Weekly Thoughts on Celebrating the Writers’ Festival

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Good morning, everyone, and–for Agnes Scott community members: Happy Peak Week. Today finds many of us traveling, virtually, on our global journeys; working, remotely, at SCALE (Sophomore Class Atlanta Leadership Experience) sites; collaborating on Applied Career Experiences (ACE courses); and, I hope for many, some much-needed mid-semester rejuvenation. My students and I are working our way through Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, which we all agree is a delightful and surprising novel (she was a Festival Guest in 2004). According to many of the students, it’s something they would pick up and read on their own–perhaps you will, too? 

Also featured this week: a phenomenal poem from the incomparable Nikky Finney (Guest Writer 2019), included in the New York Times Magazine, and one from Linda Hogan, which appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series (Guest Writer 2005). Their works are always worth your time. 
Something to Celebrate:The 50th anniversary of the Writers’ Festival was featured on the cover of the Decatur Focus, a local community publication!
English Creative Writing Senior Seminar students were featured on the latest installment of Agnes Scott’s podcast, interviewed by Professor Alan Grostephan! It’s fabulous and inspiring!

Something to Do:Here are some events happening this week that may be of interest:

  • First, there’s an exciting event hosted by Charis on radicalizing and decolonizing feminism, in celebration of International Women’s Day. This conversation between Dr. Joy James, Jaleesah T. Jackson, and Salome Ayuak will take place today, March 8, at 7:30 p.m.
  • Another installment in the virtual series of conversations in advance of Ken Burns’ documentary about Ernest Hemingway will take place Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m.. This conversation, “Hemingway, the Sea and Cuba,” features writer Cristina Garcia (Festival Guest 2013) and author/journalist Brin-Jonathan Butler. 
    • You can also join us on Tuesday, April 6, at 4 p.m. from our first “From the Archives” event during this year’s Writers’ Festival, in which we will stream an event from the 2013 Writers’ Festival featuring Cristina Garcia. 
  • Charis Books, in conjunction with the AJC Decatur Book Festival, hosts writer Isabelle Allende in conversation with Elizabeth Lessler also on Tuesday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m. They will be discussing Allende’s new book, The Soul of a Woman, in which Allende considers “what feeds the soul of feminists–and all women–today?” This is a ticketed event; the ticket price includes a copy of The Soul of a Woman, which was published on March 2.
  • And, a reminder from last week: Theatrical Outfit, the fantastic Atlanta theater, is kicking off its spring season by streaming Lauren Gunderson’s (Writers’ Festival Contest winner 2002) play, The Catastrophist. It begins runs through March 21
    • We are delighted to share that Gunderson will be one of the featured panelists joining us at our roundtable event featuring past winners of the Writers’ Festival Contest! Join us on Thursday, April 8, at 4 p.m. for this exciting event!

Something(s) to Read:Last week, I mentioned that Joyce Carol Oates (2000 Festival Guest) has a new collection of poetry available; she has also recently published a new collection of short stories! The (Other) You is now available. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has something new, too: The Last Queen!
Here are some of my thoughts about the Writers’ Festival Magazine issues from the turn of the millennium: 1996-2000:

  • 2000
    • Gardner Linn’s poetry–especially the ideas of the miniature and space–were provocative. I loved the way they write about bats invading a house and the speaker’s subsequent engagement with that space.
    • The essay “Learning to Sew,” by Jamey Fisher, caught my attention, particularly in its reconciliation of feminism with domestic arts–here, sewing, followed by crocheting. 
    • Here we find Jacqueline Pardue, aka, Jacqueline Goldfinger, our Writers’ Festival guest’s play, Deception of Eve, is extraordinary. You can also read her play Homecoming in the 1999 Magazine.
  • 1999
    • Maudelle Driskell’s poetry (see also the 1998 issue for her poem, “The Mist Net)
    • Anthony Tambakis’ stories “Death of an Olympic Hopeful”–which has a fascinating narrative structure–and “See Rock City”–which makes brilliant use of the second person
  • 1998
    • This is the first year that the contest features a playwriting category! To celebrate, you should read all three of the plays. 
    • Cheryl Reid’s story, “My Banishment” (and her story “A Good Catholic Woman,” featured in the 1996 Magazine)
    • Sharie McCune’s poem “Colors of the Wind” features these lines: “Bones are seeds, / but years are stones that give a measured shape / to time.” As we mark a year of remote work and remember when things across the world shut down, these lines resonate with me. 
    • Michelle Newcome’s long lines in the poem “Canticon” are incredibly powerful.
    • Margaret Nunnely’s essay “A Modern Mystique” caught my attention: each long-distance telephone occasions its own story. I’d love to see how this might look with today’s communications technology. 
  • 1997
    • Happy 25th Anniversary, Writers’ Festival! To celebrate this quarter-century milestone, the magazine itself doubled in size. 
    • You must read Kamilah Aisha Moon’s stunning poetry. And then read more!
    • I marvel at Marisa P. Clark’s story, “False Positive,” and essay, “Fire” (and story “Ebo Rolled Over,” in the 1996 Magazine)
  • 1996
    • While I love the oversized nature of the more recent magazines, I also admit to finding the smaller format akin to holding Poetry Magazine or the like. It’s pocket-sized format is especially compelling when space is at such a premium for so many.
    • I loved Jessica Pierce’s poem, “Front Porch Dreaming” and
    • Darisa Dunlevy-Tingle’s “Lilac Blossoms”
    • I also found it so strange not to see any dramatic works! I’m so glad that has been a significant part of our Festival for half of its life.

Stay well, everyone!