April 04, 2012

Little Grassy Literary Festival returns

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Little Grassy Literary Festival returns to Southern Illinois University Carbondale April 11-13.

The annual festival, now in its fourth year, features readings, panel discussions, book signings, and the opportunity to meet established and up-and-coming poets and fiction writers.  The festival holds obvious appeal to writers, but anyone who loves literature can enjoy hearing authors read their own works in the comfortable setting offered by the festival.

Students in the creative writing master of fine arts program organize the event, including selecting guest writers.  Guest selection is based on several criteria, from the idealized (favorite authors and known-names) to the practical (affordability, availability, and personal connections). 

Sequoia Nagamatsu, the graduate student who spearheaded this year’s festival organization, said writers benefit from contact with other writers, gaining both encouragement and practical advice from the encounter.

“Writers are able to see … that success is possible, that writing words on paper can translate into being published if you’re willing to take the time and effort to work on your craft,” he said. “I’d say also that festivals such as Little Grassy and Devil’s Kitchen (an undergraduate-led literary festival occurring at SIU Carbondale each fall) expose the community to what’s hot in the world of contemporary fiction and poetry, subject matter generally not covered in academic courses.”

Nagamatsu noted, too, that the both the student-run festivals present opportunities to learn marketable skills such as media relations, event planning, grant or funding writing, and more.

“I also believe that more writers coming to SIU Carbondale can never be a bad thing,” he said.  “Both events introduce the community to new voices, and open dialogue about the current state of literature.  And, it’s all free!  Obviously I’m biased here, but what’s not to love?”

Here is a schedule of events for the festival.  All events, unless otherwise noted, take place in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library.  Brief author biographies follow:

April 11

• 7 p.m., Reading and question and answer period with Henri Cole.

April 12

• 11 a.m., Poetry panel discussion with Henri Cole, Paul Guest, Cynthia Huntington, and Claire McQuerry.

• 1:30 p.m., Reading by Claire McQuerry and Cynthia Huntington.

• 2:30 p.m., Book signing and reception (Morris Library Rotunda).

• 3:30 p.m., Reading and question and answer period with Geoff Schmidt.

• 7:30 p.m., Reading and question and answer period with Elizabeth Crane.

April 13

• 10:30 a.m., Fiction panel discussion with Geoff Schmidt and Elizabeth Crane.

• 1 p.m., Reading and question and answer period with Paul Guest.

Author biographies

• Henri Cole has eight poetry collections to his credit, including “Middle Earth,” for which he was a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry finalist.  His many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, and the Berlin Prize.  He is poetry editor of “The New Republic,” and is professor of English at The Ohio State University.

• Elizabeth Crane is the author of three short story collections, and is a featured writer in several anthologies and many journals and magazines.  She’s been featured on National Public Radio’s “Selected Shorts.”  Some of her stories have crossed into performance, as plays for the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, and in film.  She teaches at the University of California, Riverside in the Palm Desert Center’s creative writing program.

• Paul Guest has three poetry collections and a memoir.  Among his awards are the 2002 New Issues Poetry Prize and the 2006 Prairie Schooner Book Prize.  He holds a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia.

• Cynthia Huntington is the author of “Heavenly Bodies,” a 2012 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry book published by SIU Press.  She has several other poetry collections, and a prose book, “The Salt House.”  Huntington is professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College.

• Claire McQuerry is the author of “Lacemakers,” a 2012 release in SIU Carbondale’s Crab Orchard Series in Poetry.  She is a Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and an editor for “The Missouri Review.”  She is a 2011 recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize.

• Geoff Schmidt is a Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction recipient for his 2011 collection, “Out of Time.”  His publications include poetry, short stories and essays, including the book, “Write your Heart Out: Advice from the Moon Winx Motel.”  He is an associate professor in the English department at SIU Edwardsville, where he is co-editor of the literary journal “Sou’wester.”