MECC Foundation Hosts 47th Annual John Fox Jr. Festival featuring Silas House

Big Stone Gap, VA — The MECC Foundation is pleased to announce the 47th annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival, a free virtual event featuring New York Times bestselling author Silas House, Wednesday, March 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. The festival is free and open to the public.

In coordination with the festival event, the MECC Foundation will host the 36th Annual Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest and the 19th Annual Lonesome Pine Poetry Contest. The deadline for submitting entries is Tuesday, February 28 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 at the bottom of this page. Winners of the contest will be announced during the Literary Festival Event. All winners will receive a cash prize. For contest rules, visit

The 47th Annual John Fox, Jr. festival will return to a live format in 2023, with a featured discussion on House’s latest novel, Lark Ascending. Following House’s presentation, the MECC Foundation will feature a special luncheon with House at the John Fox Jr. home in Big Stone Gap beginning at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the luncheon are $30 and can be ordered by calling the MECC Foundation office at 276-523-7466. Tickets are limited, so please reserve early for this event.

Silas House is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books whose work frequently appears in The Atlantic and The New York Times. He is a former commentator for NPR and his work has been widely published in journals and magazines such as Time, The Advocate, Oxford American, Garden & Gun, and many others. He has lectured internationally and is widely regarded as one of the major writers of the American South.

House was born and grew up in Southeastern Kentucky. House’s first novel, Clay’s Quilt (2001), is now known as a foundational text for Appalachian Literature. Its two companion novels, A Parchment of Leaves (2003) and The Coal Tattoo (2005), were recently re-issued in new editions and are now known as The Appalachian Trilogy. House wrote Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal (2009) with Jason Howard. House’s fourth novel, Eli the Good (2009) emerged as a number one bestseller on the Southern lists and received the first annual Storylines Prize from the New York Public Library system, an award given to a book for use in the ESL and literacy programs of New York City. Same Sun Here (2012), co-written with Neela Vaswani, has received more than a dozen awards including the Nautilus, the Parents Choice, the E.B. White Honor Book Award, and many others. In 2018 his novel Southernmost appeared on Best of the Year lists of many magazines and was given the Weatherford Award and long listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. House has also written three plays that have been produced throughout the country.

In 2020 House received the highest honor for an artist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when he was given the Governor’s Award for the Arts. He has also won the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Judy Gaines Young Award, the Intellectual Freedom Prize, the Caritas Medal, three honorary doctorates, and many other honors. In 2021 he was chosen as the Appalachian of the Year by a poll conducted by the podcast Appodlachia.

House served as a writer-in-residence at Eastern Kentucky University in 2004 and 2005 and at Lincoln Memorial University from 2005 to 2010. At LMU he also directed the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. In 2010 House became the NEH Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College. He has served on the fiction faculty at the Naslund Mann Graduate School of Writing since 2005. House is also an editor at the University Press of Kentucky’s Fireside Industries imprint.

His latest work, Lark Ascending, has received critical praise. As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?

For readers of novels such as Station Eleven, The Dog Stars, and Migrations, Lark Ascending is a moving and unforgettable story of friendship, family, and healing. For more information on the MECC Foundation, please visit our website at