Many Dragon Con attendees recognize Nancy Knight as the Director of the Writers’ Track, but she has played many other roles in the creative community for a long time. In addition to being a founding member of Georgia Romance Writers, house manager and events coordinator for Stone Mountain’s ART Station, and creative director of Pandora’s Legacy LLC, she is a novelist, a playwright, a movie screenwriter, a storyteller, and a creative writing teacher. Knight sat down with The Daily Dragon to discuss her wide-ranging interests.
Daily Dragon (DD): How many years have you been directing the Writers’ Track, and how did you first step into that role?
Nancy Knight (NK): I began as a director in 1998. This is my 24th year. At the time, Dark River Writers offered someone to Dragon Con to handle Writers’ Track. I said I would do it. The prior year, there had been only 6 panels and they were poorly attended. I wanted to make that track a useful, well-attended event that many people would attend.
(DD): What’s your process for putting together the programming each year?
(NK): It really depends on who’s coming. It’s difficult to come up with interesting panel ideas if you don’t know if you’ll have the right people to be on the panels. There are several that are perennial favorites. And, there are lots of panelists who are favorites. Finding a blend of new people and “veterans” is a challenge. It’s easy to use people we know who are great panelists, but I always try to give everyone a chance—as long as the combination produces a great, informative, interesting show.
(DD): Do you find anything about the scheduling particularly challenging or particularly enjoyable?
(NK): Challenging and enjoyable…I love it.
(DD): Why do you come back to this job year after year?
(NK): That’s funny. I just wonder what I’d be doing over Labor Day and I always come up with Dragon Con. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
(DD): Before you started work with the Writers’ Track, you helped found Georgia Romance Writers. Please tell us about that.
(NK): I was a member of Romance Writers of America. I got a letter one day saying that Shannon Harper, an RWA board member, was forming a chapter in Georgia. I went, along with several other women. We decided to form a chapter. We advertised. The following month we had 28 people at an organizational meeting. And, voilà, we applied for chapter status and we were on the way.
(DD): What led you to writing plays and films?
(NK): I taught creative writing at ART Station. Gradually, I became more involved with other programs they supported, like A Tour of Southern Ghosts, and their amazing theatre. I got an idea for a play, wrote it, and the artistic director loved it. ART Station produced it. The following summer, I was working in their Summer Arts Camp, and David Thomas, the artistic director, asked me if I would write an Appalachian myth. Since I love fantasy, I went right home and did it. He loved it. So, he and I wrote Yuletide Journey, the first of six plays we co-wrote.
I joined Women in Film/Atlanta and met a director. She and I talked and decided that I would write a screenplay she would direct. We produced a 15-minute film. My friend Yasmin Bakhtiari and I co-wrote a screenplay based on two of her short stories I’d published. I wrote a wrap-around story to connect those two stories about creepy dolls. I contacted Matt Green, a director I had known for years through Dragon Con. He loved the idea, so he directed Evil Little Things, a soft-horror feature movie.
(DD): How is the process of writing scripts different from writing prose?
(NK): That’s funny. There are so many differences. People think writing scripts is a breeze, just throw down a little dialogue and you’re done. Far from it. Scriptwriting is much tighter. There are no wasted words. In a novel, you have more of an opportunity (and pages) to tell your story. One interesting thing about Evil Little Things was that Matt Green read the script and said, “I love novelists. They always know how to develop a character. Most screenwriters don’t.”
(DD): Is it fair to say you were involved in every phase of Evil Little Things?
(NK): Yasi and I collaborated on the script for Evil Little Things. I brought in Matt Green to direct. We asked Roy Wooley to do the special effect dolls used in the film. From there, we cast the parts and filmed it. I was a part of it from the beginning, from writing to bringing Matt in to make it all happen.
(DD): For many years, you’ve been a storyteller on Stone Mountain’s Halloween ghost trail. How did you get into that, and what do you particularly like about it?
(NK): I was born into a family of storytellers. My great-aunts and uncles, my grandfather, my father were all great storytellers. Most of the stories they told—on summer nights sitting on the front porch or chasing lightning bugs—I’d listen to their ghost stories. That’s what they loved most. And, they swore all of them were true. I still believe them to this day. After all, my granny would never tell a lie.
(DD): When did you start teaching creative writing, and what do you enjoy about it?
(NK): I started teaching in 1983 when I sold my first book. I started doing workshops on writing. I sort of became a good go-to person for panels and workshops. I’ve taught all across the country for writers groups and universities—whoever will give me a captive audience!
(DD): Please tell us about your work with BelleBooks, Gilded Dragonfly Press, and Pandora’s Legacy.
(NK): I was a founding partner in BelleBooks. BelleBooks actually began at Dragon Con in about 1999. Several of us (Sandra Chastain, Deb Dixon, Deb Smith, Virginia Ellis, Donna Ball and I) got together at the Con and talked about starting a publishing company. We decided to do it. We got together, planned our first book, and were on our way. I started Gilded Dragonfly Press, and we published several novels and anthologies, but all of the editing partners were so busy, we just didn’t have time to pull it all together. I started Pandora’s Legacy as a way of publishing books I thought were interesting. I’m not publishing a lot at this moment, but we will be publishing anthologies and novels more and more as time goes by.
(DD): You recently released Cursed, the first in a new series co-written with Berta Platas. What is the book about, and what’s the direction of the series?
(NK): Yes! And we are finalists in the Maggie Award for Excellence. We won’t know until October whether we win or not, but we made it to the finals. That’s quite an achievement. Cursed is about a young woman who discovers she has a shape-
changing capability—and just in time! She and her friends find themselves involved in a long-awaited war. And, at the end of the war, dragons once again rule the skies above Elimser. As we work on this, we keep discovering stories we want to tell in this world. We have five books planned and several short stories. It’s just too much fun.
(DD): What do you think makes a collaboration work?
(NK): That’s a tightrope of a pathway. Both writers have to be willing to listen and to compromise. Without that, the book is doomed.
(DD): Do you have any advice on what NOT to do for writers seeking to publish?
(NK): Don’t be an ass. No editor wants to work with a prima donna. The best advice ever given to me was: Put your butt in the chair and write!
DD: Thanks very much for your time.