An abbreviated Spring Literary Festival moves online

Western Carolina University’s annual Spring Literary Festival has gone electric.

Originally scheduled with events on campus from March 30 through April 2, the festival’s presence is now completely digital during the COVID-19 pandemic, with live and recorded interviews and book readings being posted at www.litfestival.org.

A highlight will be Laura Wright, WCU English professor, interviewing acclaimed author Jeff VanderMeer live at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer, writer of the “Southern Reach Trilogy” and other works of post-apocalyptic fantasy fiction, should prove both fascinating and appropriate at this time, said event director Jeremy Jones, an associate professor in the Department of English. There will be an opportunity for viewers to submit questions during the event, Jones said.

Recent works by VanderMeer include “Borne,” a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, “The Strange Bird” and the recently published “Dead Astronauts.” His novel “Annihilation” was made into a movie in 2018 starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Issac. He has been called “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker magazine and frequently speaks about issues related to climate change. VanderMeer’s appearance is sponsored by WCU’s Campus Theme for 2019-2020 of sustainability and environment.

Other videos, posted or pending, are:
– Poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown speaking with WCU graduate student Whitney Waters and doing readings
– An interview with Doug Bock Clark, a journalist whose work includes writing for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire and Mother Jones, conducted by Jones
– A reading by Kevin Boyle, whose chapbook “The Lullaby of History” was selected for the Campbell Award
– A discussion and virtual tour of award-winning writer and Elon University instructor Cassandra Kircher’s time as a remote ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park

The annual LitFest Creative Writing Competition, held in conjunction with the literary festival for undergraduate students submitting original written works, was sponsored by the English Department, Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies Ron Rash, City Lights Bookstore and Harry Alter Books. Winners in each category received a $250 prize and future publication in “Nomad,” the university’s student-run literary and art magazine. Readings by winners are included on the webpage.

The Kathryn Stripling Byer Prize in Poetry was awarded to Rae Hanes for the poem “How to Make Spaghetti.” The category was judged by Kevin Boyle, author of the poetry collections “Astir” and “A Home for Wayward Girls,” as well as the chapbook “The Lullaby of History.

The Prize in Fiction went to Foster Dalmas for “How Was Your Day Today?” written from a school child’s point of view. The category was judged by Abigail DeWitt, author of the novels “News of Our Loved Ones,” “Dogs” and “Lili.” DeWitt’s short fiction appears in Witness, The Carolina Quarterly, The Alaska Quarterly and other publications.

The Prize in Literary Nonfiction went to Chrishaun Baker for his essay “Shaniya,” about his reaction as an 11-year-old to the disappearance of a child in his hometown. The category was judged by Cassandra Kircher, author of the essay collection “Far Flung: Improvisations on National Parks, Driving to Russia, Not Marrying a Ranger, the Language of Heartbreak, and Other Natural Disasters.”