Acclaimed storyteller and author Lew Bolton will serve as the keynote speaker at the 11th-annual Mildred Haun Conference, sponsored by Walters State Community College. The free conference will be held on the college’s Morristown campus Feb. 7 and Feb. 8.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Of Jack Tales and Sleeping Birds: Youth, Literacy and Appalachia,” and Bolton is the perfect choice to deliver the keynote address. The storyteller has lived in the Smoky Mountains for over 40 years, and has spent much of that time entertaining with his interactive storytelling theatre. Those same tales now climb right off the printed page in his book “Smoky Mountain Jack Tales of Winter and Old Christmas.”
Jack Tales are stories about a boy named Jack. Many people believe that Jack was taken from “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The stories were common in Appalachia and were first documented in 1939 by the Library of Congress.
Bolton involves audience members in his presentations about how Jack journeyed to Appalachia and how mountain families have nurtured the stories for generations. Bolton earned a degree in English from Clemson University and later received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theater and Playwriting from Southern Illinois University.
Bolton’s keynote address is at 2 p.m. on Feb. 7 in the theatre of the Judge William H. Inman Humanities Complex. Workshops during the conference will focus on fiction, nonfiction, poetry and songwriting.
The conference will also serve as a book launch for the latest work by Amy Greene and Trent Thomson, “Step into the Circle.” Greene, a Hamblen County native, is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bloodroot.” The authors will also give a presentation on Feb. 8. High Lonesome Senate, the college’s bluegrass band, will perform at 3:45 p.m. on Friday. Saturday’s highlights include scholarly presentations and storytelling performances.
The event honors the legacy of Mildred Haun, a Hamblen County native and author of “The Hawk’s Done Gone.” The book, originally published in 1940, is considered a classic in Appalachian literature. It is an honest - and sometimes - disturbing look at mountain life in the early-20th century. Haun died in 1966 and is buried in the cemetery of Dover Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Russellville.