Distinguished and Award-Winning American Author Ron Rash To Speak at UVA Wise’s 46th bi-annual Coffee Night; Present Public Lecture on Writing About Appalachia on April 10

Ron Rash
Photo by Mindy Friddle

Critically acclaimed and award-winning American short story writer and novelist Ron Rash will return to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVA Wise) for his fourth time in early April.

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, Rash, the John Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, will give a public lecture, “From Eureka Mill to The Caretaker: How Stories Come to Me and How I Tell Them.” The lecture will be located in the College’s Science Lecture Hall. 

That evening, Rash will be the keynote speaker at the College’s bi-annual Coffee Night, which celebrates the debut of its Spring 2024 issue of the Jimson Weed, a literary journal.  The Coffee Night, which features readings of poetry and prose from campus and community creative writers, will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Cantrell Banquet Hall.

Rash’s National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read book, Burning Bright, along with Serena, his poetry collection, Poems: New and Selected, and his new novel The Caretaker will be available at both events for book signing. Both events are free and open to the public. 

The events are sponsored by the Lecture Committee, the UVA Wise Foundation, Jimson Weed, UVA Wise’s Appalachian Writing Project and the Center for Appalachian Studies, and the departments of Language and Literature, and the Communication Studies.  

“Ron Rash is one of the most highly-regarded writers in Appalachian literature and at the top of my own list. His work as a poet compliments his novel-writing, which is nothing short of lyric, but his novels and short stories are also page-turners, driven by plot,” said UVA Wise Communications Professor Amy Clark, co-founding director of the Center for Appalachian Studies and Appalachian Writing Project. “His work is infused with history as well as stories mined from his own upbringing in western North Carolina. I would argue he's one of the best writers of his generation.”

Inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in January, Rash is an internationally recognized, award-winning author of eight novels including the PEN/Faulker finalist and New York Times bestselling novel, Serena. He has won the prestigious O. Henry Prize three times, and his books have been translated into 17 languages. 

His other novels include One Foot in Eden (2002), Saints at the River (2004), The World Made Straight (2006), The Cove (2012), Above the Waterfall (2015), The Risen (2016) and The Caretaker (2023), which was named one of the New York Times Best Books of the Year. 

Rash earned a bachelor’s in English from Gardner-Webb University and a master’s degree in English at Clemson University.

An educator and writer, Rash has taught English at Clemson and Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, SC; poetry at the M.F.A. program at Queens College in Charlotte, NC; and English at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, where he received an endowed chair as the John Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies. 

He has seven collections of short stories: The Night The New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina (1994), Casualties (2000), Chemistry and Other Stories (2007), Burning Bright (2010), Nothing Gold Can Stay (2013), and Something Rich and Strange (2014).  Rash is also an esteemed poet with five books of poetry: Eureka Mill (1998, a 20th anniversary edition in 2018), Among the Believers (2000), Raising the Dead (2002), Waking (2011), New and Selected Poems (2016); and one children’s book, The Shark’s Tooth (2001), along with two magazine publications and anthologized work. 

Although Rash enjoys global and national appeal and is one of the leading voices in 21st century American fiction, his writing remains firmly grounded in the Appalachian Mountains and in his memories of home. A Faulknerian storyteller of the disappearing mountain culture, the displaced people, the buried places and the lost past in the Appalachian region accompanied by love, family, violence, revenge, murder and justice, Rash never disappoints his reader with new material. 

During his UVA Wise lecture, Rash will discuss how the life of the Appalachian Mountains interwoven into his writing has its own unique edge in its search for shared experience and how the geography of the land and its people, irreducible to single, images or stereotypes, richly texture his poetry and fiction. Rash invites the audience to wonder what it takes to be a writer committed to the cultural heritage of the Appalachian region. 

Following the lecture, Rash will meet from 2:10 to 2:50 p.m. with local high school students and teachers, sponsored by the Appalachian Writing Project, at the Science Lecture Hall.

At Jimson Weed’s Coffee Night, Rash will share about his latest highly acclaimed novel, The Caretaker, his recently re-issued first book of poetry, Eureka Mill (a twentieth anniversary edition), and his remembrance of the late former UVA Wise Provost Gilmer Blackburn’s impact on Rash becoming a writer. 

UVA Wise English Professor and Jimson Weed Faculty Advisor Gillian Huang-Tiller describes this visit as “Rash’s tribute to his mentor and to his creative origins, along with a celebration of the College and the community in writing Appalachia interwoven with references and allusions.” 

The evening will also feature writers and performers of the College and community, along with the contributors to the new edition of the Jimson Weed, including former UVA Wise adjunct English professor Lavonne Baker (alum), UVA Wise adjunct history professor Michael Samerdyke, UVA Wise alumna Autumn B. Stover-Bailey, UVA Wise alumna Ashlee Taylor, Angel Johnson, Bailey Lantman, Noah Looney, Jacob Sparkman, Joe Bentley, Leslie Champ, Laura Miller, Greg Sturgill, and more. 

For more information, contact Jacci Rollins, Communications and Events Manager for Academic Affairs, at (276) 328-0249.