MECC Foundation to Host Virtual 45th Annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival Featuring Lee Smith, Silas House, and Cassie Chambers. Entries Sought for Lonesome Pine Short-Story and Poetry Contests

Big Stone Gap, VA — The MECC Foundation is pleased to announce the 45th Annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival, a virtual event featuring three renowned Appalachian authors – Lee Smith, Silas House, and Cassie Chambers, on Wednesday, March 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at

In coordination with the festival event, the MECC Foundation will host the 34th Annual Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest and the 17th Annual Lonesome Pine Poetry Contest. The deadline for submitting entries is Wednesday, February 17, at 4:30 p.m. Entry categories include adult, high school (grades 9 through 12), and middle school (grades 5 through 8) categories. Contest rules are available on the MECC Foundation website at Winners of the contest will be announced during the Literary Festival Event. All winners will receive a cash prize and be invited to participate in a writing workshop hosted by Lee Smith on March 3.

The virtual festival will feature an introduction by Cassie Chambers on her novel Hill Women. A discussion of the role of women in Appalachia will follow featuring Chambers, House, and Lee. Participants may submit questions for the authors to be answered during the remaining portion of the festival.

Born in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia, Lee Smith began writing stories at the age of nine and selling them for a nickel a piece. Since then, she has written seventeen works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, and, most recently, Guests on Earth. She has received many awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature and an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

Silas House is the nationally bestselling author of six novels–Clay’s Quilt, 2001; A Parchment of Leaves, 2003; The Coal Tattoo, 2005; Eli the Good, 2009; and Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani) 2012, and Southernmost (June 2018)–as well as a book of creative nonfiction–Something’s Rising, co-authored with Jason Howard, 2009; and three plays. House is a former commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered”. His writing has appeared recently in Time, The Atlantic, Ecotone, The Advocate, Garden and Gun, and Oxford American. House serves on the fiction faculty at the Spalding School of Creative Writing and as the NEH Chair at Berea College.

Cassie Chambers grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Her earliest memories are of playing on her grandparents’ farm in Owsley County, Kentucky and exploring the campus of Berea College with her mother and father. Cassie graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a student-run law firm that represents low-income clients. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce. She is a lawyer and the current vice chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. For more information on the MECC Foundation, please visit our website at