Night of the Spoken Word

Join us at the Ashe Arts Center on May 27 at 7:30 pm for an evening featuring the poetry and prose of local writers!

Night of the Spoken Word is a free event and is open to the public to attend.


Becky Stragand • Janet Pittard • Sandy Lassen • Brenda Smith • Nanci Newton • Melissa Edmondson • Kristen Ryberg • Thomas Martin • Beth Copeland & others!

About the Readers:

Beth Copeland is the author of Selfie with Cherry (Glass Lyre Press, 2022); Blue Honey, recipient of the 2017 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize; Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVOX Books, 2012); and Traveling through Glass, recipient of the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies and have been featured on international poetry websites. She has been profiled as poet of the week on the PBS NewsHour website. She owns and operates Tiny Cabin, Big Ideas™, a retreat for writers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Melissa Edmondson is a real estate paralegal by profession but loves to write whenever she gets the chance.  She lives in Creston with her husband Richard. Together, they have four adult children and are overjoyed with the addition of their first grandchild Evelyn to the family this past April. Melissa has had eleven stories published with the Chicken Soup for the Soul series (with a twelfth coming out in September) and is the author of a book of essays and a book of a poetry.  She also has a story featured in the book Reflections on the New River published by MacFarland.

Sandy Lassen has been a resident of Ashe County for 32 years, close to where her mother’s ancestors settled in the 1700’s. She is a co-founder of the Blue Ridge Writers Group and a former columnist for The Jefferson Post. She has been a Poetry Fellow at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where she studied with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. Her latest book, The Teeth of Southern Smiles, reflects the quirkiness of her tropical upbringing and pays homage to her Appalachian forebears. She has been published in Poet MagazineSouthern Exposure, Appalachia Magazine, Fiction Quarterly, Pinesong and many others. Now just months away from her 80th birthday, Sandy adds, “I am working on my next book, featuring both poetry and prose. Will it be the last book? Maybe not! I’m not finished yet!” 

Thomas Martin has received a handful of (very) minor literary awards. He holds an MFA in fiction but has taught and published in all three genres. He is a member of the CLIP ART CLIQUE and a regular contributor to the Martha Stewart Mixtapes—an analog collage literary & lifestyle magazine distributed across North Carolina by the Curio Machine. He lives in Boone with his wife, son, and cat. 

Nanci Newton worked with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence for more than 40 years and uses that experience to inform her poetry and prose. Nanci has a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has appeared in Abraxas and A Room of One’s Own, and she has written numerous articles for health and human services publications.

A North Carolina native now living in West Jefferson, Janet Pittard began a second career as a freelance writer after her retirement from state government. From 2003 to 2009, she published stories in Our State magazine. More recently she has authored or co-authored three books and contributed to two anthologies related to Ashe County.

Janet will be reading a story about Radar and Boomer, two rescue pups who currently provide Janet and her husband Louis with much joy and aggravation.

In 1992, Scot Pope “escaped” the rat race in Charlotte, NC to live a simple, humble life in the Creston community of northwest Ashe County. Before leaving Charlotte, he studied Creative Writing at Central Piedmont Community College under the tutelege of Barbara Lawing. After arriving in Ashe County, he joined the Blue Ridge Writers Group and continued to write short stories and poetry.

Scot has read his works at various venues in Ashe County, including the Ashe County Arts Council’s “Coffeehouse”, and the annual “Night of the Spoken Word”. Along with Chris Arvidson and Julie Towsend, he is a founding member of Ashe County’s “Wordkeepers” writers’ salon and contributor/co-editor of two books, “Mountain Memoirs: An Ashe County Anthology”(2012) and “Reflections on the New River”(2015).

In addition to writing, Scot is also a professional photographer and musician.

Kristen Lenea Ryberg publishes as PINTAIL POETRY on Substack, makes mail art, poetry tees, and poetry soap at Meadowshine Studios. She is a NC Poetry in Plain Sight poet and a NCPS Poet Laureate Finalist. Her aim in poetry is toward un-barriering self and others.

Brenda Smith is a relative newcomer to Ashe County; she has lived here for just over a year– and she loves it.  “It is amazing to sit on a mountaintop and listen to the quiet, or sit beside a stream and listen to the water ripple.  What more inspiration could a writer ask for?  I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid.  I think it helped me figure out who I was as we moved to five different states while I was growing up.  Writing still helps me figure out who I am and what I truly think.  It gives my overactive imagination a place to go when it won’t be still.”  Brenda taught Reading, English, and Creative Writing for 34 years to students from middle school all the way to college.  Their writing always renewed her faith in humanity because she believes she met their best selves in their  writing. “We can create our own reality on a piece of paper, and keep it to bring out and read any time we need to remind ourselves who we truly, truly are.”

Becky Stragand is a retired educator.  Her students have ranged from age 8 to 99, and she calls them all her kids!  She is a former Sunday columnist at the Morganton News Herald and is also a former columnist for the Ashe Mountain Times, and the Ashe County Line.  She enjoys reading, writing, and interior decorating (or as her husband calls it constantly moving furniture around.)  She lives in West Jefferson with her husband Peter, two Maine Coon cats, one Russian Blue, and one tuxedo cat.




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