Farmville is about to start reading in a big way.

Last year, Longwood’s Greenwood Library, in partnership with several other community groups, was awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop community programming, discussion and cultural growth around the common reading of one book.

Cover of Ron Rash’s novel Burning Bright

Beginning with an April 6 kickoff event, the NEA Big Read: Heart of Virginia will feature a month of programming centered on Ron Rash’s celebrated novel Burning Bright, a collection of stories set in Appalachia that chronicle generational struggle and culture.

Everything gets started at 11 a.m. this Saturday at the Farmville Community Marketplace, where the Farmer’s Market is held during the summer months. Free copies of the book will be available, and there will be mascots from area schools, food trucks, music, local artisans and more. Other upcoming activities include a visit from author Ron Rash on April 23 and an all-day celebration of Appalachian culture capping off the event at the Heart of Virginia festival on May 4.

“The kickoff event will be a celebration of this book and our community,” said Brent Roberts, Greenwood Library dean. “We hope people will come, enjoy the fun atmosphere and pick up a copy of the book—which is free at this event and several other places in the community during the month—and start to read and discuss. The purpose of NEA Big Read: Heart of Virginia is to bring the community together for a conversation about who we are and where we’re going.”

The kickoff event is sponsored by Navona Hart and Real Living Cornerstone, a real estate agency in Farmville.

“The stories in Burning Bright are gritty and sometimes all too real,” said Roberts. “They will make you think. They will lead to discussions of major issues that face our region, from war and poverty to addiction and crime. Most important, the stories highlight the importance of families and of being close to the land.” 

The month of programming features an event nearly every day beginning April 6. There will be book discussions at various businesses and organizations, including Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood; staged readings by the Waterworks Players; a poetry contest; film screenings; Jack Tales storytelling; live music events featuring authentic Appalachian instruments; and an author keynote on Tuesday, April 23, featuring Ron Rash.

A full calendar listing can be found at

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