14th annual Mildred Haun Conference coming Feb. 2, 3

Walters State Community College will again bring Appalachian scholars, authors and readers together to celebrate the legacy of acclaimed writer Mildred Haun, a Hamblen County native. The 14th annual Mildred Haun Conference will be held Feb. 2-3 on the Morristown Campus.

Haun (1911-1966) grew up along the Hamblen and Cocke border in the Hoot Owl District. In 1940, her anthology of short stories, “The Hawk’s Done Gone,” was published. The work is now considered a classic in Appalachian literature. Haun is buried in the family plot at Dover Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Hamblen County.

Admission is free and individuals are invited to attend the full conference or single workshops. Registration forms are available at https://tinyurl.com/Mildred-Haun.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Learn Me Somethin’: Teaching and Reaching Appalachia.”

Melissa Helton will be the keynote speaker. Helton’s first collection of poetry, “Inertia: A Study” was published in 2016. Since then, she has published both fiction and nonfiction while becoming a sought-after teacher. She is a native of Toledo and now lives in southeastern Kentucky. She was the first person in her family to go to college. She holds a bachelor of arts, a master of fine arts with a focus on poetry and a doctorate in education.

She is the editor of the much-anticipated anthology, “Troublesome Rising: A Thousand-Year Flood in Eastern Kentucky.” In July 2022, a massive flood took the lives of more than 40 people and destroyed entire communities in Central Appalachia. Helton was at the Hindman Settle School when the rush of water caused people to seek higher ground and destroyed much of the school. Through words and images, the anthology is a compelling collection of writings by those affected by the flood. This book will be published in 2024.

Helton will speak Friday afternoon. Other Friday activities include a showing of the documentary “An Extraordinary Man: Dr. Dennis Branch of Newport, Tennessee.” A fiction workshop with Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle and scholarly presentations are scheduled for Friday morning. Winners of the student writing contest will be honored during lunch. A narrative photography workshop with Randi Ward is planned prior to Helton’s keynote address.

Saturday’s activities include a poetry workshop with Jane Hicks, scholarly presentations and a songwriting workshop with Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle. The pair will end the conference with an afternoon concert.

A detailed schedule will be released in January. For more information, contact Gayle Nelson at Gayle.Nelson@ws.edu or 423-585-6970.