Jim Harrison, Robert Morgan headline Western’s Spring Literary Festival

CULLOWHEE – Jim Harrison, wide-ranging author of “Legends of the Fall,” and Western North Carolina native Robert Morgan, author of the best-selling novel “Gap Creek,” headline a group of critically acclaimed writers who will be heading to Cullowhee to participate in Western Carolina University’s second annual Spring Literary Festival, set for Tuesday, March 30, through Thursday, April 1.

Harrison will read from his work at 7 p.m. March 30 in the theater of Western’s A.K. Hinds University Center, while Morgan will read at 7 p.m. March 31 in the Coulter Building recital hall.

Sponsored by Western’s department of English, the festival also will feature presentations by poet-activist Sonia Sanchez, railroad chronicler Linda Niemann and poet and critic Robert DeMott.

Harrison lives with his wife of almost 40 years, splitting time between the remote corners of Michigan and Arizona . He grew up hunting, fishing and hiking in the woods of his native Michigan , and it was those activities and that landscape that fired his young imagination. In his seven novels, three novella collections, 11 books of poetry and many essays, Harrison has written about the wide scope of human cravings – for food, drink, art, sex, violence, love and death. His characters, in his words, hunger for “mental heat, experience, jubilance.”

Defying easy labeling, Harrison has worked, at various times, as a screenwriter, book reviewer, literary critic, editor, food columnist, sportswriter and essayist. His 1979 trilogy of novellas, “Legends of the Fall,” was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, and his critically acclaimed fiction includes “Dalva,” “The Road Home” and “A Woman Lit by Fireflies.” Harrison ‘s collection of essays on food, “The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand,” was published in fall 2001, and he also is the author of a children’s book, “The Boy Who Ran to the Woods.”

The New York Times Book Review has written that Harrison’s work is “a big, wet, sloppy kiss [that] Harrison continues to plant on the face of life itself.”

Morgan was born in Hendersonville and raised on land in the Green River Valley that was settled by his Welsh ancestors. “Gap Creek” was an Oprah Book Club selection in 2000 and winner of the Southern Book Award for fiction, presented by the Southern Book Critics Circle. His earlier novel, “The Truest Pleasure,” was a finalist for the same award and was a Publisher’s Weekly “Best Book of the Year” and a New York Times “Notable.”

A writer for the New York Times Book Review has said Morgan “is among the relatively few American writers who write about work knowledgeably, and as if it really matters.”

Sanchez, author of more than a dozen books of poems and many plays, will present a reading at 7:30 p.m. April 1 in the Coulter Building recital hall. Her 1984 collection of poems, “Homegirls & Handgrenades,” won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Sanchez held the Laura Carnell Chair in English at Temple University until her retirement in 1999 and she has received numerous honors, including the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

Niemann is the author of two books, “On the Rails” and “Railroad Voices,” that chronicle her 20-year career as a conductor, brakeman and switchman for railroad companies. She also has published essays, reviews, interviews and anthologized stories. She currently teaches creative writing at Kennesaw State University in Marietta, Ga., and will read from her work at 2 p.m. March 31 in the Coulter Building recital hall.

DeMott is the author of two collections of poems, “News of Loss” and “The Weather in Athens ,” and numerous essays, reviews and poems. His annotated edition of John Steinbeck’s “Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath” was a New York Times “Best Book” of 1989, and he edited the 2002 book “Conversations with Jim Harrison.” DeMott will read from his work at 2 p.m. March 30 in the theater of Hinds University Center.

Harrison, Morgan, Niemann and DeMott will participate in a panel discussion, “Books that Influenced Us,” at 10 a.m. March 31 in the auditorium of Forsyth Building . DeMott will lead a workshop in teaching literature at 11 a.m. March 30 in the University Center theater. All authors will be available to sign books after readings.

All events in the Spring Literary Festival are open to the public, and all are free, except for the Sanchez reading, which is part of Western’s Lectures, Concerts and Exhibitions series. Admission to the Sanchez presentation is $3 for senior citizens, Western faculty and staff, non-WCU students and Jackson County Arts Council members, $5 for the general public, and free for Western students with valid identification cards.

For more information about the festival, contact Western’s English department at (828) 227-7264.