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James Agee Conference reverts to in-person at Pellissippi State

Charles Dodd White with books
James Agee Conference founder Charles Dodd White, pictured here with his novels at the grand opening of the Appalachian Heritage Project in Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus Library in 2022, has moved the annual literature conference to the Strawberry Plains Campus, as it returns to an in-person format for the first time since 2019.

Pellissippi State Community College’s annual literature conference returns to its original in-person format this year – but in a new location. 

The James Agee Conference for Arts and Literature will be held Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, Knoxville. The event is free and open to the public. 

Presenters will focus on poetry, creative nonfiction, young adult fiction, rare book collecting and musical performance. The day will end with a book signing with the authors and an open mic for any attendees who want to read their own work. 

“We always feature talents in our region, and we are pushing out to see a different view,” said conference founder Charles Dodd White, an author and professor of English at Pellissippi State. “This is the first year we’ve had a young adult fiction writer, and our creative nonfiction presenter, Arwen Donahue, not only writes but illustrates her books, which adds a mixed media voice to the conference.” 

Also new this year is a session on rare book collecting with Micah McCrotty, who will bring some of his finds. 

“The conference is always evolving, and this is a different way of participating in book culture,” White said. 

White created the James Agee Conference in fall 2016 to give Pellissippi State students an opportunity to attend a scholarly conference while also celebrating the literature, culture and arts of Appalachia. The conference transitioned into an online-only reading series in 2021 and 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The conference returns to in-person this spring in a new location: the Strawberry Plains Campus Library, which houses the college’s Appalachian Heritage Project. Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Appalachian Heritage Project features curated collections of materials about all aspects of the region and quarterly programming focused on the art, literature, customs and history of the area. 

“When I came over to teach at the Strawberry Plains Campus, I wanted to have something that is a complement to the Young Creative Writers Conference held here each fall,” White said. “While that conference is aimed toward high school students and this is a professional conference, we are reinforcing the mission of each event by working together.” 

Conference organizers request that participants register beforehand. To see the list of presenters and the schedule, and to register, visit