Literary Festival on campus grows in prestige

Johnny Weber

GROSSMONT COLLEGE–The Creative Writing Program hosted its 16th annual Literary Arts Festival with such renowned speakers as Sandra Cisneros, who wrote  The House on Mango Street, and Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried, April 23-May 4.

This year’s festival was organized by English Prof. Sydney Brown, who has coordinated the event for the past 12 years. “In the past,” stated Brown “we have had such authors as Dorthy Allison, Kim Addizio, Nick Flynn, and Anthony Swarford.”

“When the festival first started it was only local authors and college students,” said Brown “but now we are proud at the size and the national recognition of the authors we invite to speak.”

This year’s festival started on Tuesday, April 24 with local novelist Jim Miller and songwriter Gregory Page. Miller read excerpts of his novel Flash. The event commemorated the 100th anniversary of the free speech fight in San Diego. Gregory Page sang labor songs in a Woody Guthrie style.

On April 25, the literature of Sandra Cisneros was examined by professors from Grossmont and by  local authors. A lecture on Cisneros’ world-renowned book House on Mango Street was held. Sandra Cisneros visited Grossmont College the next day. Many students gathered in the Griffin Center and Griffin Gate to hear what advice the author had to give. Afterwards, there was a book signing and many students were able to talk one-on-one with Cisneros.

The second week started with current students and alumni reading their original works. “This is my favorite part of the festival because it showcases the talent of the students we have at Grossmont,” commented Brown.

On May 1,Write Out Loud performed poetry of American gothic poet, Edgar Allan Poe, and other authors demonstrated how Poe inspired them in their production of Shades of Poe. The poetry recited included Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” and “The Oval Portrait.”

Two events were held on May 2,both dealing with the Vietnam War. “The Wars We Fought,” hosted by Justin Hudnall, dealt with the physical and emotional wars with which veterans have had to deal in their lives.

“Vietnam: Fact and Fiction,” a lecture and discussion with SDSU Prof. Victoria Featherstone, military history expert Joseph Radzikowski, and Grossmont College student Steve Bedle was held in advance of a visit by author Tim O’Brien.

The festival ended with national bestselling author Tim O’Brien reading from his books, The Things They Carried With Them and In the Lake of the Woods, and a book signing in the Griffin Center.

Planning is already in the works for next year’s festival. The creative writing program is going to host its annual write-a-thon in the fall semester. The write-a-thon helps pay for the Literary Arts Festival.  Other sources are donations from private parties and the English department faculty, who set aside funds from their paychecks each month.

Weber is managing editor of the GC Summit.  He may be contacted at [email protected]