Tuesday, August 01, 2006

WestConn kicks off literary festival

Jul 30 2006 8:31 AM
WestConn kicks off literary festival
By Heather Barr THE NEWS-TIMES

DANBURY – There are no tuition or workshop fees, no books to buy or tests to take in order for the community to hear and meet well-known literary greats ranging from authors to memoirists, poets and screenwriters.

Today through Friday, Western Connecticut State University is offering a sampling of the "quality of our faculty" during its second Summer Literary Festival, said Brian Clements, WestConn's master of fine arts in professional writing program coordinator.

"In terms of other festivals with multiple genres, our festival certainly is right up there," Clements said. "It is very special."

Four of the five literary speakers will be writers-in-residence faculty members this coming school year. Clements said the university advertised nationally to attract them.

"It is a really big event, not only for the program, but it is also a great program for the community," said writing program student Ron Samul, 35, of New London. "It continues to be bigger and grow."

This week some 40 students in the professional writing program will meet the new writers-in-residence and go to workshops. Each student will correspond with one of the writers who fits their focus in the program.

Sharing the staff's talent through the free public sessions is "part of our mission to reach out to the community. We want to bring the community and the university together," Clements said.

Eventually program officials want to offer outreach writing classes and seminars for children, adults and businesses.

Most festival events begin at 7:30 p.m. and are followed by a reception and book-signing with the speaker.


In a dramatic festival kickoff, actors will perform readings of works by playwrights Don Stitt and Karen Smith Vastola, at 4 p.m. in the Student Center Theater on WestConn's midtown campus between White and Osborne streets.

Stitt has worked as an actor, singer, dancer, director, choreographer, writer, composer, stand-up comic, and in TV and radio commercials.

Monologues and scenes from Smith Vastola's plays, including "Dog Eat Dog" and others, have been published in books.

At 7:30 p.m. Don J. Snyder, author of five novels, two memoirs and a biography, will screen his 2003 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Fallen Angel" in the Student Center Theater.

Snyder is a former editor of the Bar Harbor Times and former teaching-writing fellow at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. A question-and-answer session will follow.


At 7:30 p.m. Gay Talese will read from his memoir, "A Writer's Life." He has written 11 books and numerous magazine feature articles, including well known ones about Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Floyd Patterson for Esquire magazine.

Having Gay Talese come is "really exciting for us," said Samul, whose focus in the program is on creative writing, long fiction and investigative journalism. He has written two novels and short stories.

"He is the essence of literary writing and criticism," said Samul of Talese. "It means a lot to me to have popular writers come to the program and cover academic and literary criticism."

"He is a beacon in that genre" of creative nonfiction, said MFA in professional writing student Carmen Palmer, 32, of Puerto Rico, originally of New York and Connecticut.


At 4 p.m. in the Student Center Theater, television journalist Morton Dean and Deborah Killian will discuss "The Anatomy of a Story" – how television news stories and features are created and developed. They will also answer questions.

At 7:30 p.m. author Daniel Asa Rose of Massachusetts will read at Tarrywile Mansion, 70 Southern Blvd., Danbury.

The author published his first short story in The New Yorker when he was 27 and won an O. Henry Prize and two Pen Fiction Awards for the other stories in his first collection, "Small Family with Rooster."

His first novel, "Flipping for It," was a black comedy about divorce from a man's perspective.

Asa Rose is the book review editor for The New York Observer and has written for GQ magazine and The New York Times Magazine.


Faith Vicinanza, curator and founder of Wednesday Night Poetry in Bethel, is excited to host award-winning poet Cecilia Woloch at a 7:30 p.m. session at Molten Java, 102 Greenwood Ave., Bethel,

People can sign up to read their poems in the open mic that begins at 8. Woloch will read her poems at 8:45.

Woloch is the author of three award-winning collections of poems, including "Late," and of essays, articles and reviews. She is the founding director of Summer Poetry in Idyllwild and of the Paris Poetry Workshop.

"I have heard nothing but good feedback," said Vicinanza, who has run her poetry series for the past 11 years.

"I am a fan. She has a way of putting a significant amount of material in a small space without losing listeners or readers," she said. "When you listen or read, interacting with her writing, often it is an intense experience."

"I admire her writing," said Palmer, whose mentor throughout the academic year is writer-in-residence Woloch.

"Her writing is lyric writing. Her poetry is accessible to both poetry fans and readers. She writes about love, loss, desire...."


Author Mark Sundeen will read at Tarrywile Mansion at 7:30 p.m. He wrote the book "The Making of Toro," and has written for magazines including the National Geographic Adventure.

He was a Web writer and editor for Howard Dean's presidential campaign.

Writing student Samul has worked with Sundeen in past workshops.

"A lot of what he instills in students is looking at writers who have precision and clarity," Samul said. "It is not just about being topical, but very accurate. He is a good role model. There is so much quality in his work."


Author Thomas Kelly will give a reading at 7:30 p.m. in the Marian Anderson Recital Hall at Danbury Music Centre, 256 Main St., Danbury.

Kelly's novels includes "Payback." His book topics range from the history of British libraries or Irish-Americans to municipal corruption and spiritual issues.

Kelly was asked to be a writer in residence after he did a well-received reading at WestConn last year.


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