mark has written about it, which makes our many appearances there particularly gratifying for an org currently in just our 16th semester.

As turnabout is fair play, we decided to take a page (pun intended) from Mark’s blog playbook and ask him to tell his story. Here’s what he wrote to us:

I began my career as an English professor at UNC Charlotte in 1984.  As I reflect on my forty-year career, I cannot remember a time during which I was not deeply involved in community engagement work.  For me, my work as an English professor and my commitment to community engagement go hand in hand.  Whether I am teaching a course on children’s literature, volunteering at a public library event, or participating in a community forum about resisting censorship pressures, I am always doing what I can to encourage people to read and appreciate literary works.  As I see it, a literary work does not really blossom into literature until it has readers.  A book without readers is like an unplanted seed—full of potential but needing a little space and attention in order to take root in the imagination of a reader. 

My Storied Charlotte blog is a direct outgrowth of my community engagement work.  I launched my blog four years ago in an effort to draw attention to Charlotte’s vibrant literary community.  This community includes more than writers. It also encompasses librarians, booksellers, publishers, literacy activists, writing groups and organizations, and (most importantly) readers. 

My blog has much in common with Charlotte Lit.  Both are rooted in Charlotte’s community of readers and writers, and both celebrate authors from Charlotte.  Not surprisingly, I have written many Storied Charlotte blog posts about Charlotte Lit’s activities and projects over the past four years. Although there is no formal connection between my Storied Charlotte blog and Charlotte Lit, our shared purpose makes us partners.  

We feel the same way, Mark. Partners we are. Thanks for everything you do for Charlotte’s storied literary community.