High Country Festival of the Book begins
by Sherrie Norris
There is much excitement in the air as the event draws near, said Judith Geary, spokespeson for the Friends of the Watauga County Public Library, host group for the two-day event that is expected to draw hundreds of avid readers, award-winning authors, poets, editors and publishers to the area.
The "main event," said Geary, is the actual book festival, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at Watauga High School which will include panels, presentations and readings by participating authors -- "and continuous opportunities to buy books, have books signed and chat with the authors and other booklovers."
More than 40 exhibitors are expected Saturday to provide "an amazing selection of diverse subjects," said Friends member Claire Olander, who is the festival's site coordinator. "Children's books, history, romance, mysteries, regional books, inspirational, thrillers, sports, military, and even books suitable for home schooling, will be available for sale," she said. "Authors from age 13 to nearly 100 will be there to sign their books, and publishers from as far away as Washington."
Notable authors participating in the festival include:
Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times bestselling author of the Ballad Series, featured speaker for the Biscuits, Books and Ballads banquet the evening prior, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Michael Morris, award-winning author, will discuss his novels, "A Place Called Wiregrass," "Slow Way Home" and his newest book, "Man in the Blue Moon." His novels have been named "best books" by publications including the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Publishers Weekly.
Kathryn Stripling Byer, a former N.C. Poet Laureate, will share from some of her six published books of poetry, and the seventh due from the LSU Press this fall. Byer has been honored for her work by organizations from Southeast Independent Booksellers to the Fellowship of Southern Writers and was inducted into the NC Literary Hall of Fame in October 2012.
Ann Hite's novel, "Ghost on Black Mountain" was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction in 2012 finalist and Georgia's Novel of the Year. She will present from her new novel "The Story Catcher" and her novella "Lowcountry Spirit," both to be released in fall 2013.
Mystery Fans can revel in two panels: "To Die in Dixie: Why Southerners Make Great Corpses," with Larissa Reinhart, author of Cherry Tucker Mysteries "Portrait of a Dead Guy" and "Still Life in Brunswick Stew;" Phillip Depoy, author of 14 novels and 37 produced plays, best known for his Fever Devilin Mysteries. Gayle Trent, "cozy mystery" author with two fun series featuring a cake baking will also participate.
Moderating will be the High Country's own Maggie Bishop, author of the series Appalachian Adventure Mysteries. "Murder Goes South: Why Murders set in the South Sizzle," with Cathy Pickens, author of "Southern Fried," "Done Gone Wrong," "Hog Wild" and "Hush My Mouth."
Other well-known authors who will available during the festival:
Jane Tesh, author of two mystery series, the Grace Street Mysteries and Madeline Maclin Mysteries; Glenn Bruce, author of seven books and over 80 screenplays and teleplays; and moderator, Wendy Dingwall, author of the Yvonne Suarez Mysteries, "Hera's Revenge" and "Celtic Curse."
Additional programs and panels will feature Edward Southern, author of short stories and nonfiction and director of the NC Writers' Network; Alan Gratz, award-winning author for young people; Patty Digh, author of six inspirational works including "Design Your Own Life Camp;" readings by members of High Country Writers and an "Emerging Authors Panel" with moderator Amy Clark, author of "Talking Appalachian" and "Success in Hill Country;" Erika Marks, modern fiction author of "Little Gale Gumbo," "The Mermaid Collector" and "The Guest House;" Jamie Mason, author of the mystery thriller, "Three Graves Full;" Susan Tekulve, author of short story collections "My Mother's War Stories" and "Rooms People Live In" and novel "In the Garden of Stone."
Exhibitors provide significant support for the goals of the festival and enrich the experience for readers and will include: Amy Allen, Mary Ball, Kaye Wilkinson Barley, C. Clayton Thompson, (bookseller); Canterbury House Publishing, Ltd., Daniel Boone Footsteps, Randell Jones; William Eleazer, Regina Jeffers, Jelly Bean & Company, L'Edge Press, George G. McClellan, McFarland Publishing, Celia Miles, Jerry Pope, Jack Pyle & Taylor Reece, and Stratford Oaks Tales.
Local youth representing Mountain Alliance will be among local nonprofit organizations participating and will offer breakfast and lunch items for sale.
The Children's Playhouse will also be participating and will assist with special children's programming, which will include story time with authors, face painting, book crafts. Every child who attends will receive a free book.
Friday's events kick off festival
Two related events on Friday leading up to Saturday's festival promise to be just as intriguing.
From 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, an all-day writer's workshop will be in session at the Watauga County Public Library with noted authors and publishers participating and will cover a variety of topics from screen writing to authoring a children's book. Tickets are $40 ($30 of which is tax deductible) and will include a light breakfast and lunch.
At 6 p.m., "Biscuits, Books and Ballads" will be held at Tweetsie Railroad with a buffet dinner followed by the special guest appearance by McCrumb and Appalachian folk musician Mary Greene.
McCrumb is best known for her award-winning Ballad Series of Appalachian novels, said Friends spokesperson Judith Geary --each of which, she said, is tied in some way to the theme of a traditional mountain ballad.
"Appalachian musician and folk singer Mary Greene will perform the traditional ballads, whose stories inspired McCrumb's novels," Geary said. The evening event will also include a discussion of "Ghost Riders," originally titled and represented by the ballad, "Rank Strangers," "TheBallad of Tom Dooley," and "Devil Amongst the Lawyers."
Books will be available for purchase and signing.
Tickets for the evening event are $50, $35 of which is tax- deductible. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.
Supporting the local library
Proceeds from Friday's three-hour event will benefit the ongoing programs of the library's Friends, a volunteer organization that works year-round to promote the Watauga County Public Library and its goals, while inspiring a love of literature. The aim of the group, said Oleander, is to enhance the quality of the library by providing resources not covered by state and local funding.
"To me, supporting the library is especially important right now because the government support either stays stagnant or is reduced," Olander said. "The library serves everyone -- children, adults and seniors -- we all benefit from it."
Friends of the Library was formed n 1974 as a way to engage the public in the use and support of the library, as well as to provide funds in those areas not otherwise sustained.
In addition to the festival, other fundraising events sponsored by the group include the annual spring book sale at Boone Mall and the Holiday Book Sale each November. The group also maintains a lobby full of books that are sold throughout the year.
"This upcoming festival is a celebration of the written word and its power to enrich the human experience," said Suzanne Thompson, Friends president. "Our mission is to foster an interest in reading, writing and literary conversation."
All events on Saturday, June 22, are free and open to the public. Tickets for the dinner and for the writers workshop may be purchased through PayPal on the library's website, or with cash or check at the Watauga County Public Library. For more information and festival schedule, visit http://www.highcountryfestivalofthebook.com, see the display at the Watauga County Library at 140 Queen Street in Boone, or call (828) 264-8784.