Good News Has Its Place

by Tommy Hays, Executive Director, Great Smokies Writing Program

This spring the Great Smokies Writing Program had the largest enrollment we’ve had in a single semester. The program continues to grow, serving the greater writing community of Western North Carolina. For a dozen years now, we’ve done an excellent job offering affordable writing classes taught by highly accomplished writers/teachers to eager students throughout the area. However, one thing we’ve been less successful at doing is collecting news of publications and other accomplishments from our students and from our faculty. It’s as if we’ve been so involved in offering the classes that we’ve overlooked the remarkable results.

We aim to do better. Starting with this issue, The Great Smokies Review will offer a special section, “Fit to Print: News from Great Smokies/UNC Asheville Writers.”

Each issue we’ll collect good news from our students and teachers and publish it in this new section. “Fit to Print” will be a place for us to announce student and faculty publications as well as awards and grants or a graduate school acceptance or a job or internship that grew out of participation in the program.

We have already collected much good news, which you will see in this issue. For example, Heather Newton, a longtime Great Smokies student, whose novel, Under the Mercy Trees, was published by HarperCollins and garnered much critical praise, recently won The Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award for 2011. Also Megan Shepherd, who took a Great Smokies class with children’s book editor Joy Neaves, recently sold her first novel, The Madman’s Daughter, to Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins as part of a three-book deal. It’s since also sold in several countries abroad. A Young Adult historical thriller trilogy inspired by classic Gothic literature, it will come out in early 2013. And Michael Hopping, a student for several semesters in Elizabeth Lutyens’ Prose Master Class, published a short story collection, MacTiernan's Bottle (Pisgah Press), which was reviewed enthusiastically in Mountain Express and The Asheville Citizen-Times.

The Great Smokies has been blessed with highly accomplished faculty who are always publishing and winning awards. Poet Katherine Soniat has been teaching for us for several years now. Recently, her new book of poems, The Swing Girl (LSU Press), was selected as Best Collection of 2011 by The Poetry Council of North Carolina (Oscar Arnold Young Award). The award, given annually since 1959 by the Poetry Council of NC, is one of the state’s most prestigious awards for poetry. Her sixth collection—A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge—is forthcoming in fall 2012 from Dream Horse Press. Sebastian Matthews, a longtime poetry and creative nonfiction teacher for us, has published his second book of poetry, Miracle Day (Red Hen Press). And Vicki Lane, who has been teaching fiction writing for the program for years, published her fifth novel, Under the Skin (Dell), another book in her much-praised Elizabeth Goodweather series.

This is only a sampling of the good news. For a more detailed and thorough list, please click on “Fit to Print” in the Table of Contents, beginning with this issue. If you are a participant, present or past, in The Great Smokies Writing Program, and have news to share, please send it me ( Put yourself in this new place for viewing the wealth and variety of our writing community’s accomplishments.

Tommy Hays is Executive Director of UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. He also teaches in UNCA’s Master of Liberal Arts Program. His new novel What I Came To Tell You has been accepted for publication by Egmont USA. For more about his other books, go to