**All workshops are by donation. Just show up. This is in keeping with Wordfest’s economic equity policy. Please support as you can on the tickets page. Thank you.**

**Rooftop Poets is cancelled due to construction.**

Asheville is rich with thought leaders and change-makers. Asheville Wordfest is your opportunity to spend a weekend writing and reflecting on your place in the world and your role in the human community. At Wordfest, poetry and creative writing are not commodities to be consumed but vehicles for spiritual and philosophical evolution.

Wordfest believes in economic equity in the Arts. If you are able to donate, you are contributing to the livelihood of our presenters and sustaining Wordfest’s mission of accessibility. All registration fees go to the presenters.

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Friday April 12

5:30-6:45 pm Community Screening of Nanette, Hannah Gadsby’s stunning one-woman show in which she examines the critical difference between comedy and story while providing audiences with a lesson in art history and also the history of cruelty and prejudice in her own life and the lives of LGBTQ individuals around the world. Boardroom.




This Netflix production is an invitation to all of us to stop making fun or our suffering, stop self-deprecating, and instead dig a bit deeper to discover the whole story of being who we are. This event is free. You make a donation if you wish. At Lenoir-Rhyne University 2nd Floor Boardroom. Begin your Wordfest experience with a spoken-word celebration of the most difficult, most beautiful powers of telling our stories. FREE. Lenoir-Rhyne Boardroom on 2nd Floor.

7 pm WORD Storytelling with David Joe Miller, Lee Lindsay, and DeWayne Barton


Word Banner June 21st

at Attic Salt. 2002 Riverside Drive, Studio 42-O, Asheville, NC 28804   $12 online/$15 at door. Storytelling impresario and community-builder extraordinaire presents three brilliant storytellers at Attic Salt, an exciting new venue in Asheville. Raymond Christian and DeWayne Barton both return to Asheville Wordfest, and Wordfest is excited to welcome Lee Lindsay. Thank you, David Joe Miller, and WORD, for keeping story alive and well and for being a kind sponsor of Asheville Wordfest. Attic Salt.

Saturday April 13

9:30-10:00 Coffee and Community

10-:30-12:00 pm Readings and Workshops at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville. Free, by donation. 

H. Byron Ballard presents Mouth Like a Gravel Road Room 230


H. Byron Ballard uses a narrative of spoken word poetry and traditional
song to weave mountain biography into her study and practice in
Appalachian folkways. This workshop touches on the region’s long history
and the people that inhabit the southern hills. With song and spoken word,
she leads the participants into a world almost lost–but not quite.

An Afrofuturist Poetics with Darrell Stover, Room 232


As examples of early Afrofuturism sociologist Alondra Nelson points to the “cosmological musings” of poets Jessie Redmon Fauset, Georgia Douglas Johnson and Gwendolyn Brooks in their poems “Oriflamme,” “The Heart of a Woman” and “Aurora,” respectively. Sun Ra constantly swung cosmic reciting his poems during his jazz performances with his Arkestra. The poetics of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are spiritual quests of transformation, survival and escape. This Afrofuturist will use these examples with others and a reading of his own cosmic evocations to inspire, encourage and guide the participants in their own writing through cosmic visioning and getting in touch with their own science fictional identities.

DeBorah Shelton Ogiste presents Your Parable: Your Journey, A Reading with Interpretation. Room 234


In this workshop join me as we look at what exactly is a parable; what is its purpose and construction. We will examine one parable that was written by DeBorah and will be read by her as well; We will then pick it apart and identify what it means and represents for you and your life.  What is it teaching.  We will then go into a self-actualization meditation accompanied by Tibetan Bowls. After the meditation each participant will be encouraged to write their own Parable on any subject that impacts their journey.  They will have the option of sharing their parable if they choose to.

Shape. Move. Inhabit. Embody. Stories Made Visible Through Dance with Barrie Barton. Room 316 UPSTAIRS, turn left out of elevator, then left again.

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Move and be moved as we engage in personal exploration and community collaboration through weaving our story with movement. Participants will be led through movement structures and partnering exercises leading to the creation of a short personal story, simple self generated choreography and performance. Through this workshop you’ll discover and witness how personal stories come alive through gesture, movement and shape and how combining these two art forms: story and movement, create a magical expression of our innate ability for creativity. No experience necessary. Room 316 upstairs.


