HILLSBOROUGH — Lumberton native and award-winning author Jill McCorkle was selected recently to be enshrined in the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame during a ceremony in the fall at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines.
The selection, which was made this month, thrusts McCorkle into a select circle of legendary North Carolina writers. She will be inducted with four other contributors to this state’s outstanding literary tradition.
As a young writer, McCorkle published her first two books on the same day in 1984 and has published four more novels and two collections of short stories since then.
McCorkle is familiar with the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, which was founded by Sam Regan in 1996. Many of McCorkle’s friends and colleagues are members.
“I introduced my friend Lee Smith to the hall at the induction ceremony in 2008,” she said. “It’s a wonderful event, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a real honor to join such a great group.”
The other four inductees are novelist Randall Kenan, a Duplin County native; James Clark Jr., a professor of literary history and native of Warren County; Penelope Niven, a biographer from Union County; and Marsha White Warren, a poet and longtime director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.
“Randall is a very dear friend and neighbor in Hillsborough,” McCorkle said. “We’ve taught together.”
“Jim Clark is a colleague at N.C. State, where I teach creative writing,” she said.
“Marsha Warren has done a wonderful job at the Writers’ Network,” McCorkle said. “She is a wonderful resource for writers in North Carolina.”
McCorkle joins journalist Joseph Mitchell, of Fairmont, as the two Robeson County natives in the Hall of Fame. But there are other members with Robeson County connections in the hall. They are poet John Charles McNeill and journalist Tom Wicker, who wrote for The Robesonian and the New York Times.
The Literary Hall of fame seeks to celebrate and promote the state’s rich literary heritage by commemorating its leading authors and encouraging great literature. The Weymouth Center offers programs and retreats to promising writers.
Regan was the state’s poet laureate and one of North Carolina’s leading journalists at the Raleigh News & Observer and at the Sandhills Citizen, which he owned.
“Sam Regan was a great influence for every writer in the state,” McCorkle said. “When I was a young writer, he was very kind and generous with his attention.
“I love visiting Weymouth. It’s a great place to be.”
McCorkle gave this interview from Bennington, Vt., where the snow is deep, and she and her dog are enjoying 10 days at a writing seminar at Bennington College.
“They have tons of snow here, and dog is completely enamored with it,” McCorkle said. “I like to see snow at home more though.
“I teach every year at the seminar here, and I advise graduate students in the Master of Fine Arts program. I work with them one-on-one, and we correspond monthly.”
“I was part of the program when it started 20 years ago,” McCorkle said. “It’s beautiful here, and I love the community.”
McCorkle also keeps her foot in the door at N.C. State University, where she is scheduled to teach a creative writing class in the fall semester. She also advises a doctoral candidate there.
In the summer, McCorkle travels to Sewanee, Tenn., for a writing workshop. However, it is a group of students in her hometown who have lately inspired her teaching career.
“I teach a creative writing class at Wesley Pines (Retirement Community),” McCorkle said. “We have a wonderful time, and I love working with them. They tell amazing stories, and there is some great writing going on.”
McCorkle hopes to host a reading of her Wesley Pines students’ work in the near future. The memories of the older generation spark her imagination and her writing.
“Much of my work focuses on memory,” she said. “In my next novel, I use a recollection from my father about the famous train wreck in Robeson County during World War II.”
While teaching at Wesley Pines, McCorkle and her sister Jan, who lives in Lumberton, visit their mother, who is suffering from memory loss.
“My mother sometimes remembers things and sometimes not,” she said. “When a window raises, we have the old Melba back, and it’s a good day.”
Besides teaching and keeping goats, chickens and other animals on her farm near Hillsborough, McCorkle is busy with her next novel, which in its current form is 320 pages and growing.
“I have the draft finished, and I am working on it,” she said. “It does not have a name yet. As for a publication date, that’s a good question.”
Scott Bigelow can be reached at [email protected]