Festival Planners

Board Chair/Program Committee Kathy Weisfeld, M.A., worked for Blue Ridge Mental Health. She now volunteers with Yancey Hospice, Appalachian Therapeutic Riding Center and, of course, Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. Her poems have been published in Great Smokies Review and WNC Woman. She was chosen to be mentored by NC Poet Laureate, Joseph Bathanti, as part of the 2011 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series. Her poem “Equinox” won second place in the 2013 Writers’ Workshop of Asheville National Contest. She has called the mountains of North Carolina her home for over 30 years.


Board Vice-Chair Lucy Gregory Doll began her love affair with books when she started reading at age three during those long Wisconsin winters.  This is her fourteenth year with the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival.  Despite having an electronics curse upon her, she manages customer services for a firm that repairs electronics for the commercial laundry industry.  Her former lives include being a Long Distance Operator back in the days when one dialed ‘O’ to call long distance or the police, and administering the public service programs at the venerable National Theatre in Washington, DC (where she lived on a houseboat).  She is a local political activist, a sometimes-writer, Past-President (and currently Secretary) of the Yancey County Chamber of Commerce, and rescue-dog lover who blames television and celebrity-worship for pretty much everything she doesn’t like.


Board Secretary Eliza Millard and her husband Steve moved to Asheville, NC in 1978.  She wore several hats while they raised their two children.  She was a baker and soup maker at a worker-owned restaurant called Stone Soup.   When Steve started an advertising and design agency in the mid 80’s, she became the general office manager and media buyer for Millard Design.  As computers began to take over many of her responsibilities at the agency, she found a job in the Early Head Start Preschool program with Asheville City Schools, where she worked for ten years before retiring.  Her love for reading began as a child and has never ceased.  Literature is a window into other worlds, lives and cultures and, she believes, the foundation of sound knowledge.   They now live in Celo, Yancey County where they still have a few loyal clients and Eliza works part time in the M.A.G.I.C. after-school program at South Toe River Elementary.   She is honored to have been asked to join the board of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival.


Board Treasurer Jane Brown Willig has loved the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival since its inception, working the first few grants through the non-profit that stewarded the festival before it became its own non-profit in 2016.  She has handled grant writing, management, event implementation, fundraising and finances for local non-profit organizations.  She is currently consulting with a company that specializes in magical inventions from Finland.  Jane lives in the South Toe Valley of Yancey County, with her husband, Matt, a metalsmith.  Jane enjoys reading, hiking the beautiful woods surrounding her home, traveling and spending time with her grown children.


Board Member/Author Liaison Carrie DeVee and her husband Todd moved to Burnsville in 2014. As recent empty nesters, they sold a little horse farm in the Sandhills of North Carolina and moved to their “ happy place” in the Black Mountains. They bought a piece of land with great views and a log cabin fixer- upper. So began the new adventure of their mountain life. Able to retire from many previous careers in the medical profession, Carrie finally had a chance to delve into art, which had always been a passion kept at bay, while raising kids, horses and dogs. She took a pottery class, and fell in love. Four years later, with her own working studio, and pottery in several galleries, she is able to enjoy this new chapter in life as an artist.
In the past, Carrie owned an independent bookstore in a small town in Michigan. This was in the wonderful days before the likes of Barnes and Noble and Amazon, when people used to gather in bookstores. It had a great children’s section, and was very active in bringing local authors in to speak about and sign their books. In this role as author liaison, life seems to be coming full circle, and Carrie is excited to be, once again, working with authors to promote their works and educate people for the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival.


Board Member/Volunteer Coordinator  Chris Holobek finally became a full-time resident to Burnsville, coming from a 34-year teaching career concluding in Indianapolis, IN via Germany, Finland, and Norway.  After moving here, he was hired at Biltmore, where you might catch him in red as an Estate Ambassador offering world-class guest services.  After attending his first literary festival five years ago and being wowed by the presenting authors, he quickly became a volunteer, then segued into the role of Volunteer Coordinator.  If you are interested in taking part in this year’s festival, or even next year’s, contact him – he can get you hooked up!  With more than 34 years of teaching behind him (grades 3 – 7), he utilizes all of his down time to read, enjoy his farm animals, watch movies, or sit on his front porch to listen to the creek (with a book).  While not a writer, he has written three text books, teaching English to Finnish children (as you do).


Board Member Yancey County native Jamie McMahan has been an avid reader since he was a small kid growing up in the Pensacola community, and has been addicted to book collecting for almost as long.  A long-time employee of local attorney Donny Laws, he has been serving as Yancey County Planner since 2008 and Director of Planning & Economic Development since 2018.   Jamie is active in numerous civic organizations in Yancey County and enjoys spending his free time hiking and fishing and, of course, reading.  A member of the William Faulkner Society and the Thomas Wolfe Society, Jamie has a passion for the culture and literature of the American South, particularly his native Western North Carolina.  He is excited to be on the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival planning team.


Board Member Dawn Reid was born and raised in the Chicago area.  She has lived in various parts of the U.S., but chose North Carolina to retire to.  After a long career in law as a legal assistant/paralegal, she really appreciates the beauty and peace she’s found in her community of High Cove.  She lives in a tiny house of 385 square feet and it couldn’t make her happier!  In addition to some well-deserved rest, she has been involved in the Penland  School of Crafts annual auction and, of course, the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival.  Books, books, books!


