Professor/Chair, Department of English
AUTHOR

Mark West

Group Word Play

We often think of writing as a solitary activity.  When we picture a writer at work, we might think of Emily Dickinson composing her poems alone in her garret, or Jo March from Little Women writing her stories in the corner of an attic, or the reclusive J.D. Salinger writing in a secluded house in rural New Hampshire.  Although the stereotype of the solitary writer is deeply rooted in our culture, it, like so many stereotypes, does not always match reality.  Many writers actually...

Christmas Stories by Charlotte Writers

There is only one movie that I watch at least once every year and that is A Christmas Story, the 1983 comedy based on Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.  For me, Christmas would not be Christmas without revisiting Ralphie and the other members of the Parker family.  My favorite character is the father, generally known as the Old Man.  In some ways, this character reminds me of my own father.  Like Mr. Parker, my father sometimes seemed...

Verse & Vino Goes Virtual

In November 2014, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation held its first Verse & Vino event.  Bestselling authors from around the country came and interacted with library supporters from around the Charlotte area, and the wine flowed freely.  A great time was had by all, and the event raised much needed funds for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.  In the years since then, Verse & Vino has become more than an annual fundraising event.  For many book lovers,...

In Memory of Tony Abbott (1935-2020)

When I heard the sad news that Dr. Anthony S. “Tony” Abbott died on October 3, 2020, I flashed back to the first time I heard Tony read his poems aloud.  His first poetry collection, The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat, had just been published, and he read a number of the poems from this collection at an event sponsored by Poplar Street Books, a charming used bookstore that was located in a historic home in the heart of Charlotte’s Fourth Ward.  Rosemary Latimore, the owner of the...

Charlotte’s Creators of Comic Strips

My love of comic strips goes back to my early childhood.  When I was a boy, my father read aloud to my siblings and me.  In addition to reading books aloud, he regularly read the Sunday comics to us.  We always called them the “funnies.”  Every Sunday morning, before our mother got up, one of us would hand Dad the comics sections from our local newspaper, and he would start reading.  One Sunday, when I was around seven or eight, I decided to play a trick on him.  I dug through...

A Black Girl Magic Book

During the nearly eight years that I served as the Chair of UNC Charlotte’s English Department, I got to know the other department chairs since we attended so many meetings together.  That is how I got to know Julia Jordan-Zachery, the current chair of the Department of Africana Studies.  She came to Charlotte in 2018 after serving as the Director of Black Studies Program at Providence College for ten years.  I remember when I first met Julia, we talked about her daughter...

The Story of a Tall Girl Who Became an Investigative Journalist

For long-time readers of The Charlotte Observer, Nancy Stancill’s name might seem familiar, for she worked as an award-winning investigative reporter and editor for the Charlotte paper for fifteen years, beginning in 1993 and ending in 2009.  Although she retired from her career as a journalist, she has never stopped writing.  In 2013, she published the first of two mystery novels set in Texas, where she lived before moving to Charlotte.  This month, her publisher,...

Learning about Poetry from Cathy Smith Bowers

The poet Cathy Smith Bowers and I were next-door neighbors during the mid-1990s.  At the time, I knew that she served as the poet-in-residence at Queens University, and she occasionally mentioned news about her latest publications.  She regularly published poems in literary journals and reviews, but she aimed higher.  In 1998, she submitted a poem titled “Crepe Myrtles” to The Atlantic Monthly, and they accepted it.  This exciting news swept through the neighborhood,...

David Boyd’s Translations of Japanese Picture Books

I remember when Piedmont Airlines debuted its nonstop service between Charlotte and London in 1987.  Even before the first flight to London took off, the city installed new signs for the airport with the word “international” proudly added to the name of the airport.  Our international airport is just one of many examples of Charlotte’s international connections.  Another example is UNC Charlotte’s Department of Languages and Culture Studies.  This department...

UNC Charlotte Graduates Find Success Writing for Children and Young Adults

In the fall of 1984, I joined UNC Charlotte’s English Department with the understanding that I would focus my teaching and scholarship on children’s literature.  During the early years of my career as an English professor, I took a lot of pride and satisfaction in my successes in publishing articles and books.  I remember, for example, when I sold a piece to the New York Times Book Review, I used the honorarium to throw a party for the entire English Department. I started...