12:30-2:30 The Geopoetics Appalachia Reading and Panel Discussion

Michael Hettich, Mildred Barya, Nickole Brown, Jessica Jacobs: Earth, People, and Words at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville. Boardroom.

In Geopoetics, art and science come together after centuries of having been relegated to a peculiar opposition. Geopoetics draws these siblings together, dissolving the split between heart and mind, being and earth. In this panel, four poets will present readings and engage in discussion about the creative process’ role in healing centuries of damage to the psyche and the community of living things.

3–4:30 pm Readings And Workshops at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville.   

Invitation to All My Relations to Walk the Broken-Beauty Trail With Sharon Oxendine, First Nations Woman. Room 230.

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In this workshop with Reading, Writing, and Ritual, join me as we become a Sacred Hoop for excavating words that describe our broken places and the healing or healed places-the broken and the beauty in our lives.  We will write, do a ritual and read from our bones.  We will breathe into life the words that allow us to find the beauty that always emerges from this depth of living our lives on paper.

John Evans presents Pulling Weeds, Planting Flowers. Room 232.

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Writing isn’t only for those who consider themselves writers. Writing can be a transformative tool for anyone who wants to sit down with a pen and paper, direct awareness inward, and open up to greater self-awareness, growth, and healing. At this auspicious time of year for planting, I will guide you in carefully chosen writing prompts to help you to bring closure to past challenges and to begin new growth with a fresh vision for health, vitality, and your best possible life. Through this evidence-based program, you will learn five types of writing: expressive, transactional, poetic, affirmative, and mindful. 

    • Write to stimulate thinking that leads to insights and understanding
    • Create your vision of vibrant wellness
    • Clarify values that inform your intentions
    • Identify and remove obstacles to build confidence and resilience
  • Open to new perspectives in ways that lead to more joy and optimism.

This is an opportunity to ask yourself deep questions about who you are, what you value, and how you want to show up in the world. You will take home new, supportive, and revealing practices to connect to your inner dialogue at any time and to flourish no matter what life brings your way.

Brandon Amico and Luke Hankins: The Life of the Spirit in our Moment in History. Room 234.


We find ourselves in the midst of a unique moment in American history, one where every corner of our society has been sharpened to break down and place value on every piece of the “self”—capitalism has imbued the way we act and think and this has a significant impact on the way we perceive and live our lives. Materialism threatens the transcendent values that for millennia have marked human aspirations and endeavors. Can poetry help us remember and hold on to the soul?
Local Asheville poets Brandon Amico and Luke Hankins will present a poetry reading and discussion. Amico is the author of a collection of poems, Disappearing, Inc., and is the recipient of a 2019 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Hankins is the author of several books and is the founder and editor of Orison Books, a non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad and inclusive range of perspectives.

Michael Hettich

To Sing the World: An Exploration of the “Wild Mind” as a tool for writing Organic Form Poetry. Room 218.


In this combined reading/workshop/discussion we will explore the concept of the “wild mind” and consider ways in which writers of poetry might employ this concept to discover new paths and depths in their own work while making poems of formal—organic—integrity. After a short discussion of terms and methods, I will read and discuss a few of my own poems. I will then lead the group in a series of short writing exercises in going beyond the “domesticated mind” to capture the “wild mind” and explore organic form. This will be followed by reading, discussion, and sharing. If time allows, we will end the session with some form of simple collaboration. Writers of all levels of “skill” and experience welcomed!  

5 pm

UNCA and Mars Hill University Undergraduate Creative Writing Students Reading at Black Mountain College Museum. $8 at the door, please.


Introducing writers from Mars Hill University and UNC-Asheville. Three creative writing students from each university will read original work, representing different genres. The evening will be co-curated by Eric Steineger, Instructor of English at Mars Hill, and by Dr. Richard Chess, Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UNC-Asheville. AT BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE MUSEUM AND ARTS CENTER.

*FREE for BMCM+AC members + students w/ID / $8 non-members

8 pm Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina’s Poet Laureate at YMI Multicultural Center, with Mildred Barya. Sponsored by ABCTDA EXPLORE! Asheville. AT YMI MULTICULTURAL CENTER.



Sunday April 14 All Events at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville.  

