2020 Festival

Saturday February 22, 2020
9:00am to 4:00pm

Sevierville Convention Center
202 Gists Creek Road
Sevierville, Tennessee 37876

2020 Program

Meeting Room A - 10:00-10:45AM
Workshop: Brent Minchey & Laura Still
Brent Minchey & Laura Still
Brent Minchey and Laura Still

Join author Laura Still and partner in Celtic Cat Publishing, Brent Minchey, for a detailed presentation of the pros and cons of self-publishing as opposed to traditional publishing. Learn how to get your manuscript ready for publication and how to find a market. Celtic Cat Publishing is an award-winning independent publisher founded in 1995. The publishing philosophy of Still and Minchey is to support new and established literary talent through original publications.

Laura Still is a published poet, playwright, educator, tour guide, and with her latest book, A Haunted History of Knoxville, a history writer. She has edited and screened thousands of submissions for contests and publications since 1999 and was awarded a Golden Shovel for her work in the literary trenches. Brent Minchey is an experienced business manager who has worked in book design for Celtic Cat and published plays and non-fiction by several authors for an Asheville, NC imprint. He brings technical and marketing experience in print and electronic formats.

Meeting Room B - 10:00-10:45AM
Featured Speaker: Paul Brown
Paul Brown
Paul Brown

One of the most gifted of America’s writers, James Rufus Agee (1909–1955), spent a third of his short life in Tennessee, yet no biographical treatment until this one has so fully explored his roots in the state. In Rufus, Paul F. Brown draws deeply on a trove of journals, letters, interviews, and contemporaneous newspaper accounts, to produce a captivating portrait of Agee’s boyhood.

Brown meticulously delineates Agee’s family history, his earliest years as a sensitive child growing up in Knoxville’s Fort Sanders neighborhood, and the traumatic event that marked his sixth year: his father’s death in an automobile accident. Young Rufus—as his family always called him—revered his father and would use his memories of the tragedy to create his most enduring work of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize–winning A Death in the Family. Just a few years after his father was killed, Agee’s mother placed him in the St. Andrew’s School for Mountain Boys near Sewanee, Tennessee, where he would meet his mentor and lifelong friend, Father James Flye; these experiences would inspire Agee’s poignant novella, The Morning Watch. Another year in Knoxville followed, and then his mother, newly remarried, whisked him away to New England, where he would complete his education at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard.

Brown’s account deftly reconstructs various settings the young Agee encountered—including not only turn-of-the-century Knoxville and St. Andrew’s but also the mountain hamlet of LaFollette, his father’s hometown—and the complex family relationships that swirled around the young writer-to-be. Brown also explores Knoxville’s belated discovery of its famous son, initiated when Hollywood came to town in 1962 to film All the Way Home, an adaptation of A Death in the Family. Notable commemorations—including academic seminars, a public park, and a street named in Agee’s honor—would come later as the writer’s posthumous reputation bloomed. And now, with Rufus, we have the definitive account of how it all began.

Meeting Room D - 10:00-10:45AM
Featured Speaker: S.J. Dahlman
S.J. Dahlman
S.J. Dahlman

In 1775, renowned pioneer Daniel Boone was commissioned to blaze a road through the Appalachian and Cumberland Plateau regions as a fledgling American nation steadily pushed westward. What would come to be known as the Wilderness Road was the first major route into the West, and it allowed settlers to migrate northwest into Kentucky and later settle parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In 2012, Jim Dahlman stopped to stretch his legs on a brief hike into the Cumberland Gap and stumbled upon an adventure. After months of preparation, Dahlman grabbed a pack and set out to hike as accurately as possible Daniel Boone’s original trace.

In A Familiar Wilderness, Dahlman illustrates that the Wilderness Road is more than an old track through Appalachia. Many of the towns grew up along Boone’s original footpath, and people in these areas can draw direct connections to Boone himself or to other early settlers who traversed this trans-Appalachian route. Dahlman uses these and other encounters to uncover the history of the Wilderness Road and show how we are all a product of our past.

The hospitality of strangers becomes especially instrumental in making Dahlman’s hike come alive. Robert, one such stranger, offers to personally guide Dahlman over Powell Mountain. As they make their ascent, Robert provides a splendid view of the mountain, blending careful observation of their surroundings with deep knowledge of the place. A finale to Dahlman’s almost 300-mile hike occurs on Hackberry Ridge overlooking Fort Boonesborough State Park—a fitting tribute to Boone’s own arrival on the ridge famously overlooking a herd of buffalo.

A Familiar Wilderness takes readers on a winding path where geography, history, and local memory intersect with daily life, and Dahlman’s lively writing, sensitive to every detail, will bring readers into thrilling touch with a past that still shapes and challenges the present.

