July 12, 1999
Volume 51, No. 35
Writer's Festival gives more weight to verse this year
This year's Summer Writer's Festival, the July 20-22 interlude in the Summer Writer's Institute, will be a little more lyrical than those in years past.
Whereas past festivals have concentrated on fiction writers, this year's event matches a pair of poets with two prose stylists. It is an attempt, said festival director Judson Mitcham, to pay attention to a facet of creative writing that is becoming more and more marginalized in today's world.
"We're taking another look at the festival and making plans for the future," said Mitcham, a poet and author of the 1996 novel The Sweet Everlasting. "One of the things we're considering is broadening the scope of the festival, so while the [institute] focuses on fiction, the festival draws people interested in both poetry and fiction."
Two writers will read July 20 and two more July 22; both readings will take place at 8 p.m. in 303 Geosciences. On Wednesday, July 21, all four writers will participate in a panel discussion, moderated by Mitchum, on "Becoming a Writer" at 4 p.m. in 120 Tarbutton Hall. Later that evening students in the institute will give readings at 8 p.m. in 303 Geosciences.
Jim Shepard, author of five novels including last year's Nosferatu, will read July 20. Shepard's other novels include Flights, Paper Doll, Lights Out in the Reptile House and Kiss of the Wolf, and he has published a collection of short stories, Battling Against Castro. He is the J. Leland Miller Professor of English at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he teaches creative writing and film.
Also reading July 20 will be Kevin Young, whose first poetry collection, Most Way Home, was selected for the National Poetry Series and won the Zachris First Book Prize from Ploughshares. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Grand Street and other publications, and he was recently feature on NPR's "All Things Considered." Young teaches English and African American Studies at the University of Georgia.
Reading on July 22 will be Beth Lordan, whose first novel, August Heat, was published in 1987. Her work has appeared in Farmers Market, Gettysburg Review and Atlantic Monthly, and her story collection, And Both Shall Row, was published last year. She is a recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and she teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University.
Finally, Mark Jarman will also read July 22. He has authored six books of poetry, including Questions for Ecclesiastes, which won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and The Nation magazine, and was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Critics' Circle Award. He has received three NEA poetry grants as well as a Guggenheim fellowship. Jarman is a professor of English at Vanderbilt University.
Loran and Shepard both said they appreciate reading in a workshop setting because they are not limited in what they can share, as is the case when doing a promotional book tour.
"[In a tour] if I feel like reading something that would be pedagogically useful, something restrains me," Shepard said. "But at something like what I'm doing at Emory, I would be much more likely to choose anything over the course of my career."
As far as the panel discussion's topic, Loran's advice to aspiring writers is simple: "Read," she said. "It's such boring [advice], but just read everything. I don't understand why people would want to become writers if they weren't readers. Other advice is comforting and exciting and friendly and all that, but everything important that I learned about writing I learned from reading."