10-10:30 Coffee and Community

11-12:30 pm Readings and Workshops  at Lenoir-Rhyne University  

Storytelling and Grief: learning to navigate loss through narrative practice, with Marlisa Mills. Room 230.


Storytelling is the oldest method of therapy. Grief is a universal condition which permeates our lives and can either be seen and utilized as a tragedy which crushes our spirits or as a push toward transformation which enhances our souls. In this workshop, we will explore the ways in which storytelling, be it verbal, written poetry or prose, journaling, or dramatic, has become increasingly identified as perhaps the most effective way of mitigating the losses and resulting emotional responses we experience. We will look at the history of grief “treatment,” our cultural reluctance to deal with loss and grief, and the ways we can journey through bereavement by telling its story, again and again. Whether used as a personal tool for transformation or in guiding others through the grief journey, this session will help us all in remembering who we are, where we’ve come from, and where and how we will carry on in the face of life’s impermanence.

Writing in the Age of Loneliness: Eco-Literature & the Writer’s Task, with Nickole Brown. Room 232.


We are now in the throes of a sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. Some call it the Anthropocene, but biologist E.O. Wilson said it may be called by scientists and poets alike the Eremozoic, meaning “The Age of Loneliness.” If we take the worries of climate change and habitat destruction seriously—and in this lonely age potentially bereft of our fellow creatures—how can we help but feel an incapacitating sense of hopelessness that threatens to render things like literature and poems utterly useless? In this intensive, we’ll strive together to find ways past this potentially debilitating hurdle. We’ll ask questions that instead of silencing ourselves will urge us on: What is our responsibility as writers to this epoch? Can the average working person with limited access to nature make any difference? How might we depict the suffering of non-human but sentient beings? How can one write about plants and animals without producing work that is sentimental, overly personified, flat-lined with facts, or, worse, rendered incapable of communicating from its own rage? What impact can we make with our words? Depending on the time we have together, we’ll study poems, lyric essays, and stories that have their own solutions to these pitfalls and will try our hands at writing through this darkness with awareness, control, and yes, even hope.

Kevin Evans presents Passion and Intention. Room 234.

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Local poet, Kevin Evans, will be presenting a workshop/reading based on passion and intention. The objective is to dig beneath the surface and get under the skin just a bit (only in the best ways). He will be focusing on the vibration and intention of words. Everyone will channel certain words that most directly and heavily speak to them, move them, and even challenge them. All who attend are encouraged to bring any baggage, trauma, confusion, frustration, pleasure, nostalgia, joy and discomfort. The reason we want to confront any of these powerful, emotional things is because we all may suffer from misfired expression. The intention is for us all to leave a bit lighter and more fluid. We wish to utilize these words and our voices to connect, empathize and revitalize.Please join us for manifestation and catharsis!

Phyllis Utley (description soon)

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1:00-2:15 “Race, Whiteness, and the Celtic Myth of Appalachia” in the Boardroom.

Keynote with Dr. Michael Newton, Scottish Gaelic Scholar, Consultant to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

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The Scotch-Irish (or “Scots-Irish”) are often invoked to explain the history and characteristics of the Euro-American communities of Appalachia and nowadays it is commonly claimed that they are “Celtic.”  But is this an accurate historical and cultural claim?  What realities does this claim conceal? How does the history of the Scotch-Irish epitomize the expansion of Anglo-British imperialism and the creation of whiteness in North America? How does this contrast with the realities of Celtic peoples and other indigenous groups subjugated by and subsumed within empires? How might understanding these histories and processes aid in healing the historical traumas of the region and continent?  https://virtualgael.wordpress.com

View the packed-house lecture Michael gave last year at Wordfest here.

2:30-4 pm Readings and Workshops at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville.  

Lisa Soledad Almaraz: Eartheart Alive: A Heart Awakening Journey Honoring Nature and our Ancestral Connections for a Deeply Inspired Present, Room 230.

