Although Western Carolina University’s annual Spring Literary Festival spans several weekday afternoons and evenings (convenient for students; not so much for working professionals making the drive from other parts of the region), the lineup makes a road trip to the Cullowhee campus worthwhile. This year’s events, which take place Monday-Thursday, April 2-5, include writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and culminates in an event with Pulitzer, Emmy and Obie (among others) award-winning playwright Tony Kushner.
Kushner, who authored the Broadway play Angels in America and the screenplay for the Steven Spielberg drama Lincoln, among many other projects, will be interviewed onstage by Beth Huber, a WCU associate professor of writing, rhetoric and critical studies. Huber “spent 13 years writing and acting for theater companies in Kansas City and throughout Europe for the USO,” according to a press release.
“The mission of the festival is to foster reading, cultivate the arts and enrich our community through the best humanities education possible,” adds the press release. Beyond Kushner’s contribution, burgeoning writers can take inspiration from a Tuesday presentation by poets Crystal Wilkinson, Frank X Walker and Ricardo Nazario-Colon. The trio of literary luminaries are founding members of The Affrilachian Poets, a group of artists of color who, since 1991, have been “writing together, defying the persistent stereotype of a racially homogenized rural region,” according to the collective’s website.
On Monday, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle — a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians — will discuss her work. Her novel Going to Water received the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing and was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
Lorraine Lopez, another PEN finalist (her collection Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories was in contention for the PEN/Faulkner Prize), will speak on Wednesday. Lopez’s most recent novel, The Darling, is “a story about a woman trying to break free of traditional expectations of women through literature and exploration,” according to her bio. It’s an apt subject for a literary festival.
Events take place at the university’s A.K. Hinds University Center and are free unless otherwise noted. Information at arts.wcu.edu.