HCWP: Hub City’s Literary Hub

Katie P. Sherman

On the corner of King and W. Main Street, in a renovated Masonic Temple, you’ll find the home of The Hub City Writers’ Project (HWCP). The building — which houses a coffee shop, bakery, independent bookstore, and the Hub City Press offices — is impressive in and of itself with striking white columns and an intricate stone awning. However, its façade is nothing in comparison to the formidable ideas being exchanged within. The Hub City Writers’ Project has spent nearly 25-years fostering a literary community dedicated to Southern stories. For those who believe Southern stories became extinct following the deaths of Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, think again. Each year, Hub City Press publishes six to eight novels and collections from Southern writers shouting to be heard and, while each voice is unique, the message is clear. ‘This place has more to say!’

I recently sat down with Anne Waters (Executive Director of the Hub City bookstore) and Meg Reid (Director of Hub City Press and Programs) to discuss the future of their press, the importance of literary voice, and upcoming events which shouldn’t be missed.

S85: Tell me a little about the HWCP? How did you get started?

AW: The bookstore is the youngest component, started eight years ago. In 1995, a group of writers started chatting about what their community really needed. They all agreed Spartanburg needed literary identity. They wanted a place to knock around ideas. They wanted comradery.

MR: [Our founders] needed somewhere where after you’ve spent time alone in your room writing, you can engage with other people. That’s what humans were designed to do!

S85: And so HWCP was born. How have the original goals shifted?

AW: They’ve exploded! We are still coming from this same idea of place. But I think our organization has gone well beyond anyone’s dreams. The majority of major presses have shifted from the south. We saw a vacuum that Hub City could fill.

MR: The bookstore really supports and puts money back into the press. I don’t know if that was the original intention but it works. The press provides influence and voice to the bookstore. We try to curate our collection by purchasing books with integrity. The majority of books are well-written and crafted. They speak to the audience intended. I wouldn’t take every book as there are some with different philosophies but, they speak to their audience with authenticity.

S85: How have you fostered a connection to the Spartanburg community?

AW: We do a lot of collaborations. Last spring, we partnered with Spartanburg Youth Theater to stage a play here. The kids won prizes and got tickets. We also do programming with the library. We sponsor book clubs, including a feminist book club called “her story.” We have a cookbook club, which gives us a chance to break bread in the community. We aren’t just about lofty ideas. We have programming that is cross genre, age group, and ethnic groups.

S85: What have you learned through this process?

AW: No job is too small. No idea is too big.

S85: Your goal was to create a literary community and if people come to your events, they’ll see many of the same faces again and again. Some are literary tastemakers including C. Michael Curtis, longtime editor of The Atlantic. You recently ran a contest in honor of Curtis. What is his relationship to HCWP?

MR: He reads manuscripts for us. He’s still an editor. He’s very active and, alongside his wife Betsy Cox, he’s a dear friend.

S85: Tell me a little about the winner of the contest. Were you all pleased?

MR: It is a favorite of ours. The author, Emily Pease, published individual stories throughout the years in high quality journals including The Georgia Review, The Missouri Review, and Shenandoah. We couldn’t have chosen better. In three rounds of judging, this book stood out each time. Emily has been working and writing for over 30 years. She has an incredible resume but no one had bought the book. The industry is obsessed with young people and we’re so glad we could give an opportunity and a life-changing amount of money to someone who has dedicated her life to craft. The book, Let Me Out Here, will be released next month.

S85: What are some things HCWP is doing that no one else is?

AW: We’re good at taking a book from inception to packaging and editing. We are small and deliberate in what we publish. Sometimes this is painstaking. We are all passionate about what we do. Ultimately, our goal is to nurture writers and cultivate readers. This means we try to reach the community as a whole. Everyone from tiny tots and annual book drives to speaking at book clubs. We want everyone to feel this place is the center.

MR: We are a very tight knit community and we have fostered relationships over lifetimes. I don’t think everyone can say that. Outside that, we use lots of social media and branding tools, top to bottom. We try to really engage with people. If you have a question, we try to answer it. That pays back when we put content about our books up.

S85: What is the best thing about this job?

