By Nathan Ham
On the Same Page, Ashe County’s popular literary festival is returning for an 11th year with events starting Monday evening and continuing through Saturday, September 15.
According to Jane Lonon, the Executive Director of the Ashe County Arts Council, all featured writers are scheduled to be in attendance and all events are still going on as scheduled at this time despite Hurricane Florence possibly targeting North Carolina with landfall later this week.
The festival, sponsored by the Ashe County Arts Council, will have the honor of United States Poet Laureate Tracy Smith as a distinguished guest at the event. She will be here for three days of the festival. Some of the other writers that will be in West Jefferson are Darnell Arnoult, Bryn Chancellor, Abigail DeWitt, Georgann Eubanks, Phillips Lewis, Jim Minick, Tommy Tomlinson and Frank X. Walker.
“We are very excited about getting Tracy here. As poet laureate, she made a point from the get-go to bring poetry to smaller, rural areas that don’t typically have access to literary works like that,” said Christine Arvidson, who is one of the event organizers and a board member of the Ashe County Arts Council. “It worked out beautifully. Ashe County school children are going to hear the poet laureate of the United States. How can you beat that?”
This literary festival is always a great opportunity for new writers to get a chance to hear writers speak on their experiences and participate in workshops throughout the week.
“It’s such a great event for aspiring writers and established writers. I have gotten to make friends with writers I would have never had the chance to talk to other than through this festival. We have a very fine reputation in the literary community in this region,” said Arvidson.
On the Same Page gets underway on Monday evening at 7 p.m. with Dr. Elliott Engel’s literary performance of “Blackbeard: Pirate Enemy Number One” at the Ashe Arts Center. Admission tickets are required for this event.
A festival read wrap-up session will be taking place on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Ashe County public library with Arvidson leading the discussion about this year’s festival read, “Ordinary Light: A Memoir” by poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.
Things pick up on Wednesday with four events taking place. Georgann Eubanks will be hosting a writer’s workshop from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the library. Registration is required for this event. At 11 a.m., Phillip Lewis, author of the novel “The Barrowfields” will present a special feature at the public library. After a brief afternoon break, Bryn Chancellor, author of “Sycamore” reads from her debut novel at 2 p.m. at the library. The nightcap is a writer’s workshop by Abigail DeWitt from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Ashe Arts Center. Registration is required for this event.
Thursday’s events begin with Jim Minick reading from his first novel, “Fire is Your Water” at 9:30 a.m. at the library. At noon will be the Literary Trails Luncheon where Eubanks debuts her newest book “The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods.” Boxed lunches are provided for a small charge and reservations are required. Later on at 2:30 p.m., Tommy Tomlinson touches on life as a writer for newspapers, magazines and his upcoming memoir “The Elephant in the Room.” Smith gives her keynote speech at 7:30 p.m. at the Ashe Civic Center. She will be introduced by North Carolina First Lady, Kristin Cooper.
Friday kicks off with a special Page Turner’s Breakfast for On the Same Page festival donors at 9 a.m. Frank X. Walker will speak about his newest book, “Ink Stains & Watermarks: New and Uncollected Poems” at 11 a.m. at the library. At 2 p.m., Smith will speak to Ashe County High School language arts students as well as students from Wilkes Community College and Appalachian State University at the high school. The day concludes with a pair of events, starting with a writing workshop by Tomlinson from 2-4 p.m. at the library and then a special Gallery Crawl through downtown West Jefferson to check out the many artists and art galleries.
The festival concludes on Saturday with a writing workshop by Walker from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the library. Registration is required for this workshop. The final event is the On the Same Place Luncheon and Panel Discussion from noon until 2 p.m. Tickets for the luncheon are $15 and reservations are required. This event will take place at Hensley Hall at West Jefferson United Methodist Church.
For more information on the festival, visit http://www.onthesamepagefestival.org/.