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Writer’s conference to be held in Washington

Published 9:22pm Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It’s no secret the region thrives with artists. A walk through downtown Washington is proof — a kaleidoscope of visual art stretching from the Beaufort County Arts Council’s ongoing invitation to view Fine Arts Show winners at the Washington Civic Center to Art Tyndall’s colorful canvases hanging in his Water Street studio.
While visual artists are well represented in galleries up and down Main Street, another group of artists will be taking center stage in the coming months: the writers.
On March 2, the inaugural Pamlico Writers Conference will be held at the Washington Civic Center. It’s an all-day affair featuring panel discussions, writing workshops and lectures, a keynote speaker, all centering on the conference theme: Writing in Our Time. To cap off the event, the winners of the companion writer’s competition will be announced.
“There’s really a lot of excitement brewing,” said Joey Toler, executive director of the arts council. “There is a little bubbling literary community here. … I’ve been impressed with who they’ve been able to bring in (for the conference).”
Some may recognize one of the speakers as the author of “The Great Dismal” or “The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey;” others may recall him as the long-time pianist of the Red Clay Ramblers. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill creative-writing professor Bland Simpson is both those things, in addition to being a recipient of the North Carolina Award in Fine Arts, the state’s highest civilian honor. Simpson will give the keynote address at the conference.
According to organizer Doris Schneider, the exposure to industry professionals will address the how to’s of the publishing world, bringing writers together and encouraging their work is a primary goal of the conference, and writing competition.
“We have so many talented people in Washington and the surrounding areas,” Schneider said. “There are a number of writers’ groups in the vicinity and they’re all pitching in and excited about this.”
Schneider’s desire to bring attention to literary organizations like Pamlico Writers’ Group, led her to approach Toler about the possibility of arts council involvement, but it was her experience at a similar conference/competition in New Bern two years ago that proved a greater inspiration.
“It was such a wonderful experience,” Schneider said. “It really encouraged me to write more. That’s what I see as the value of the competition — to get their thoughts down. Even if they don’t win, they’ll have accomplished something. It may jumpstart some writers.”
The writing competition deadline falls a month before the conference, on Feb. 1, according to Toler. Divided into four adult writing categories (prose–fiction, prose–nonfiction, prose–young adult, prose–poetry), first-place winners in each category will win $100; $50 will go to second-place finishers. A youth category will be open to high school students in Beaufort, Craven, Hyde, Martin, Pitt and Washington counties. The best entry in the youth category will be awarded a $500 scholarship, Toler said.
“We have really reached out and made personal contact with the superintendents, with individual school principals and county curriculum developers to make sure they know about (the competition),” Toler said.
The competition is open to the public and a fee of $10 for each entry is required, excepting those from high-school students.
Schneider believes between writing groups’ membership rosters, students/fans of the conference speakers and the buzz of local interest, this first conference will be well attended, regardless. And the word is out.
For more information, visit www.beaufortcountyartscouncil.org.

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