MWLF 2022 (11 × 17 in) FR final(1)

Announcing the 2022 Mountain Words Literary Festival

May 18, 2022 | , | No Comments


Announcing the 2022 Mountain Words Literary Festival

May 25 – 29

Crested Butte Center for the Arts


The Crested Butte Center for the Arts is thrilled to present the third-annual Mountain Words Literary Festival! Held over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-29, the festival kicks off Wednesday, May 25, with Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Wild and the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough.

The festival welcomes over thirty-five nationally and internationally acclaimed authors and presenters for a five-day celebration at nine thousand feet with offerings for all ages and interests. Organizers are excited for attendees to safely gather in the stunning Gunnison Valley for workshops, readings, panel discussions, live theater, trivia, kids’ events and programming, parties, film screenings, gallery receptions, and other delights. The multi-genre festival includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, journalism/long-form, nature writing, climate reporting, publishing, and more.

“We are enormously excited to present some of the most stimulating and thought-provoking writers and thinkers from across the state and nation and offer a rare opportunity to experience multiple genres through a deeply diverse array of topics,” said Festival Director Brooke MacMillan.“Access is paramount to the festival mission, and we offer student discounts and scholarships as needed. Our priority is to get people here for what we promise will be a life-affirming sojourn in one of the most beautiful mountainous enclaves in the world.”

Along with Strayed, other presenters include Iranian American scholar and Pushcart award-winning writer Kaveh Akbar; investigative reporter for the New Yorker, and author of the meta-true crime non-fiction best-seller Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe; author of Billionaire Wilderness and professor at Yale University, Justin Farrell; writer and 2021 Whiting Award winner, Steven Dunn (who will offer a workshop on learning world-building from rappers); writer, director, and filmmaker, Manuel Aragon; award-winning artist and educator, Suzi Q. Smith; 2022 Whiting Award fiction winner, and climate literary fiction author, Claire Boyles; investigative reporter, climate change essayist, and This American Life contributor, Mario Alejandro Ariza; S Kirk Walsh, author of the national bestselling novel, The Elephant of Belfast; award-winning and New York Times best-selling biographer, James McGrath Morris, and local writers Shelley Read, Molly Murfee, Nick Bowlin, Anna Fenerty, Leath Tonino, and many others.

The festival includes readings from the 2022 Mountain Words Writers in Residence cohort which alongside Kaveh Akbar includes prison reform activist and author Dominque Conway, poet and artist Bernardo Wade, India-based fiction writer Megha Nayar, and writer and audio journalist Stephanie Maltarich.

Writers and readers can immerse in workshops in fiction, research, investigative reporting, playwriting, poetry, flash fiction, memoir, close reading, and others. Festival panel discussions include writing about climate; displacement; wealth and remaking the American West; publishing and others.

“The panels are really interesting for everyone. Incredible thinkers engaging in thoughtful discourse on topics that matter so much right now. If writing isn’t your thing, the panels will be,” said Festival Host and local Townie Bookstore owner Arvin Ram.

New this year and all the way from Australia, the festival’s Saturday lineup will feature the internationally renowned Literary Death Match. Called the “greatest reading series ever” by the LA Times, LDM features a mix of four established and emerging authors (Steven Dunn, Suzi Q Smith, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Boyles), who perform their most brilliant work before a live audience and a panel of three all-star judges (Rachel Monroe, Jason Antoon, Sam Robards). After a pair of readings, the judges take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary, focusing on Literary Merit, Performance, and Intangibles before they select two authors to advance to the finals. During the finals, we trade in the show’s literary sensibility for an absurdly comical climax to decide who takes home the Literary Death Match crown — this is not to be missed!

Along with the bread & butter of any literary/book festival (readings, workshops, panel discussions) the festival offers other high-level fun for every age and interest.

Saturday will feature a “Live Theater at Lunch” performance of the Tony Award winning play, “Art” by Yasmina Reza, called, “…wildly funny, naughtily provocative…” by NY Post. The lunchtime performance will star Tony Award Nominated actor Sam Robards whose credits include Casualties of War, Beautiful Girls, American Beauty, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and other films; internationally acclaimed actor, Jason Antoon, whose work includes Fresh Off the Boat, Shameless, iZombie, Modern Family, Sex and the City, among many commercial films; and acclaimed actors and Western Colorado University theatre director, Steven Cole Hughes.

Take a break from all of the festival intellectualism and try your hand at crafting some of the most (in)famous literary cocktails at the Literary Spirits workshop where you can perfect and twist classic cocktails in a delightful introduction to mixology — and you get to drink them!

Directly following the mixology workshop, pop upstairs to the Center’s Kinder Padon Gallery where book and art lovers can exalt over drinks and discussion of “Flourish” an exhibition of fine book art curated especially for the festival by Alicia Bailey, Director of Abecedarian Artists’ Books, Thursday evening, 5 – 6 pm. The installation features ten artists from Colorado, Texas, and Arizona.

And back by popular demand, festival-goers and trivia lovers alike can come together for a very special bookish Trivia with Quiz Quiz Bang Bang. From the dynamic duo behind the hugely popular Quiz Quiz Bang Bang podcast, test your smarts from everything from geography to art to television to history — plus a special literary round! Winners will bag some killer festival prizes.

The festival also has plenty for kids to enjoy, including Farcical Fairytales, an engaging, silly, interactive performance happening Saturday, May 28 in the Center’s Jones Performance Hall and starring CB’s talented improv troupe, Kirsten Hausman, Tricia Seeberg, Eliot Paulsen, Jimmy Utley, Gregory Jackson Haley, and Annie Flora. The show is suitable for kids ages three and up and costumes are encouraged. Parents are welcome to join in the fun or drop off the kids and head into the Steddy Theater for Adult Storytime where they can sip coffee and/or mimosas while being read to by renowned authors.

Trailhead Children’s Museum will also present “Stories, Art, and Play” sessions that bring various books to life through art and play. Kids will have the chance to create their own scenes for “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak, and dive into the detailed pages of the graphic novel “Extincts: Quest for the Unicorn’s Horns” by Scott Magoon, and express their interpretation of these literary works through art, and explore books through play!

Fun for the whole family, Ben Goldfarb, author of the award-winning book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, will lead an informal all-about-beavers conversation by the beaver ponds at Gunsight Bridge, Sunday, May 29 at 10 a.m. Learn how beavers engineer landscapes, and help to fight drought, pollution, and climate change in Colorado and beyond.

“Anyone who visits the Valley becomes resolute to either come again every year or find a way to live here. Crested Butte is full of charm and a little wildness, and presenting a festival in such an extraordinary place is a very special thing to be able to give people,” said Ram. “You need to experience it to believe it.”

The 2022 Mountain Words Literary Festival will take place on May 25-29 at the state-of-the-art Center for the Arts, located in downtown Crested Butte. For a full schedule, passes, scholarship and student pricing, lodging info, and more, please visit


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