The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday March 25th

Literacy group hosts well-known writers

The inspiration for HBO’s show “True Blood” — the “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series — was a product of menopause, the books’ author said Monday.

“I thought, ‘I’ll just write a book with everything I like. I’m going to write a sex scene before I forget,” Charlaine Harris said.

Harris, the author of several other mystery series, was one of five writers to speak at the Orange County Literacy Council’s Writers for Readers fundraiser.

The literacy council, a nonprofit organization located in Carrboro, helps adults improve their reading skills. Last year, the group worked with more than 300 adults.

Charlaine Harris

Her first book in the “Sookie Stackhouse” series, about a telepathic waitress who falls in love with a vampire, was published in 2001. She is also the author of the “Harper Connelly” series, which follows a woman who has the power to find dead people and learn how they died.

Harris said her parents were both avid readers who taught her to love books.

“When it turned out that I was going to be a weird, misfit kid, they took me to bookstores,” she said.

Dorothy Allison

Allison, a South Carolina native who calls herself a born-again Californian, said she was the first person in her family to graduate high school. She is the author of several novels, including “Bastard Out of Carolina.”

She told the crowd at the literacy event that it took her years to realize that her son’s godmother — to whom Allison gave copies of all her books — couldn’t read.

Allison praised the literacy council for helping adults learn to read, calling the group’s work a “war on loneliness.”

She said a publisher recently warned her that the literary world is moving to a “post-print era.”

“I’m kind of excited about this,” she said. “I have this notion that I’ll be digital.”

George Singleton

Singleton said most of his early reading material was prescribed by his father.

He said as a child, he read a series so bland it made “the Hardy Boys seem like meth addicts,” and later studied the Communist Manifesto at his father’s urging.

Singleton, who lives in South Carolina, is now a short story writer and novelist. His recent book, “Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds,” shares lessons and cautionary tales for would-be writers.

He read a comedic short story for the audience Monday. The story, about a young boy’s Valentine’s Day experience at school, featured misshapen cookies, a misprinted card and a teacher who is fired for accidentally letting her students sing an inappropriate song.

Lee Stringer

Stringer was homeless, addicted to drugs and living on the streets of New York when he started writing.

“People assume that’s a tragedy,” he said, explaining that he thinks overcoming obstacles gave him strength and insight. “It’s probably a gift of God’s wisdom that there are rocks.”

Stringer, who published short stories about his experiences on the streets in the collection “Grand Central Winter,” said he met a 40-year-old woman who couldn’t read at a community program for children.

A year later, the woman still hadn’t learned, so Stringer began to tutor her himself. He said he tries to volunteer three times per week.

“To me, language is the currency of all learning,” he said.

Wells Tower

Tower — who was born in Chapel Hill and is the author of short story collection “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” — said writing fiction requires an unattractive amount of scrutiny into the lives of other people.

“Writing fiction is kind of disgusting,” Tower said

But he said literature’s ability to introduce people to new experiences and give them hope is unparalleled.

“Everything that you’re going to go through in life is in somebody’s book somewhere.”

Tower said he is working on a project to allow people in Thai prisons to write book reviews for a magazine.

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