33rd Annual Literary Festival: Karen Salyer McElmurray

Van Dyke Center, Board of Visitors Lounge — 12231 Collins Drive, Emory, VA 24327
  • 33rd Annual Literary Festival featuring Karen Salyer McElmurray, writer & teacher

  • October 30 & 31, 2014
    Karen Salyer McElmurray is the author of two novels, a memoir, and numerous creative and creative non-fiction pieces featured in an array of publications. Her published novels are Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (1999), winner of the Lillie Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, and The Motel of the Stars (2008), a Critic’s Choice for Oxford American Magazine, and a nominee for the Weatherford Award for Fiction. She currently has a third novel, Wanting Inez, under revision. Her memoir, Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey (2004), won an Associated Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Non-fiction and was listed as a Notable Book by the National Book Critics Circle. A collection of essays she edited entitled Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia is slated for release from Ohio University Press in 2015. McElmurray has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the North Carolina Arts Council. She is a faculty member in the low residency MFA programs at Rollins College (beginning summer 2015) and West Virginia Wesleyan College and has taught at Georgia College and State University, Berry College, and Lynchburg College. McElmurray has also been writer-in-residence at Indiana University and Hollins University. She has been named a Distinguished Alumna at Berea College and recently received the Annie Dillard Award from The Bellingham Review for her essay “Strange Tongues.”

An excerpt from “Hands”

My hands conjure wounds. Friends tell me this. They say, make the story lighter. So I pull all the glittery threads beneath a quilt made of black squares. I write stories in which mother loves daughter and daughter loves herself. Is this the truth, after all? I want to remember afternoons where sunlight drifted across the polished floors. Want to remember hands stroking my hair, telling me the world was good. But eventually, I come back to it. The way voices still collide in the shadows of my past. If I use this word, I tell myself, that word. If I describe it just so. That look on my mother’s face. Darkness pulses in these things I call words. Does the wound inform the truth, does the truth alter in the telling? If I reach for her hands across time and space, pry open her clenched fists, will I find love at last? Karen Salyer McElmurray

Schedule of Events

Van Dyke Center,
Board of Visitors Lounge

All events carry Lyceum Credit for E&H Students and Open to the Public

Thursday, Oct. 30

  • 2:30 p.m.

    “‘Care, Revelation, and Innovation in the Margins: Karen McElmurray’s Digital Letters” Bethann Bowman, Young Harris College Jesse Graves, East Tennessee State University

  •  3:30 p.m.
    “Love, Loss, and Lyricism in Karen McElmurray’s Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven
    Julia Watts:  South College
  • 7:30 p.m.
    Public Reading, Karen McElmurray 

Friday, Oct. 31

  • 2:30 p.m. 
    “Ascension to Light: The Fearless Honesty of Karen McElmurray’s Life and Work”
    Silas House: Berea College
  •  3:30 p.m. 
    Public Interview with Karen McElmurray
    conducted by Carrie Brown: Hollins University