The 2014 Writers’ Day of the Virginia Highlands Festival will feature a wide variety of workshops for writers in several genres. The events take place Monday, August 4 at Virginia Highlands Community College from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Featured writers include Lee Smith, the renowned writer who is a native southwest Virginian; Charles Vess, a world-famous fantasy illustrator—and soon to be novelist; Nick Piper, one of Barter Theatre’s associate artistic directors; Rita Quillen, southwest Virginia’s most acclaimed poet; and Gwenda Bond, a young adult fantasy writer.

Lee Smith is one of the most beloved Southern writers, the author of seventeen books, including the novels Oral History and Fair and Tender Ladies, both of which are set in southwestern Virginia. She is a native of Grundy, Virginia. Her most recent work is the novel, Guests on Earth, published in 2013. Some of Smith’s material was part of Good Ol’ Girls, a musical that appeared at Barter Theatre in 2013. Smith’s workshops will focus on the importance of scene development in both novels and short stories.

Nick Piper is an associate artistic director at Barter Theatre in charge of new play development as well as a member of the Resident Acting Company. He has helped develop dozens of new plays that have gone on to full production on Barter’s stages as well as regional theatres across the country. Piper’s workshop will give participants a variety of tips about playwriting, from developing plays to preparing plays for submission to theatres.

Rita Quillen is well-known in Appalachia not only as a writer but also as a dynamic writing teacher and leader of workshops. This year she has a new collection of poems, Something to Hold On To, as well as her first novel Hiding Ezra, a chapter of which is included in the new scholarly study of Appalachian dialect, Talking Appalachian. One of Quillen’s workshops will focus on word precision in poetry and the other will be a “prompt fest” of inspirational ideas for poets to take home with them.

Charles Vess is a world-renowned fantasy artist, now turned author of The Greenwood, a contemporary middle grade novel told with a unique combination of text, illustration and sequential narrative art. He is best known for his illustration of work by Neil Gaiman: Stardust, which was made into a major film, and recently Blueberry Girl, a picture book for mothers and daughters, and Instructions, both based on Gaiman poems. One of Vess’s workshops will be on the visualization of words on a page for both visual as well as narrative artists.

Gwenda Bond is the author of the young adult novels The Woken Gods and Blackwood, and coming in October 2014 will be Girl on a Wire about a daredevil heroine who discovers danger and passion lurking beneath the big top. She has also written for Publishers Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Locus Magazine, and the Washington Post, among others. Bond’s first workshop will discuss how to get started writing science fiction and fantasy stories. In her second workshop she will read from one of her stories, while Charles Vess will draw what he sees in her words.

Pre-registration for Writers Day workshops is available now on the Festival website, The day begins at 8 a.m. with check-in and day-of registration outside the Keyser-Aday Theatre at Virginia Highlands Community College. The morning and afternoon sessions will be held at 10 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. Book sales and signings take place between seminars and attendees can break for lunch and enjoy some of the many dining opportunities historic Abingdon has to offer. The registration fee is $30.

Included with the registration fee is a ticket to the play Ivy Rowe at the Barter Theatre at 8 p.m. on Monday, August 4. The play is a one-woman show of Lee Smith’s novel Fair and Tender Ladies.

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