Since 1986, distinguished authors from around the country have made a pilgrimage to Athens to participate in the Spring Literary Festival at Ohio University.
May 2011 Issue
Readings and Writers
The Spring Literary
Festival at Ohio University celebrates the power of words.
As the 25th anniversary of the event approaches, festival coordinator David Wanczyk, who’s also an adjunct professor of English, reflects on the impact good writing has on each of us.
Linda Feagler: Ohio University’s pastoral surroundings seem like the perfect place for writers and readers to congregate. How did the idea for a literary festival come about?
David Wanczyk: “Wayne Dodd, a Distinguished Professor of English here, wanted to bring world-class writers to Athens. He not only realized what we have to offer, but also that hosting a festival would bring the college and the community together. For all who attend, the event is really about [creating] a life of ideas, a life of expression and a life of finding one’s own voice.
“We’re proud of the fact that so many renowned authors make the commitment to come here, and that all of the events are free.”
LF: Clearly, the fest is a much-anticipated event.
DW: “Each writer delivers a lecture about an aspect of their craft. Readings, Q&A sessions and book signings are also part of the mix.
“The festival never fails to inspire our graduate students, inspire our undergrads, reinvigorate our faculty and give the community access to outstanding writers.”
LF: Through the years, you’ve hosted an impressive line-up of celebrated authors.
DW: “The fest offers many different takes about the writing life, ranging from fiction to poetry. And, as in the past, several of this year’s participants have had cross-over success: Rita Dove is a former U.S. poet laureate. Rosellen Brown’s novel, Before and After, became a film starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson.
Tobias Wolff, who also came to our very first festival, is known for the memoir, This Boy’s Life, which was made into a movie starring Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
“There’s really is someone for everyone here.”
When You Go | The Spring Literary Festival, May 4–6 | Ohio University Baker Center Theater, 20 East Union St., Athens 45701 | english.ohiou.edu/cw/litfest/ | 740/707-3191
2011 LITERARY FESTIVAL AUTHORS
Rosellen Brown has published five novels, most recently Half a Heart. She is the author of four other books and three collections of poetry. Brown has published widely in magazines, and her stories have appeared frequently in O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prizes. One is included in the best-selling Best Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Brown teaches creative writing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Rita Dove served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995 and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. Recipient of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Thomas and Beulah, her third poetry collection, she has published nine volumes of poetry, short stories and a novel. Her play, The Darker Face of the Earth, was the recipient of a grant from the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays, and was subsequently produced at the Kennedy Center and the Royal National Theatre in London. “Seven for Luck,” a song cycle with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony in 1998 under the composer’s baton. For “America's Millennium,” the White House’s 2000 New Year’s celebration, Dove contributed a live reading at the Lincoln Memorial. In her latest book, Sonata Mulattica, she re-imagines the life of 19th-century violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower, son of a white European mother and an “African prince,” child prodigy and, for a short time, friend of Ludwig van Beethoven. Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
Debra Marquart teaches at Iowa State University and at the University of Southern Maine. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The North American Review, Three Penny Review and Witness. During the 1970s and ’80s, Marquart was a touring road musician with rock and heavy metal bands. Her collection of short stories, The Hunger Bone: Rock & Roll Stories, draws from her experiences as a female road musician. Marquart continues to perform with a jazz-poetry rhythm and blues project, The Bone People, with whom she has released two CDs: “Orange Parade” (acoustic rock) and “A Regular Dervish” (jazz-poetry).
Padgett Powell has published five novels and two story collections. Edisto made TIME’s Best-of-Year Fiction list and was a nominee for the National Book Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and Esquire, and in the anthologies Best American Short Stories, O.Henry Prize Stories and New Stories from the South. Powell teaches at MFA@FLA and at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.
Tobias Wolff is the author of This Boy’s Life, In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War, The Barracks Thief; Old School and four collections of short stories. He has also edited several anthologies, among them Best American Short Stories 1994, A Doctor’s Visit: The Short Stories of Anton Chekhov and The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories. He is a professor of English at Stanford.
READ ALL ABOUT IT:
Hot off the press from Ohio University Press, Lit From Within: Contemporary Masters on the Art and Craft of Writing features the work of 15 nationally known authors — most of whom have been Spring Literary Festival participants. Through perceptive essays, these celebrated writers explore the worlds of poetry, fiction and nonfiction in ways all of us can relate to.