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High Country Writers began in summer of 1995 when Maggie Bishop placed an ad in the local newspapers seeking others interested in writing fiction.

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That ad generated 13 phone calls, and when the group met a week later, it had six founding members who met in the conference room of Boone City Hall. The first year saw the institution of events we now consider traditions: the Christmas Luncheon, hosting an honored guest speaker for the past two years, and the Spring Fling, the June meeting at a member's home that has come to feature reading of members' poetry.

Jean Shoemaker, now better known as B.J. Foster, joined in summer of 1996 and agreed to edit a newsletter for the group and assume the duties of Vice President. Lila Hopkins joined and became Treasurer. Of course, the group would have no other President than Maggie. After suffering a low point in the early summer of that year, by fall of 1996, the group had begun to assume the shape we recognize today. In 1997, we gained our first male member, Bill Kaiser, and the membership stood at 17.

Programs in the group's first years consisted of presentations by members, generally on writing mechanics, and critiques of member's work. Critiques early assumed the character of "script conferences," in which members bantered about the best way to create and shape the story in the author's mind. If anything has been lost in the group's growth in recent years, it is this intense involvement in which we participated in each other's creative process.

By 1998, the group had outgrown the meeting space in the Town Hall. Our 30+ members were writing in every genre, and we began meeting in the our current space in the Watauga County Library. Joanne Nelson assumed editorship of what is now High Country Writer and is referred to, somewhat self-consciously, as our "journal."

The High Country Writers Book of the Year Award was first bestowed in 1999 to recognize the excellence in writing that HCW had supported since its beginning. Our first recipient was member Marian Coe, for Eve's Mountain, book of the year for 1998. The year 1999 award winners were Jane Wilson for MeeMa's Memory Quilt and Alyce Nadeau for Observations of an Uppity Woman. By the year 2001, it became obvious our group was so prolific we needed to institute categories for our awards. For books published by members in the year 2000, our award winners were: Music, Marjorie Kiel Persons - Themes to Remember, Poetry, Juanita Tobin - License My Roving Hands, Romance, B.J. Foster - Bayou Shadows, and Story Collection, Marian Coe - Marvelous Secrets. For a listing of these and subsequent awards, see the awards page.

Hosting published authors to speak at meetings and as our guests at the lunch following has become the characteristic program for HCW. Our honored guests have included: Orson Scott Card, Sharyn McCrumb, Robert Morgan, Terry Kay, Anne Ross, Ann Brandt, Haven Kimmel and Fred Lebron, as well as writers who are also members of the group. Book signings that follow these programs benefit Friends of the Watauga County Library and are sponsored with the cooperation of the Book Warehouse.

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Education for writers continues as an HCW focus. Members have participated in educational programs sponsored by Appalachian State University, Caldwell Community College, Senior Scholars, and numerous other programs both as students and teachers.

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Meeting programs have continued to include presentations by members and guests on editing and mechanics. The first workshop sponsored by HCW was held on a Saturday in May, 1999, sharing the experience of two group members who had attended the Sol Stein Workshop in New York State the previous year. The most ambitious workshop undertaking so far, however, was bringing Ross and Renni Browne to the Green Park Inn in November of 2001 for the workshop "Dialogue that Dazzles."

Publication for every HCW member (who desires it) has always been a stated goal of High Country Writers. Our journal provides the opportunity, of course, including not only members articles, but selections from the monthly "assignment" of a poem or short essay based on what are sometimes rather eccentric prompts. Our programs have included editors and publishers speaking about the publication process, both commercial and independent, and members tips on getting an agent. Most recently, HCW members Barbara and Bob Ingalls, and Judy Geary have formed a new publishing company, High Country Publishers, Ltd. While not officially connected with HCW, this new commercial venture is already publishing the work of several members and sponsored a number of scholarships for the 2001 "Dialogue that Dazzles" workshop.

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