Walters State Community College will host the third annual “Mildred Haun Conference” beginning at 9 a.m. Feb. 1-2 on the college’s Morristown campus. This year’s conference features a keynote speech by author Anne Shelby, a tribute to author Jeff Daniel Marion and the stage production of “Tales from Electric Mountain.” Registration is free and open to the public. To register, visit www.ws.edu/mildredhaunconference.
The conference is a celebration of Appalachian literature, scholarship and culture. The conference’s name honors Hamblen County native Mildred Haun, author of “The Hawk’s Done Gone.” This collection of stories is considered one of the first works of Appalachian fiction; critics still consider Haun a master of the genre.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Our Stories.”
“We are so pleased to be able to offer this event to students and community members at no charge,” said Dr. Viki Rouse, associate professor of English. Rouse chairs the conference. She is also considered one of the leading experts on Haun.
“We truly feel that one must understand and value one’s own region in order to be better global citizens, understanding cultures that are not our own,” Rouse said.
Shelby is known for her command of the English language in many formats: essays, poetry, children’s novels, plays and songs. Her children’s books include “the Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales” and “The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree.” Her published work includes a collection of poems, “Appalachian Studies,” and a collection of her provocative newspaper columns, “Can a Democrat Get Into Heaven.”
Shelby will speak at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
On Saturday, she will perform “The Works of Aunt Molly Jackson: The Lone Pilgrim.” This work is based on the life of an influential American folk singer. Jackson is perhaps most famous for singing her song “Ragged, Hungry Blues” in front of the 1931 Dreiser Committee. The committee was investigating mining conditions in Harlan County. She frequently performed with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger before a car accident left her incapacitated. She died in 1960.
Rouse said that this year’s conference includes a bonus based on feedback from previous conferences – writers’ workshops led by successful authors. This workshops will be held on Friday morning before the actual conference kicks off at 1 p.m. Workshops will be led by noted writers Amy Greene, Jason Howard, Jesse Graves, George Ella Lyon and Ted Olsen.
Other Friday events include a performance by the ETSU Old Time Band and a reception honoring Jeff Daniel Marion. Marion has served as poet-in-residence at Carson-Newman College and as artist-in residents at the University of Tennessee. He is the author of four collections of poems, a children’s book and many articles in literary magazines. He received a literary fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission in 1978.
At 9:45 a.m., the Walters State Music and Theatre Department will present Tales from the Electric Mountain. This is written by Dr. John Lee Welton and directed by Chris Morelock, assistant professor of developmental reading and writing at Walters State. This series of one-act plays and monologues provides a humorous look at life in the Smoky Mountains during the 1930s.
Michael Reno Harrell will also perform on Saturday. Harrell is a storyteller with song. His voice has been compared to Marty Robbins and his recordings top the Americana Music Association charts every year. While better known for his musical performances, Harrell has also served as the Story Teller in residence at the International Storytelling Center.
Both days feature scholarly presentations.
For more information, contact the college’s Division of Humanities at (423) 585-6922.