Festival Preview

There is something for everyone at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival this weekend in Burnsville, North Carolina. While it’s true the festival focuses on the written word, part the beauty of the weekend is that participants get to listen to authors read their own work. Additionally, there will be musicians, actors, filmmakers and visual artists to inspire all who come.

The weekend begins with the premiere showing of First in Forestry a documentary about Carl Schenck, the man hired by the Vanderbilts to maintain the Biltmore forests. He then started a school, the first of its kind, to teach others how preserve forests.  The film is free and open to everyone. It will be shown at 7pm Thursday in the Burnsville Town Center.

Headliners Sold Out

Seats are sold out for the headlining authors, Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett, who are giving the closing talk. Likewise, the Friday Evening Banquet with Jay Leutze sold out weeks ago. This is also the first year all the writing workshops are full prior to the festival.

Free Events & Tough Choices

The good news is that the vast majority of the festival is free and open to the public—more than 40 readings, talks, and presentations on this year’s theme “Our Earth…Our Time…Our Space…” Simply stop by the Town Center to pick up a schedule and attend the most appealing sessions.

Our Earth

If you are interested in the environment and the connection people have with the land, check out the following authors and their books. Will Harlan’s Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America is a biography of Carol Ruckdeschel that has won numerous awards.  (Plus, the he’s a five-time champion of the Mount Mitchell 40-Mile Challenge!)   Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth and Catherine Reid’s Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst also explore the natural world.

Bearwallow by Jeremy Jones is one of the many examples of the theme Our Earth… Our Time… Our Space…

Likewise, Jeremy Jones’ Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland and Marci Spencer’s Pisgah National Forest: a History also perfectly exemplifies the festival’s theme. Spencer also has a children’s book about saving the Great Smokey Mountains.

Though Saro Lynch Thomason may be most know for her ballad singing and her appearance this summer in Parkway Playhouse’s Esley, she will also be at the festival singing and presenting her children’s book.

Ashley Adams English has her own unique perspective on the land: she has written a series of books on homesteading including everything from growing, cooking and preserving food. Festival favorite Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, will also attend. Clapsaddle was a 2014 finalist for the Bellwether Prize, which was established in 2000 by none other than Barbara Kingsolver to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice.


Wiley Cash’s novels This Dark Road to Mercy and A Land More Kind Than Home also explore the deep connection between the land and its people—and landed on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Also not a stranger to the New York Times Bestseller list, author Sara Gruen will present her latest release  At the Water’s Edge at the festival. This event will be held in the Town Center at 11am on Saturday.

Mary Ann Claude rounds out the novelists with her 2014 release, The Dancin’ Man.

Our Space

Quite literally, Beth Revis, who writes young adult science fiction takes us to into outer space, though her latest work, Body Electric, is set on Earth during the same period as her bestselling space trilogy. Joining her is another YA sci-fi writer, Alexandra Duncan.

Alan Gratz, will also present at the festival. While he has written sci-fi, Gratz’s most recent YA book Code of Honor tells the story of Kamran Smith, a boy whose older brother is accused of terrorism.

Mindi Meltz also satellites this group with her novel Lonely Heart of the World which she calls “an epic fairytale for adults.”


Most notable among the poets is current North Carolina Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson, who also attended the first festival back in 2006. Also joining him are Hilda Downer,  who has written about her childhood in Bandana;Susan Laughter Meyers, winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize;   Asheville’s SoulSpeak, a group of college-age spoken word poets; and Brent Martin, a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet.  Jason Mott and Jim Rogersboth write poetry as well as prose.

Seeing Books in New Ways

A panel of women from our area will present “Books as Art,” a different look at how books themselves are beautiful. Joining this panel are visual artist Lisa Blackburn, poet and bookmaker Lynn McLure and photographer and writerSue Wasserman.

Last year Barbara Bates Smith and Jeff Sebens had so much fun at the festival they asked if they could please come back with a different performance. So this year, they bring A Rash of Stories—dramatized versions of several of Ron Rash’s short stories.

Into the Community

Several authors also visited elsewhere in our communities, speaking at elementary schools . Those Outreach Authors include Allan Wolf, Karen Miller, Saro Lynch Thomason, and Dawn Cusick. They graciously extended the festival to bring excitement about books to young readers!