The Great Smokies Writing Program
A Creative Collaboration
For aspiring writers, or those struggling to finish their great American novel, UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program offers not only encouragement but also a support network and seminars to get those creative juices flowing.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Great Smokies Writing program has welcomed UNC Asheville students as well as the larger WNC writers’ community to take advantage of opportunities to learn and share their talents through workshops, seminars and networking and mentoring sessions
A number of students have published books, stories, articles or poems that they developed in class. Among them is Asheville attorney and author Heather Newton. She worked on refining several chapters of a novel in one of the first Great Smokies Writing Program classes, “Finishing Your Novel” with instructor and novelist Peggy Parris. Newton has since completed Under the Mercy Trees, which is now due for publication by HarperCollins in January 2011.
“The whole program is so supportive and provides a real sense of community for writers,” Newton said. “It is so much more sophisticated than any other writing classes I’ve taken in Boston or elsewhere.”
Great Smokies Writing Program Executive Director Tommy Hays has played a big role in creating the sense of community among the program’s writers.
“He’s fantastic,” Newton said. “Tommy is always looking out for ways that the program can support its writers.”
Hays, author of three noted novels and countless articles, has served as the program’s executive director since its founding.
“There are a lot of people in our area that are interested in writing. In the past, they haven’t had the support or resources the Great Smokies Writing Program offers. I think the program has filled a real cultural need in this respect, and I am proud of that,” he said.
One way that the program has helped build community among writers is The Great Smokies Review. Launched in honor of the Great Smokies Writing Program anniversary, the new online literary journal gives students an opportunity to share their work with a wider audience, offering a sample of the multiple voices and quality writing that characterizes the program. Each semester, students are selected by their instructors to contribute poems, novel excerpts, short stories and essays.
Editor Elizabeth Lutyens hired UNC Asheville senior Brian Hart to serve as the Review’s first student intern. He said the work has had a major impact on his college experience.
“Going through this internship has shown me that I enjoy editing. In fact, I now hope to one day work in the publishing industry,” Hart said. “It’s given me practical knowledge for my own writing and career aspirations. It’s been a great experience.”
This experience is exactly what the program is about, says Hays. In the next 10 years, Hays hopes that the program will continue providing a place for writers of all ages and abilities to learn and build community. “Our program serves a wide variety of writers,” he said. “I simply want to keep on doing that and doing it well.”