Monday, April 30, 2012

Two Charlotte artists win CPCC literary awards

Poet and Charlotte Observer writer Dannye Romine Powell is this year's winner of Central Piedmont Community College's Irene Blair Honeycutt Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts.

Jonathan K. Rice, editor of Charlotte's Iodine Poetry Journal, won the Irene Blair Honecutt Legacy Award.

Powell was honored for her prize-winning poetry and her leadership and support of writing in Charlotte and North Carolina as a Charlotte Observer columnist.

Powell's poems have appeared in such prestigious journals as Paris Review and Prairie Schooner. She's the author of several poetry volumes, most recently "A Necklace of Bees," and of the 1995 book "Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers."

Rice's award was given for his outstanding service in support of local and regional writers. Rice is an abstract artist and poet. His 12-year-old Iodine Poetry Journal is published twice a year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

'Charlotte's Web': A classic turns 60

One of America's most beloved children's books, "Charlotte's Web," marks its 60th anniversary this year. The New York Times on Sunday published a lovely piece by Michael Sims describing how E.B. White came to write the book. Sims is the author of "The Story of Charlotte's Web."

"Charlotte's Web" has always been one of my favorites, but I worry my college-aged children don't feel the same way. And worse, I think this is because of me.

Years ago, when I read the book to them, I'd invariably choke up at the line: "No one was with her when she died."

Then I'd choke up again when Wilbur met Charlotte's newly hatched babies and announced: "I am an old friend of your mother."

My chin would quiver. My throat would catch. My kids would exhibit low-level horror and embarrassment. Today, their memories of "Charlotte's Web" may not be of White's crystalline prose, but of their unstable mother.

What I hope they remember is the final passage, which is my favorite: "She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

Just an aside, does anyone else get weepy reading this book?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Events planned for new Davidson town history

The town of Davidson will be celebrating its past over the next couple of weeks with several events pegged to a new town history, "One Town, Many Voices."

The book ($29.95), published by the Davidson Historical Society, is written by Davidson College Archivist Jan Blodgett and History Professor Ralph Levering. It traces the town's history from its beginning, just prior to 1837, when Davidson College welcomed its first class of of 65 students, to the present.

The authors will give a reading at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at The Pines at Davidson, 400 Avinger Lane.

They'll sign books 10 a.m.- noon Saturday, April 28, at Main Street Books, 126 S. Main St. in Davidson.

The Beloved Community Book Club will host a discussion with the authors at Davidson Presbyterian Church, 116 Depot St., at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3.

And on Davidson Town Day, May 5, Community School of Davidson students will be on hand to record stories and remembrances for an oral history collection.

All events are free and open to the public.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big library book sales in Charlotte and Gastonia

Starting next week, book lovers can find great deals as Friends of the Library groups in both Charlotte and Gastonia launch annual used book sales.

These fundraisers for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Gaston County public libraries feature thousands of bargain-priced books, CDs, DVDs and other media.

The Gaston sale is Wednesday, April 25, through Saturday, April 28. It's 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. each day, except for Thursday, April 26, when it's open until 9 p.m. It's at the Gaston County Public Library, 1555 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia. Find out more here.

The first full day of the Charlotte sale is 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, April 27. It's open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 28; 1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 29; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 30 through May 4; and 9 a.m.-noon May 5.
You can get first dibs on books 6-9 p.m. Thursday, April 26, if you're a Friends of the Library member or if you donate $25.
Location: CBRE SouthPark Towers, 6100 Fairview Road, Suite 100.
Find out more here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Pulitzer for fiction this year

Some of the most surprising news out of Monday's Pulitzer Prize announcements revolved around what didn't happen. For the first time in 35 years, Pulitzer officials gave no prize for fiction.

The Washington Post reports that judges had considered three finalists -- the late David Foster Wallace's "The Pale King," Karen Russell's "Swamplandia" and Denis Johnson's "Train Dreams." But they couldn't agree on a winner, so no award was given.

Fiction judges have balked at giving an award before, most recently in 1977.

This year's history prize went to the late Manning Marable's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention."

The Pulitzer for Biography went to John Lewis Gaddis' "George F. Kennan: An American Life."

The Pulitzer for Poetry went to "Life on Mars" by Tracy K. Smith.

Stephen Greenblatt's "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern" won the Pulitzer for General Nonfiction.

The New York Times' Julie Bosman reports that book publishers and bookstores are bummed there's no fiction award this year. A Pulitzer can elevate a little-known author and typically guarantees great sales.

