Many gathered to share stories last Tuesday morning for the first day of the Spring Creative Writing Festival. Hosted in a back gallery of the Reece Museum, the two-day festival is in its third year and has a sister event in the fall.
The ETSU Department of Literature and Language hosts this festival each year in an effort to foster community and growth within the department and the area’s creative writing community as a whole. The schedule featured readings from acclaimed writers Bianca Lynn Spriggs, Mark Powell and Courtney Stevens as well as sessions with ETSU faculty members Dr. Felipe Fiuza and Dr. Michael Cody.
“We have some superb guest speakers,” said festival director and associate professor Dr. Jesse Graves. “These are nationally known writers…We hope to bring in the best writers we can.”
The festival followed a session schedule of speakers and workshops. Graves opened the festival at 10 a.m. on Tuesday with a welcome and introduction, then invited this year’s editor of the “The Mockingbird” and graduate student Kara Russell up to speak. “The Mockingbird” is an annual literary and arts magazine showcasing student work.
“Last year’s festival served as a catalyst for my involvement in this creative writing community,” Russell said. “It’s a really special event and I’m honored to participate.”
Russell then introduced students whose work had received awards in each category that “The Mockingbird” features: art, drama, nonfiction, fiction and poetry. She then offered each a chance to present an excerpt from their work.
The rest of day one of the festival consisted of readings from ETSU faculty and three workshop sessions with Spriggs, Powell and Stevens in their respective disciplines of poetry, fiction and young adult fiction. On Wednesday morning, those same writers had a reading and gave presentations on their subjects.
The festival devoted Wednesday evening to the keynote speaker, poet Joy Harjo.
“She’s a star,” Graves said. “She is possibly the most celebrated Native American poet in the world.”
Harjo gave a public interview, conducted by Graves, before the festival moved to the Culp Auditorium where she presented the Sixth Annual Jack Higgs Memorial Reading. The festival concluded with a book signing with Harjo.
“I’m reminded every year that it takes a village of writers to raise up a festival like this,” Graves said.