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Tuesday January 22, 2019

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Mildred Haun Conference Set for Feb. 2-3
January 3, 2018

Walters State Community College will host writers and fans of Appalachian literature on Feb. 2-3 during the 2018 Mildred Haun Conference. This year’s theme is “Who Tells Our Stories: History, Haints and Happenings.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Marie Manilla. Like the conference’s namesake, Manilla sometimes explores evil lore in her writing.  Her most recent novel, “The Patron Saint of Ugly,” received the Weatherford Award. The award is given by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association to honor books that best illuminate the unique qualities of the Appalachian South. 
In “The Patron Saint of Ugly, a young lady viewed by locals as an outcast sees her life change radically when news breaks about her birthmarks that closely resemble a world atlas. Pilgrims soon fill her West Virginia hometown, believing this outcast to be Saint Garnet, healer of skin ailments and maker of miracles.
Some reviewers have called the book a Southern gothic while others are intrigued by the magical realism. 

Manilla’s first novel, “Shrapnel,” received the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel. She has also published an anthology, “Still Life with Plums.” 
Manilla will speak at 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 2. The afternoon will open with a performance from the ETSU Old Time Pride Band at 1 p.m. and end with a performance and jam session featuring the High Lonesome Senate, the Walters State bluegrass band. 
Friday morning will begin with writing workshops. Fiction will be led by Manilla. Nonfiction will be lead by Katie Hoffman and poetry will be led by Jesse Graves. These workshops are from 10 a.m.-noon. 
Saturday will feature storytelling and a session by Kevin Slimp. Slimp is the author of “Ghostly Places: A Collection of Chilling Stories about Haunted Places.” Stories featured in the book are based in East Tennessee.
The conference, in its eighth year, honors the legacy of Mildred Haun, a Hamblen County native and author of “The Hawk’s Done Gone.” The anthology of short stories are tied together through the storyteller, a granny midwife. The book continues to receive critical acclaim and is considered one of the best pieces of Appalachian literature.
Haun was born in 1911 and grew up in the Dover and Hoot Owl areas. She attended Vanderbilt University and enrolled in a class taught by John Crowe Ransom. He encouraged her writing. Her book is an honest and sometimes disturbing look at mountain life in the early 20th century. This is the only fiction published by Haun. Her niece, the late Barbara Haun, said a second manuscript entitled “Diamond” was destroyed in a fire. 
She worked as an editor for the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma and later moved to Washington to work as a technical writer. 
Haun died in 1966 and is buried in the cemetery of Dover Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Russellville.   
The conference is free but registration is requested. Registration forms are available at For more information, contact the Division of Humanities at 423-585-6922. 

In the photo: Marie Manilla