Mace & crown
|OCTOBER 21, 1997, Page 1|
Literary festival plays to a full house
BY JENNIFER BAISE FISCHER
The 20th annual ODU literary festival, "Fierce Minds
at Work," closed Friday evening with music from the Gateway quartet and
a lecture by acclaimed literary journalist Gay Talese.
packed the Hampton- Newport News rooms in Webb Center
at 10 a.m on Thursday to listen to Reginald McKnight, the O'Henry Award-winning
African American writer, read his short story "Palm Wine."
Sheri Reynolds, the ODU professor and novelist who found fame with a coveted position on Oprah Winfrey's television book club, had an opportunity to speak on home turf during the festival. She read from her new novel "A Gracious Plenty."
Readings by novelist/poet Richard Hell, formerly of seminal punk band "The Voidoids," and Virginian-Pilot veteran Mike D'Orso were crowded 5-10 minutes before they were scheduled to begin.
Panel discussions such as "What Kind of Fire: Three Genres, Three Truths?" invoked such enthusiasm among listeners that unscheduled questions were shouted from the audience. As the festival continued, audience participation became more frequent. Realizing she was outnumbered, Judy Mercier, moderator and English department instructor, laughingly surrendered
panel of Friday's "Friction: The Rub between Fiction and Nonfiction" to
Many English professors, including Dana Heller, Diana Altegoer and Michael Pearson, canceled classes the week of literary festival to enable students to attend and write about the events for class credit. Several students not favored by this flexibility admitted anonymously that they were attending literary festival events in lieu of classes.
Jose Cruz, frontman for student musical ensemble "The Fellaheen Movement," believes the literary festival has encouraged many of the artists on campus. His band opened for Martin Espada's reading on Thursday evening, an opportunity Cruz regards as an unparalleled honor.
"The literary festival has been such a wonderful experience," said Cruz. "For writers in the school its been a fountain, a great explosion of inspiration."
All readings and panel discussions were free and open to the public due to funding by a grant from the Norfolk Commission
on the Arts and Humanities and an endowment in the name of Dr. Forrest White.
However, the future of literary festivals at ODU is dependent
upon current interest generated by students and faculty.