This inaugural symposium featured presentations on the work of Appalachian poet and novelist Ron Rash, as well as presentations that dealt with any aspect of Southern Appalachian culture, literature, or tradition. In addition to a special panel of prominent Appalachian writers, the symposium offered concurrent sessions of presentations by writers and scholars, including graduate and undergraduate students. The symposium also host Ron Rash for an interview and evening reading. Finally, Gardner-Webb’s campus showcased Appalachian music, crafts, and food.
Ron Rash currently holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University. His family has deep roots in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and most of his writing reflects his connection to the region. Rash grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, home to Gardner-Webb University, and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Gardner-Webb and Clemson universities, respectively. Rash is the author of three book of poetry: Eureka Mill (1998), Among the Believers (2000), and Raising the Dead (2002); four books of short stories: The Night The New Jesus Fell to Earth (1994), Casualties (2000), Chemistry (2007), and Burning Bright (2010); and four novels: One Foot in Eden (2002), Saints at the River (2004), The World Made Straight (2006), and Serena (2008). His poetry and fiction have appeared in dozens of journals, magazines, and anthologies, including The Longman Anthology of Southern Literature, Sewanee Review, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Poetry. Rash has been honored with many awards, including an NEA Poetry Fellowship, the Sherwood Anderson Prize, an O. Henry Award, and received the James Still Award by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Two of his latest books, Serena and Chemistry, were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.