John Claude Bemis

2013 Piedmont Laureate, Children’s Literature

I believe the experience of reading books and writing stories in childhood can be transformative; it can help young people discover their unique potential and set them on wondrous paths.

john-claude-bemisJohn Claude Bemis is an educator, musician and the award-winning author of four novels. Originally from Pamlico County, John grew up a ravenous reader, playing violin and guitar, and having his head filled with his grandfather’s stories of train hopping and hoboing around the country.  He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow and taught elementary school for 13 years.  He earned his Masters of Education in Literacy which he also received from UNC-Chapel Hill.  John was recognized as a News and Observer Tar Heel of the Week for his influential work as an educator and a children’s book author.  An inspiring speaker and dynamic performer, John presents at schools around the state and country and teaches workshops on writing and creativity.

John found inspiration for his fiction in old-time country and blues music — and the Southern folklore at its heart.  The first novel in his Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Nine Pound Hammer, has earned many accolades, including the North Carolina AAUW Juvenile Literature Award and being a New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing.  The trilogy continues with The Wolf Tree and The White City and has been described as “original and fresh” and “a unique way of creating fantasy.”  His most recent novel, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month.  John is represented by Adams Literary, and his novels are published by Random House. He lives with his wife Amy Gorely and their daughter in Hillsborough, North Carolina.



I believe the experience of reading books and writing stories in childhood can be transformative; it can help young people discover their unique potential and set them on wondrous paths.  I see my role as a guide, using my experience as a children’s book author, educator, and Piedmont Laureate to illuminate the bold possibilities of the imagination.

Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”  As Piedmont Laureate, I intend to engage with our community to draw on the rich imaginative potential of childhood to cultivate, embolden, and coax out the artist in all of us.

Literature plays a vital role in shaping young people and the way they see the world.  We live in an extraordinary time for children’s literature, and the Piedmont is brimming with talented children’s book authors.  As Piedmont Laureate, I look forward to celebrating and bringing greater awareness to the outstanding children’s literature being produced in the greater Triangle region.  I will partner with area arts organizations to create opportunities to bring together authors, educators, lovers of great books, and aspiring writers of all ages to deepen our craft, foster new skills, grow in appreciation of children’s literature, and connect people in our Piedmont region.

We are fortunate to live in one of the most creative communities in the world.  This not only includes artists, but also scientists, innovators, educators, and entrepreneurs.  While creativity is important for our quality of life, it’s increasingly essential for our economic growth as well.  I believe creativity is a critical skill in our modern world for young and old alike.  It is a pursuit we should value and one we can cultivate through our schools and communities.

One vital way we can foster creativity is through the art of writing.  Writing is accessible to nearly everyone.  Unlike other arts that might require costly instruments or supplies, being a writer requires nothing more than a pencil, paper, and an imagination.  I became a writer through my passion for reading and the exhilaration (and dedicated practice) of creating stories.  As Piedmont Laureate, I will guide others in discovering their unique voices and opening up their imaginative potential.

The Piedmont Laureate program has done a stellar job celebrating the importance of the literary arts in our lives. I am thrilled to serve as the ambassador for children’s literature and creative expression throughout our region.