Wyoming Arts Council

Guidebooks & maps: literature programs at other state arts agencies

One of the great things about attending national conferences is hearing about what other state arts agencies are doing, especially in regards to individual artists. It may come as no surprise that state literature programs are publishing maps and guidebooks to highlight their writers, as well as how-to manuals to assist their careers. Wyomingarts readers may remember our 2003 anthology, “Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming.” It was a project of the Wyo. Center for the Book, but I served as one of the co-editors. It featured excerpts and original essays from 19 of the state’s writers (14 were WAC fellowship winners) as well as a literary map.

The North Carolina Arts Council has teamed up with the University of North Carolina Press on a three-volume series, “Literary Trails of North Carolina.” The first one covers the mountain region, and was edited by Georgann Eubanks, one of the founders of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. It features 18 one-day tours (maps included) of the western part of the state that places you “in the middle of the communities, historic sites, and hangouts of notable writers of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and plays.”

I went right to the index to look up Thomas Wolfe, one of my favorites. His fellow citizens in Asheville didn’t take kindly to his thinly-veiled portraits of them in “Look Homeward, Angel.” His mother’s rooming house, referred to as “Dixieland” in the novel, was falling apart until a local group renovated it and opened it as the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Wolfe’s mother, Julia, once told F. Scott Fitzgerald that she didn’t rent her rooms to drunks referring, we can assume, to F. Scott himself.

Another Wolfe in the book is contemporary writer Tom Wolfe, best known for “The Right Stuff” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” This native of Virginia wrote about a character from Alleghany County in the remote western edge of N.C. in his latest novel, “I am Charlotte Simmons.”

Other writers in this volume: Anne Tyler, Romulus Linney, Sequoyah, Gail Godwin, Elizabeth Spencer, Nina Simone, and many others. For more info, go to http://www.uncpress.unc.edu. Or you can contact literature coordinator Debbie McGill at the N.C. Arts Council. We can look forward to the companion volumes, featuring the central part of the state and the coast.

The New York State Council on the Arts and Bright Hill Press teamed up for the state’s literary map. New York, of course, has a rich literary history. The color map includes Mark Twain, who lived for a time in his wife’s home town of Elmira; Willa Cather, who left Nebraska for Greenwich Village; James Baldwin of Harlem and Greenwich Village; Agha Shahid Ali, who taught in Binghampton, N.Y., and once was a judge for the WAC writing fellowships; and Herman Melville from, as they say here, upstate. On the flip side of the map is an index of the state’s “literary lives.” It includes county-by-county lists of writers, and a whole section of authors from New York City. There’s also a guide to literary sites. You can read more at the N.Y. State Literary Website at http://www.nyslittree.org.

The Illinois Arts Council, in cooperation with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance in Chicago, has compiled a booklet on “How to Get Published.” It’s a basic how-to guide for writers. Topics include “editing tips” (proofread!), “writing programs, conferences, workshops, and readings,” and “copyrights.” It’s very good for beginners but also has some reminders for established writers. Example: “Always investigate a contest’s reputation before sending money.”

The Illinois Arts Council may send you a copy if you ask nice. Contact the IAC at iac.info@illinois.gov.

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