Western’s first annual Spring Literary Festival to be held on campus April 1-3

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University is launching a new Spring Literary Festival this April as part of a renewed effort to stimulate interest among students and residents of Western North Carolina in the work of contemporary writers and poets.

“We believe it is important to provide our university students, as well as students from area high schools and members of the general public, the opportunity to be exposed to the literary element of American culture,” said Brian Railsback, head of the department of English at WCU. “The festival will give those who love to read and those who love to write a chance to meet and interact with nationally acclaimed poets and writers.”

Among the literary figures scheduled to take part in the inaugural Spring Literary Festival are a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, a nationally acclaimed poet from the WNC mountains, and two promising young writers, Railsback said.

During the festival, set for April 1-3 on the Western Carolina campus, visiting writers will give public readings of their works, participate in panel discussions and conduct workshops with aspiring writers.

The festival is taking place in conjunction with a presentation by award-winning Native American author, poet and screenwriter Sherman Alexie. As part of WCU’s annual Lectures, Concerts and Exhibitions Series, Alexie will present the lecture “Killing Indians: Myths, Lies and Exaggerations” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in Hoey Auditorium.

Author of the critically acclaimed “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” Alexie was named one of the top writers for the 21st century by The New Yorker magazine in 1999. He has authored several books of poetry and collections of short stories, two novels and numerous works for magazines, and has written and directed feature films.

Also taking part in the Spring Literary Festival is Maxine Kumin, author of 13 books of poems, including her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection “Up Country.” Kumin, who has received the Aiken Taylor Prize, the Poets’ Prize and the Ruth E. Lilly Poetry Prize, suffered a near-fatal carriage accident in 1998, recorded in her memoir, “Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery.” She also has written three essay collections, a collection of short stories, four novels and an animal rights murder mystery. Her most recent book of poetry is “The Long Marriage.”

Kathryn Stripling Byer, former poet-in-residence at Western, will join Kumin for a reading at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. Byer is the author of four books of poetry, including the recently published “Catching Light” and her 1992 collection, “Wildwood Flower,” winner of the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Byer received the 2001 North Carolina Award in Literature.

Opening the festival Tuesday, April 1, will be emerging talents Jennifer Brice, author of the nonfiction book “The Last Settlers” and recipient of a Jacob Javits Fellowship in the Humanities, and Thorpe Moeckel, author of two books of poetry – “Odd Botany,” winner of the Gerald Cable First Book Award, and “Meltlines.” Brice and Moeckel will read at 7 p.m. in the Grandroom of the University Center.

Also taking part in the festival will be poet and essayist Maureen Ryan Griffin, author of “When the Leaves are in the Water;” fiction writer Pamela Duncan, author of “Moon Women,” a Southeast Booksellers Association Award finalist; and novelist and poet Dawn Karima Pettigrew, Western’s writer-in-residence.

A panel discussion on the topic “Writings that Influence Writers” is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in the recital hall of the Coulter Building.

With the exception of the Sherman Alexie lecture, all festival events are open to the public free of charge. Alexie’s talk “Killing Indians: Myths, Lies and Exaggerations” is part of the LCE series, and admission is $10 for the general public, $8 for WCU faculty and staff, and $2 for WCU students.

For more information about the Spring Literary Festival at Western Carolina University, contact the department of English at (828) 227-7264.