Greetings from Tryon, the little town that celebrated its 125th birthday. Happy birthday Tryon! Since my installation on February 10th, 2010, I have spent more time traveling around our beautiful state than I have tending my own home fires. And what a thrilling pilgrimage it has been. As the literary ambassador for North Carolina, I have traveled from Tryon to Raleigh to Sylva to Southern Pines to Charlotte to Hickory to Asheville to Boiling Springs to Burnsville and into the world at large through the web and through internet radio.
Among the highlights for me of the last nine months is the creation of the Laureate’s Radio Hour. Once a month, via the facilities of Asheville FM, and with the expert and impassioned assistance of Wordplay host Jeff Davis, I have had the pleasure of shining a light on the vast and impressive literary talents throughout the state. These writers include Stephanie Biziewski, Michael Beadle, Karon Gleaton Luddy, Katherine Soniat, Thomas Rain Crowe and Nan Watkins, and Sabastian Mathews. I once even turned the tables on Jeff Davis himself, featuring the beautifully haunting and lyrical poetry from his collection Natures. Upcoming featured writers will include Jim McGavran, Jeanette Cabanis-Brewin, Susan Lefler, Richard Taylor, Jim Clark, and mother/son poets Ione O’Hara and Bill Van Every. In the next two years of my tenure I will continue to feature writers throughout the state from, to use a fresh phrase, Murphy to Manteo.
Another highlight of these past months was an appearance at Wordfest 2010. This festival, under the direction of Laura Hope-Gill, has become one of the premier and most diverse poetry festivals in the nation. This year’s festival featured such talents as Glenis Redmond, Keith Flynn, Mark Doty, Katherine Soniat, Katherine Stripling Byer, Natasha Tretheway, John Hoppenthaler, Nicole Brown, and many others. Also reading were the student winners of the Blue Ridge Parkway Poetry Contest.
In early September I traveled to Burnsville to participate in the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. This festival has become a major event for writers throughout North Carolina and beyond. Featured writers for this year’s event included Judy Goldman, Tommy Hayes, Tony Earley, Joseph Bathanti, Laura Hope-Gill, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Holly Iglasias, and Paul Cuadros. Thank you Britt Kaufman and other committee members for all your hard work in making this festival a success.
On September 16th I had the pleasure of reading with Rhett Trull of Winston-Salem and Joan McBreen of Sligo, Ireland, for Lenoir-Rhyne’s Visiting Writer’s Series. Thank you Rand Brandes for your devotion to the literary arts, your impeccable planning, and your energetic and entertaining hospitality.
One other stunning event I took part in was the recent inaugural festival honoring Gardner-Webb’s most celebrated alum, writer Ron Rash, whose novel Serena became a national best seller. Rumor has it that Angelina Joli will be playing the title roll in the upcoming movie.
And what a thrill it has been to judge several of the state’s many contests for poets of all ages, including The Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition and the Blue Ridge Parkway Poetry Competition. So much wonderful work to be blessed with!
Among the projects I am looking forward to is working with Tom Moncrief on a Wimba Virtual Classroom session on October 13th. The Wimba project brings the discussion of poetry and other arts to classrooms in all areas of the state. I also look forward to presenting at the North Carolina Writer’s Network Annual Conference on November 6th and to a day-long visit with students and faculty at Charlotte’s North West School of the Arts on November 19th. This visit to the school of the arts will follow a poetry reading on November 18th at my beloved Queens University of Charlotte.
Whew! I’m tired already—and I’ve barely begun this marvelous enterprise sponsored so energetically and generously by the wonderful people at the North Carolina Arts Council and the Department of Cultural Resources.
I am happy and honored to serve you all!
Cathy Smith Bowers