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Spring Literary Festival returns to Cullowhee with Pulitzer Prize winner, bestsellers

spring lit fest 22


The 22nd Spring Literary Festival returns to Western Carolina University April 1-5, with 13 writers and authors scheduled to attend.

The festival has a long tradition of bringing writers to the community and university, highlighting both Appalachian literature and national talent. There will be approximately three events per day, including book signings, panels, readings, and more. All events are free and open to the public and will take place in the Hinds University Center’s theater.

The director of the festival, Jeremy Jones, said the festival is an essential part of the artistic and academic landscape in Cullowhee. “We believe the festival is a way to travel to other places while also learning about our region,” Jones says. “Good literature transports, so the festival is an easy – and cheap – way to travel and learn about the world around us, and to do it with the writer before you as the guide.”

This year’s schedule:

Monday, April 1

  • Jeff Goodell

    Jeff Goodell. Photo by Matt Valentine.

    Noon – Gilbert-Chappell mentees and poet Mildred Kiconco Barya, the author of four poetry collections, including “The Animals of My Earth School, and the winner of the Ugandan National Book Trust Award.
  • 4 p.m. – Maria Zoccola, the author of the upcoming poetry collection “Helen of Troy (1993),” and Amy M. Alvarez, the author of “Makeshift Altar, a poetry collection releasing February 2024.
  • 7:30 p.m. – Jeff Goodell, the bestselling author of “The Heat Will Kill You First” and “The Water Will Come, as well as five other books. A contributing editor of “Rolling Stone, he has appeared on MSNBC, CNN and NPR as a commentator on environmental issues.

Tuesday, April 2

  • Noon – Live recording of the podcast “Read Appalachia,” with host Kendra Winchester joined by regional authors Ron Rash and Ann Pancake.
  • 4 p.m. – Lyz Lenz, the author of the upcoming memoir “This American Ex-Wife,” and Carter Sickels, the author of “The Prettiest Star and The Evening Hour.”
  • 7:30 p.m. – Ann Pancake, the author of the novel “Strange As This Weather Has Been,” as well as two short story collections, and the winner of the Bread Loaf Bakeless Prize.

Wednesday, April 3

  • Maurice Ruffin

    Maurice Ruffin

    Noon – Winners of the high school, undergraduate and graduate creative writing competitions will read from their work.
  • 4 p.m. – Sarah Viren, the author of “To Name the Bigger Lie: A Memoir in Two Stories” and “Mine: Essays,” and Kerry Howley, author of “Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs” and finalist of the National Book Critics Circle nonfiction award.
  • 7 p.m. – Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of “We Cast a Shadow,” “The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You,” and “The American Daughters,” which releases this February. Ruffin is the winner of the 2023 Louisiana Book Award and was a finalist for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Thursday, April 4

  • Jericho Brown

    Jericho Brown

    Noon – Breaking into Publishing panel featuring Robin Miura, Kate McMullen, Laura Traister, and Lauren Harr.
  • 4 p.m. – Ariel Francisco, author of upcoming “All the Places We Love Have Been Left in Ruins” and three other poetry collections, and Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, one of the founding members of the Undocupoets and author of “Children of the Land: A Memoir” and “Dulce.”
  • 7:30 p.m. – Jericho Brown, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Tradition,” “Please,” and “The New Testament.”

Friday, April 5

  • 7:00 p.m. – Calliope Stage Company presents a staged reading of this year’s script competition: Sharon Mathis’ “Web.”

The festival is made possible by local and national supporters, including the North Carolina Arts Council, WCU’s 2023-2024 Community and Belongingness campus theme, South Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of English Studies.

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

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