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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

Writers' Day coming up at Virginia Highlands Festival

July 30, 2014

The Writers' Day of the Virginia Highlands Festival features a wide variety of workshops for writers in several genres. The events take place Monday, Aug. 4 at Virginia Highlands Community College, Abingdon, Va., from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Featured writers include Lee Smith, the renowned writer who is a native Southwest Virginian; Charles Vess, a world-famous fantasy illustrator-and soon to be novelist; Nick Piper, one of Barter Theatre's associate artistic directors; Rita Quillen, Southwest Virginia's most acclaimed poet; and Gwenda Bond, a young adult fantasy writer.

Smith is one of the most beloved Southern writers, the author of 17 books, including the novels "Oral History" and "Fair and Tender Ladies," both of which are set in Southwestern Virginia. She is a native of Grundy, Va. Her most recent work is the novel, "Guests on Earth," published in 2013. Some of Smith's material was part of "Good Ol' Girls," a musical that appeared at Barter Theatre in 2013. Smith's workshops focus on the importance of scene development in both novels and short stories.

Piper is an associate artistic director at Barter Theatre in charge of new play development as well as a member of the Resident Acting Company. He has helped develop dozens of new plays that have gone on to full production on Barter's stages as well as regional theatres across the country. Piper's workshop gives participants a variety of tips about playwriting, from developing plays to preparing plays for submission to theatres.

Quillen is well known in Appalachia not only as a writer but also as a dynamic writing teacher and leader of workshops. This year she has a new collection of poems, "Something Solid to Anchor To," as well as her first novel "Hiding Ezra," a chapter of which is included in the new scholarly study of Appalachian dialect, "Talking Appalachian." One of Quillen's workshops focuses on word precision in poetry, and the other will be a "prompt fest" of inspirational ideas for poets to take home with them.

Vess is a world-renowned fantasy artist, now turned author of "The Greenwood," a contemporary middle grade novel told with a unique combination of text, illustration and sequential narrative art. He is best known for his illustration of work by Neil Gaiman: "Stardust," which was made into a major film, and "Blueberry Girl," a picture book for mothers and daughters, and "Instructions," both based on Gaiman poems. One of Vess's workshops will be on the visualization of words on a page for both visual as well as narrative artists.

Bond is the author of the young adult novels "The Woken Gods," "Blackwood," and coming in October is "Girl on a Wire" about a daredevil heroine who discovers danger and passion lurking beneath the big top. She also has written for Publishers Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Locus Magazine and the Washington Post, among others. Bond's first workshop covers how to get started writing science fiction and fantasy stories. In her second workshop, she reads from one of her stories, while Vess draws what he sees in her words.

Preregistration for Writers' Day workshops is available on the festival website, The day begins at 8 a.m. with check-in and day-of registration outside ISC130. The morning and afternoon sessions are held at 10 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. Book sales and signings take place between seminars, and attendees can break for lunch and enjoy some of the many dining opportunities historic Abingdon has to offer. The registration fee is $30.

Included with the registration fee is a ticket to the play, "Ivy Rowe" at the Barter Theatre at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4. The play is a one-woman show based on Smith's novel "Fair and Tender Ladies."

For more information on creative writing events, including detailed descriptions of Writers' Day workshops, visit the festival website at

Lee Smith

Rita Quillen

Gwenda Bond