Announcing the 2023 Mountain Words Literary Festival

The Crested Butte Center for the Arts is thrilled to present the fourth-annual Mountain Words Festival. Held over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28, Mountain Words is Crested Butte’s most beloved celebration of literature, stories and ideas. This year’s festival has something for everyone, including panels, readings, theater, kids’ events, gallery receptions, workshops, films, parties and other delights.   

Held at the Center for the Arts, the festival welcomes over forty nationally and internationally acclaimed authors and presenters including Pulitzer Prize finalist Rebecca Makkai and internationally acclaimed author and activist Raj Patel, in sessions spanning fiction, nonfiction, poetry, climate and environment, screenwriting, journalism, memoir, outdoor/adventure and others. 

“We are very 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 participate in a larger dialogue and thinking on diverse and timely topics,” said festival director Brooke MacMillan. “I think a common misconception is that the festival is only for readers and writers, but in truth, the weekend and events are for anyone who enjoys being stimulated by powerful ideas, stories and a good dose of humor.” 

Access to the festival is central it its mission and to ensure inclusion for all, the weekend will feature over 20 free community events, along with student and senior reduced pricing, and full scholarships. 

Rebecca Makkai is the Chicago-based author of the novels I Have Some Questions for You, The Great Believers and The Hundred-Year House. The Great Believers was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and received the ALA Carnegie Medal and the LA Times Book Prize, among other honors. Her work has been translated into 20 languages and her short fiction has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize XLI (2017), The Best American Short Stories 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016 and 2009, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best American Fantasy, and featured on Public Radio International’s Selected Shorts and This American Life. 

Raj Patel holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and Cornell University, has worked for the World Bank and WTO and protested against them around the world. He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the US, UK, and EU governments and is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. In 2016 he was recognized with a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing and co-author of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things and his acclaimed latest book Inflamed: Deep Medicine and The Anatomy of Injustice. 

His second, The Value of Nothing, was a New York Times and international best-seller, and he now works at the University of Texas, Austin as a research professor in the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs. His first film, filmed over the course of a decade in Malawi and the United States, is the award-winning documentary The Ants & The Grasshopper which will be screened at the festival, on May 26. 

Other presenters include Ted Conover, author of Cheap Land Colorado; Teow Lim Goh, author of Islanders poems on the history of Chinese exclusion at the Angel Island Immigration Station, Joel Warner, author of The Curse of Marquis de Sade: A Notorious Scoundrel, a Mythical Manuscript, and the Biggest Scandal in Literary History; Rachel Monroe, New Yorker investigative reporter and author of Savage Appetites: True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession; Julia Wheeler, international book festival chair and author of Telling Tales: An Oral History of Dubai; Olivia Chadha, author of Rise of the Red Hand; and many others. Local writers and presenters include Leath Tonino, DK Hawk, Arvin Ram, Mark Reaman, Phil Coleman, MJ Picket, Holly Conn, James McGrath Morris, Gretchen King and others. 

The festival includes readings from the 2023 Mountain Words Writers in Residence cohort, which includes prominent author and essayist Harrison Candelaria Fletcher, poet, and Cancer Biology Ph.D. Jenny Qi, Colorado short-story author and winner of the 2022 Whiting Award in fiction, Claire Boyles, Alaska-based multi-award-winning screenwriter Alessandra Bautze, and local nature writer and author of the Crested Butte News column, Earth Muffin Memos Molly Murfee. 

Geared towards all audiences, the weekend will feature a broad variety of workshops, including “Turning the Physical World into Story” (Pam Houston), “Creative Alchemy; breakout session” (Laura Krantz and Scott Carney), “The Art and Theory of Cussing” (Steven Dunn), “World Building in a Hurry” (Olivia Chadha), “Screenwriting with a Sense of Place” (Alessandra Bautze), “How to Write and Pitch an Op-ed” workshop with Megan Kate Nelson and over 20 others.  

Panel discussions will include some of the nation’s leading experts, thinkers and reporters on topics that include, the future of land and water in the West, writing ethical crime, food justice and sustainability, reporting in mountain towns and the grit of writing. New this year, journalists from the Crested Butte News, High Country News and the Colorado Sun will participate in many of the panels. And in another festival first, Colorado Public Radio’s senior host Ryan Warner will present a live taping of Colorado Matters, discussing Joel Warner’s new book Curse of The Marquis de Sade: A Notorious Scoundrel, a Mythical Manuscript, and the Biggest Scandal in Literary History. 

The festival tradition of incredible live theater over lunch continues on Saturday, May 27 with “God of Carnage,” starring Tony Award nominated actor Sam Robards, three-time CTG Henry Award winner Emma Messenger, Western Colorado University Artist-in-Residence Heather Hughes and acclaimed actor and Western Colorado University theater professor, Steven Cole Hughes. You can also catch Robards at the Gossip Girl marathon and talkback taking place at the Majestic Theatre, Sunday, May 28.

Children’s sessions include a collaboration with the Trailhead Children’s Museum for two creative workshops, Box Books and Blackout Poetry, that combine literary and visual arts into hands-on crafting projects. The Farcical Fairytales improv performance returns on Saturday afternoon giving a special, silly, one-of-a-kind fairytale experience for children ages 3 and up, and brought to you by the new, local Firebrand Theatre Company. 

And back by popular demand, festival goers and trivia lovers alike can come together for a very special, bookish trivia, “Literature and Libations” with Quiz Quiz Bang Bang — winners will bag some killer festival prizes.

Arvin Ram, local bookstore owner, Center for the Arts board member and festival advisor hopes to see the community come out for, “an incredible weekend of voices in fiction and nonfiction gathering to explore issues we all face in the West.”

The 2023 Mountain Words Festival will take place on May 25-28 at the state-of-the-art Center for the Arts, located in downtown Crested Butte. For a full schedule, passes, scholarships, student/senior pricing, lodging info and more, please visit

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