Writing is often a solitary act. Sitting alone with a paper and pen (or, more likely, keyboard and screen) can feel isolating when fellow writers are miles and mountains away. Quiet tranquility can evolve into loneliness, unless a chance to commune with other wordsmiths is on the horizon.
Thirty years ago, writers from throughout the state banded together to form the North Carolina Writers’ Network. This expansive group of prose, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writers still join together in person and online to explore their craft and support each other in their pursuits.
NCWN-West, the western arm of the organization, is a resource for writers in Henderson County and far beyond, reaching into South Carolina, North Georgia, and eastern Tennessee.
“Hendersonville and Asheville — the whole of Western North Carolina — is a very creative area,” notes Patricia Vestal, the co-Henderson County representative for the NC Writers Network and NCWN-West. “There’s a lot of craftspeople and artists here, and also a lot of writers as well.”
NCWN-West hosts an open mic night at the Henderson County Library on the third Monday of each month. It’s a magnet for local writers who want to share their work with the public and gather with other writers. Nearly all genres are welcome, ranging from serious poetry to humorous short stories.
If the idea of standing in front of an audience and revealing one’s work sounds intimidating, Vestal assures writers that they’ve entered a safe space where they can feel supported.
In other words, this is not a “slam.”
“There’s a very strong sense of camaraderie, and new people are welcomed warmly. They may be nervous when they first get there before they read, but by the end of the evening they feel like they belong.”
The public plays a key role in the process. Anyone with an appreciation for the spoken word is encouraged to attend — even, and perhaps especially, if they’re just there to listen. Somewhere between 18-23 readers present short works between 3-5 minutes long, so it’s a varied listening experience for all involved.
The readings are timed out in advance to make sure each writer gets a chance to read and to keep the program lively. This format also provides a framework for the writers themselves, many of whom have not shared those particular works in public.
“We spend a lot of time sitting alone with our writing, and it is nice to be able to communicate with other people who are like you or have different points of view,” says Vestal. “Just coming together is very important.”
The North Carolina Writers’ Network hosts its open-mic nights at the Henderson County Library (301 N. Washington St., 828-697-4725) each month, except December. The event resumes in January, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a schedule and to sign up. www.ncwriters-west.org.