Banquet Hall A - 10:00-10:45AM
Dr. Bill Bass
Dr. Bill Bass
Dr. Bill Bass

The dead do tell tales, and perhaps no one knows that better than Dr. Bill Bass, renowned forensic anthropologist and founder of the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility known as “The Body Farm.” Sometimes called the bone detective, Bass spent decades studying human decomposition and osteology. For most people, being surrounded by dead bodies would cast a shadow on the sunniest of days, but the always-jovial Bass considered human remains as a challenge, a puzzle to be solved.

Bass received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961 and never ceased in his quest for knowledge. The pioneering forensic anthropologist dedicated over five decades to the study of human decomposition and osteology, often with the objective of establishing time and cause of death.

Dr. Bass is the author of more than 200 scientific publications, as well as Death’s Acre, the critically-acclaimed memoir he co-wrote with Jon Jefferson, a journalist and documentary film maker who previously served as staff science writer for Oak Ridge Laboratory. Using the pseudonym Jefferson Bass, the duo penned the popular fictional series known as the The Body Farm Series.

Banquet Hall B - 10:00-10:45AM
Sam Venable
Sam Venable
Sam Venable

Sam Venable is a semi-retired humor columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. The winner of numerous writing awards, he is the author of ten books. The newest collection is called Someday I May Find Honest Work, A Newspaper Humorist’s Life. In his latest book, Venable chronicles life and all the strange and absurd things that go with it. With his lively commentary and quirky observations, he brings an uncommon perspective to common experiences. But even as he describes these trials and tribulations, Venable admits—with what you can be certain is a big grin— “it sure beats workin’ for a living.”

Alcove - Children's Corner - 11:00-11:45AM
Featured Speakers: James and Lucy Howard
James Howard
James Howard

Sunny 92.3 morning host James Howard has helped wake up the Chattanooga, Cleveland and North Georgia area since 2001 when he began co-hosting Luther in the Morning. As a lifelong Chattanooga resident James has shown his love for this community in many ways.

From hosting the annual Caring for Kids Radiothon to benefit Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, to good will excursions to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti, mostly traveling during his own vacation time, you will find James tirelessly giving his time and talents to help make our community a better place to live.

James has written two children’s books. The first,Cricki the Nut, benefited the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee and the T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital. The proceeds from the second children’s book,What’s Iraq Like Daddy benefited the children of military personnel serving abroad. He also co-authored My Life with Lutherwith Holly Abernathy. James, who also hosts the popular Ch. 9 WTVC program This-N-That, is very involved with the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee, and regularly competes in Chattanooga’s IRONMAN events.

James resides in the East Brainerd area with his wife and two daughters and has worked at Sunny 92.3 since 1993.

Meeting Room A - 11:00-11:45AM
Featured Speaker: Stephen Lyn Bales
Stephen Lyn Bales
Stephen Lyn Bales

Stephen Lyn Bales is senior naturalist at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has written for Smithsonian magazine and is a regular contributor to The Tennessee Conservationist magazine. Bales is also a regular speaker at Wilderness Wildlife Week and other venues.

His first book Natural Histories, published by UT Press, covered the natural history of the Tennessee Valley. Bales' second book, Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941 is the compelling story of Jim Tanner and his fieldwork on the "Lord God Bird" in the late 1930s. Tanner was the only ornithologist to conduct an in-depth study of the largest woodpecker to live in the United States, the legendary ghost bird of the South. This species became the subject of considerable controversy during the past decade. Tanner's fieldwork in the 1930s while a grad student at Cornell University provide a detailed look into the natural history of this species that may or may not be extinct.

Meeting Room B - 11:00-11:45AM
Featured Speaker: Allen Robbins
Allen Robbins
Allen Robbins

Allen Robbins is the author ofTrial by Fire, which recounts the heroic work of Sevier County Electric System’s linemen during Sevier County’s deadly wildfires in 2016. Allen Robbins is a life-long resident of Sevier County, Tennessee. A graduate of Sevier County High School in 1985, he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Cumberland College in 1990. Allen was a member of Cumberland’s first football team in 1985. He was a 3-year letterman for Cumberland earning Honorable Mention and Second Team All-Conference honors in 1988 and 1989 respectively.

In 1991, Allen began his career with Sevier County Electric System. From 1996 to 2003, he was the Programs Administrator, coordinating all phases of the marketing of electric services within the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Energy Right Program. From 2004 to 2015 he served as the System’s CFO. In 2016, the Board of Directors of Sevier County Electric System appointed Allen to his current position of CEO.

Allen is the current Vice-Chair of the United Way Board of Directors. He served two terms, 2010-2011 and 2012-2013, as Chairman of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is a past President of the Sevier County High School Quarterback Club. He most recently served as President of the University of the Cumberlands Alumni Board of Directors. He is a member of Richardson Cove Baptist Church and teaches the Senior Adult Sunday school class better known as the “Chum” Class.

He is married to the former Jachar Lyons and they have three children, Jacob (26) a graduate from Carson-Newman University, Dexter (24) a graduate from Liberty University, and Sierra (18) a freshman at East Tennessee State University. He is also a proud Grandpa to a new granddaughter, Mia Kate. Allen was a volunteer football coach for Sevier County Middle School football team for 19 years. His recreational hobbies are hunting, fishing and lounging on Douglas Lake.

