WCSU festival in August to feature nationally acclaimed writers
Rose, Leopold and Pierce among featured lecturers to read in Summer Literary Festival series
DANBURY, CONN. — The personal memoir works of Daniel Asa Rose, the iconoclastic Internet journalism of Jason Leopold, and the breakthrough coming-of-age novel by Connecticut author Dan Pope will be among the featured themes in a weeklong series of public lectures and readings by nationally acclaimed authors from August 4 through 9 at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
The WestConn 2008 Summer Literary Festival, sponsored by the university’s Master of Fine Arts in Professional Writing program, also will feature appearances by magazine writer and author Charles P. Pierce, novelist, memoirist and biographer Don Snyder, short story writer and poet Gloria Frym, essayist and journalist Elizabeth Cohen, and Puerto Rican poet, literary critic and editor Linda Rodriguez.
The public is invited to attend festival readings each evening, as well as afternoon readings on Monday, Aug. 4, and Friday, Aug. 8. The readings will be offered at sites on the university’s Midtown campus at 181 White St. and Westside campus on Lake Avenue Extension in Danbury, as well as the Tarrywile Mansion at 70 Southern Blvd. in Danbury. Admission will be free to all public readings during the weeklong series.
The festival will offer the Greater Danbury community an opportunity to hear fiction, nonfiction, screenplay and poetry readings by nationally renowned authors, many of whom serve as writers in residence or writing mentors for the university’s M.F.A. in Professional Writing program.
The festival is part of an intensive weeklong WestConn program of workshops, lectures, readings, professional counseling and informal discussion conducted each January and August for students enrolled in the M.F.A. curriculum. The program launched in 2005 enables participants from across the nation to continue working while pursuing M.F.A. studies in a diverse range of creative and nonfiction writing genres through distance learning.
Following is the schedule of public readings during the Summer Literary Festival:
• Monday, Aug. 4: The afternoon session at 2 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom North at the Westside Campus Center on the Westside campus will feature readings by recent M.F.A. in Professional Writing graduates Kalyn Paul, an essayist and communications and special events coordinator for the Levitt Pavilion performing arts group in Westport; and Marc Fitch, editor for Fairness.com and winner of the Connecticut Review Leslie Leeds Poetry Award. Readings at 7 p.m. at Tarrywile Mansion will feature WestConn Writer in Residence Dan Pope and free-lance magazine writer Tim Weed. Pope will read from his 2003 novel “In the Cherry Tree,” a novel about a 12-year-old boy growing up in West Hartford during the 1970s. “‘In the Cherry Tree’ nails the events and atmosphere of a summer in which nothing much happens, but everything changes — when a boy begins to take his first, hesitant steps toward becoming a man,” wrote Hartford Courant books editor Carole Goldberg in her review. Weed, coordinator of international programs for National Geographic Student Expeditions, has published magazine features on his extensive international travels and on outdoors themes.
• Tuesday, Aug. 5: Featured lecturer for the 7 p.m. reading in the Student Center Theater on the Midtown campus will be Charles P. Pierce, the celebrated sports writer and essayist whose tongue-in-cheek writing style has translated well to National Public Radio as a regular on the shows “Only a Game” and “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” An award-winning author and journalist who currently serves as writer at large for Esquire and a staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine, Pierce’s wide-ranging subjects have moved in recent years from obscure sports and celebrity New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to popular American culture and the political odysseys of John McCain and Barack Obama. His book “Hard to Forget: An Alzheimer’s Story” told his family’s personal experience of the disease that afflicted his father, within the context of his research into the history of the disease and scientific work to find a cure.
• Wednesday, Aug. 6: Poet, critic and professor Linda Rodriguez will read from her poetry and widely published journalist Elizabeth Cohen will read from essays in progress during a program at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall on the Midtown campus. Rodriguez, professor of Caribbean literature, film and creative writing at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, edited a collection of writings on the language, literature and culture of the Caribbean nations and diaspora; she also directed an international conference for Caribbean women writers and scholars. A veteran free-lance writer whose work is regularly featured in national publications including Rolling Stone, Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine, Cohen authored the 2003 memoir, “The House on Beartown Road,” about a winter devoted to care for her infant daughter and seriously ill father.
• Thursday, Aug. 7: Jason Leopold, the iconoclastic investigative reporter who continues to challenge the norms of traditional journalism at the recently launched nonprofit online newsmagazine The Public Record, will offer his unique perspective on keeping the public informed in the Internet era in a reading and lecture at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Theater. From his beginnings in print journalism in the 1990s, Leopold has built a national reputation for in-depth and often controversial investigative reporting on subjects such as the California electricity crisis, the Enron bankruptcy, the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, and the firing of U.S. attorneys during the tenure of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Widely published and broadcast in the mainstream media and a regular contributor on foreign and domestic policy issues to online publications, Leopold is the author of the best-seller “News Junkie” and former senior editor at Truthout.org.
• Friday, Aug. 8: An afternoon program at 3 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom North in the Westside Campus Center will feature a dramatic reading by recent WestConn M.F.A. in Professional Writing graduate Vonda Menard of her screenplay “Strength and Losses.” Featured at the evening session at 7 p.m., also in the Ballroom North, will be novelist, memoirist, biographer and screenplay writer Don Snyder, taking a break from his present unconventional sabbatical as a caddie in Scotland who periodically reports on his experiences for The Wall Street Journal. A former newspaper editor and longtime Writer in Residence for the WestConn M.F.A. program, he also has been a teaching fellow at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and directs a writers’ retreat in Canada. Also at the evening program, WestConn M.F.A. graduate Don Lowe, whose writing runs the gamut from playwright and songwriter to journalism, will read from his current novel in progress.
• Saturday, Aug. 9: The concluding festival program at 7 p.m. at Grand Ballroom North in the Westside Campus Center will offer readings by returning Writer in Residence Daniel Asa Rose and Gloria Frym, recipient of the 2002 American Book Award for her book “Homeless at Home.” Currently book review editor for The New York Observer and former columnist and essayist for national publications including Esquire, GQ, The New York Times Magazine and Forward, Rose previously published “Flipping For It” in 1987 and “Hiding Places: A Father and His Sons Retrace Their Family’s Escape from the Holocaust” in 2000. His current book in progress, titled “Larry’s Kidney,” recounts his recent experiences in China “in search of a kidney and a wife, both for his cousin.” Frym is a critically acclaimed short story writer whose collections include the books “Distance No Object” and “How I Learned.” She has contributed essays, reviews, articles and poems to many publications and in 2006 published a book of poems titled “Solution Simulacra.”
For more information, contact the M.F.A. in Professional Writing program office at (203) 837-8878 or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.