Kiese Laymon, author

Kiese Laymon, author of “Heavy: An American Memoir,” will be featured at Western Carolina University’s Spring Literary Festival.

An independent film, award-winning authors and student poets are just some of the highlights of this year’s Spring Literary Festival at Western Carolina University.

Scheduled for Monday, March 30, through Thursday, April 2, all events will be held at the Hinds University Center theater and are free and open to the public. It is a DegreePlus event for students.

The festival is directed by Jeremy Jones, an associate professor in WCU’s Department of English. It has a long tradition of bringing established and emerging literary talent to the community, he said.

“WCU will host a range of award-winning and emerging writers this year in different genres, including Jeff VanderMeer, the acclaimed author of the ‘Southern Reach Trilogy’ and other brilliant works of post-apocalyptic fantasy fiction,” Jones said. “His visit is being supported in part by the Campus Theme (sustainability and environment) and he’ll take some students birding to discuss writing about the natural world while he’s here.”

In addition to VanderMeer, other notable authors include Kiese Laymon, who penned “Heavy: An American Memoir,” a coming-of-age memoir about being black man in Mississippi and the novel “Long Division.”

Also presenting work will be Carmen Maria Machado, a short story writer, essayist and whose short story collection “Her Body and Other Parties” was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Ricardo Nazario y Colón, WCU’s chief diversity officer and co-founder of the Affrilachian poets, will lead the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series to open the festival. 

The movie “Mountain Minor,” about traditional music and featuring Jonathan Bradshaw, WCU assistant professor of English, opens the third day.

Opening the fourth and final day will be WCU student winners of the inaugural LitFest Creative Writing Competition reading from their works, Jones said.

The 2020 festival schedule:

Monday, March 30

noon - Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series.

4 p.m. - Catherine Carter and Kathryn Kirkpatrick.

7:30 p.m. - Doug Bock Clark.

Tuesday, March 31

noon - Pamela Duncan and Wesley Browne.

4 p.m. - Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs.

7:30 p.m. - Kiese Laymon.

Wednesday, April 1

1 p.m. - “The Mountain Minor” film screening and conversation with writer/director Dale Farmer and producer Susan Pepper.

4 p.m. - Abigail DeWitt and Joni Tevis.

7:30 p.m. - Carmen Maria Machado.

Thursday, April 2

1 p.m. - Student Reading: with Winners of the LitFest Creative Writing Competition.

4 p.m.- Cassandra Kircher and Kevin Boyle.

7:30 p.m. - Jeff VanderMeer.

For more information about the festival, visit or contact WCU’s Department of English at 227-7264.