Good morning, everyone. The Writers’ Festival is finally here! At long last, we are thrilled to be able to commemorate and mark this milestone with you. We hope you enjoy the lineup of events we’ve scheduled through which to look back at the Festival’s history, celebrate its present, and glimpse its future. If you’re looking to post on social media, please use #ASCWritersFestival to tag yourself! 

If you’re in the market for new books (and, truly, who isn’t?), you won’t want to miss Poet Laureate (and 2012 Writers’ Festival Guest) Joy Harjo’s new anthology, Living Nations, Living Worlds or Philip Lopate (and 1996 Writers’ Festival Guest)’s new edited collection The Golden Age of the American Essay: 1945-1970. Pick them up at Charis! Charis’ Virtual Book Booth for the Writers’ Festival is here, too, if you are inspired by the events this week and look to find new works to read by the featured guests. 

And, don’t forget to head over to Dancing Goats Coffee Bar in Decatur for their Writers’ Festival anniversary drink, Thyme for Coffee! This is a shaken iced espresso drink with honey, lemon, and thyme, and if you purchase this drink, you will be entered in the Dancing Goats giveaway where you can get a copy of a book by Rita Dove or by Tiana Clark, sponsored by our friends at the Decatur Book Festival. This anniversary drink will be available April 2 – April 9. Go now–the weather is perfect!

Something to Do & Celebrate:

The Writers’ Festival has taken care of all of your “to do” needs this week! Here’s our schedule, with links to each event. If you click on the “register here” button, you will find a place to include your information and receive the links to each event. (There’s also information about registration on our WordPress site.) See you there!

  • Monday, April 5
    • 6:30-7:30 PM: Writers’ Festival Kickoff Event! Join me and Dean of the College and Charles A. Dana Professor of English Christine Cozzens with other faculty friends as they discuss the history and highlights of 50 years of the Writers’ Festival at Agnes Scott! Highlights and favorite memories will surely be remembered, along with a special slideshow of some of the catalog artwork and notable speakers over the years.
  • Tuesday, April 6
    • 3-4 PM: Charis and The Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival welcome ASC alumna and acclaimed children’s book author, Reem Faruqi ’06, in conversation with Fahmida Azim and Maya Martin ’21 for a celebration of Amira’s Picture Day. Ramadan has come to an end, and 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival. 
    • 4:30-5:30 PM: This “From the Archives” event hosted by Dr. James Stamant features footage of the 2013 Writers’ Festival Q&A session, featuring that year’s distinguished guest writers Cristina Garcia, Gish Jen, and Anjail Rashida Ahmad.
    • 6:30-7:30 PM: You won’t want to miss this reading from Agnes Scott student finalists in the Writers’ Festival contest! Hosted by the Center for Writing and Speaking, they will also debut the stunning 2021 Writers’ Festival Magazine, published both in print and in a digital version for the first time!
  • Wednesday, April 7
    • 2 PM: In our second “From the Archives” event, join us to watch this year’s returning guest poet Rita Dove in her 1991 Writers’ Festival appearance!
    • 4 PM: This “From the Archives” event features the 1994 Writers’ Festival appearance of the extraordinary writer Melissa Fay Greene, who is currently Kirk Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Agnes Scott, where she teaches classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Join Melissa to look back at this fantastic event!
    • 6:30-7:30 PM: Agnes Scott is a lucky participant in the Georgia Poetry Circuit, and the featured writer for April is the extraordinary poet Tiana Clark, author of I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood. She will be giving a reading and participating in a Q&A session, and Zion Martin ’21 will give the introduction. 
  • Thursday, April 8
    • 1-2 PM: If you ask people what their favorite event is, year after year, at the Writers’ Festival, you might hear that it is the Q&A session with Festival guests. Unpredictable and lively, these sessions are wonderful ways to hear about writers’ processes, inspirations, and thoughts. You won’t want to miss this year’s featuring returning guests Rita Dove and Jacqueline Goldfinger, and moderated by Agnes Scott Professor of English Robert Meyer-Lee.
    • 4-5 PM: Special for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Writers’ Festival, Agnes Scott Professor of English Kamilah Aisha Moon has assembled a roundtable of former Writers’ Festival Contest winners: Terrence Daye (winner for poetry in 2017), Lauren Gunderson (winner for playwriting in 2002), and Roger Sollenberger (winner for the special songwriting category in 2011), along with Professor Moon herself–the winner for poetry in 1997! It will be amazing to see catch up with these writers and to hear what they’ve been up to since winning the contest!
    • 8-9:30 PM: The keynote for this year’s Writers’ Festival features the incomparable poet Rita Dove, returning to the Writers’ Festival after 30 years! She will be introduced by poet Professor Kamilah Aisha Moon. The winners of this year’s Writers’ Festival contest will be announced at this event as well. You won’t want to miss it!
  • Friday, April 9
    • 2 PM: We celebrate alums today! In the final “From the Archives” event, we feature poet and writer Dr. Memye Curtis Tucker, nine-time Festival Guest and distinguished alumna of Agnes Scott! This archival footage is from her 1993 appearance at the Writers’ Festival.
    • 5 PM: Returning guest, playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger ’00 gives a reading from her new work, Devil’s Waltz. Goldfinger, serving as Writers’ Festival Writer-in-Residence this week, will be introduced by Professor of Theatre David Thompson.
  • Saturday & Sunday, April 10-11
    • All weekend long, Jacqueline Goldfinger’s play, The Arsonists, will be available to stream on ShowTix4U! We are thrilled to be able to present the Georgia Premiere of this play, a father-daughter tale of grief, loss and redemption. Inspired by the Greek tragedy Electra, this play with music is a contemporary American myth that explores the relationship between parent and child in that small space between death and life, the last breath before the awakening. Click here to view the Virtual Playbill. The play is available to stream from MIDNIGHT on Friday, April 9th until 11:45PM on April 11th.

