Celebrating the 21st Spring Literary Festival

The 21st Spring Literary Festival will be held from March 20-23 on WCU’s campus. Numerous featured writers will be in attendance. Starting from WCU’s Visiting Writers Series, the Literary Festival has become an annual four-day event where local and visiting writers show their work to the students of Western with free admission. 

Featured writers include Beth Macy, Jason Mott, S.A. Cosby, Ashley M Jones, Idra Novey, Mark Powell, Eric Tran, Angela Velez, Charles Dodd White, Devon Miller-Duggan, A. Kendra Greene, Stephen J. West, Glenn Taylor, Lisa Lefler, and Tom Belt. 

Jeremy Jones, associate professor of English, is the director of the event. 

“This year’s festival will feature a handful of New York Times bestsellers and the winner of last year’s National Book Award in Fiction (Jason Mott). Many of this year’s writers explore rural issues…This rural theme was organic—or serendipitous—rather than something fashioned by design, but in any event, this year’s festival will dig into rural life from my perspectives and genres,” Jones wrote in an email. 


Meet the writers 

Beth Macy is a journalist who wrote “Dopesick” and “Raising Lazarus” which focuses on her in-depth reporting of the opioid crisis in America. Her “Dopesick” novel has been made into a Hulu show. Her session will be Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in the UC Theater.  

“I’m hoping to use my latest book, ‘Raising Lazarus,’ as a way to talk about the worst addiction crisis in the history of our nation,” said Macy in an email.  

Her book centers around harm reductionists and helpers in rural areas, particularly in North Carolina 

“I’m hoping this resonates with students. They are very inspiring treatment innovators.” 

Ashley M. Jones is an award-wining poet/writer who has been featured in POETRY, CNN, Academy of American Poets, Fjords Review, and many more. From her website, she is the Alabama Poet Laureate and, in 2022, received a Poet Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. Jones will be appearing on Monday, March 20 at 7 p.m. in the UC Theater.  

“I’m always eager to spread the good news that poetry is truly for everyone! It doesn’t matter if you like form, free verse, or if you think you don’t like poetry at all, I promise there’s something for every kind of reader in my work. I’m hoping to share a little of my southern charm and my Black pride, and I’m hoping to create light and room for empathy by the time I leave WCU,” said Jones.  

Writer Jason Mott has four novels and two poetry collections. His newest novel, ‘Hell of a Book’, has won the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction.  

While at Western, Mott wants to show students what it is like being a writer.  

“I hope I can just show students what the reality of being a writer and author is like. I hope that I can show them that it’s okay to struggle and have difficulties in their writing journey. It happens to all of us, and that’s something more people need to see and know,” Mott said. Students can see him on the last day of the festival, Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in UC Illusions.  

WCU professor Lisa Lefler is the director of the Culturally Based Native Health Program. Lefler is also the co-author of “Sounds of Tohi: Cherokee Health and Well-Being in Southern Appalachia”. Tohi means health and peace in the Cherokee Language. Lefler and Cherokee elder Tom Belt will talk about their experiences of their different cultures/histories that intersect while being in Southern Appalachia. The two will be presenting on Thursday, March 23 at noon in the UC Illusions.  

Lefler wants to teach students the knowledge and resourcefulness of indigenous people.  

“I’m hoping that students take away greater respect for that knowledge… understand its applications and usages for contemporary world/contemporary life and really understand the importance of basic principles; of basically physics which would be the connectivity of all things,” Lefler said. “We gain a greater understanding of those relationships and a better understanding of how to keep those relationships in balance, which ultimately leads to good.” 

She also encouraged students to come to “Rooted in the Mountains Symposium” that takes place the last Thursday and Friday of September. “This is our 13th year. It is to integrate traditional knowledge with health and environmental issues,” Lefler explained. This year’s theme is community.  


Creative Writing contest 

The Litfest Creative Writing Competition winners will be announced on March 17 and will be published in the Nomad. This student-run literary art magazine publishes fiction, art, poetry, and nonfiction. The Nomad helps judge works for the contest. Winners will get a cash prize for their category and will be able to read their work at the festival.  

“The LitFest contests are always a busy time for our staff, but it’s a great chance to reward the astounding creativity we have on display at Western Carolina University. I particularly enjoy watching the competition winners read their pieces at the Literary Festival. I can always tell they’re surprised and pleased to be there and enjoying the opportunity to share their soul with the world,” said Editor-in-Chief of the Nomad, Stephen Pierce.  


Volunteers for LitFest 

The festival welcomes volunteers! Jones told the Carolinian that they rely on volunteers to get the writers into place and help with the events. Students can reach out to Jones by emailing litfestwcu@outlook.com or jbjones@wcu.edu. Festival intern Carina Bomberg, cblomberg1@catamount.wcu.edu, may be contacted for volunteering as well.  

To see the full schedule of all authors, check out the page online. Just search “WCU literary festival”.