Building on a long tradition of inviting distinguished writers to campus to read their works, teach, and talk with students, Agnes Scott College Annual Writers’ Festival began in the spring of 1972, with May Sarton as the headliner. A statewide writing contest for colleges and universities in poetry and fiction was the centerpiece of the event: the finalists’ works were published in the festival magazine and the visiting writers selected the prizewinners in each genre. Readings and workshops with the visiting writers rounded out the program, which was open to the public as well as to the campus community.
Today, the festival maintains these founding traditions along with some new features: creative nonfiction and dramatic writing were added to the contest in the 1990s, an alumna writer is on the program almost every year, and one of the visiting writers gives a one-credit workshop for Agnes Scott College students.
One such writer, acclaimed Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, while on campus for two weeks in 2012, took a group of students to an Alabama reservation and introduced them to members of her tribe and shared their traditions and history. “Joy Harjo was incredible and innovative in her teaching methods. She would integrate dance and music with her poetry, and we even ended up dancing around a circle in the classroom to channel our energies,” said Sanidia Oliver ’13. “Not only was Joy an incredible poet and teacher, but we individually were able to connect with her in our own way. She invited all of us to an Indian Reservation in Alabama where she was performing on behalf of her grandfather who had fought there so long ago. It was an amazing opportunity.”
From Eudora Welty, Reynolds Price, Richard Wilbur, and Margaret Atwood, to Rita Dove, Jane Smiley, Tim O’Brien, John Updike, Anita Desai, and Chris Abani, the festival has brought great writers to the college to inspire and challenge our students and our audiences. Join us!
For more information, visit our page on Agnes Scott College’s website.
This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
- Jennifer Nettles, ASC ’97, Festival Guest 2011 (40th Anniversary Celebration), photo copyright Craig O’Neal CC BY-SA
- Tracy K. Smith, Festival Guest 2015, photo copyright Blue Flower Arts, used with permission
- Scott Russell Sanders, Festival Guest 2002, photo copyright Ruth Sanders, used with permission
- Jennifer Bartell, ASC ’05, Festival Guest 2015, photo copyright Jennifer Bartell, used with permission
- Charleen McClure, ASC ’10, Festival Guest 2016, photo copyright Charleen McClure, used with permission
- Dani Shapiro, Festival Guest 2016, photo copyright Blue Flower Arts, used with permission
- Richard Blanco, Festival Guest 2016, photo copyright Blue Flower Arts, used with permission
- Yusef Komunkakaa, Festival Guest 2007, photo copyright Vox Populi CC BY-SA
- Claudia Rankine, Festival Guest 2017, photo copyright John Lucas CC BY-SA 3.0
- Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Festival Guest 2018, photo copyright Daniel A. Anderson, University of California, Irvine, used with permission
- Rita Dove, Festival Guest 1992, photo copyright UVA CC BY-NC
- Nikky Finney, Festival Guest 2018, photo copyright Forrest Clonts, used with permission
- Gish Jen, Festival Guest 2013, photo copyright Romana Vysatova CC BY-SA
- Jacqueline Goldfinger, ASC ’00, Festival Guest 2012 & 2018, photo copyright Jacqueline Goldfinger, used with permission
- Jamaica Kincaid, Festival Guest 1998, photo copyright Niklas Maupoix CC BY-NC
- Joy Harjo, Festival Guest 2012, photo copyright Matika Wilbur and Blue Flower Arts, used with permission