Sunday, November 20, 2011

NCWN Fall conference - Then and Now

The 2011 North Carolina Writers' Fall Conference, with the highest attendance in many years, drew writers from everywhere, especially all over western NC. I was there this weekend. I hope you were, too.
As I visited with the writers and leaders of other organizations and publishing houses, my thoughts turned back to how I became affiliated with the state writers' network and my first Fall Conference.

Ed Southern became Executive Director for NCWN in 2006-2007 and has led this organization in a new direction at a time when, I believe, it was floundering.
My connection with NCWN began in 2006 when we at Netwest began our search for a new Program Director for our regional writers' network, NCWN West, which had become bogged down in conflict with leaders of NCWN.

 As PR person for Netwest for the previous two years, I had come to know writers all over the region southwest of Asheville. Through communication with these writers I learned what they wanted from NCWN and Netwest. I proposed a survey of our local members to have these thoughts in writing.

 Out of 80 members in North Carolina and Georgia, an excellent consensus arose. We sent the results of these surveys to NCWN and to the president of the Board of Directors. I spoke with the director at the time, and worked on mending fences.

One of the concerns that surfaced in the surveys was that writers who joined NCWN, but who did not live in the Raleigh area, felt no connection to the North Carolina Writers' Network. The only communication they received was a newsletter filled with news about high profile writers in the Raleigh area. Members here in western NC screamed about the dues especially when they were increased to $75.00.
After all, what are they doing for us? Why don't we just start our own organization?
We don't need a state group and we don't need to pay dues, we can just do what we have been doing and we won't have to pay anything.

Our Program Coordinator and I were bombarded daily with threats of mutiny and complaints about those people over there.

In June, 2007, I took the Program Coordinator position for NCWN West (Netwest) and learned more about the connection we had with NCWN. Al Manning from Waynesville served on the NCWN Board of Trustees. He drove across the state to attend meetings in the Triad. He and I built a working relationship and kept in touch by email. I think Al talked about Netwest and what we were doing here in the mountains as he met with the people who made decisions.

Many phone calls and emails passed between my house and the office in Carrboro as I tried to make our needs known without complaining or blaming anyone. I could see what NCWN could become for writers all over this big state and for our western writers in particular.
I also knew that Nancy Simpson, the co-founder of NCWN West, had made a gigantic impact on writers in western NC, and I wanted to carry on her work and further her efforts to promote writing and writers in the mountains.

As soon as I became PC for Netwest, I began collecting names and e-mail addresses of writers in our area and all over the state. I became the conduit to connect NCWN and Netwest members. One of the suggestions I made to the director was the dire need of updating and improving the antiquated NCWN website.

It was not long before Nicki Leone undertook the huge task of designing a new website. I had set up a weblog for Netwest in 2007, and she and I worked well together. Nicki placed the link to our blog on the front page of and soon our traffic grew with folks checking out these mountain writers who had so much going on. A big connection was taking place.

Tomorrow I'll continue with more on the growing connection between NCWN and Netwest since 2007.

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