One of the books that had mentioned as a leading contender for the Pulitzer fiction prize was Edith Pearlman's "Binocular Vision: New and Collected Stories." It wasn't a finalist, it turns out, but the good news is that you can hear Pearlman at 7:30 p.m. tonight, April 17, at Davidson College. She's giving a free reading and talk in the college's Sloan Music Center, Tyler-Tallman Hall.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nancy Drew heads to Appalachian State

Beloved girls' book series heroines Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and Judy Bolton are now a central focus of the Appalachian State University library's children's literature collection, thanks to a donation from Appalachian English Professor Elaine O'Quinn.

O'Quinn recently donated more than 400 titles from her girls' and boys' series collection to ASU's Belk Library. She'll discuss the collection and books in the girls' series at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in room 421 of the Belk Library.

O'Quinn, who has been collecting girls' series books for more than 20 years, has done research on these series and their young female protagonists. Studies of girls' series books, O'Quinn says, illuminate ideologies and societal expectations placed on girls.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh to speak at UNCC

How I prepared for my interview with Ben Huh: Surfed his websites, clicked through lots of photos – of tattoos gone wrong, unintentionally amusing Facebook statuses and, of course, cats with funny captions.

Why I’m writing about funny cat captions: They’re what America is reading.

Huh, 34, is chief executive of Cheezburger, a company with more than 60 humor websites, including and

On Tuesday, he’ll speak at UNC Charlotte, where he’ll explain how, as a bright-eyed journalism graduate, he turned down a Washington Post internship and went on to become an Internet entrepreneur whose sites attract 500 million page views a month.

Huh didn’t hatch the idea of funny-captioned animal photos, but in 2007, he bought the website.

The rest is Internet history. Today, his Seattle-based company, with nearly 100 employees, keeps expanding. If you’ve seen a funny-captioned cat photo (“Johnson, clear my schedule. There’s yarn on the floor”), you’ve probably encountered his brand.

All content is user-generated. People submit captioned photos or add captions to others’ photos. Only the best show up on the site. Cheezburger gets 20,000 submissions a day. Getting on a homepage might be harder than getting into Harvard.

As you can imagine, many old-school writers equate Cheezburger’s success with civilization’s decline.

Granted, the cuteness of some content will make you gag. But other photos are pretty funny. The best submissions, Huh told me, come from users savvy about language and culture. Writing humor, after all, isn’t easy.

Huh also assures me that Cheezburger isn’t plotting to replace literature or journalism or correct spelling. His mission is a lot simpler: To make the world laugh for five minutes a day.
Because everybody needs a laugh. Even Huh, who told me he spends time on most afternoons.

“That’s my little piece of heaven,” he says. “It brings a sense of peace and calm at the end of the day.”

Huh's free talk will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, in McKnight Hall of UNC Charlotte’s Cone University Center.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bargain-basement prices on used books

Buy books for a song and support Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte at this year's Julia's Cafe & Books spring book tent sale.

It'll be in the Habitat ReStore parking lot, 1133 N. Wendover Road 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday and Saturday (April 13 and 14.)

Julia's will be selling more than 10,000 used books in all genres. And you can buy them by the bagful -- $25 for as many as you can stuff into a complimentary Julia's shopping bag.

All proceeds from the sale will be used to build more Habitat homes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'Warriors' author Erin Hunter in Charlotte Saturday

Erin Hunter will sign copies of her newest book in the Warriors: Omen of the Stars series, "The Last Hope," at noon Saturday, April 14, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

This super-popular series features clans of cats immersed in heart-stopping adventures.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A poem for people who think they don't like poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, I give you a poem that I dare you not to enjoy.

"One Boy Told Me" by Naomi Shihab Nye is a found poem. It's composed, as she explains when she recites it in this video, of lines uttered by her son when he was 2 and 3 years old.

My favorite line: "Just think -- no one has ever seen inside this peanut before."

If you like the idea of found poetry, Workman Publishing has a new book of it, "The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry," with contributions from artists such Snooki, John Boehner and Kanye West. It's not Emily Dickinson, but it's good for a few laughs.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Used books? Donate, get a chicken sandwich

The Friends of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library is collecting donated books through Saturday, April 7, for its gigantic annual book sale.

If you've got books, CDs, DVDs or other media you'd like to unload, drop them off at the Cotswold Chick-Fil-A, 4431 Randolph Road, today through Saturday between 5 and 8 p.m..

The donations will be sold at at the Friends of the Library's third annual sale, April 26 through May 5 at South Park Towers, 6100 Fairview Road.

All donations are tax deductible. And if you donate at least four gently used books, you'll get a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich.

Proceeds from the sale go to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library. Last year's event raised $20,000.
Check here for more info.