2024 Mountain Words Festival at the Center for the Arts

The Crested Butte Center for the Arts is thrilled to announce the full line-up of this year’s Mountain Words Festival. The expansive 2024 program, spanning 45 events over three days, is set to unfold at the Center for the Arts and other Crested Butte venues and welcomes nationally and internationally acclaimed authors and presenters, including Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist Timothy Egan.

Held over Memorial Day weekend, May 24–26, Mountain Words is Crested Butte’s beloved multi-genre celebration of literature, stories, and ideas. This year’s festival has something for everyone, including discussions, readings, theater, kids’ events, gallery receptions, film and other thought-provoking sessions.    

“The Mountain Words Festival is one of the biggest festivals the Center presents and is our primary offering for literary artists and patrons,” says Center Programming Manager Stephanie Helleckson. “This year, we are thrilled to present a star-studded lineup of storytellers at the forefront of pressingly relevant topics including climate change, social equality, fact-based narratives and speculative envisioning of our shared future.”

The festival will feature over twenty sessions that are free and open to the public, ensuring that audiences of all kinds can access the cultural cross-section available including mainstage discussions in the Steddy Theater with Timothy Egan, Betsy and David Quammen, Hampton Sides, Michelle Nijhuis, Kevin Fedarko and others. Access and inclusion are central to the festival’s mission and student and educator reduced pricing, and full scholarships are available. 

Headliners include Timothy Egan, author of ten books, including his most recent, A Fever in the Heartland; The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them, a historical thriller and immediate New York Times bestseller that explains the madness of our times with a look back at a hundred years ago. 

His account of the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time, won the 2006 National Book Award, considered one of the nation’s highest literary honors. A lifelong journalist, Egan worked as a national correspondent and opinion columnist for the New York Times, roaming the West. As a Times correspondent, he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 with a team of reporters for its series, “How Race is Lived in America.”

Crested Butte local and international best-selling author Shelley Read will share her experiences as part of a publishing panel and will give a craft workshop. Read’s debut novel, Go As A River, became an instant international bestseller and is being translated into over thirty languages and has been optioned for film. A Sunday Times and American Booksellers Association bestseller, Go As A River is also a 2023 Amazon Editor’s Pick Best Debut, a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee and a Colorado Public Radio Best Book of the Year. 

Continuing the festival’s strong 2024 nonfiction theme, New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides will give a talk about his round-the-world travels researching his many gripping true adventure stories set in war or depicting epic expeditions of discovery and exploration. Sides is the author of the bestselling histories Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, Hellhound On His Trail, In the Kingdom of Ice, and, most recently, The Wide Wide Sea, the epic account of the most momentous voyage of the Age of Exploration, which culminated in Captain James Cook’s death in Hawaii, and left a complex and controversial legacy still debated to this day.

Other notables include Montana Poet Laureate, Chris La Tray; NatGeo explorer, journalist and author, Kevin Fedarko; award-winning journalist covering the cosmos, astronomy, space exploration, and history, Rebecca Boyle; international bestselling author of speculative fiction and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, Paolo Bacigalupi; chronicler of policy in the West and author of American Zion and True West, Betsy Gaines Quammen; award-winning MG, YA, novelist Olivia Chadha; author and journalist whose eighteen books include Breathless (2022), The Tangled Tree (2018), Spillover (2012), David Quammen; writer, producer, podcast host and co-author of, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, Dave Gonzales, and many others.

Geared towards writers and thinkers of all levels and interests, the weekend will feature a variety of workshops on topics ranging from nature writing, sci-fi, playwriting, poetry, ecology, science, documentary filmmaking and other dynamic offerings. Not-to-miss sessions include, “The Future of Ski Towns,” “Public Lands and Future Threats,” “Timothy Egan in Conversation” and “The Vastness of Space” among others.   

Panel discussions will include some of the nation’s leading writers, experts and thinkers on topics that include climate and environment, space exploration, publishing, history, science, adventure, policy, film and issues specifically affecting mountain communities and the American West. 

The festival tradition of presenting incredible live theatre returns with the debut working performance of Singletrack! the musical one night only, Saturday, May 25. Written by acclaimed playwright, actor, and Western Colorado University theater Director, Steven Cole Hughes, the hysterically funny production is a deconstruction of 1980s sports and action films like Footloose, Flashdance, Karate Kid, Rad, Rocky, Top Gun — but mostly Rad, which, if you are unfamiliar, is the 1986 cult classic about teenage BMX racers — starring Cole Hughes along with award-winning actor Heather Hughes, and professional actors from around the country for a read through of Act I of the play. 

Colorado Public Radio’s senior host Ryan Warner returns this year for a live taping of Colorado Matters, discussing science writer Sarah Scoles’ new book, Countdown; The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons. 

Children’s sessions include a collaboration with the Trailhead Children’s Museum for very special bookmaking workshops, including Ever-Expanding Books and Team Zine that combine literary and visual arts into hands-on crafting projects. Local Firebrand Theatre Company will present a community production of Alice in Wonderland over the festival weekend. 

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

“In this fifth year of the festival, we’re thrilled to present a lineup of events that aims to inspire, entertain and connect audiences of all ages. Expect thought-provoking conversations, performances, and interactive sessions from leading and emerging writers and thinkers,” says Festival founder Brooke MacMillan. “This festival isn’t just for readers and writers, it’s for anyone interested in literature, ideas, and new thinking. We hope you’ll join us for an incredible weekend!”

The 2024 Mountain Words Festival will take place on May 24-26 at the state-of-the-art Center for the Arts, located in downtown Crested Butte. For a full schedule, passes, ala carte pricing, scholarships, student/educator pricing and more, please visit mtnwords.org.

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