Hub City’s New Southern Fiction Series

Gila Lyons

This spring, Spartanburg, South Carolina–based Hub City Press is partnering with Charles Frazier, author of the National Book Award–winning novel Cold Mountain (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997), to launch a new series that will highlight literary fiction from the South. The Cold Mountain Fund Series will further the independent press’s mission to publish place-based books and strengthen literary culture and community in the region. 

Hub City Press director Meg Reid says the publisher has had high-profile support before, but the partnership with Frazier is unique. “We do have a lot of New York Times best-selling authors sharing about us on social media, blurbing our books, and getting books into the right hands. But this is different because Charles is a long-term icon of Southern tales and feels like a very natural part of what we do. Next year is our twenty-fifth anniversary, and this series is cementing our path as a nationally recognized independent press.” 

Frazier, who in addition to Cold Mountain is the author of the novels Thirteen Moons, Nightwoods, and Varina, published last year by Ecco, will help fund the advances for books in the new series as well as marketing and publicity initiatives. He will also make occasional appearances with series authors and at Hub City events. “I’ve been interested in Hub City books for a long time,” Frazier says. “I like independent presses. I was looking around my office right now and so much of what’s lying on my desk and the tables is from independent presses like Copper Canyon, Hesperus, and Graywolf. I wanted to support a strong and thriving Southern independent press, with regional authors who often get excluded from the more corporate New York publishing world.” 

Hub City Press, which also publishes poetry and nonfiction, tends to sign writers from nontraditional writing backgrounds. “Because the South doesn’t have the literary networks other regions have, writers have to get day jobs and find alternative routes to publication,” Reid says. “As we grow we’re hell-bent on preserving a democratic approach to sourcing our books.” The press is part of a larger organization, the Hub City Writers Project, which is dedicated to building literary community in the South through its bookstore in Spartanburg, which frequently hosts readings and events, along with an annual writing conference, a residency program, and a contest series, among other programs. 

The first title in the Cold Mountain series, Jessica Handler’s debut novel, The Magnetic Girl, was published in April. It tells the story of an adolescent girl who develops a vaudeville act in small-town Georgia two decades after the Civil War. In October the press will release Mark Barr’s debut novel, Watershed, about a couple struggling to make a living in rural Tennessee after the Great Depression. And in April 2020, Carter Sickels will publish his novel The Prettiest Star with the series; it revolves around a man seeking to return to his hometown in Appalachia after living in New York City during the AIDS epidemic. 

Reid and Frazier are both interested in representing the diversity and racial complexity of the South. “Part of Hub City’s mission is championing lesser-heard perspectives,” Reid says. “In our books we’re looking for diversity in voices and experiences in a region that’s really quite huge. It spans from Arkansas to Kentucky, from Virginia to Texas, which is over 110 million people. We’re looking to reinterpret and reimagine and interrogate the South, in ways modern, imagined, and historical.”

Frazier notes the historical legacy Southern writers face. “There’s so much that’s changing in the culture in terms of the Civil War, which has been the elephant in the room of Southern fiction for a long time,” he says. “A Southern voice has a particular perspective of the history of this region and the ways we deal with the legacy of race and persistence of racism here. With [my novel Varina] I was trying to look at how that legacy lives on, that we as a nation have not been able to rid ourselves of the original sin of slavery.” 

Hub City plans to publish two titles each year as part of the Cold Mountain series and is open to agented submissions year-round and non-agented submissions in March, April, September, and October. Reid hopes the series will spotlight books that offer a new understanding of the region’s historical legacy. “The South has been through so much economic and racial turmoil,” she says. “The stories that cross my desk and interest me the most are the ones that have something new to say and show a new way forward.”               


Gila Lyons has written about feminism, mental health, and social justice for the New York Times; O, the Oprah Magazine; Salon; Vox; Cosmopolitan; Good; and other publications. Find her on Twitter, @gilalyons, or on her website,

Top Ten Retreats for Emerging Writers




Retreats can be a vital source of inspiration and support for writers at any stage of their careers. But for those just starting out, an opportunity to take some time away from daily life and devote a few days (or weeks, or months) to writing—to develop and deepen one’s practice, to workshop new pieces, to learn about the publishing industry, and to make lifelong friendships and professional connections—can be invaluable. The following ten retreats, workshop programs, conferences, and festivals are geared especially toward emerging writers.

