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B.A. in art and English, Salem College

M.F.A. creative writing, University of North Carolina at Greensboro


I retired summer, 2021. I began teaching creative writing at UNC as a lecturer in 1975, and except for a two-year visiting professorship at Hollins University and a few years away when my children were young, I estimate that I taught at UNC for about forty years. It seems impossible. Time goes whoosh when you’re having fun. And the motto of our marvelous creative writing faculty has always been “Fun wants us to have it!” I might just get myself tattooed with that!

I began my career as an art teacher in the public schools of North Carolina and my transition to college teaching (writing and literature) was a delightful shock. Students were so marvelously behaved at Carolina. They did not throw spitballs at me! The students, eager, curious, patient, and as talented and bright as stars, taught me how to teach creative writing. We were partners in all sorts of literary crimes and misdemeanors and jubilations. Some of the amazing writers I taught as young people, in no particular order: Ben Fountain, Michael Parker, Daniel Wallace, Jeb Stuart (who went to Hollywood and wrote Diehard), Blake Crouch (author of the Wayward Pines trilogy), playwright Bekah Brunstetter, and Matthew Vollmer (Future Missionaries of America ,etc.). Two of my former students now teach in creative writing at UNC: Adam Price and Ross White. And the 2021 Kenan Visiting Professor, Julia Ridley Smith, was in the ninth grade when I taught a summer workshop that she attended. I take no credit whatsoever for the success of these former students. But whenever I taught them, I’d simply learned enough about teaching not to impede them.

My ongoing interests and projects include: writing fiction, writing flash fiction, the personal essay, the study of poetry, short film-making, puppetry, and art from recyclable materials. I am also a puppeteer and from 2010-2020 performed with my collaborator, Deborah Seabrooke, our original puppet plays as Jabberbox Puppet Theater. Our last play, before COVID darkened our salon-style theater, was “The Poet’s Menagerie,” based on poet Fred Chappell’s newest book As If It Were, a reinterpretation of fables by Aesop and others. You might go to our website to see a few excerpts from previous productions (rated R in some cases, but mostly PG-13). We featured “brief puppet nudity” in every play, except the last one:


  • Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit, a novel which was made into an NBC Movie-of-the Week
  • Teen Angel & Other Stories of Young Love
  • A Girl’s Life: Horses, Boys, Weddings & Luck (personal narratives)
  • Adventures in Pen Land, a comic memoir of my early writing life
  • Gram-o-Rama, Breaking the Rules, by Daphne Athas which I edited
  • Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by 65 of North Carolina’s Finest Writers, which I curated and edited
  • Amazing Place: What North Carolina Means to Writers, essays about the importance of place which I curated and edited. This book actually made #8 for a month on the NYT Best Seller’s list for Travel!


  • Citations for “Distinction” in Best American Short Stories, ed. Martha Foley for
  • “No News” (l975) and “The Kiss” (l980)
  • North Carolina Literary Fellowship Grant l986
  • PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, 1986 for the story “Putting the Babies to Bed”
  • American Library Association “Best Book” citation for Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit, 1986
  • Bread Loaf Fellowship Award, 1987
  • Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, 1987, presented by the Historical Book Club of
  • North Carolina
  • ALA “Best Book” citation for Teen Angel & Other Stories of Young Love
  • North Carolina Literary Fellowship Grant, 1990
  • 1999 citation for “Best Director of a Creative Writing Program” by The Independent
  • Chapman Family Fellowship, UNC-CH Institute of Arts and Humanities, fall 2000
  • Bronze Medal from Foreword Magazine in Best Book of the Year/ Memoir category
  • for A Girl’s Life, May 2002
  • 2003 Spray-Randleigh Award, UNC-CH, $15,000 grant for a proposal to edit a grammar
  • exercise workbook based on Daphne Athas’s original Glossolalia, Summer 2003
  • UNC /University Research Grant, 2006 for sudden fiction anthology project, $1,000
  • UNC Arts and Humanities Grant award, 2007 for sudden fiction anthology project, $4500
  • Chapman Family Fellowship, UNC-CH Institute of Arts and Humanities, spring 2008
  • Johnston Award for Excellence in Teaching, February 21, 2007
  • UNC/University Research Council Publication Grant, May 2008, $2,000
  • New York Times Best-seller List, #8, May 2015 for Amazing Place (Travel category)
  • Bowman and Gordan Gray Distinguished Term Professor 2011-2016
  • Makers Space faculty grant for course development, Fall 2019, $5,000
  • Doris Betts Distinguished Term Professor, 2020-2021