The 17th Annual Newman University Literary Festival drew about 360 people, who came to participate in and/or listen to readings, panel discussions, master classes and other activities. The festival, which this year was themed “Sports and Literature,” took place March 31 through April 1 on the Newman campus.
The Literary Festival was created as a way for people to celebrate literature and other forms of written arts. It has grown to include a combination of scholarly presentations/analyses (typically essay readings) and creative interpretations such as poems, short stories, scenes from plays, skits, music and visual art.
Among the highlights of this year’s event were the keynote address, reading and workshop led by special guest Jerry Holt. Holt, who is chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Purdue University North Central, is a teacher, novelist and playwright whose works include “Rickey,” the story of baseball guru Branch Rickey’s friendship with Jackie Robinson. Other acclaimed works are “An Evening with Julia Marlowe,” numerous short plays, and The Killing of Strangers, a novel based on the Kent State University shootings of 1970.
“Jerry Holt is a well-published author with a wonderful ear for dialogue and prose narrative,” said Newman Associate Professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente , Ph.D., who helped organize and produce the festival. “He spoke about ‘Rickey’ in his keynote address. He is also, I discovered, a really humble and lovely person.”
Other highlights of the weekend included the reading of Holt’s play “The Smoking Room,” a poetry reading by Newman Professor of English Bryan Dietrich, Ph.D., and several presentations and readings by a variety of Newman students. Crane-Laracuente noted that a group presentation called “Learning to Unlearn: Unpacking Diversity,” was especially well organized and interesting. The piece offered various viewpoints on the topic of racial diversity in the classroom by Newman students Lindsey Barnett, Kesha Buckner, Melissa Kraft and Wendy Russell. Newman basketball player Daniel Nwosu also presented some remarkable spoken-word poetry, she said.
“The students throughout the festival were very creative,” Crane-Laracuente said. “We always encourage them to participate and tell faculty to encourage their students to participate. It’s a great place for them to practice presenting their work.”
The festival also featured the release of the Newman annual literary journal publication, Coelacanth, which showcases works by Newman students. Each year, students’ short fiction and poetry submissions are reviewed by independent judges, who select the top works. This year, Maureen Hogan was awarded first place in short fiction, while Corbin Riley received first place for poetry. The students will receive more than $100 each from endowments established by Professor Emerita (English and Communication) Jeanne Lobmeyer Cardenas and the late former Professor of English Madeleine Kisner, ASC.
“I see the Literary Festival as an opportunity for the campus community to collaborate on and celebrate academic work, which runs the full range from formal academic paper presentations through theatrical performances,” Crane-Laracuente said.