Wattses take over Spring Literary Festival

Fiction writer Stephanie Powell Watts and poet Bob Watts were the presenters on Wednesday, April 10, at the Spring Literary Festival at 4 p.m. in the A.K. Hinds University Center Theater.

After being introduced by Western Carolina University professor and published poet Dr. Catherine Carter, Stephanie Powell Watts read a short story from her book “The Family Museum of the Ancient Postcards” to the mostly full auditorium. Powell Watts prefaced her reading with a short quip.

“I tried to find something happy to read to you guys since it’s spring, but then I remembered that I don’t write that, so you get to listen to something less happy,” said Powell Watts.

Powell Watts is a teacher at Lehigh University and was one of the co-founders of “Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts,” the journal at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Watts was awarded the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, “We are Taking Only What We Need,” in 2012. While she is a friendly, cheerful presenter, her work focuses on the lives of young African-Americans who come from or live near the poorer parts of town at the edge of the county.

She was a wonderful presenter, and though she abridged her story in order to fit into the time frame, it was obviously well written. It was also obvious that she enjoyed reading aloud.

Student Kim Stansfield said, “It was good, though the story itself wasn’t all that interesting to me. The way she read it made it very enjoyable, and I was able to forget that I was listening to a story.”

Her husband, Bob Watts, was up next. Watts is also a professor at Lehigh University, as well as the other co-founder of “Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts.”

He had to pull himself together when he got to the podium, saying, “Stephanie offered to read first, so I let her, but I forgot just how much that story makes me cry.”

He then began to tease the audience about his graduation from Appalachian State University.

He read a selection of nine poems from his published collection as well as one that he is working on publishing. The first poem he read was called “Late Night Hymn,” but one of his friends jokingly called it “Late Night Booty Call from Christ.” Other titles included “Sunrise Service,” “Cicadas,” “She Brings Me Gifts” and “A Night of Waiting for Moon and Son.”

 Each poem was prefaced with a story about what inspired him to write each one. It helped those of us in the audience to see what brought his writing process to a start. Both of the authors were very personable, and it was clear that they enjoyed their work. It seemed that both would make enjoyable professors here at Western Carolina.