AW: The people.

S85: What is the worst thing?

AW: The people [laughs]. No! Honestly, there aren’t a lot of drawbacks. The people I work with are very ambitious and hard-working. This also means we’re all tired though!

S85: What are some of the challenges of running a small press?

MR: There are many. Publishing generally is hard. Getting people to pay attention to books is hard. The six to eight books you’re publishing are important and you want people to take notice. Still, there’s limited time in a day. We have a small staff!

S85: So let’s get the word out! What’s coming out from HCWP this spring?

MR: We have the best spring lineup. As we mentioned, the winner of the initial C. Michael Curtis short story prize by Emily Pease will be out soon. The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler is a great feminist read. Booksellers love her and we do too! In May, an anthology about fishing called Gather at the River [edited by David Joy and Eric Rickstad] is coming out. David Joy brought it to us and was adamant that all proceeds go to the charity Cast for Kids. Right now, we are publishing a lot of women. For a long time, we’ve been an all-female staff and that feels like part of our brand at this point. We try to, to some extent, combat the rampant sexism and ageism within the industry!


About the Publishers

A native Arkansan, Anne Waters  worked for twenty years in regional book publishing before taking a break to raise her son, Eli. During that time she ran an art gallery and yoga studio. She is thrilled to be back working in the world of bookselling and publishing. What she is reading: The Handmaid’s Tale (I just saw Margaret Atwood at Winter Institute); What she just finished: Jessica Handler’s The Magnetic Girl published by Hub City Press; What is next in her stack: Etaf Rum’s debut novel  A Woman is No Man.

Meg Reid is a book designer, editor and writer living in South Carolina. Her literary essays have appeared online in DIAGRAM, Oxford American, the Rumpus, and elsewhere, and she also writes extensively about design. Her MFA in Nonfiction is from University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she served as Assistant Editor of the literary magazine, Ecotone, and worked for the literary imprint Lookout Books. She currently lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where she is Director of Hub City Press. The most recent book she’s read and adored is Impossible Owls by Brian Phillips.

About the Interviewer

Katie Piccirillo ShermanKatie Sherman is a journalist and an award-winning author who covers fine food and parenting—two things rarely related—in Charlotte, NC. This year, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Katie has an MFA in fiction and an affinity for Southern Gothic literature, cider beer, Chicago, and morning snuggles with her two daughters. She has published extensively in literary magazines across the country. She just finished reading The Great Believers and loved it so much! Next on her nightstand is Everything Here is Beautiful.

Featured Image: Left to right; Executive Director of the Hub City Bookstore, Anne Waters, with one of HCWP’s founders Betsy Teter.


Reading period

We Can’t Wait to See Your Work!

It’s that time again! South 85 Journal is currently reading for our Spring / Summer 2019 issue, which will come out June 15, 2019.   We are seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. We are especially interested in work that conveys a sense of place, presents a strong voice, or provides a unique point of view.  For examples of what we love, check out our Fall / Winter 2018 issue. We are also accepting blog posts about writing and literary topics on an on-going basis.

For more information and to submit, visit our Submittable site at https://south85.submittable.com/submit. We look forward to hearing from you!

After A Deep Dive in Writing, Don’t Be Put off by the Palate Cleanser Piece

Andrea Marcusa

You’ve just done a deep dive into difficult material: the death of someone dear, a trauma from childhood, a failure that cuts deep. Your editor, professor, and writing colleagues — those carefully honed beta readers — were moved by your work. You were surprised by how moved because you weren’t sure about what you’d ultimately created. You knew it came from a deep place, there was discomfort in the writing and perhaps a tiny bit of pleasure, too. But when you finally were ready for others to see it, uncertainty remained. The material was raw and you felt exposed. When the piece finally had an audience and it was well received, you are thrilled. Maybe a tiny bit surprised. And relieved because there is nothing worse than thinking you’ve hit the mark and having a writing audience sit silently, unsure.
Now, it’s a few days or perhaps a week later and you are ready to go back in. The next draft. The next chapter. The next poem of the collection, or story for a volume of linked stories. You try to get back to that place. You do all the things you usually do — heat your coffee to a certain temperature, stretch your neck and torso, take the dog out, feed the cat. You stare at the blank page. You type a sentence, erase it, start again.

