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Annual Spring Literary Festival returns to WCU campus with live events

By Geoff Cantrell
Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

After two years being held as an online celebration, Western Carolina University’s Spring Literary Festival returns to campus March 14-17 for a series of live events.

The 20th annual gathering of poets and authors is free and open to the public, with all events taking place in the Hinds University Center theater. Directed by Jeremy Jones, an associate professor of English, the festival has a long tradition of bringing established and emerging literary talent to the community.

“Lit Fest brings the literary world – in all of its diversity – to the region of Western North Carolina and we’re thrilled to do this in person again this year,” Jones said. “So much of the magic happens in the informal conversations around the readings and in line for book signings, so we’re looking forward to having readers and writers in the same space in March to create this magic. To keep everyone as safe as possible, WCU will continue to follow campus pandemic protocols, with face coverings optional outside but required in public spaces indoors.” 

The 2022 schedule:

Monday, March 14

  • Noon – Gilbert-Chappell Poets
  • 4 p.m. – Karen Salyer McElmurray, author of “Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey” and the novels “Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven,” “The Motel of the Stars” and “Wanting Radiance,” and Meagan Lucas, author of the award-winning novel “Songbirds and Stray Dogs”
  • 7 p.m. – Ron Rash, WCU’s John Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies in the Department of English, along with WCU alum and author David Joy, will be on hand to read excerpts of their work.

deesha philyaw

Deesha Philyaw

Tuesday, March 15

  • Noon – Brian Brodeur, author of “Every Hour Is Late” and Steve Scafidi, author of “Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer,” “For Love of Common Words,” “The Cabinetmaker’s Window” and “To the Bramble and the Briar”
  • 4 p.m. – James Tate Hill, author of the memoir “Blind Man’s Bluff,” a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and Ed Southern, author of “Fight Songs: A Story of Love & Sports in a Complicated South”
  • 7 p.m. – Deesha Philyaw, whose short story collection, “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash

Wednesday, March 16

  • Noon – Winners of the undergrad and graduate student creative writing competitions
  • 4 p.m. – Rachel Yoder, author of “Nightbitch” and a founding editor of draft: the journal of process, and Kerry Howley, author of “Thrown,” a New York Times Notable Book
  • 7 p.m. – Wiley Cash, author of “When Ghosts Come Home” and the New York Timesbestseller “A Land More Kind Than Home,” and University of North Carolina Asheville alumni author-in-residence

Thursday, March 17

  • Noon – Jayne Zanglein, WCU professor emeritus and author of “The Girl Explorers: The Untold Story of the Globetrotting Women Who Trekked, Flew and Fought Their Way Around the World” * EVENT CHANGE 

    Zanglein passed away Feb. 22 from cancer. In lieu of her scheduled appearance, a “Celebration of Jayne Zanglein” will be held instead, with readings of her works by Lisa Bloom, the Jay M. Robinson Distinguished Professor of Educational Technologies in WCU’s School of Teaching and Learning. Other speakers pending. 

  • 4 p.m.- Eduardo Corral, author of “Guillotine” and “Slow Lightning,” and Torrey Peters, author of the bestselling novel “Detransition, Baby” and the novellas “Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones” and “The Masker”
  • 7 p.m. – Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of “World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks & Other Astonishments,” which was named Barnes and Nobles’ Book of the Year 2020, and four award-winning poetry collections.

"So many organizations and people have a hand in making this big festival in little Cullowhee robust and exciting each year," said Jones. "This year we received support from South Arts, the North Carolina and Jackson County Arts Councils, the North Carolina Humanities, WCU’s campus theme committee, the Office of the Provost, and the College of Arts and Sciences. We feel the love from the university and the region."

For more information, visit or contact WCU’s English department at 828-227-7264.

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