Writers' Day

July 26, 2019 @ 8:00AM — 4:30PM

A unique opportunity to learn from regional authors writing about Appalachia.

Writers' Day image

Purchase Tickets at the Door on July 26. Advance registration has ended.

There are currently no tickets available for this event, but you can still make a donation.



Students admitted free!
Teachers may get CEUs


8:00-9:00 AM ………………………………………………………REGISTRATION


10:00-11:30 AM……………………………………………………….WORKSHOPS


NOON-1:00 PM ………………………………………..LUNCH ON YOUR OWN

1:15-2:45 PM ………………………………………………………….WORKSHOPS

3:00-4:30 PM ………………………………………………………….WORKSHOPS


Writing Appalachia:

Welcome and Author Introductions

Presenting authors will share how they approach writing about Appalachia. Authors may offer a short reading from one of their works, talk about their writings, or enlighten the audience about how they got their inspiration from living and working in Appalachia.

Schedule of Workshops

10:00 – 11:30 AM

Appalachian Fantasy? Using Local Lore and Historical Research to Enrich Fantasy Novels—Bekah Harris

Bekah Harris has established herself as an Appalachian author of young adult fantasy by incorporating the tales she grew up hearing throughout her childhood and the research that inspires her. While many readers and writers have heard the term Urban Fantasy, Harris uses rural Appalachian settings and folklore to color her unique brand of fantasy novels, from Native American lore to Scottish/Celtic legends. In this workshop, Harris demonstrates how she fuses local legends, historical research, and regional attractions to breathe life into her fiction.

Writing with Empathy—Mary Knight

Writers for children and young adults need to create characters that inspire our young readers to care about their stories. If readers don’t care, they stop turning the page. In this cross-genre workshop, award-winning author Mary Knight will discuss the craft tools that inspire reader engagement through empathy, exploring examples from popular picture books, middle school and young adult fiction. Creating sympathetic characters is essential, and Knight will invite aspiring writers to go one step further into that skill—to create empathetic characters, which might even change a reader’s life.

How Growing Up in the Appalachian Mountains Shapes One’s Writing—Mark A. Stevens

Mark Stevens grew up in the Tennessee mountains listening to the stories told by his grandparents, observing the congregants at his small Baptist church, and paying close attention to workers who were bused to the rayon plants and had to farm on the side. At 13, Stevens had his first newspaper byline; by age 28, he became a publisher; and later he was named one of the nation’s top newspaper executives. Recently he has turned his attention to fiction writing. He will share with participants how the key is finding the human stories inside ourselves, embedded there by generations of Appalachian storytellers.

1:15 – 2:45 PM

A Balancing Act: Merging Detail with Dialogue to Create Appalachian Characters that Don’t Give Readers a Headache—Bekah Harris

Dialect is often considered a dirty word in the Creative Writing world. In this workshop, Bekah Harris will talk about dialect and dialogue—more specifically, when and how often to use them. Providing examples from popular fiction, both present and past, as well as her own stories, Harris will weigh the pros and cons of using local dialect and how to bring out the “Appalachia” in your characters by balancing dialogue with vivid details that make your imaginary people come alive on the page. Furthermore, Harris will discuss the dangers of stereotyping and how to use dialogue to shatter long-held assumptions about people of our area.

Writing through Mine Fields: How to Write About Social Issues Without Blowing Up Your Story—Mary Knight

Contemporary children’s fiction is a burgeoning repository for stories exploring a multitude of social issues. When authors care deeply about an issue—whether it is universal or one particular to Appalachia—it is natural to want to explore it in their stories. An author’s passion can provide the necessary fuel to sustain their writing, but it can also blind writers to the landmines they encounter along the way. Mary Knight will draw from her personal experience writing about mountaintop removal mining and Native American issues in Kentucky to alert writers to the pitfalls and gifts of writing about “what matters most.”

Embroidering on the Family Tree—Felicia Mitchell

It is fun to work through a family tree with its many branches, either on paper or online with an ancestry app. More interesting than finding out who is related to whom is discovering family stories from oral sources as well as stories that are difficult to tell for one reason or another. In this workshop, participants will look at a few models of poems that have grown out of family stories, brainstorm topics, and craft a draft of a poem based on a family story that is challenging to recount. The key lesson will grow from instruction on how to be true to a story while embroidering on it to make it work better as a poem for others.

3:00 – 4:30 PM

Woodworking a Rough Poem—Felicia Mitchell

It is easy to be proud of a new poem as it falls on the page, words aligned to share a story or feeling. One of the tasks of a poet is to work past the first thrill of a new poem to decide if it works as well for readers as it does for the author. In this workshop, we will examine how a poem that tries to do too much in one place can be crafted like fine wood as the poet finds its heartwood and works from there. Participants are encouraged to bring a poem that feels like something worth studying, scraping and sculpting to get at its core beauty, or they can take one from the morning workshop to work on further. There will be time for sharing with others.