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In this multifaceted reading/presentation/workshop/discussion we will share the experience of embodying heart-centered energy by acknowledging, honoring and integrating our past for a revivified present. We will explore how magnifying a grounded sense of loving awareness positively affects us and others on a practical level. We will do this through poetry, a presentation, experiential exercises and a discussion to follow. This session offers ways to empower and support us as individuals while sharing a deep sense of global connection, synergy, and support. We face daunting challenges in our communities during this final decade of opportunity to make urgent and profoundly needed changes to our current model of civilization. We will gather strength as we delve into our ancient roots, both ancestral and those of the natural world. Together, we will weave threads of continuity across time into the present with a vision of cultivating a community of earth stewards and thus a new outcome for the future. This workshop is intended to help us each ignite a spark of enduring inspiration so that we may more completely fulfil our purpose, passion, and reasons for being here.

In the beginning: Exploring Questions of Spirituality & Religion Through Poetry & Creative Nonfiction with Jessica Jacobs. Room 232.


We live in a time of always more, always faster, a time of disembodied screen-living where what’s new insists on itself as what’s most important. But outside this frenzy are questions that demand slow pondering, queries old as human consciousness: Why are we here? Is there a God? How do we live knowing our lives have a definite deadline? The long history of human engagement with these ideas, the striving after answers, is best recorded in religious texts. There, we find the stories and rituals, commandments and prohibitions, that, whether or not we believe in a faith of our own, have shaped the world in which we live. In this workshop, we’ll closely read what writers of different faiths and no faith have written in their grappling with these ideas and add our voices to a conversation that stretches across geography and time.

Cara Forbes: Recreating Native Characters: Reaching Beyond Romanticism, Diving into the Modern World, and Envisioning Indigenous Futurism. Room 234. 


So for some reason or another, you want to incorporate Indigenous peoples into your writing. Great! But where do you begin? Join me in challenging the common and stereotyped narratives of Native people and developing characters who truly reflect what it means to be Indigenous – especially in the 21st century.

Melody and Siyah present ‘Hip Hop and Healing’ Room 218.
This workshop builds on WordFest’s theme: ‘Healing the Soul of Appalachia by providing a glimpse into the personal writings of a family of survivors. Speaking one’s truth is entirely liberating, but it takes guts. Melissa “Melody” Henry, Berkeley grad, writing coach, and past WordFest performer, teams up with her son Siyah, local conscious hip hop artist, to share how opening up lyrically and allowing oneself to be vulnerable in front of the entire world can lead to healing. Participants will get an inside view of the poetic process these two authors engage in daily by using careful, meditative focus. Participants will then be given time to vibe and share their own lyrical creations, leaving this workshop energized with a renewed sense of self. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or just a curious writer looking for the inspiration that comes from connection, you will enjoy this workshop! You’ll see samples of Melody’s soon to be published work. Be prepared to take part in collective collaboration and learn unique methods used generationally in this family of writers who trace their diverse roots back to West African poets and English writer Beatrix Potter.  This mother/son team are Tapas artists passionately bringing hope back to their communities through residences in Asheville City Schools. Many of Melody’s 8 children are artists, and are fully immersed in the African American community – teen artists Jay, Calvin, and Sharissa are busy sharing their voices and creating content for the online magazine Word on the Street and 11 year old son, DJ Dallas, produces tracks for Siyah. He joins them wherever they make melodic magic happen, whether in street performances, in the classroom, or in the studio.


4:30-6 pm Humans and Poetry Trolley Ride  $20.00. Board at Visitors Center facing parking lot. Tickets required. All proceeds go to performers and Trolley rental.

HumansandPoetry is a collective of Authors and Artists who are utilizing their experiences to create energetic and interactive events in Asheville.  Through openness, humor, and vulnerability they are creating a safe space that inspires the audience to connect to their searching soul. Join us for an evening of vibration, marination, and love between humans and poetry.

4:30-6 pm Launch of Madelyn Edwards’ 2nd novel, Lilly,  at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville. Free. Boardroom.


4:30-6 pm Please note: the rooftop poets event has been cancelled due to construction.

HOW WE LISTEN: A conversation with Wordfest Director Laura Hope-Gill and North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green 7 pm

Lenoir-Rhyne Boardroom on 2nd Floor. $10

Wordfest director, Laura Hope-Gill, and Poet Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green sit down to a meal with you to talk about something very close to their hearts, the subject of listening. How We Listen is who we are. How We Listen is who others are to us and who we are to them. How We Listen is our presence in the room, the world, the universe. How We Listen is worth some conversation over a lovely meal.

Until next year . . . .