23rd Annual Literary Festival
Lit Fest Home

Mace and Crown, September 27, 2000
'Woodstock for Writers:'
23rd Annual Literary Festival set for Oct. 2-6
BRENDA O'CARROLL
Staff Writer

Once more we have an opportunity to hear and mingle with many major and aspiring writers on the Norfolk campus. The Old Dominion University's 23rd Annual Literary Festival, which showcases original and mesmerizing writers who represent the fullness and diversity of contemporary literature, is taking place Oct. 2-6.

The festival, which carries the theme, "A New World," will feature dramatists and poets, nonfiction writers and novelists, writers of hypertext and photojournalists, and newly emerging student writers and Pulitzer Prize winners. All of the readings and lectures are free and open to the public.

"This year's literary festival was originally shaped under the direction of poet Scott Cairns," said Michael Pearson, director of this year's festival. "When Scott left the University and took up a new position, he handed me the reins. I tried to the keep the spirit of his vision and add mine to it."

A great deal of time and effort goes into making this festival the best it can possibly be. "We started preparations October 15 last year, the detail is never ending but it's fun and I've had a ball doing it," Pearson explained.

Three of the most important names in contemporary American fiction - Earnest Gaines, Tim O'Brien and Steven Millhauser - will be featured at this year's festival. Gaines will speak as part of the Old Dominion University's President's Lecture Series at 8 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building Auditorium.

Pearson is excited at the prospect of having Gaines as part of the program. "For the first time we have woven connections between the President's Series and our Litfest. Bringing the two together allows for opportunity and funds to be shared," he said.

As one of our most important American writers, the world into which Ernest Gaines was born - on Jan 15. 1933 - is essentially the world that he has distilled into the dense and complex world of his six novels and stories. For several of his childhood years, Gaines lived in rural Louisiana. The landscape, people and language that he knew intimately in those years became an integral part of the fictional world he later created.

In an interview, Gaines said, "Sacrifice time; put a lot of time into your work. If you are a writer, read good writers, whether they are white or black, Chinese or Japanese, or Russian, or writers from Mars or wherever. Read the best to see how they do things, because any good writer can help you. So study hard, and spend a lot of time at the desk. You sure can't become a good writer unless you spend time at the desk."

Gaines is the author of "A Lesson Before Dying," winner of the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. He is a major attraction at this Literary Festival and participants are urged to attend early to secure a seat.

Winner of both the National Book Award in fiction and France's Prix du Meilleur Libre Etranger, Tim O'Brien will speak at 8 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center's Chandler Recital Hall.

O'Brien, who was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, has written numerous books. Apparently against the war, O'Brien nonetheless reported for service and was sent to Vietnam. After the war he studied at Harvard but left to become a newspaper reporter. His career as a reporter gave way to his fiction writing, including his books "Going After Cacciato," "If I Die in a Combat Zone" and "Tomcat in Love."

Steven Millhauser, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Martin Dressler," will speak at 8 p.m. October 4 in Chandler Recital Hall. His work is said to have a "resonance and fairy tale allure." Other books by Millhauser include "Enchanted Night" and "The Knife Thrower and Other Stories.'"

Old Dominion's 23rd Annual Literary Festival is about new worlds. The line up includes a host of renown as well as not so well known writers to be enjoyed; their diversity and form provide something for everyone.

Caught up in the mania that ensues before the festival, Pearson suggested that this Literature Festival "is going to transform the lives of people who attend. It is an opportunity for students to take the stuff in their books and make it real."

The director is keen that people take up the challenges this festival offers and suggests, tongue-in-check, that this might well be a "Woodstock for writers."

Festival brochures are freely available on campus. For additional information about this year's Literary Festival, call 683-3991.