From History on the Rails to an Amazon Top Seller: Writing History and Non-Fiction—Mark A. Stevens

When Mark Stevens pitched the idea for a written history book about a legendary Appalachian steam engine to The History Press, he was surprised the company said yes so quickly. When he was asked if he could write the 35,000-word book in five months, Stevens surprised himself when he said, “Yes, of course!” Then he set out to figure out how to do just that. Stevens will detail the research that he did to pull the now best-selling book together. When personal interviews couldn’t be accomplished, Stevens details how he found much of the “color” for his work through meticulous research at East Tennessee State University’s Archives of Appalachia.

Publishing Panel

Bekah Harris and Mary Knight will be joined by three additional local authors (Victoria Fletcher, Greg Lilly, and Kathy Shearer) on a panel where they will discuss how they became published, offering tips to those wishing to do the same as well as those who are just simply curious about the process. Each of these five authors publishes using different pathways, ranging from self-publishing to small local publishers to a large national publishing house. On the flipside of this brochure you can find additional information about the panel members and their publishing pathways.

Author Bios

Bekah Harris has been writing since she could hold a pencil. The beauty of her home in the Appalachian Mountains, as well as the legends, myths, and folklore of that area, is what inspires the unique plots and settings captured in her young adult (YA) and new adult fiction. She is the author of The Native Guardians series and The Iron Crown Faerie Tales, both YA fantasy series set in Appalachia. She also co-authors The Guardians of Elysium, a YA Urban Fantasy series she writes alongside best-selling author Nissa Leder. Her latest work, The Subtle Art of Standing Still, set to be published by Big Small Town Books this fall, is a contemporary YA coming-of-age novel set in East Tennessee. For more about Harris, visit her website at www.bekahharris.com.

Mary Knight After many years of writing for non-profits, newspapers, magazines, and video productions, Mary Knight decided to focus on her passion, writing novels for children and young adults. Set in the Appalachian Mountains, Mary Knight’s debut novel, Saving Wonder, is about a young boy who has to decide between saving a mountain he loves from being destroyed by mountaintop removal or being faithful to his closest friend. Published by Scholastic, the book has garnered many honors, including a 2017 Green Earth Book Award and a Parents’ Choice award. It was also selected as a Notable Book for Social Studies by the Children’s Book Council and is a 2019-2020 Ohio State Library selection for Choose to Read Ohio.

Felicia Mitchell grew up in South Carolina, but now considers Southwest Virginia her home since joining the faculty of Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va. in 1987. Mitchell has published several collections of poetry, including Case Hysteries, Earthenware Fertility Figure, The Cleft of the Rock, and her latest Waltzing with Horses. Additionally, she has published scholarly articles, creative non-fiction and fiction. She has edited a book of poetry as well as an anthology of contemporary Appalachian women’s poetry. Her poetry explores family roots and the natural world, drawing from people she has known, family members she wishes she had known, the medical world, and archetypal myths. She is currently working on another collection of poems.

Mark Stevens After a long career in newspaper journalism, Mark lives in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, with his wife, Amy, and their dog, Rue. He is the author of several books, including Welcome to Erwin: Where the Mayor’s Name is Bubba and Main Street’s a Dead End and The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine, an Amazon top seller. He has served as editor for several books, including O. Ray Knapp’s Legends, Lies & Other Tales: Stories from Flag Pond & the Mountains of Northeast Tennessee, Janie Franklin’s Miss Bonnie’s Precious Memories: The Other Side of the Mountain, and Charging the Dome: 2011 Ragin’ Cajuns Bring It Home.

Publishing Panelists

Victoria Fletcher owns Hoot Books Publishing, located at the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator in Abingdon. As an author and former teacher, Fletcher started the hybrid-publishing business to assist other authors see their books in print. Her one-stop services include proofreading, formatting for book size, computer generated cover design, and uploading files to the Amazon/Kindle website for printing.

Bekah Harris follows three publishing pathways depending on the work’s genre. She uses Dreamlake Media, a company she created to publish her fantasy books. For her contemporary Young Adult writing, she publishes with Big Small Town Books, and for her Urban Fantasy series that she is currently writing with Nissa Leder, she publishes through Violet Dreams Publishing.

Mary Knight has wide experience in freelance writing and publishing. She has also contracted with Scholastic, a major national publisher in New York City, and will share her experiences with participants.

Greg Lilly founded Cherokee McGhee Publishing after careers in information technology, magazine publishing, marketing, and as a published novelist. Using his experiences he honed the traditional publishing processes, while employing a new technology business model. His book, Sunsets & Semicolons – a Field Guide to the Writer’s Life, shares his experiences and techniques – things that worked in the real world of freelancing query letters and book signing.

Kathy Shearer loves to tell how she started writing a book because of a sewer, pulling her into a culture that she knew nothing about, and resulting in a 525-page book of oral histories and vintage photos. Anchored in an old coal town, Memories from Dante started her career as a self-publisher of local history. Through her small company, Clinch Mountain Press, Shearer has published additional works of her own as well as for clients, handling all facets of production from writing to marketing.