Saturday, July 09, 2005

Greetings to NCCAT from writer Philip Lee Williams

Philip Lee Williams and I were supposed to be on a panel together back in 2001, but he became ill and never made it to the Southern Festival of the Book that year. But we've been pen pals since, and when I asked him if he wanted to write a note to our seminar members, he said sure.

You can see that he's prejudiced when it comes to me! For that and for this, I owe him a thanks.


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A greeting from Philip Lee Williams

The seminars sound wonderful this year, and I hope that many people will take advantage of working with Marly Youmans—one of America’s finest writers and my pen pal for years now.

I’m primarily a novelist—my latest book is A Distant Flame, which came out from St. Martin’s last fall and will appear in paperback from St. Martin’s-Griffin this autumn. But I’m deeply intrigued by the short-fiction form.

I teach creative writing at the University of Georgia, and I suppose I’ve heard as much as anyone that you “can’t teach creative writing.” It’s possible that’s true, but I can guarantee that a person can LEARN it. And choosing mentors to guide you through writing and reading is the key to it all.

Most of all, success in creative writing combines hard work and joy. There really isn’t another way to do it. I guess that’s why it’s satisfying, even for those of us who aren’t Stephen King-brand bestsellers and don’t especially want to be. The pleasure in publishing changes over the years, but the joy of writing doesn’t, really. That’s why studying writing and learning to do it better is so wonderful.

Not everyone is meant to publish in New York. Some are destined to write loving family histories, the stories of their churches, or even the times of their own lives. I believe there’s just as much nobility and honor in those, and such events as the NCCAT Writing Seminar in Cullowhee are beautiful places to start.

I can’t imagine living in that area and not being intrigued. Take a chance. What you have to gain can be beautiful.

--Philip Lee Williams

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To learn more about Phil’s twelve books and his upcoming work (as well as his accomplishments as poet, composer, producer, and more), visit him at

Philip Lee Williams is the author of 11 published books, including nine novels. Three of his books will come out in paperback this fall. His novel A Distant Flame (St. Martin's) won the national 2004 Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War fiction. He is also a widely published poet, and documentaries he has written and co-produced have won a number of awards, including from The New York Film Festival. He teaches at the University of Georgia and lives near Athens, Ga., with his wife and daughter.


Anonymous Linda K said...

Phil: I used to teach composition and want to know how you go about inspiring your students to give you their best shot--considering time commitments, other classes, being in love, deaths in the family, dogs that eat do get your students to rise to the occasion? Help me fellow/sister bloggers any tricks?

4:13 PM  
Blogger NCCAT said...

See Phil's response to Linda's question as a separate, later entry!

9:17 AM  

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