Beginning its second decade, Western Carolina University’s Spring Literary Festival will bring together writers of local origin and from outside the region to share their skills, talents and methods. All events are free and open to the public.
Starting at noon Monday, April 8, the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series will feature Richard Chess and student poets in the A.K. Hinds University Center theater. Chess is the author of three books of poetry – “Tekiah,” “Chair in the Desert” and “Third Temple.” He is the Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts & Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he also directs UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies.
At 7:30 p.m. April 8, fiction and nonfiction- writer Randall Kenan will present in the University Center theater. Kenan is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the 1997 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2005. Currently, he is associate professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill.
A Tuesday, April 9, event at 4 p.m. will highlight fiction writers Chris Holbrook and Mark Powell in the University Center theater. Holbrook is a native of Knott County, Ky., and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His 1995 collection of stories “Hell and Ohio: Stories of Southern Appalachia,” received the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. Powell is author of three novels – “Prodigals,” “Blood Kin” and “The Dark Corner” – and lives in Florida, where he teaches at Stetson University.
Fiction writer Daniel Woodrell takes the University Center theater stage at 7:30 p.m. April 9. From the Missouri Ozarks, Woodrell has published eight novels, including “Winter’s Bone” in 2006 and the PEN West Award-winning “Tomato Red” in 1998. His five most recent novels were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. The film adaptation of “Winter’s Bone” received four 2011 Academy Award nominations and won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Lehigh University’s Stephanie Powell Watts and Bob Watts headline an event at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, in the University Center theater. Stephanie Watts was awarded the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, “We Are Taking Only What We Need,” in 2012. Her work chronicles the lives of young African-Americans who come from, or live near, the “dark houses out on tangled dirt roads on the fringes of the county.” Bob Watts’ first collection, “Past Providence,” won the 2004 Stanzas Prize from David Robert Books, and his poems have been published in Poetry, The Paris Review and Redivider, among other journals. The couple, founding co-editors of Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, began the journal at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
A 6 p.m. reception April 10 at the Sylva Public Library atrium will precede a presentation by poet and fiction and nonfiction-writer Robert Morgan an hour later in the library’s community room. Morgan is the author of 14 books of poetry, most recently 2011’s “Terroir.” He also has published eight volumes of fiction, including “Gap Creek,” a New York Times bestseller. A sequel to it, “The Road From Gap Creek,” will be published in 2013. Morgan’s nonfiction includes “Boone: A Biography” and “Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion.” Born in Hendersonville, he has taught since 1971 at Cornell University, where he is Kappa Alpha Professor of English.
Local writers Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle and Dawn Gilchrist-Young will share from their fiction-writing careers Thursday, April 11, at 4 p.m. in the University Center theater. Clapsaddle grew up in Cherokee and has produced “Cherokee Elders: Our Greatest Generation” along with a series of children’s books, including “The Elder Tree,” “True Blue” and “What Wonders.” She taught English and Cherokee studies and coached basketball at Swain High School for several years. In 2013, Clapsaddle was named executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Gilchrist-Young, who earned a master of fine arts degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College, has taught the last 15 years at Swain County High School, where she graduated in 1981. Her stories include “The Tender Branch,” which won the inaugural Norman Mailer High School Teacher Writing Award in 2011. She also won the 2005 Western North Carolina Woman Short Fiction Award.
National Book Award-winning poet Nikky Finney closes the festival series at 7:30 p.m. April 11 in the Coulter Building auditorium at WCU. Finney was born in South Carolina, a child of activists who came of age during the civil rights and black arts movements. Finney has authored four books of poetry – “Head Off & Split” (2011), “The World Is Round” (2003), “Rice” (1995) and “On Wings Made of Gauze” (1985). The Guy Davenport Endowed Professor in the Department of English at the University of Kentucky, Finney also authored “Heartwood” (1997), edited “The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South” (2007) and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets.
Directed this year by Pamela Duncan of the Department of English, WCU’s Spring Literary Festival has a long tradition of bringing established and emerging literary talent to Western North Carolina. Literary festival sponsors include WCU’s Visiting Writers Series; the Department of English; the Arts and Cultural Events Series; the Office of the Chancellor; the Office of the Provost; the Division of Student Affairs; and the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. The project also received support from the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.