Cave Canem Retreat 
Cave Canem offers a weeklong retreat for emerging poets of African descent, held annually in June at the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The retreat includes workshops, craft talks, readings, and time to write. Tuition is $1,050; the fee for lodging and meals is $590. Scholarships are available based on need. Application fee: $20. Typical deadline: December 21. Cave Canem, 20 Jay Street, Suite 310-A, Brooklyn, NY 11201. (718) 858-0000.

Emerging Poets Fellowship Program at Poets House 
Poets House offers ten fellowships from March to June for emerging poets living in New York City. Each fellow receives a $500 honorarium, a $100 travel stipend, and access to weekly workshops, mentoring sessions, craft discussions with visiting poets, and other events at Poets House, located in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City neighborhood. There is no application fee. Typical deadline: December 1. Poets House, 10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282. (212) 431-7920.

Hub City Writers Project 
The Hub City Writers Project offers two fifteen-week residencies each year at the Writers House in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for emerging poets and prose writers who are pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing or who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree in creative writing within the past five years. Residents are provided with lodging and work space in a historic downtown cottage, as well as a $650 monthly stipend in exchange for community service with Hub City Press or Hub City Bookshop. Application fee: $30. Typical deadline: April 15. Hub City Writers Project, 186 West Main Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306. (864) 557-9349.

Jack Jones Retreat 
The third annual Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat for emerging women poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers of color will be held October 26 through November 8 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The retreat offers time to write as well as daily master classes and meetings with agents, editors, and women in publishing to promote networking, learning, and engagement. Residents are provided with full tuition, private lodging, writing space, and all meals. Application fee: $35. Deadline: April 20. Jack Jones Literary Arts, P.O. Box 291672, Los Angeles, CA 90029.

Kimbilio Retreat
The Kimbilio Retreat for emerging African American fiction writers will be held July 21 through July 27 at Southern Methodist University in Taos, New Mexico. The retreat offers workshops, craft classes, lectures, readings, and time to write. The cost of lodging and meals ranges from $350 to $700. There is no application fee. Deadline: March 15.

Kundiman Retreat 
The Kundiman Asian American Workshop Retreat is held annually in June at Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx in New York City. The retreat features poetry and fiction workshops, one-on-one mentoring, manuscript consultations, and a public reading. Tuition, which includes lodging and meals, is $375. Application fee: $25. Typical deadline: January 15. Kundiman, 229 West 109th Street, Suite 22, New York, NY 10025.

Lambda Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices 
The Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices is held annually in August or September at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. The retreat offers weeklong intensive workshops in poetry, fiction, genre fiction, and nonfiction for LGBTQ writers, along with opportunities to meet publishing industry professionals and build a strong community of peers. The cost of the retreat is $1,650, which includes room and board. Application fee: $25. Typical deadline: February 1. Lambda Literary Foundation, 811 West 7th St, 12th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017. (213) 277-5755.

Starry Night Retreat 
Starry Night Retreat offers one- to eight-week residencies from May through September and from November through March to emerging poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers in New Mexico. Residents are provided with private lodging, shared studio space, and access to a communal courtyard. The cost of the residency is $900 per week. Financial aid is available. There is no application fee. Admissions are made on a rolling basis. Starry Night Retreat, 718 Van Patten Street, Truth or Consequences, NM 87901.

VONA/Voices of Our Nations Workshop
The VONA/Voices of Our Nations Foundation offers one- to two-day workshops for poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers of color, held in various locations throughout the year, including New York City, New Orleans, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The 2019 program will feature workshops with Faith Adiele, Daniel José Older, Shay Youngblood, and others. The cost of the workshops ranges from $125 to $450. Registration is first come, first served.

Writefest: A Festival For Emerging Writers
Writefest: A Festival For Emerging Writers will be held from May 27 through June 2 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The festival features workshops in poetry and short prose,  as well as presentations, critique sessions, editor panels, author readings, and a literary journal fair. The cost of the conference ranges from $95 for a day pass to $495 for a full-event pass. Student discounts are available. Registration is first come, first served. Writefest, 2000A Edwards Street, Suite 212, Silver Street Studios, Houston, TX, 77001. 

