With the help of a $5,000 Arts and Audiences grant from the N.C. Arts Council, festival organizers donated copies of at least one book by each of this year’s featured authors to the public libraries in Sylva, Franklin and Waynesville. Patrons of libraries in Bryson City, Cashiers, Highlands and Nantahala will have access to the Sylva and Franklin books, as all branches are part of the Fontana Regional Library system.
“This year’s festival features more best-selling and award-winning authors than ever before,” said Mary Adams, festival director and associate professor in the WCU Department of English. “We wanted to appeal not only to academics but to all people who love to read. And we’ve found that audiences and authors alike get more out of the speakers if they are able to read books ahead of time.”
The Spring Literary Festival has a long tradition of bringing the best of established and emerging literary talent to Western North Carolina, with festival organizers emphasizing the strength of the regional literary tradition by placing it on stage with writers of national repute.
Through the grant, the Macon County Public Library received 17 books that are now part of a display dedicated to the Spring Literary Festival. More than half are checked out, said Tracy Fitzmaurice, assistant county librarian at the Macon County Public Library. “When we put books on display, people are really drawn to them,” Fitzmaurice said.
For the first time, the Macon County Public Library has planned programming around the festival books and authors. On Thursday, March 24, James Costa, WCU biology professor and director of the Highlands Biological Station, will lead a discussion on “The World Without Us” by Literary Festival author Alan Weisman. The book, translated into 30 languages, explores the fate of the natural and manmade environment should humans suddenly disappear. A New York Times best-seller and named best nonfiction book of 2007 by both Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, “The World Without Us” has been has been popular with readers at the Macon County Public Library, Fitzmaurice said. “Patrons are really looking forward to discussing the book and then going to hear the author,” she said. “I’ve had several people tell me that book has changed their lives and the way they look at the world.”
Also planned at the Macon County Public Library: March 27, former N.C. poet laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer will speak about her collection “Coming to Rest”; and April 3, Bret Lott will speak about his novel “Jewel,” which chronicles a family after the birth of a child with Down syndrome and was an Oprah’s Book Club selection.
Other Literary Festival authors include Cathy Smith Bowers, Fred Chappell, DéLana Dameron, David Gessner, Elizabeth Kostova, Don Lee, Lee Martin, Ginger Murchison and Susan Vreeland. Fitzmaurice’s sons, both in high school, have asked to hear “Affrilachian” poet Frank X Walker after reading one of his poems during Black History Month.
With tight budgets, the book donation is a real service, Fitzmaurice said. “Suddenly, we have a whole collection we can offer our patrons. Any time we can get gifts and donations, it’s just wonderful, especially when we can say, ‘Here’s this book, and here’s who wrote it.’”
For more information about events at Macon County Public Library, call the library at 828-524-3600 or visit the library website at www.fontanalib.org/franklin. For more information about the WCU Literary Festival, contact Adams at 828-227-3270 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the festival website at www.litfestival.org and become a fan on the festival Facebook page to join online group discussions of the authors’ work.
The North Carolina Arts Council’s support of the Spring Literary Festival stems from its mission to improve North Carolina through the arts, which it does by nurturing and supporting excellence in the arts and providing opportunities for every North Carolinian to experience the arts. A division of the Department of Cultural Resources, the Arts Council serves as a catalyst for the development of arts organizations and facilities throughout North Carolina with grant funding and technical assistance.