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.
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?