The author who appears on the page is someone you don’t recognize. It’s not the writer who dove in and mined his or her depths but someone who is delighted to skim across the surface, spend enormous amounts of time getting the wording of a sentence right, scouring the internet for a certain fact. You find yourself writing about something entirely unrelated to “your story.” Instead of writing about trauma, you are relaying a disagreement you had with the dry cleaner. Or, you are writing about birds. You don’t even like birds. Why are you writing about them? Despite all these questions, you marshal through until you end up with something that feels complete.

But what is it that you have written? And why have you written it?

I call this palate cleansing writing. The kind of writing that we do after a deep dive into something extremely emotional. It’s a break. A respite from the heavy lifting and, a necessary part of the writing process. The mind is still working on the big story but it can’t be forced. It needs to go at its own pace. And so, we have these breaks from the depths where we find ourselves bobbing on the surface, writing about our backyards, our altercations, our preoccupations, anything. But the good news is this. We are writing.

I used to try to resist this process and make myself go back to the other story. I would sit there, numb, like a child refusing to eat her vegetables at dinner. Now, I understand this as a rest stop in the journey. I tell myself writing about birds or plumbers or my coffee cup keeps my mind moving forward, while the big story is set on a windowsill to rise before it can go into the oven and bake.


Andrea Marcusa is a writer of literary fiction and essays that have appeared in The Baltimore Review, River Styx, Epiphany, New South, and others. She’s received recognition from the writing competitions Glimmer Train, Third Coast, Ontario Review, Ruminate Magazine, and New Letters and been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes.

Pineapple by Roni Rae Robbins

Finally! The Fall / Winter 2018 Issue!

We know you’ve been waiting for it. The Fall / Winter 2018 issue of South 85 Journal is now available online!

Flash Fiction Contest Winners

In October, we announced the winners of the 2018 Julia Peterkin Award for Flash Fiction. Now, you can read the stories!

Winner“What You Said” by Natalie Troy
Runners Up (listed in alphabetical order by story title) – “Dump Columbus” by Charlie Watts, “Eric Clapton’s Girlfriend” by John Mattson, “Fiesta” by Kathleen Wheaton, and “Mark 12:31” by D. Nolan Jefferson

Other Creative Work

We are also excited to present work by the following contributors:

Artwork – Michelle Brooks, Bette Ridgeway, Roni Rae Robbins, Ashleigh Rosanna, Shelley Sarna, Seigar, Maria Angela Feliz Cabrera Sumadsad, and Bill Wolak
Fiction – Lisa Bubert, Kim Farleigh, Joshua Isard, Sean Murray, and Emily Townsend
Non-Fiction – Gabriela Denise Frank, Lori Horvitz, Anna Kaye-Rogers, and A.J. Romriell
Poetry – Charles Cantrell, Thomas Griffin, Anna Harris-Parker, Michael Jack O’Brien, Barry Peters, Abhijit Sarmah, and Kerry Trautman


Need something to read over the Christmas break? Read our reviews for some ideas!

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson – fiction review by David Hartshorne
Too Much and Not in the Mood: Essays by Durga Chew-Bose – non-fiction review by Maya Wood
Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God by Tony Hoagland – poetry review by Chris Menezes

Next Reading Period

With this issue complete, our staff is going to take a well-deserved break. We will open our reading period again on February 1, and we hope you will consider submitting then.

About Us

South 85 Journal is published by the Converse College Low-Residency MFA program.  Thank you to our staff of volunteers who put countless hours into making this issue happen.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

The Passing Landscape by Ezra Koch

The Passing Landscape

Ezra Koch

“I don’t want a drink,” Camille repeated.

“Suit yourself,” Ernest said, and walked the short distance from the couch to the fridge shakily, his high bony hips jimmying side-to-side.

Camille felt nauseous. She didn’t ordinarily get motion sickness, but then, this wasn’t exactly ordinary.

“Can’t believe they let us,” Ernest said, looking out the window, a can of beer sweating in his hand.  Telephone poles ticked past. “Ain’t it something?”

