As 2013 comes to a close, my term as this year’s Piedmont Laureate for Children’s Literature also comes to an end. What an exciting year! And what a tremendous experience getting to serve in this esteemed post.
2014 will bring our community its sixth Piedmont Laureate, this time for Short Fiction. As the fifth Piedmont Laureate, I was fortunate to follow some enormously talented writers—poet Jaki Shelton Green, novelist Zelda Lockhart, journalist Scott Huler, and playwright Ian Finley. Through the vision of the program sponsors—Raleigh Arts Commission, Orange County Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, United Arts Council, and Alamance County Arts Council—our community has gathered together in libraries, galleries, arts centers, schools, and bookstores to celebrate the rich literary arts of the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
I love the opportunity to teach workshops to writers of all ages. Blame the former classroom teacher in me. From Raleigh to Saxapahaw, Garner to Burlington, around Durham, Chapel Hill and even in my hometown of Hillsborough, I taught workshops, sometimes just to adults, sometimes to groups of children and teens, and usually focusing on opening up creative thinking and exploring the imagination. Even when I gave readings, book club discussions, or author presentations, I tried to use them as opportunities to encourage writers to discover their own unique combinations of interests and to use these personal passions to create singular stories and characters. I have been so impressed with and inspired by the creative people I’ve met through my visits.
Our region of North Carolina has a multitude of talented children’s book authors. For my Piedmont Laureate Community Project, I organized a series of roundtable discussions at local bookstores to shine a light on the rich and varied work of these authors and to learn more about their creative processes. Each of the events had large turnouts of writers and lovers of literature eager to ask questions of our authors and to glean pearls of wisdom about the process of creating stories for young readers. At the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, we had authors Frances O’Roark Dowell, Stephen Messer, Jacqueline K. Ogburn, and Stephanie Greene. At Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, we heard from authors Tameka Fryer Brown, Clay Carmichael, Louise Hawes, and Cate Tiernan. And for the final roundtable discussion at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, the audience was treated to authors Joan Holub, J.J. Johnson, Kelly Starling Lyons, and Nathan Kotecki.
My favorite aspect to getting to serve as Piedmont Laureate this year has been simply meeting so many new people. I’ve met so many kids and teens who sparkle with talent and so many adults called to write for young readers, so many readers of all ages who are passionate about the importance of books and stories in our lives, so many people who treasure the role of the arts in our communities. Thank you all for the opportunity! It’s been an unforgettable year. And I look forward to all that the future Piedmont Laureates will bring us.