Board Chair Lucy Doll returns to the board after taking 2021 off. She has been a LitFest board member since 2007, including six years as Author Liaison, four years as Venue Coordinator, three as Vice-Chair, with a variety of odd jobs concurrent and in between. A dedicated Burnsville “townie,” she regards the Town Center as “Burnsville’s living room,” and has held numerous parties, fundraisers, concerts, and productions there including eight years of directing her adaptation of Ogden Nash’s “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” as a staged reading for Read It & Weep Repertory Theatre, which she founded specifically to bring America’s “Poet Laureate of Light Verse” to young audiences of the twenty-first century. A voracious reader since the age of three, she’d rather read a book than just about anything except perhaps write an umbrage-filled Letter To The Editor about celebrity worship in politics, or snuggle with her husband and rescue dogs. Or throw another party at the Town Center. She is currently creating a bird sanctuary behind her house in downtown Burnsville.
Board Vice Chair Dr. Daniel Barron, is a 6th generation native of Mitchell County, which at one time was a part of Yancey so Toe River is home. He graduated from Appalachian State, was a high school librarian in Gastonia, and received his MLIS, AMLIS, and Ph.D. from Florida State University. He retired as Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina after 30 years as a researcher, faculty member, and director of the school. He has taught using every distant delivery system available from live satellite TV in the 80s to online courses before retiring in 2006 with nearly a thousand graduates in Maine, West Virginia, Georgia, Virginia, and of course South Carolina. He has worked with library and higher education projects in China, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Malaysia, and 37 of the 50 states. Three weeks after retiring from USC, he accepted an Interim Directorship with the Avery Mitchell Yancey Regional Library, fell in love with the job, applied for the position, and was appointed Director in 2007 from which he retired in 2015. He has a daughter, Amy, who is a GIS Strategist with Duke Energy in Charlotte, a stepson, Bobby, who is an electronics specialist; and a stepdaughter, Maddie, who works in hospitality services. His wife, Brette, is an artist and they live in Bakersville. In this iteration of retirement/repurposement he claims the titles of Community Activist, Cultural Dabbler, Shade Tree Mechanic, and ¼ Inch Carpenter. Dan worked with the first Carolina Mountains Literary Festival and the next 10 before leaving the Board. He is very excited about rejoining this wonderful cultural and fun effort.
Jimette Cook’s family has been in Western North Carolina since the 1700’s. Although she grew up in Florida, the culture of Western North Carolina has always been a defining influence on her life.
Her four sons formed childhood memories of the Black Mountains with frequent visits to the area to visit family, as do her three granddaughters.
Jimette attended the University of Florida and studied Criminal Justice and Political Science. After a career in local government with an emphasis on enforcing environmental regulations and serving as Arborist for various local jurisdictions, Jimette relocated full time to Yancey County. She updated the original log home built by her great grandfather and shares the home with her lazy dog, Jake.
A lifelong love of education led Jimette to Mayland Community College, where she served as Director of Mayland Enterprise Corporation, and Student Success Specialist on the educational staff of the Pre-college Department of Mayland working with the adult Intellectually-challenged community. Sharing a love of books and reading has been a rewarding element of her work with students.
Board Treasurer Sondra Ickes comes from a varied background in business, literary and historical pursuits and volunteerism. After getting her MA in History, Sondra worked for several years in administration and contracting for two major corporations; while at these jobs, she completed her MBA. After leaving the corporate world, Sondra ran her own business, consulting on administration, accounting, purchasing, etc. for small businesses. She has also written a biography of Winter Park, Florida artist Billie Greene and many short newspaper articles as a volunteer with the Yancey County Literacy Council, the Disabled American Veterans and the Orange County Coalition for the Homeless. As a former Air Force Officer, Sondra is very devoted to her fellow veterans and has worked many hours for their benefit. Sondra and her husband Brian moved to the wonderful NC woods over 11 years ago and are thrilled to be here.
Board Member, Author Liaison Since her first job at age 15 as a ‘page’ for the Winter Park Public Library, Kim Britt has been an avid reader and lover of all things literary. Her 40 year career in marketing and event planning has included stints in architecture, the trade show industry, and most recently as owner of a small independent bookstore, Bookmark It, in Orlando, FL that was dedicated to championing Florida writers. Kim has been actively involved with several literary nonprofit boards, including Page 15 (providing children’s literacy programing) and The Kerouac Project (a writer’s residency located in Jack Kerouac’s former Orlando home). Now semi-retired, Kim splits her time between Mars Hill, NC and Sanford, FL, and works as a freelance content writer. She is excited to bring her expertise and background to the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival and is looking forward to once again helping bring readers and writers together.
