Festival Director Katie Anne Towner believes in the power of a great book to change the world. A graduate of Warren Wilson College, where she studied English and Theatre, she lived in Asheville for over 15 years before choosing Green Mountain to put down roots under dark skies with her partner Jeff, and their two cats (Oscar and Juno). She has spent a lifetime involved in artistic and linguistic pursuits of one form or another, including working for several arts non-profit organizations such as Asheville Bravo Concerts, the Asheville Fringe Festival, and six seasons producing world premieres with The Magnetic Theatre as an artistic associate, director, designer. and actor (among other roles). Currently, Katie Anne volunteers with Literacy Together (formerly the Literacy Council of Buncombe County) teaching ESL and works with Dig In! Community Garden growing fresh food for neighbors in Yancey County in pursuit of an equitable food system. She is fascinated with language, liminal spaces, and art that pushes boundaries of common thought systems. One day, she hopes to see the Aurora Borealis – ideally from a glass-domed igloo in Finland or a remote Scottish hilltop with lots of sheep.
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 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.
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 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 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 one of the Guest Services stations offering world-class guest services. After attending his first literary festival in 2015 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 textbooks, teaching English to Finnish children (as you do).
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, Program Committee 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!
Board Member 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’s Legacy Room 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 (not necessarily in that order). Or throw another party at the Town Center. She is currently creating a bird sanctuary behind her house in downtown Burnsville.
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.
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 the utmost importance in the Robinson household, boasting a large array of children’s books and weekly trips to the public library.
Archives 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.