“The Writingest State”

As a member of the North Carolina Writer’s Network, I am aware of the plethora of writers who are members.  NCWN sends weekly updates highlighting opportunities to see/hear fellow writers as they traverse various parts of our state participating in book signings, readings, and other social events to promote their work.

I’ve always noticed the sub-header of these newsletter’s stating we are, “The Writingest State.”

I don’t know how this determination was made.  Was there a study or research done to back up the claim?  I thought, well, let me just do a little investigation and see what I come up with on my own.  Admittedly, my only source for this “research” was Google.  Honestly, I doubt there could be or would be any broader source, unless there’s somebody out there who happens to know every person who’s ever written and published in this state and then was able to compare it against the other forty-nine.  And by the way, I think it’s only fair to count “published,” because anybody can sit around and say they write.  My Auntie Lou could say it, and should we count her?  No.

I also suppose I could ask someone at NCWN how the sub-header came to be, but then I thought, won’t that seem like some sort of “challenge” question?  Anyway, I Googled.

I started with these terms: States with the most authors.  Not much there.  Then I tried States with most published authors.  I did get this.  And even more surprising, the conclusion was the Midwest and the Northeast had the highest concentration of most famous authors.  For North Carolina, imagine my surprise to see that O. Henry is the author considered to “carry” our state in terms of literary weight.  I found this interesting because…what about Thomas Wolfe?  (LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL, and posthumously, YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, and THE WEB AND THE ROCK)  And what about Reynolds Price?

Come on Publisher’s Weekly!  How about these fine writers?  Kaye Gibbons, (ELLEN FOSTER, and ON THE OCCASION OF MY LAST AFTERNOON, to name a few) and oh my gosh, what about Clyde Edgerton, Allan Gurganus, and Ron Rash, and Charles Frazier?  Okay, they said “famous,” but what exactly did they mean by famous?  Charles Frazier?  Hello?  COLD MOUNTAIN made into the movie with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, remember that one?  What about Doris Betts?  She won several awards including a Guggenheim fellowship as did Gurganus.

Cold Mountain

Doris Betts

Doris Betts

And then there was this list which had ones I mention above, and maybe by the numbers it’s a great list, yet the quality/influences of work ought to be considered overall, as well.  And then I spotted David Sedaris among these, and realize he wasn’t born in NC, but evidently lived/grew up in Raleigh during some part of his school years.

So.  My conclusion as to that sub-header?  Actually, nothing.  Based on all the above, I have no idea how it came to be, but, hey, I like it, that much I can tell you.  It’s funny because the first thing I thought of was let’s hope it’s not like that other claim which went into some sort of the chicken or egg type of dispute a while back between NC and Ohio.  That was over NC’s license plates, and the “First In Flight,” motto.  I’m sure most of you know, but just to clarify, the Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk is where Wilbur and Orville Wright lived and tested the plane and made those famous first flights, yet they were born in Ohio.

No one’s disputing the NCWN stance, I mean, not even me, I was only curious.  And…no one’s challenged it, far as I know.  I do believe we have a lot of great writers in our state, past and present.  I’m very proud I’m from a place that cherishes the arts and recognizes achievements made by those who contribute to cultural and intellectual advancement with their efforts.

The “writingest state?”  I can stand by that.

Were you surprised by the writer who “carries” your state on the first list?



So many states to choose from! Missouri is Mark Twain, which was a sure thing, no other option. California is John Steinbeck, which I also figured, but I would add Joan Didion to that. (side note: Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath about a mile from my house 🙂

Now here we are in Kentucky, and I would have said Wendell Berry (and been wrong).

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    Some surprised me for sure. At first I thought, are they only listing one they consider a literary heavy weight, but then… I saw where they scrounged up two for some states. I call BOGUS on that list to some degree. What about TRUMAN CAPOTE for Louisiana? I mean fine with Mr. Leonard, but IN COLD BLOOD was considered a precedent for crime writing, a ground breaking work written like “fiction” about non-fiction.

    That they didn’t list him, if he were alive, it would make him think Harper Lee was still winning the recognition he ought to be. 😉


Chuck Palahniuk. What’s not to love?

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I have to object. They said Florida is weak on writers. That might be true of those who can file for homestead exemption but nigh onto 50% of popular writers have at least a second home here.We have Connelley, Lehane, Grippanado and on and on. Even more writers have found a subject when they came for vacation.

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    I know Craig, I agree about Florida! I think the list was intended to list naturally born, but there are REASONS writers settle in certain areas, and I think it’s about richness of environment and an idea generating atmosphere.

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I would certainly like to believe NC is the Writingest State because, gosh darnit, I live here! 🙂 And, I know, shame on me, but I haven’t ever connected up with any other writers in NC. In fact, I think you’re the first I’ve actually spoken to… no, actually, I have had some brief Twitter chat with Beth Revis and Renee Adieh. But still… I should probably at least get the NCWN newsletter.

Pah, and I call myself a writer??


    Name typo: it’s Renee Ahdieh. Sorry Renee! Her debut, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, a YA retelling of Shaharazad came out earlier this year, and it’s really really good. 🙂


      Shaharazad… Shahrazade… Scheherazade.. you know what I mean… 🙂

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      Ha! Colin, I know! I almost felt guilty NOT joining! But to be honest, a lot of the stuff I’ve subscribed to I’ve not had time to read. I’ve heard time and again (if not working at a regular 40 hr job like you) one should write half the day and read half the day. I can’t do it! Reading is what I do as a sort of “reward” at the end of the day. Which is also why I read stuff SO SLOW.

      I don’t read much YA, but I have to say I love her title!


Ah ha, good old Annie may have written Broke Back Mountain, God bless her she’s more famous than famous but what about Wally Lamb. (She’s Come Undone) Oprah 1st pick. I was invited to attend a writing retreat / intimate writing conference in Italy, which Wally was attending, but could not go that year. Too bad it’s not this year.

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    I have that Wally Lamb book as well as another I can’t recollect right off hand. Okay, so I’d never heard of Broke Back Mountain until the movie. I think it was a short story too, wasn’t it? Anyway, that first list did surprise me. All along I’d been thinking Nicholas Sparks was an NC native since he’s written so many books based here.


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