Some Room to Breathe: A Conversation in Praise of Quiet Books


Leesa Cross-Smith


As part of her research into the pleasures of reading and writing quiet books, for her essay “Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books,” which appears in the May/June 2018 issue, novelist Leesa Cross-Smith spoke with fellow author Silas House, whose novel A Parchment of Leaves she holds up as one of her favorite quiet books. What follows is Cross-Smith’s interview with House, which she conducted earlier this year.

Do you set out to write quiet books? And what do you think about calling them quiet books? Is that a label you would ever apply to your own work?
I don’t think I set out to write those, but to me good literature examines the way the biggest moments of life happens in the quiet moments. I think the characters I create tend to be quiet observers, people who might lead quiet lives but are very sensory. I love the idea of examining what some might think of as “small, quiet lives.” To me, those are the most interesting people. I certainly wouldn’t mind that label being applied to my work. I think that “quiet” is often thought of as a negative in our culture but actually it is actually a quality we need more of in our world.

Do you enjoy reading quiet books?
I much prefer introspection to explosions. I want to live with characters through those quiet moments. That’s where we get to know them the best. One of my favorite books is Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, mostly because of how quiet and slow it is. Despite the quiet stillness, however, we are experiencing great drama through the main character’s longings. It is exquisite.

Are you a person who enjoys the quiet in general? Do you seek it out? Has that changed in your heart, in our current, vitriolic political climate? I always avoided the noise before but even more now!
The older I get the more quiet I become, I think. I grew up in a very communal house where people were always bursting in to tell epic tales or to sing songs. My childhood home was sort of a community center. I think that led to me being someone who craves the quiet but also someone who can’t go very long without interaction. I love being alone and being quiet but I also love a dance party with thirty people packed into our living room. But quiet is absolutely essential for me as a writer. The best thing I ever do for my writing is to take a walk alone in the woods behind our house. Nothing else gets my writing juices flowing so well. And yes, I think that I absolutely need more quiet in our current fractured world. I’ve made my circle of people much smaller and I look at social media far less. Speaking of which, there are few things more silent than scrolling through a newsfeed but Lord, it is so loud. It will drive a person crazy if they do it too much without seeking stillness.

How does the quiet inform your process? Do you need a quiet space inside or out in nature to write? (I love how you describe landscapes, the sky, etc. Do you need extra time and space to be out in nature to do this? To be able to describe it so beautifully and perfectly in new ways?)
The biggest part of my writing process is going for walks. Usually in the woods, but even if I’m in the city I can go inside my own head and become still the best if I’m walking and observing. I wrote my first three books with babies on my lap or at my feet so I don’t really need a lot of quiet during the actual act of writing but in preparation I need stillness, I need the woods. I spend a lot of time in the woods, down by the creek. Even though I’m not physically putting words on the page, that’s where I get the most of my writing done. Whenever there is a scene of nature in my books, I go out and experience that. In Parchment, for example, there’s a scene where Vine is picking blackberries and she gets hot and sits down in the creek with her clothes on. I did the same thing, to totally capture that experience, from the thorns biting into her hands while picking berries to the heaviness of my clothes when I walked out of the creek. I call that “spiritual research” and it allows me to go far deeper with my characters than I’d be able to otherwise.


Leesa Cross-Smith is the author of Whiskey & Ribbons (Hub City Press, 2018) and Every Kiss a War (Mojave River Press, 2014). She lives in Kentucky. Her essay “Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. Listen to Cross-Smith read an excerpt from that essay in the latest episode of Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast. 

Leesa Cross-Smith, author of the novel Whiskey & Ribbons (Hub City Press, March), and Silas House, whose sixth novel, Southernmost, is forthcoming in June from Algonquin Books.

Episode 19: Leslie Jamison, Carmen Giménez Smith, Jenny Xie & More

Related Reading: 

May/June 2018


Our annual Writing Contests Issue features over 100 contests with no entry fees, a look at the money behind free contests, a special report on extended deadlines, and tips for smart contest entries; interviews with nonfiction writer Leslie Jamison, poet and activist Carmen Giménez Smith, novelist and critic Laila Lalami, and Library of America editorial director John Kulka; plus audiobook options for writers; a defense of quiet books; writing prompts; and more. 