Her husband’s eyes flashed with the passing landscape. There was something so vulnerable, yet so hopeful, about his face when they moved, that she found herself falling in love with him all over again, against her better judgment.

“Yeah, babe.  It sure is.”

They’d bought the mobile home five years back when a big deal had worked out.  Since then Ern’d stopped selling, so he said, but not before getting half his teeth knocked out when a deal went sour.  Still, she was glad they’d had the money—the freedom the mobile home had given them had proved necessary. Sure, it was a production—loading the house on the back of a tractor-trailer, the wide-load convoy, taping things up, tying things down—but once you got where you were going there was no unpacking. Everything was right where it always was. They’d moved three times since buying the home, but this was the first time Ernest had been able to convince the movers to let them stay in the house during the drive.

Camille came to stand next to Ernest and draped her arms around him.

“Do you think we’ll like, what is it… Manorville?”

“Gotta be better than Brookhaven.”

Camille bit her tongue.  A few months ago he’d said Brookhaven would have to be better than Knox. They hadn’t been run out of town or anything, but she doubted anyone was sorry to see them go. Ernest had lost his job—showed up late and hung-over one too many times—and had already gained too bad a reputation to find another. At least this time it hadn’t been her fault. The time before it had, she admitted, yes, it had, but she didn’t like to think about that, her fear and her shame, what Ernest had done to that poor boy. They’d recovered. It wasn’t as if he’d never cheated, after all. They’d forgiven each other and moved a hundred miles south.

Outside, a barbed wire fence blurred before a range of rolling green hills. Black heifers appeared here and there like brail messages written in the landscape.  They just hadn’t hit their stride yet. She’d let herself forget how much she loved this side of him—so brave and optimistic, all of his best qualities shining through. His last job had been below him. All his jobs had. She held the name on her tongue: Manorville. Things would be different there. They went around a turn and the house leaned and she gripped Ernest’s arm and his beer fell to the floor.

“Dammit, Cam,” Ernest said, wobbling back to the fridge.  A goat, she thought with amusement, watching his bony strut, that’s what he looks like, a damn billy goat. The house rocked back and forth, settling. Camille grabbed paper towels and wiped up the spilled beer, on her hands and knees. They hit a bump and the whole floor bucked and her stomach lurched.

“I’m gonna be sick,” she said, and rose shakily, steadying herself against the wall as she walked to the bathroom.

“Shoulda had a drink,” Ern said.

She sat on the on the bathroom floor, resting her head against the cool porcelain, feeling ridiculous. Relief wouldn’t come. If she could just throw up, get it all out, she knew she’d feel better. She moaned and stretched flat on her back.  She wished they would get there. How long did the movers, laughing at them, say the trip would take? A fresh start. She couldn’t wait to get to Manorville.

Lying on her back, staring at the off-white ceiling, she realized the mold was back. Little black spots spread from the corners, gathering in places unseen. She’d been battling that mold since they bought the house.

“You almost done?” Ernest yelled, banging on the door.

Camille didn’t move, didn’t make a sound.  She couldn’t believe the mold was back. She’d tried everything she could think of short of ripping the ceiling apart: bleach, sprays, airing-out the bathroom for days at a time.

“Okay in there?”

She could not goddamn believe that fucking mold was back.

“Alright then,” Ernest said.  She heard his footsteps retreat and suddenly began to feel better.  As for the mold—she’d find a way to get rid of it. It was just mold, after all.  She obviously wasn’t going to toss her cookies; she should really let him use the toilet.  She hauled herself up.

“It’s all yours,” she said, stepping out of the bathroom.  “Ern?”

She staggered into the living room and saw her husband illuminated in the open doorway, bony hips thrust forward, pissing into the ever-changing landscape.


Ezra KochEzra Koch recently relocated to Portland, Maine, with his wife, daughter, and son, after living as a guitar maker in Santa Cruz, California for a decade. He has an MFA from the University of San Francisco and has been published as a poet and journalist. His debut novel, The World Belongs to the Askers, is being represented by Trident Media Group.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Lawton Cook on Unsplash