Authors for 2018
Darnell is Writer-in-Residence at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, where she teaches creative writing. She is co-director of the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival and the Appalachian Young Writers Workshop, and is a director of the national online publication drafthorse: a literary journal of work and no work. Darnell is a regular faculty member of Table Rock Writers Workshop, and is the author of two poetry collections, Galaxie Wagon and What Travels with Us, and the novel Sufficient Grace. A recipient of the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature and the Southern Independent Booksellers Association Poetry Book of the Year Award, Darnell was also named Writer of the Year by the Tennessee Writers Alliance. She holds workshops in novel and memoir writing near her home in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.
Bryn is the award-winning author of the story collection When Are You Coming Home?, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize. Her debut novel, Sycamore, is a feature of this year’s Festival. She is a native of California and was raised in Arizona, where the small fictional town of Sycamore is located. The story is an exploration of the universal forces of loneliness, grief, love, and hope experienced by the townspeople as a riveting mystery unfolds. The novel was selected as an Amazon Editors’ Best Book of 2017. Bryn is the winner of a 2017-18 North Carolina Arts Council fellowship and the Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from Vanderbilt University’s program in fiction writing, and is an assistant professor at UNC Charlotte.
Abigail was born and raised in North Carolina, but spent summers in the Alps where her French physicist mother ran a physics institute. Her experience living in the 1960s in two countries – one at the peak of prosperity, the other still reeling from two world wars – created an interest in writing about what she calls “cultural dislocation, the relationship between loss and victory, light and dark.” Abigail studied at Harvard University and the Iowa Writers Workshop, and has taught at Harvard Summer School, Boston University, UNC Asheville, and Appalachian State University. She also teaches at the Table Rock Writers Workshop and leads private workshops, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and is the author of three novels, Lili, Dogs, and News of Our Loved Ones.
Georgann’s latest book, The Month of Their Ripening, tells the stories of twelve North Carolina heritage foods, each matched to the month of its peak readiness for eating. The book takes readers on a flavorful journey across the state, talking with farmers, fishmongers, cooks, historians, and scientists, to discover how certain foods – shad, ramps, persimmons among them – have become a key part of the state’s culture. When not engaged in her own writing, Georgann is a teacher and consultant to nonprofit groups across the country, and is founding director of the Table Rock Writers Workshop. Georgann is an Emmy Award-winning documentarian with her Minnow Media partner, photographer Donna Campbell. Their most recent project, “The Malpass Brothers: Heading Home,” is being featured on UNC-TV. A popular speaker, she is also the author of the Literary Trails of North Carolina series.
Born and raised in West Jefferson, Phillip is the author of The Barrowfields, a coming-of-age novel set in a (perhaps familiar) small town in the North Carolina mountains. The narrator grows up in the shadow of – and flees from – a brilliant, tormented father. Author Ron Rash calls Phillip “a very talented writer, and his debut deserves a wide and appreciative readership.” He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and received his law degree from Campbell University, where he served as editor-in-chief of the law review. Phillip currently practices law in Charlotte.
Jim has lived in the Appalachian Mountains his whole life, growing up in the small farming town of Newburg, Pennsylvania. It was there, he says, that he was given a “great love of words and woods, field and flora, and of course, blueberries.” Jim is the author of five books, including Fire is Your Water, his first novel, published in 2017. His memoir, The Blueberry Years, was a popular feature at our 2012 Festival; it won the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. He is also author of a collection of essays, Finding a Clear Path, and two books of poetry: Her Secret Song and Burning Heaven. His honors include the Fred Chappell Fellowship at UNC-Greensboro and the Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian Writing. Jim teaches at Augusta University in Georgia and Converse College in South Carolina, and lives in the mountains of Virginia.
TRACY K. SMITH
Currently serving as the 52nd Poet Laureate of the United States, Smith is the author of four volumes of poetry and a memoir. Her 2011 collection, Life on Mars, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and her 2015 book, Ordinary Life: A Memoir, about race, faith, and her growing realization that poetry would be her chosen language, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. As Poet Laureate, she takes poetry on the road around the country, primarily to rural areas. She hopes to make poetry part of a common language, and she encourages people to use poetry to “rehumanize” themselves in a technological world. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University, Smith is the Roger S. Berlind Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, where she is the director and a professor of creative writing. She became interested in poetry at an early age, reading Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain in elementary school, and wrote her first poem when she was in fifth grade. Fortunately, her teacher encouraged her to keep writing.
Tommy lives in Charlotte where, for 23 years, he was a reporter and columnist for the Charlotte Observer. His columns were known for their humor and warmth, and he was named Best Local Columnist by The Week magazine. He was also a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. He is currently host of the podcast “SouthBound” and is on the staff of WFAE, Charlotte’s National Public Radio station. He has written for Our State, Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, Esquire, Forbes, Garden & Gun, and many others. A graduate of the University of Georgia and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Tommy has taught at Wake Forest University and in workshops and conferences across the country. He claims the distinction of being the “only reporter in history to cover the Super Bowl, the Bassmaster Classic, and the National Spelling Bee in the same year.” His upcoming memoir, The Elephant in the Room, is about life as an overweight man in an expanding America; it is scheduled for publication in January 2019.
FRANK X WALKER
A former Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank is creator of the word Affrilachian to describe people of African descent who are from the Appalachian region of the country, and to signify “the importance of the African-American presence in Appalachia.” He founded the Affrilachian Poets, a group at the University of Kentucky now celebrating its 27th year as a voice for “making the invisible visible.” Frank is a professor in the department of English and the African American and Africana Studies Program at UK, and is author of eight collections of poetry, including his recent Ink Stains & Watermarks: New and Collected Poems. He has conducted workshops and read his poetry at more than 400 events around the globe, and has been awarded honorary doctorates from three universities. Among his awards are the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Lannan Poetry Fellowship, and the Jesse Stuart Award for his video documentary Coal Black Voices: The History of the Affrilachian Poets.