Writers to take spotlight on campus during April 13-16 literary festival

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith and New York Times best-selling novelist Andre Dubus III headline a group of writers who will be featured during the 13th annual Spring Literary Festival at Western Carolina University.

Author readings begin Monday, April 13, and continue through Thursday, April 16. All events are free and open to the public. Each reading will be followed by a book-signing with the author.

Presentations will take place in the theater of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center, except for the festival’s concluding event that features Tracy K. Smith, which will be held in the recital hall of Coulter Building.

The festival begins at noon April 13 with a reading featuring Brent Martin, the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the western region of North Carolina, and student poets. Martin, the Southern Appalachian regional director for the Wilderness Society, is author of two chapbook collections of poetry, “Poems from Snow Hill Road” and “A Shout in the Woods,” and co-author of another, “Every Breath Sings Mountains.”

A reading by nonfiction writer Rebecca McClanahan will be held at 4 p.m. April 13. McClanahan has written five books of poetry, three books of writing instruction and a collection of essays. Her 10th book is “The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community and a Century of Change.” McClanahan teaches at Queens University in Charlotte and for Rainier Writing Workshops.

Andre Dubus III

Andre Dubus III

Dubus will bring events to a close at 7:30 p.m. on the festival’s first day. He is author of six books, including the New York Times best-sellers “House of Sand and Fog” and “The Garden of Last Days.” A finalist for the National Book Award, “House of Sand and Fog” was made into an Academy Award-nominated film. Dubus’ most recent work, “Dirty Love,” was published in 2013. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes and a 2012 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

Festival events on Tuesday, April 14, will begin at noon with readings by poets Shanan Ballam and Tim Peeler. Ballam teaches poetry and fiction writing at Utah State University and wrote the poetry collections “The Red Riding Hood Papers” and “Pretty Marrow.” Peeler, a Hickory resident, has written 12 books, including his latest works of poetry, “Checking Out” and “Rough Beast.” He is past recipient of the Jim Harrison Award for contributions to baseball literature.

Poet Aaron Smith and songwriter Belinda Smith will present their works at 4 p.m. that same day. Aaron Smith is the author of “Appetite,” a National Public Radio “best book” and finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. A Dove Award-winning songwriter, Belinda Smith has had hundreds of her songs recorded by renowned artists in the Christian and gospel genres. She has been featured on NPR’s “Mountain Stage” radio show and she owns 7th Row Music, a publishing company.

Fiction writer Carter Sickels will read at 7:30 p.m. April 14. He is author of the novel “The Evening Hour,” a finalist for the 2013 Oregon Book Award and the Lambda Literary Debut Fiction Award. Sickels is editor of the forthcoming anthology “Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships and Identity.” He teaches at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Eastern Oregon University.

Festival activities will resume at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, with readings by fiction writers Jeremy Jones and David Joy. Jones, who teaches creative writing in WCU’s Department of English, is author of the memoir “Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland.” His essays has appeared in numerous literary journals and have twice been named “notable” in The Best American Essays. Joy, a Webster resident, wrote the recently released novel “Where All Light Tends to Go” and the memoir “Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey,” which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Tiya Miles, a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, will read from her works at 7:30 p.m. April 15. She is author of “The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts,” and her nonfiction works “The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story” and “Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom” have received numerous awards. She teaches at the University of Michigan.

The final day of the festival on April 16 will begin with nonfiction writer Georgann Eubanks reading at 4 p.m. Author of the North Carolina Literary Trails series, Eubanks is a writer, teacher and consultant and formerly directed the Duke University Writers Workshop for 20 years. She launched the Table Rock Writers Workshop in 2009 and is one of the founders of the North Carolina Writers Network.

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith will bring WCU’s Spring Literary Festival to a close at 7:30 p.m. April 16. She is author of three books of poetry, and her most recent work, “Life on Mars,” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times “notable book.” An earlier work, “The Body’s Question,” won the 2002 Dave Canem Poetry Prize, and her memoir, “Ordinary Light,” was published by Knopf earlier this year. Tracy Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

WCU’s Spring Literary Festival is directed by Pamela Duncan, assistant professor in WCU’s Department of English. Sponsors at WCU include the Arts and Cultural Events Series, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Education and Allied Professions, Division of Student Affairs, Department of English, Hunter Library, Office of Communications and Public Relations, Office of Research Administration, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, Office of Residential Living and the Visiting Writers Series.

Off-campus sponsors are WRGC-AM, City Lights Bookstore, Fontana Regional Library, the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Southwestern Community College. The festival also receives support from the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

For more information about the festival, visit litfestival.org or contact WCU’s English department at 828-227-7264.