John Claude Bemis named Piedmont Laureate

Hillsborough author writes children’s literature
Mar. 02, 2013 @ 11:36 AM

Hillsborough author John Claude Bemis is the fifth Piedmont Laureate and the first to be chosen for children’s literature.

Bemis said being the laureate is a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the artistic life of the Piedmont. He’ll receive an honorarium and appear throughout the year at workshops, readings and public events.

Bemis is the author of the Clockwork Dark series – three books for middle readers that bring together American folklore, the railroad, adventure and storytelling set in the 1890s. The first book in the trilogy, “The Nine Pound Hammer,” was nominated for the N.C. Children’s Book Award and also recommended by the New York Public Library as “Best Children’s Book for Reading and Sharing.”

His most recent novel is “The Prince Who Fell From the Sky.” Bemis is also an educator, and visits schools to meet his young readers. As part of his laureate duties, he’ll continue the Piedmont Laureate program’s mission to “promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.”

The program is sponsored by the Orange County Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Alamance County Arts Council, City of Raleigh Arts Commission and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County. Previous laureates are Jaki Shelton Green, Zelda Lockhart, Scott Huler and Ian Finley, chosen for poetry, novels, creative nonfiction and drama/screenwriting, respectively.

Bemis said he has followed the work of the other laureates and is excited the program was opened to children’s authors. He plans to celebrate the honor this weekend by going out to dinner with his family, after being sick last week.

Bemis will still write this year, as he is working on a draft of a retelling of the “Pinocchio” story. Writing is solitary work, he said, and being laureate will give him an opportunity to meet other folks in the arts community, with the potential for collaborating and working on things to enrich the community.

“It’s important for me to help others grow in their imaginative life,” Bemis said.

A schedule of this year’s laureate activities will be posted this month at