fall literary festival

Fall Literary Festival 2018

Alumna's love of libraries, literature led to festival's start

A 1951 University of South Carolina graduate who loved literature, Dorothy Smith made a proposal to University Libraries and the English department 20 years ago: If the two groups would work together to host an annual literary festival, she would establish an endowment to support it financially.

Now in its 19th season, the Fall Literary Festival has brought to campus more than 55 authors from diverse backgrounds and genres. They read from their work, talk with audience members and often lead master classes. Thanks to Smith’s generosity, the events are free and open to the public as well as to students, faculty and staff.

The lineup of recent visiting writers is impressive: poet Terrance Hayes, poet and playwright Claudia Rankine, journalist and poet Eliza Griswold, memoirist and biographer Susan Cheever, satirist and young adult novelist M.T. Anderson, and novelists Ron Rash, Cassandra King, Lydia Millet, Susan Orlean and Colson Whitehead.

This year is no different as the festival welcomes poet Solmaz Sharif, nonfiction writer Kerry Egan and graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang. 

Solmaz Sharif

Poet Solmaz Sharif has received a long list of awards and nominations for “Look” — an inventive and haunting collection published in 2016. Sharif’s poetry shows the ongoing, unbearable costs of war through the description of a drone strike and a conversation with a lover.

“Look” was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry and the 2017 PEN Open Book Award; winner of the 2017 American Book Award and the 2017 Pen Center USA Literary Award in Poetry.

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Sharif holds degrees from University of California Berkeley and New York University. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review and many other publications. She has been recognized with an NEA fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Holmes National Poetry Prize. She is currently a lecturer at Stanford University.

Kerry Egan

Columbia resident Kerry Egan became part of the national conversation about death after “On Living” was published in 2016. A hospice chaplain, Egan listens as dying patients tell of their hope and love, regret and shame. She shares these stories in “On Living,” an honest, hopeful look at the importance of finding meaning in life.

Egan grew up in Long Island, New York, and is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and Harvard Divinity School. While at Harvard she worked as a nursing-home ombudsman, a chaplain intern at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and a research assistant at Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions.

Her hospice work has been featured on PBS and CNN, and her essays have appeared in Parents, American Baby, Reader’s Digest and on CNN.com. She has spoken at diverse venues across the country, including the American Benedictine Academy, Trinity Wall Street and the New York Library Association. She is also the author of “Fumbling: A Journey of Love, Adventure, and Renewal on the Camino de Santiago, a memoir.”

Gene Luen Yang

A graphic novelist whose work explores current and historical events through a contemporary Chinese American lens, Gene Luen Yang has produced full-length graphic novels, short stories, serial comics and animated cartoons.

Yang’s work confirms that comics can be an important creative and imaginative force in literature, art and education. His book “American Born Chinese” won an Eisner Award for best graphic album. It was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award, which recognizes excellence in young adult literature. “Boxers & Saints,” his two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, was nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times’ Book Prize. His other work includes “The Shadow Hero,” the continuation of the Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Secret Coders,” a graphic novel series for readers 8-12 years old that combines logic puzzles and basic coding instructions.

Yang is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley and California State University at East Bay. In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Fellow, and the U.S. Library of Congress named him to a two-year term as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

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