Buy This Issue

In the nineteenth episode of Ampersand, editor in chief Kevin Larimer and senior editor Melissa Faliveno preview the May/June 2018 issue, featuring over 100 contests with no entry fees, a look at the money behind free contests, a special report on extended deadlines, and tips for smart contest entries. The episode also features readings by two authors who are featured in the new issue, Leslie Jamison and Carmen Giménez Smith; an excerpt of an essay in praise of quiet books by Leesa-Cross Smith; a poem by Jenny Xie from her debut collection, Eye Level; and more.

00:01 Leslie Jamison reads an excerpt from her new memoir, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath.

01:17 The cohosts explore the sticky-note lexicon that is growing on the edges of Kevin’s computer monitor. The collection of “words that are not words but should be words” includes liminary (“a person in the middle, in transition, of the in-between; not yet a luminary”) and préage (“the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of how much editorial faith one has in the producer of said projects”), plus a few specifically coined for the current Writing Contests Issue, such as submaster, or supermit (“to send an application, proposal, or piece of work to an editor with purpose, power, and pride”).

11:22 “If I had to say where my drinking began, which first time began it, I might say it started with my first blackout, or maybe the first time I sought blackout, the first time I wanted nothing more than to be absent from my own life.” Leslie Jamison reads from her new memoir, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, published by Little, Brown in early April. In the current issue, contributor Michele Filgate asks Jamison, whose first book was a novel, The Gin Closet, what she is drawn to in nonfiction. “Part of what feels freeing about nonfiction is that you are working from the infinite world. That is honestly how the world feels to me: infinite, which is not to say that it’s always perfect or easy.”


17:37 Kevin and Melissa talk to star fact-checker Nadia Ahmad, the current Diana and Simon Raab Editorial Fellow at Poets & Writers Magazine, about the importance of finding and confirming the truth in this “fake-news, post-fact world.” Nadia points out one of the facts she checked in the current issue: a reference to a Peruvian poetry movement from the eighties called Kloaka, which Nadia says is often compared to the Beat movement of the fifties. We did not know that. Lucky for us, Nadia knows.

21:57 Poet, editor, professor, and critic Carmen Giménez Smith, who was interviewed for the new issue by contributing editor Rigoberto González, reads a poem from her new collection, Cruel Futures, published this month by City Lights Books. “My belly triggers memories of the living and the dead. My belly is a good armrest for texting. I like my belly because all female bodies are intoxicating terrains” —from “Liberate Me.”


26:15 The cohosts discuss one of the pieces in the current issue’s special section—an investigation of extended deadlines. In “Two More Weeks to Submit! The Question of Extended Deadlines,” former editorial fellow Maya C. Popa takes a look at this common and, for some, thorny practice: “Whatever the reason a sponsor might extend a deadline—whether for a contest, a reading period, or a fellowship—one can hardly imagine a room full of suited, greedy editors or administrators laughing raucously as the twenty-five-dollar fees roll in,” she writes. “Still, the lack of transparency that often accompanies deadline extensions can leave the motivations of a contest sponsor up to the writer’s imagination.” Read Popa’s article and let us know what you think by sending an e-mail to

27:37 “In a noisy, confusing world where so many people love to constantly scream their opinions as loudly and as quickly as they can on social media, I am drawn to longer works that take their time. Ideas and situations that give me room to think.” Novelist Leesa Cross-Smith reads the first section of her essay in the new issue, “Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books.” As part of her research into the pleasures of reading and writing quiet books, Leesa Cross-Smith spoke with fellow author Silas House, whose novel A Parchment of Leaves she holds up as one of her favorite quiet books. Read their conversation here.

33:50 Yet another former editorial fellow, Jenny Xie, now an award-winning debut poet whose debut collection, Eye Level, won the Whitman Prize from the Academy of American Poets, reads “Invisible Relations,” from her new book. “Far off, you are being stitched into a storyline in the smooth lobe of another’s mind.” 

35:50 Kevin and Melissa prepare to do a little préage for the summer months, in all of their disgusting humanity. (Seriously, supermit some words that aren’t words but should be words so we don’t feel alone in this languagery.)


Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast is a production of Poets & Writers, Inc., and is edited and mixed by Melissa Faliveno. Music for this episode is provided by Podington Bear, Kevin MacLeod, Ryan Little, the Vivisectors, Ikebe Shakedown, and Planet Wardo. Comments or suggestions? E-mail

Honoring Pat Conroy’s Legacy


Jonathan Vatner


In March of last year Pat Conroy, the best-selling South Carolina author of such lyrical, semiautobiographical Southern epics as The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, died of pancreatic cancer. In the weeks after, his closest friends established a nonprofit writers center and museum to pay tribute to the author’s legacy. Officially launched in February, the Pat Conroy Literary Center offers a growing roster of workshops, readings, lectures, book clubs, and special events to nourish a vibrant creative community in Conroy’s adoptive hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina. “We want the center to be a haven for writers and readers, a nexus point in Southern literary life,” says Jonathan Haupt, the center’s executive director.

The idea for the center started with Marly Rusoff, Conroy’s friend of forty years and his agent for the past decade. At Conroy’s funeral, someone suggested erecting a statue in Beaufort; the idea was quickly dismissed. “My reaction was, ‘My God, Pat would hate that,’” Rusoff recalls. “What you need is a writing center, helping people the way he wanted to be helped when he was a young writer.” Conroy self-published his first book, The Boo, in 1970, and when Houghton Mifflin offered him $7,500 for his memoir The Water Is Wide, he naively replied that he couldn’t possibly raise that much money to print the book. Once he established himself in the publishing industry, Conroy dedicated himself to launching the careers of talented writers, offering advice, encouragement, and critique—not to mention effusive blurbs. Rusoff sees the center as an extension of this lifelong pursuit. 

Rusoff herself has experience in building such organizations: In the seventies, her Minneapolis bookstore became the site of the Loft, now one of the nation’s largest nonprofit literary centers. For the Pat Conroy center’s headquarters, Rusoff and her partner, Mihai Radulescu, rented a house in downtown Beaufort, owned by the mayor and his brother. The house is not unlike the one described in The Great Santini—a columned antebellum Charleston-style affair, rocking chairs on the porch and all—and it’s within walking distance of Tidalholm, the mansion used in the film. The center held a soft opening in October with a rotating exhibition of Conroy materials, including his writing desk, his father’s flight jacket, and the handwritten opening pages of The Prince of Tides.

Haupt and the board, chaired by Jane T. Upshaw, the distinguished chancellor emerita of the University of South Carolina in Beaufort, have organized the center’s programming around Conroy’s two central lessons for writers. “He believed that the best thing for being a better writer is to be a better reader,” Haupt says. “We want to honor that with an elaborate book-club model to help people read more intensely, more deeply, and with greater empathy. To writers, he said to go deeper. When you think you’re there, you’re not even close.” 

In keeping with this second lesson, the center invites local instructors and visiting writers to offer craft workshops focused on character development as well as talks and master classes. The faculty includes Bernie Schein and his daughter Maggie Schein, both loyal friends of Conroy’s; New York Times best-selling authors Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe; and South Carolinian novelist Bren McClain. 

The center will sponsor numerous special events in Beaufort and Charleston. The Watering Hole, a group of Southern poets of color, will be teaching workshops in August at the Penn Center on nearby St. Helena Island, where Conroy is buried and where he first heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak. A series called “Evenings of Story and Song,” also planned for this year, will blend literature and live music. And the center will offer guided tours of Beaufort and Charleston, the two places most steeped in Conroy lore. Haupt also plans to extend the center’s reach by sponsoring book festivals and other events throughout the South.

The center’s signature event is the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, which will be held October 20 to October 22 in Beaufort and features readings, performances, panels, screenings, and workshops. Haupt created the festival in 2015 as a seventieth birthday celebration for Conroy, who attended nearly all the sessions. In 2016, the second annual event was held in his memory. “That first festival was such a gift to us,” Haupt says. “No one knew, not even Pat, that he was sick.”

Those who can’t make it to Beaufort can read and contribute to Porch Talk, the center’s new blog, which is hosted by writer Janis Owens and features essays on craft and publishing. “It’s not a shrine to Pat,” Haupt says of the blog. “We’d love writers at all levels of their career to participate, to make writing and publishing a little less mysterious.”

For novelist Cassandra King, Conroy’s widow and the center’s honorary chair, the new institution honors his memory perfectly. Conroy was a voracious reader and rapt listener, King says, generous to a fault. “I’m thrilled that we’re able to keep his spirit going in this way,” she says. “I just know he would be proud.” 


Jonathan Vatner is a fiction writer in Brooklyn, New York. He is the staff writer for Hue, the magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Charles Frazier (Credit: Mark Humphrey)

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  • April 9, 2019