Board Member, Author Hospitality Coordinator Jada Cash has called Yancey County home for the past twenty years, always in awe of these beautiful Black Mountains and how lucky she is to have them in her back yard. She is retired from a thirty-year career as a registered nurse in roles of cardiology, intensive care, home health, adjunct college instructor, hospice, and most recently spending summers with kids as a camp nurse at Camp Celo. Jada began volunteering with the CMLF about 10 years ago as a session coordinator. She went on to writing press releases, helping with the festival banquets and author lounge, assisting with coordinating author presentations at Yancey elementary schools – generally doing whatever Lucy or Kathy asked her to. Most recently she assumed the role of Author Hospitality Coordinator. Jada had grown up looking forward to visiting the library every week with her very own library card and book bag, and attending weekly story hour. What a joy it was to bring her own daughter to Monday story hours at the Yancey Library! She still enjoys hours of reading and being read to. Jada also enjoys hiking, community projects, local land conservation efforts, friends, book clubs, live music, writing, ceramics, and romps to the river with her canine friends.
Board Member, Volunteer Coordinator Blye McSweeney and her husband, Artie Chesnut, relocated from Florida to Burnsville in late 2020. While adjusting to cooler temps, honing her pickleball skills, and benignly looking for an opportunity to become involved in the local community, she met Lucy Doll at a fundraiser at Homeplace Beer Company during the summer of 2022. And so ensued a conversation where they bonded over a wide range of subjects to include a mutual affection for dogs and a shared interest in philanthropic activism. Blye’s love of reading most likely had its origins when she learned to appreciate the written (and spoken) word from her paternal grandmother who took her to the local library and read her stories about Abraham Lincoln. Of note: Blye’s grandmother lived two doors down from Lincoln’s historic family home in Springfield, Illinois. What began as a childhood interest in reading about our 16th president continues today via a lifelong love of reading – a legacy she has proudly passed to her children and grandchildren. Next stop, 10 years of teaching high school English (BA, English and Art History), followed by a seismic career shift to the Executive Search/Recruitment industry where she ultimately oversaw operations in several Southern California locations. Today, Blye looks forward to the opportunity to merge her love of all things literary with her people management skills in aiding the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in reaching its goals. And she thanks Lucy (and her feisty dog, Fang) for a fortuitous meeting at a small-town brewery on a summer evening and the beginning of a new adventure.
Board Member, 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.
Board Member at Large Born in the Appalachians and exiled for a time to Georgia, Laurin Blanks has been a college and high school English instructor for twenty years. She writes poetry and short stories and has been at work for years on a most elusive novel. When she’s not tap dancing in front of a classroom, she enjoys herding cats and wandering the pathless wilds in search of the perfect trout stream.
Board Member at Large 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 Member at Large Kelly Denton is a wife and mother, a crafter, a writer and a lifelong lover of stories. In her strange, meandering life she has worked as an art teacher, a music teacher, a social media marketer, an Apple Reseller & Service Provider, a singer, a graphic designer and a barista. Currently, she owns and operates two small businesses.
Program Committee Kathy Weisfeld served as Chair of the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival from 2014- 2022. Unable to completely leave the Festival, she continues to serve on the Program Committee and as a consultant to the Board of Directors, while also having time to read more books. She has called the mountains of North Carolina her home since 1986. She worked for Blue Ridge Mental Health and Hospice of Mitchell County. She now volunteers for Compassionate Care WNC, Appalachian Therapeutic Riding Center, MY Neighbors, and , of course, Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. Her poems have been published in Great Smokies Review, WNC Woman and NC Poetry Society Poetry in Plain Sight. 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. One of her happiest childhood memories is getting her library card .
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.
Program Committee 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.
Program Committee Born and raised in coastal South Carolina, Wayne Edwards was a school teacher before following his future wife to the mountains of WNC. There he fell into a quarter century career in Health Care Administration working with developmentally disabled adults. During this period, he married the woman he followed to the mountains and they have raised two children and a bunch of cats. A corporate merger led his life in a new direction and, after a profusion of part-time gigs, he landed his dream job as a small-town librarian. Wayne now serves as branch manager of Yancey County Public Library. As a self-professed life-long book nerd and pop-culture geek, he considers himself a very lucky man to have landed in this position. His kids have followed in his geeky footsteps, and his long-suffering wife is still putting up with all of them. The cats continue to be cats and wonder why feeding time isn’t here yet.
Graphic Design, Social Media, Website Brianna Robinson is the founder of Bridge the Gap Marketing and former copy editor for the Mitchell News Journal. A native of Yancey County, Brianna has grown up with an admiration for small town community. Brianna is a graduate of UNC Asheville and moved back home in hopes of pursuing a career helping local businesses in Burnsville, NC. In her free time, a rare occurrence with two babies, Brianna enjoys the outdoors and baking. Brianna also volunteers with her local church, Partners Aligned Toward Health, and various other organizations. Literature is of utmost importance in the Robinson household, boasting a large array of children’s books and weekly trips to the public library.