22nd Annual Literary Festival
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M A C E & C R O W N - OCTOBER 27 1999
Festival invites Readers to Reflect on the Truth that Lit Communicates
Staff Writer

Many of her works have appeared in anthologies, one being "Upriver: A Wisconsin Poetry Anthology" and has contributed stories, poems, and reviews to magazines such as American Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Touchstone, and Denver Quarterly. Monroe's newest novel "Newfangled" was nominated for the National Book Award. She is currently working on "The Sad, Dead Life of Photographs," which she read on Thursday evening.

Reading for almost an hour, "The Sad, Dead Life of Photographs" is about a new mother's move to Texas from Boise, Idaho and the people she meets in her new work environment and neighborhood.

Her reading, which many people called "delightful", gave insight into a woman who leads a not so successful "good". life, but felt no bitterness towards her situation.

In Monroe's "The Source of Trouble," her characters survive believing that whatever is to come next can only be an improvement from what has already happened. This is also her philosophy or as she called it her "delusion" of life. Whichever one it is, she says both are a necessity for survival What Debra Monroe would like her audience to take from her reading is "that good fortune isn't necessarily earned and that a lot of people, through no fault of their own, don't lead sheltered lives.

" Noah Cook, who attended Debra Monroe's reading with his girlfriend who is a sophomore at ODU, said after hearing "The Sad; Dead Life of Photographs" that he realized Monroe's message was that "even though life may not deal you a perfect hand, I guess that there is always some good to come out of it." Cook, who went to the Literary Festival because he was interested in hearing Monroe read, but also because he supports all kinds of art, including literature, said "I enjoyed it. It was a great evening." His only suggestion was that they not allow people to Walk in after the reading has started because it causes so much disruption.

The Literary Festival began after the English Department held a Poetry Jam in April 1978. Due mainly to the success of the Poetry Jam, which included Richard Wilbur, W.D. Snodgrass, and Dave Smith, and partly due to the "explosion of
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Last week throughout the campus of Old Dominion University, writers and students gathered to share the Spirit of the Word during the 22nd Annual Literary Festival.

This year's Literary Festival, The Spirit of the Word, featured such writers as Rilla Askew, Rita Dove, Richard Chess, Michael Pearson (this year's Literary Festival year's Literary Festival director), Sheri Reynolds, Tim Seibles, Debra Monroe, and many more who came together, as Michael Pearson writes, . . ."to invite readers to reflect on language and the heartbreaking and heartsome truths that poems and stories communicate."

One such writer, Debra Monroe, who spoke Thursday, Oct. 15 in the Chandler Recital Hall in the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center, reflects this year's theme by "making sure the word is connected to the world and not mere ornament" in all of her works.

Winning the Flannery O'Connor Award for her collection of short stories "The Source of Trouble" in 1990, she went on to publish "A Wild, Cold State" in 1995 which appeared on the best books list for Elle and Vanity Fair.

Michael Pearson Speaks at Lit Fest
Photo by Eileen Carey, Photo Editor

(continued) community interest in the literary, visual, and performing arts," Hampton Roads held its first Literary Festival the next year.

That year it was called the Arts Reunion and during that time there was also the arrival of the Associated Writing Program's national headquarters, the beginning of Old Dominion's creative writing program and the beginning of the Distinguished Visiting Writer position. The enthusiasm seen in 1979 has continued for 20 years, and has given rise to where we are today with the 22nd Annual Literary Festival.

ODU, surrounding campuses, high schools, and others support the festival throughout Hampton Roads. It has attracted libraries, museums, and regular patrons of bookstores. The festival is redesigned every two years as is the theme. Last year, the theme was the Electric Voice.Writers who attended wrote to find words that clarify the heart.

Debra Monroe feels that all writers, whether categorized under the Spirit of the Word or the Electric Voice "bring light into a reader's hearts as well as the writer's," because the world is a dark place and needs to be brightened.

Each October, Hampton Roads reminds citizens that this area will be home to a literary awakening for the duration of a week. The Literary Festival is the time to "brighten" the world, as well as the hearts of readers and writers.

Because of the importance of the festival, Perry Library and the English Department are coming together in order to preserve materials presented throughout its 22 year history. They plan to exhibit all of the materials through the Literary Festival Digital Project.