Something(s) to Read:
Moving into the 1970s, our archive becomes more sparse and we hope that you can help us with some information! There are a few years for which we are missing magazines, and a few years for which our records do not indicate who the winners of the contest are. 

I was able to find four magazines from this decade–they were still printed as the Writers’ Festival issue of Aurora during this time–and digital versions are available for you on our WordPress site

  • 1978
    • Special thanks to Mimi Holmes ’78 for sharing this issue with us! You can see her fabulous story, “Carnival Glass,” in this edition of the magazine.
    • I enjoyed Scott Wilson’s poem, “Fable from a Grady Intern” (which includes an appearance by James Dickey, who would be a Festival Guest in 1989)
    • As students and friends of mine know, I’m a sucker for writing about objects (and thing theory more generally!). Ken Vance’s poem, “Wearing Johnny’s Shirt,” smartly uses a shirt through which to remember the twentieth century.
  • 1977
    • Anicia Lane’s poem, “The Long-Lived Death of Karen Qunley,” is wonderful. It is also a drawing by Lane that graces the cover of this issue, and you can read another of her poems, “The Appearance of a Past Civilization,” in the 1975 issue.
    • You might like Pamela Rice Grimm’s poem, “the sea is back and I feel a breaker coming on,” in this issue. (Her poem, “Sunrise Over Coffin Mountain,” was published in the 1978 issue.
    • I found James Klein’s story, “Conversation Piece,” fantastic. This issue features a lot of stories–more than in the other years of this era, and this was my favorite of the bunch.
  • 1975
    • This issue of Aurora is titled the “Writing Festival” issue. It’s been fun to see the different names the Festival was called before it settled into the name it now has.   
    • In the publication information, the editors write: “Two other stories printed in the last issue of Aurora were submitted to and are eligible for judging in the Writing Festival. These stories are not printed herein due to limitations of space. These stories are ‘The Hands that Bear Us Back to Earth’ by Joy Cunningham and ‘Spearmint’ by Becky Miller Levy. Copies of the Aurora containing these two stories are available.” If you happen to have one of these elusive copies, we would love to see it!
    • Fascinatingly, in this era, entries were not separated by genre–the poems and stories are interspersed throughout the issue.
    • I enjoyed Kent Murphy’s story “STOP AMERICAN EMBASSY HELPLESS STOP”
    • Kate Kussrow’s poem, “Rubus allegheniensis–Carpe Diem,” is delightful
    • and so is “The Nomad,” by Morah Dutton
  • 1972
    • This is the inaugural issue for the first Festival! Published as Aurora: Writers’ Conference Issue, it debuted in the winter of 1972, and features poetry, prose, and art. The art includes woodcuts, transfer drawings, pencil drawings, and photography, and they are all interspersed throughout the issue, as in the 1975 magazine.
    • Happily for us looking back, it also features the names of the winners, as the judging was done before the issue went to print, along with the invaluable Notes on Contributors section. There are many issues across the decades where institutional affiliations are missing from the magazines and, from my position as a reader these many years later, it’s interesting to know (at least!) what schools writers attended. How writers compose their own brief biographical statements is fascinating, too!
    • The winner in the poetry contest was Gary Kerley for “Ode to the Vietnam Dead,” and this is the first text presented in the magazine. Kerly has a number of other poems sprinkled throughout the volume, too.
    • Miriam Patisaul was awarded the prize in short story, for “Sugar County Carnival.”
    • Honorable mentions are included here, too: Phil Williams’ “Dancers and the Dance” was given this award, as was Ginger Rollins’ “One Fall Morning.”

It has been a delight to have had the opportunity to look back at all of this student writing across the decades. The student writing competition, clearly, has always been the heart of the Writers’ Festival, and we can only hope that it continues to be. Each issue provides a unique glimpse into the concerns, hopes, and ambitions of student writers: the future of literature in Georgia and beyond. 

We hope you enjoy this very special week of celebration, reminiscence, and commemoration as the Writers’ Festival looks back at where it has been and looks forward, featuring student writing now. 

Thanks for reading!