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 pay the higher-end price, you are contributing to the livelihood of our presenters and sustaining Wordfest’s mission of accessibility. All registration fees go to the presenters.

Tickets go on Sale March 1. The $5 option is for social-economic equity.  If you use the social-equity option, please email Laura to specify which events you wish to attend. Please use equitably.

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.




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 Raymond Christian, Lee Lindsay, and DeWayne Barton


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.

Saturday April 13

9:30-10:00 Coffee and Community

10-:30-12:00 pm Readings and Workshops at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville $35 with $5 social equity option. 

H. Byron Ballard


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


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


Your Parable: Your Journey, A Reading with Interpretation

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.

12:30-2:30 pm Book Launch of What You Have Heard is True with Carolyn Forché (Location TBA)

forche91  whatyouhaveheardistrue

3–4:30 pm Readings And Workshops at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville.  $35 with $5 social equity option. 

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

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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  (description soon)

john evans

A Reading and Conversation with Brandon Amico


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. Local Asheville poet Brandon Amico will read from his debut collection of poems, Disappearing, Inc. (published by Gold Wake Press in March 2019), which interrogates our consumerist moment and the ways we find meaning amid this fractured, high-volume society where we are split between the imperatives to save both the planet and our own selves. The reading will be followed by a Q&A with the audience and then a book signing.


Michael Hettich

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


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! 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


5 pm

The Geopoetics Appalachia Symposium $20.00

Lia Purpura, Nickole Brown, John Lane, Jessica Jacobs: Earth, People, and Words at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville.


8 pm Jaki Shelton Green and Carolyn Forché at YMI Cultural Center $20


Sunday April 14 All Events at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville. $35 with $5 social equity option.  

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


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


We are now in the throes of a sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. Some call it the Antropocene, 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.

Phyllis Utley (description soon)

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

Keynote with Dr. Michael Newton, Scottish Gaelic Scholar, Consultant to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. $20.00

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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?

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


2:30-4 pm Readings and Workshops at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville. $35 with $5 social equity option. 

Lisa Soledad Almaraz


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


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


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.



4:30-6 pm LaZoom Poetry and Humans Ride  $20.00

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


4:30-6 pm Vanderbilt Rooftop Poets on the roof of Battery Park Hotel. Hosted by Barbara Gravelle. $10


DINNER WITH OUR BELOVED POET LAUREATE, Jaki Shelton-Green  $35. Lenoir-Rhyne Boardroom on 2nd Floor. 



Until next year . . . .