I hesitated when a longtime friend suggested we meet at Pen to Paper, a free writing workshop at Charlotte Center for Literary Arts. I wasn’t up for an unknown experience, but I wanted to see my friend, so I attended.
Charlotte Lit has two 800-square-foot rooms in Midwood International & Cultural Center on Central Avenue — the brick building across from the Harris Teeter in Plaza Midwood. It’s home to organizations such as the International House, The Light Factory and the Language Academy.
Kathie Collins, executive director and president, and Paul Reali, operations manager, founded Charlotte Lit in October 2015. They realized they worked well together after teaching several seminars called “Creative Conversations.” They also had a similar mission — to build a strong community of writers and offer craft classes. Collins already had space at the Midwood Center for another business project she was developing, so they decided to offer classes and see what would happen. They received nonprofit status the following January.
I walked into the workshop, a yellow legal pad and favorite pen in hand. For the next hour, the instructor, Megan Rich, gave the group writing prompts from writers such as Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolfe. No pressure to perform or share, no expectations for what type of writing we had to do. It was such a glorious experience, I became a member of Charlotte Lit by the end of the week.
Here are the 9 things you (and I) didn’t know you can do with Charlotte Lit:
(1) Sign up for writing, publishing or business of writing classes
The Charlotte Lit course catalog runs from September through May. Roughly 45 classes are offered throughout the year, not including the weekly free Pen to Paper workshop. Topics cover fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Classes include publishing options, writing a memoir, exploring archetypes and crafting personal essays.
“We offer classes for emerging writers through advanced levels,” Collins said. “Our community is welcoming and affirming. It’s not about competition.”
Most have a fee attached, starting at $65 for a two and a half-hour class and ranging to $390 for a six-week class.
(2) Become a member
Charlotte Lit has more than 200 members. Although you don’t have to be a member to take advantage of most classes, membership has its privileges: discounts on classes, invitations to special events such as celebrations and workshops and use of the studio space for writing. General membership starts at $75 per year.
(3) Apply for Authors Lab
The first line of my novel is written. If I want more than one sentence, I’ll need some serious dedication. Charlotte Lit offers a two-year program for people who have an idea for a book and could benefit from a structured environment.
The first year includes monthly meetings with craft classes and one-on-one coaching sessions. Coaches assist writers with plot and character development, developmental reading and initial editing. Writers are expected to have a first draft completed before beginning year two.
Rick Pryll, author of “The Chimera of Prague,” has been writing and self-publishing for more than 20 years. He joined Charlotte Lit two years ago and serves as a coach for Authors Lab.
“I thought I was alone,” he said. “I thought I was the only writer in all of Charlotte, and man, was I wrong. There’s so many writers. It’s a thriving community.”
Applications for Authors Lab are online and are due by Nov. 15. Information sessions are offered at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 and 26; and 11 a.m. on Sept. 25. Twelve applicants will be chosen to participate.
(4) Meet the instructors
Classes are taught by local writers, poets and novelists. Authors such as Cathy Pickens, Paula Martinac, Rick Pryll, Patrice Gopo and Bryn Chancellor teach workshops on writing personal essays, flash fiction, poetry and much more.
“Charlotte has an incredible writing community,” Collins said. “We have networked in the community.”
(5) Mingle with poets
Charlotte Lit brings local and regional poets and poet laureates to teach classes. Local writer Gail Peck teaches Writing Prose and Poems from Family Photographs on Sept. 24. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green leads students in a class, The Poet Witness: The Poet as Documentarian, Historian & Agitator, on Oct. 17. In April, Charlotte Lit is partnering with Central Piedmont Community College to bring the United States poet laureate, Joy Harjo, to the Sensorial Festival. She will read at the festival on April 2 and teach a master class at Charlotte Lit on April 3.
(6) Tell your story
Use a six-week memoir immersion class to improve your writing, learn new skills and put words to paper. The first one starts Oct. 3 with Gilda Morina Syverson. What are you waiting for?
(7) Spend a weekend with Mississippi’s poet laureate
Imagine spending a weekend with Beth Ann Fennelly, poet laureate of Mississippi. Charlotte Lit hosts a three-day Mountain Retreat to Brevard on Oct. 18-20. The weekend features poetry readings, live music, hiking and three craft classes.
“She’s a dynamo,” Collins said of Fennelly, the author of six books including her most recent, “Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-memoirs.”
(8) Get the newsletter
Charlotte Lit sends out a weekly digital newsletter outlining upcoming classes and special events. It includes other local literary activities, festivals and Charlotte Writers Club events such as open mic nights and meetings. Sign up here.
(9) Attend one of these upcoming programs
Pen to Paper, 9:30-10:30 a.m., most Wednesdays; free and no sign-up is required.
Writing a Children’s Book that Matters, 9:30 a.m.-noon on Sept. 21; $50 member, $65 non-members, registration is required.
Pedestal Magazine Poetry Reading with Jaki Shelton Green, the North Carolina poet laureate, 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 16; free, and no sign up is required.
1817 Central Ave., Room 208