Meeting Room D - 11:00-11:45AM
Featured Speaker: Joe Holloway
Joe Holloway
Joe Holloway

A native of Knoxville Joe Holloway remembers Sunday drives through south Knox and Sevier Counties, where his father would point out the remnants of the “Slow & Easy’s” right-of-way. The railroad was abandoned five years before Joe’s birth. By then, scrap metal dealers, souvenir hunters and Mother Nature had a head start on erasing visible evidence of the line. With his interest in the Smoky already piqued by such road trips, Joe happened upon a copy of the late Elmer Sulzer’s Ghost Railroads of Tennessee at a local flea market. It was Chapter One of that 1975 work which cemented Joe’s permanent fascination, for it featured the first photos he’d ever seen of the Knoxville, Sevierville and Eastern Railway. His new book, Old Slow and Easy A History of the Railroad will be available soon.

Joe is a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (1996-2008) and prior U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class (1986-1996). Now a career civil servant, he and his wife, Karen, have four grown children.

Banquet Hall A - 11:00-11:45AM
Featured Speaker: Bill Landry
Bill Landry
Bill Landry

Bill Landry is the author of a new book, When Tennessee was the West. He was the voice, host, narrator, and co-producer of The Heartland Series which aired on WBIR-TV for about thirty years. Since its beginning in 1984, over 1,900 short features were produced, including 150 half-hour specials. Bill wrote, produced, and acted in many of the episodes.

Receiving an MFA from Trinity University at the Dallas Theater Center and a BA in literature from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Bill has gone on to receive two Emmy Awards for directing The Heartland Series, the Education in Appalachia Award from Carson-Newman University, and an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Lincoln Memorial University.

Banquet Hall B - 11:00-11:45AM
Featured Speaker: Michael Knight
Michael Knight
Michael Knight

Michael Knight is the author of three novels Divining Rod, The Typist and his latest, Briarwood School for Girls. He also wrote three short story collections including Dogfight and Other Stories, Goodnight ,Nobody and Eveningland. His most recent collection, Eveningland, was selected as an Editor’s Choice Pick by The New York Times and a Southern Book of the Year by Southern Living Magazine. His most recent novel, The Typist, was selected as a Best Book of the Year by The Huffington Post and The Kansas City Star, and it appeared on Oprah’s Summer Reading List in 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines and journals like The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Saturday Evening Post and The Southern Review. His research interests include the contemporary novel, the short story and screenwriting.

Banquet Hall C & D - 12:00-2:00PM
Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Therese Anne Fowler
Therese Anne Fowler
Therese Anne Fowler

Therese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author whose novels present intriguing people in difficult situations, many of those situations deriving from the pressures and expectations of their cultures as well as from their families. Her books are available in every format and in multiple languages and are sold around the world. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald has been adapted for television by Amazon Studios. A Well-Behaved Woman is in development with Sony Pictures Television.

Therese earned a BA in sociology and cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing, both from North Carolina State University. She has been a visiting professor and occasionally teaches fiction writing at conferences and workshops. Her latest novel, A Good Neighborhood, is being hailed as “entertaining and provoking” and “one of those rare 'can't put down' books”.

Banquet Hall A - 2:00-2:45PM
Featured Speaker: Walter Ziffer
Walter Ziffer
Walter Ziffer

Walter Ziffer, Holocaust survivor, author and educator, will present a talk, “Holocaust: When Law and Righteousness Clashed.”

As a teenager in 1942, Ziffer was seized from his home in what is now the Czech Republic, separated from his family, and sent to a series of Nazi slave labor concentration camps. He was finally freed at the age of 18 by Soviet troops and eventually was able to reunite with his parents, who had been held in separate camps and also survived until their liberation. He returned home and trained as a mechanic, then, after moving to the U.S., he worked for General Motors as an engineer.

Ziffer then turned to theology and earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate in that subject and worked as a Christian minister. He also authored several books about his experiences during the Holocaust, Judaism and early Christianity. He has taught at the University of Maine, UNC Asheville and Mars Hill University, as well as at theological seminaries in Europe and the U.S. He now considers himself a secular Jewish humanist.

Now 92 years of age, Ziffer continues as a public speaker and writer. Two years ago, he published his most recent book, a memoir titled Confronting the Silence: A Holocaust Survivor’s Search for God. Professor Richard Chess, chair of UNC Asheville’s Department of English and director of the university’s Center for Jewish Studies, described what Ziffer offers readers: “You will learn of Walter’s complex life journey, and you may experience, thanks to his skillfully told story and clearly articulated questions and insights, a sense of his presence, the presence of a great man who finds in his own story lessons important for the rest of us, especially now.”

Ziffer also is the author of The Teaching of Disdain – An Examination of Christology and New Testament Attitudes Toward Jews, and The Birth of Christianity From the Matrix of Judaism.

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