Program Committee member Deana Blanchard says though she was born in western Pennsylvania 1939, shortly after Germany invaded Poland, her real life began in 1973, when she left her first husband in New Jersey, drove her three kids back to Pennsylvania so she could complete her MA in American Lit.  The next fall they were in Jamaica where she taught secondary school for two years.  She was seeking adventure and found plenty of it.  After moving on to Boulder CO, where she became a professional craftswoman, she found the true love of her life, Chuck Young, now her husband of 37 years and partner at Selena Glass & Metal.  Ready to head out on the road again, they moved to Yancey County in 1993, where she expects to live the rest of her life. The one constant in her peripatetic life has been and will always be books, books, books! Reading, reading, reading!


Program Committee  Amber Westall Briggs is the Regional Library Director for Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey Counties.  Most days she is surrounded by book talks and every new idea under the sun. After Amber’s parents had a wild hair to return to the original Westall cabin (built in 1856), the family packed up and left their home in Raleigh to go back to the mountains where her parents were raised.  Amber grew up in Celo, seconds from South Toe River in a 900 square foot log cabin (the cabin where Thomas Wolfe wrote about her great-great grandfather- his uncle).  Her childhood was spent listening to stories told at her grandmother’s general store, playing in creeks, running through the woods, and devouring books daily. She holds degrees in Literature and Library Science and is certified as a NC Public Librarian by the State Library of North Carolina.  Amber has actively served in several region and state-wide library and literary collaborations.  Currently, she is a member of the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association; at the state level, she volunteers as a Committee Member of The State Library Continuing Education Committee, The State Library Youth Services Advisory Committee, and The Broadband Initiative Advisory Committee. Locally, she has served or continues to serve on many nonprofit boards. Much like her parents, she and her husband, Shane, moved back to WNC.  They raise their 3 children here.  She says “each day my children have with their grandparents is a tremendous gift, and having a profession in a rural area such as ours gives me a firsthand look at how libraries impact my neighbors and community members.” She still treasures listening to stories, plays in dirt every chance she gets, jumps in freezing cold rivers and deep sighs at these mountains.


Program Committee Caroline Green Christopoulos is a publicist with Gold Leaf Literary Services, a buyer at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, and a steering committee member of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance.  She lives with her husband Zeke, daughter Camille, dog Tiny Cakes, and fish (Brenda, Jabroni, Cakes, and Fishies) in Asheville.  She reads lots of light fiction and dark non-fiction.  In addition to reading, she loves to cook, eat, drink scotch, laugh, and talk about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.


Carol headshot
Program Committee Carol Clark is Professor Emerita of Economics at Guilford College, in Greensboro, NC where she taught economics, interdisciplinary studies, women studies and writing across the curriculum for 18 years.  At Guilford, she designed and led a semester abroad program taking undergraduate students to Mexico to study at the University of Guadalajara and work in low-income communities to learn about the Mexican model of Community Development.   Before Guilford, she lived and worked for three years doing economic research for the World Bank and as a Post-Doctoral research fellow for the Rockefeller Foundation in Guatemala, Central America.  She retired to Yancey County in 1999 (having spent summers, spring and fall breaks and every weekend possible there from 1983-1999). She has written academic articles, numerous newspaper articles and professional opinion pieces on current economic policy issues, published in WNC Woman, and received the Grand Award in Excellence in Feature Writing category, CASE District III, for her vignettes titled Tres Historias.  Currently she is writing a book (provisionally titled Agua y Luz—Water and Light) in which she recounts stories Mexicans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans told her husband (Tom) and her about their lives, hopes for their children, and nonviolent efforts to create more just and democratic societies.  It is part memoir and part teaching in which she sets the stories in their economic, political, religious, and historical contexts.  An excerpt (titled Children at the Border) from the book will appear in the Spring issue of the Great Smokies Writing Online Review.  She sits on the Reconciliation House Board and has tutored for the Yancey Literacy Council.


Program Committe/PR Maureen Thornton is a former Pan Am Flight Attendant who traded in her wings to become a scientist.  After 12 years of flying, she earned her Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and worked as a research scientist studying the cell cycle. That research led to a co-patent with NASA on a technology used to study the effect of microgravity on cells.  It also led to a career change from the research lab into business development, where she spent 13 years working for a national research institute building programs in areas of science and technology – including molecular diagnostics – before retiring in 2015.  The beauty of the Western Carolina Mountains drew her from Florida and she now hikes, paints, volunteers and writes.  Her publications have appeared recently in The Georgia Review and WNC Woman Magazine, among others. A love of science and the creative arts led her to write a series of articles for the Mitchell News Journal, focused on people in the arts and sciences who live in the local area. She began volunteering with the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in 2016 and is currently expanding her horizons towards writing fiction.


Graphics and Publicity Britt Kaufmann is a founding planner of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival who still creates the annual bookmarks and posters. She has had two plays produced by Parkway Playhouse and her poetry and prose have appeared in The Mennonite Literary Journal, Kakalak Poetry Anthology,  WNC Magazine, Now & Then, WNC Woman, and The Pedestal Magazine among others. She works as a tutor in the local schools and lives with her husband and three teenage children just outside Burnsville, NC. brittkaufmann.com


Archivist Jennie Boyd Bull, born and raised in Knoxville TN, came home to the mountains of Western North Carolina in 2015, following careers as an editor, writer, librarian, bookstore manager and archivist with nonprofits in Maryland and New York State.  Her poetry chapbook, Where I Live: Coming Home to the Southern Mountains (Finishing Line Press, 2018), evokes her first year of retirement here in the Toe River Valley.  She enjoys teaching Tai Chi and Qigong, hiking with NC High Peaks Trails, and gardening with Dig In!  She is currently writing a memoir and learning to weave, when she’s not swinging in the front yard, weeding the garden, or curled up reading with Lily the cat.  From 2016 to present, Jennie has created and maintains an archive of the festival’s inspiring authors, events, and celebrations of mountain culture since 2006.