Clemson University held its eleventh annual Literary Festival April 4-6.
The Literary Festival began as a way to uphold the tradition of the great writers and thinkers who have come through Clemson University. The festival’s website cites the likes of James Dickey and Barry Hannah as inspiration for the event. Each year, Clemson invites authors and poets from all across the country to read their work and host panels at the university. Several of these writers have won Pulitzer Prizes or other prestigious awards. While some have connections to the Upstate, many make their first visit to South Carolina to attend this festival. Since its inception in 2008, the Literary Festival has brought more than 100 writers to Clemson.
This festival is student-ran. The Literary Festival is organized entirely by a small class of students and their professor. Professor John Pursley and his class put together everything from picking the authors to invite to selecting venues and arranging transportation for the visiting writers.
The event is sponsored by several entities, including the Clemson English Department and “The South Carolina Review” in an effort to bring people together through an appreciation of the arts.
“The Lit Fest is a chance to enjoy a variety of different writing styles. Even people who aren’t English majors can enjoy the events,” Jarod Tolleson, a senior English major said.
This year’s festival featured several award-winning authors including headliner Paul Beatty who won the Man Booker award for his novel The Sellout. Beatty’s reading had an excellent turnout, and Dr. Michael LeMahieu got the chance to interview Beatty about The Sellout. Audience members also had the chance to ask questions. Beatty also did a reading from his novel and discussed some of the larger issues the book addresses.
In addition to Beatty, poets like Glenis Redmon, Dunya Mikhail and Lily Hoang held readings of their works. These readings were held in downtown Clemson and allowed for students and professors to interact with the poets upon the conclusion of the reading.
To help students learn more about the process of publication, the South Carolina Review held a panel with Professor Keith Morris and writers April Ayers Lawson and Matthew Vollmer. The trio discussed the process of finding an agent, working with that agent and how the publication process works for new writers. The panel also took questions from the audience and offered a professional perspective to those students thinking of pursuing a career in writing or publication.
One event to not be overlooked is the annual reading by student writing award winners. Students submit their writing, either poetry or fiction, to be considered. One or two students are selected from each category, and they read their work during the festival. This year, Angelica Dickerson and Jonathan Dillard were the featured readers.
“It was an honor to be chosen for the Student Writing Award in Fiction and runner-up for poetry. I am greatly inspired by my peers, professors and the fantastic poets and authors who attended Clemson’s Literary Festival,” Dickerson said.
Clemson’s Literary Festival is a special event that allows students and faculty the opportunity to engage intellectually with writers and poets.
To get involved with next year’s Literary Festival, students can enroll in the course that organizes the event, or contact director John Pursley directly to see how they can be of assistance.
Written By: Allison Daniel