The 14th Annual Clemson Literary Festival
The Annual Clemson Literary Festival is a beloved tradition. Unfortunately, last year’s celebration was canceled due to COVID-19, but thankfully is able to happen again this year, spanning from March 24-26, 2021. The 14th annual festival is going to be held virtually, with authors giving readings, Q&A sessions and a feature for the Student Creative Writing Award winners. The full schedule of events and visiting authors can be found on the Clemson English Department website.
A lot of hard work and dedication goes into planning and implementing the literary festival. Professor John Pursley III is the faculty member overseeing the event and leads a classroom full of students who take hands-on roles and responsibilities as well. The full-year course is half a creative writing and poetry workshop, with the other half dedicated to the literary festival. The students read the works of the visiting authors, giving them a more personal connection to the authors and to the events. The class is responsible for selecting the visiting authors, reaching out to them and serving as points of contact.
“We take everything into consideration when we’re picking the authors, such as diversity and getting an even split between fiction, poetry and sometimes nonfiction,” Pursley said regarding the selection process.
Pursley and his class normally undergo the task of selecting authors for the festival during the fall semester, but this year’s Lit Fest roster is composed of authors chosen by students who took the course during the 2019-2020 school year. Thankfully, many of the authors slated to attend last year’s festivities will be in attendance during this year’s virtual festival. This year’s visiting authors include Nikky Finney, Tessa Fontaine, Santee Frazier, Allegra Hyde, Julia Koets, Maggie Mitchell, Alicia Mountain, Sun Yung Shin, Christopher Soto and Kathi Wolfe.
Within the course, the students act as student directors for the festival, with new challenges presented in the form of learning various technologies and communicating in a remote environment. They are assigned to different teams, each tasked with working on one specific aspect of the festival and its planning. These teams include social media, outreach and website maintenance. The students in the course have a group message with the entire class as well as separate group messages for their individual teams, creating a sense of community even while meeting virtually.
“When the whole class is working together towards a common goal, it really brings everyone together,” Cayden Treadway said.
Treadway works with the outreach team, where he reaches out to authors, organizations and sponsors. In addition to these more logistical tasks, Treadway will have the unique opportunity to introduce author Santee Frazier for his scheduled reading.
“Frazier’s work really stood out to me because this was my second time reading his work so not only was it nice to have an author I recognized, but I felt I could contribute more to the conversations we have,” Treadway said.
Another student director, Celeste Marchant, is on the social media team, where she helps to design posts and content to promote the festival. Although she initially registered for the course for the creative writing aspect, Marchant was excited about the opportunities presented by planning and implementing the literary festival.
When asked about which author and event she was most excited for, Marchant stated Sun Yung Shin, author of “Unbearable Splendor”.
“Shin’s writing is really, really different and I’d never read anything like her before,” Marchant said.
As the festival dates draw closer, there is more buzz and excitement within the class and amongst community members excited to attend. Though not being held in the traditional format, there is still an excellent roster of visiting authors and events that uphold the high standards of the annual festival with the added hope of returning to in-person events next year.
“I think the students are starting to embrace the festival more and more as it gets closer and starts to look more real and they realize “‘Wow, we’re really in charge of this,’” Pursley said.
Written by: Olivia Hanline