How Writing Connects Us: Writers for Readers Event in April

by Lori-Anne Shapiro

On April 22 a fabulous event took place at The UNC-Friday Center in Chapel Hill: Writers for Readers, presented by Orange Literacy Council. As a member of the FOCPL Board, I had the privileged opportunity to attend this event at the invitation of Lucinda Munger, Executive Director of the Library and member of the Board of the Literary Council.

The evening began with a lovely reception, where we enjoyed wine and a generous spread of delicious hors d’oeuvres while hobnobbing with big names in the writing and publishing community. We then moved on to a stimulating program that began with a video about Orange Literacy, developed by Figure 8 Productions, which demonstrated how literacy changes lives. Following that came the centerpiece of the evening: the Author Conversation, moderated by Jeff Polish, founder and Executive Director of The Monti. Jeff created an open and intimate atmosphere among the authors and between the authors and audience.

The author panel consisted of four highly regarded local writers:

  • Michael Parker, author of six novels and two collections of short stories. Michael graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and is a Distinguished Professor in the MFA Writing Program at UNC-Greensboro.
  • Daniel Wallace, author of six books, including a recently published children’s book, The Cat’s Pajamas. One of Daniel’s novels, Big Fish, was translated into 23 languages and adapted for film and a Broadway musical. He also has published many essays and short stories. The UNC-Chapel Hill Creative Writing Program is proud to claim him as Program Director.
  • Lee Smith, whose name speaks for itself. Lee is the author of 16 fiction books and has received many awards. She studied at Hollins College under the tutelage of Louis Rubin, Jr., and she taught English and creative writing for many years at NC State. Lee now lives with her husband, Hal Crowther, in Hillsborough.
  • Robert Alden Rubin, son of the late Louis Rubin, Jr., also studied creative writing at Hollins College and UNC-Chapel Hill. Robert has edited more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books, and he has written two poetry anthologies and a travel memoir. He is currently a writing instructor at Meredith College in Raleigh.

There are many obvious connections between these authors. Many more connections came to light during the conversation, which felt more like an informal chat in a friend’s living room than a panel discussion. Daniel described how he had once lived in the bedroom of the house that later became his office in the building where he worked for Orange Literacy, and now he is presenting in a program sponsored by the same organization. Lee Smith was instrumental in developing the careers of Michael, Daniel, and Robert; she had also been Robert’s  baby sitter while a student of his father’s!

Writers for Readers was more than just another literary event–it was a memorable gift.

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