The ninth annual Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry was held in Francis Marion University’s
(FMU) Lowrimore auditorium on Nov. 7 and 8, and featured five nationally known and
best-selling authors: Tom Franklin, Allison Joseph, Evie Shockley Dolen Perkins-Valdez,
The two-day event included readings of select works by the authors, panel sessions,
colloquiums, book signings and an informal “meet-and-greet” reception, on both
evenings, at the university Cottage. Also on the roster was the reading of several pieces
from the newest edition of the Snow Island Review, FMU’s student literary journal.
This year’s festival went off without a hitch and drew larger than expected crowds
according to Dr. Rebecca Flannagan, English professor and head chair of the festival
“We had large turnouts…at every session, and several that were actually filled to
capacity,” Flannagan said. “Everyone was engaged and we had really positive feedback
from the writers as well.”
The acclaimed writers are all nationally recognized, and have several works currently
Perkins-Valdez is a Harvard graduate and author of the New York Times best-selling
Franklin is also a New York Times best-selling author for his most recent
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.
Joseph serves as poetry editor of the Crab Orchard
Review, and has several award winning publications. Shockley’s latest publication,
won the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy award in poetry. Jane Yolen has over
300 published works, many of which are award winning young adult novels.
The list of accolades for each author is lengthy, which speaks volumes about the
effort behind securing them as speakers for the event.
Flannagan said the festival was originally formed by FMU president Dr. Fred Carter
to be a celebration of creativity, intellect and creative writing, where students can connect
with accomplished authors, as well as the their professors
“The festival is for students and we try, every year, to ensure that the students are
engaged and enjoying their time,” Flannagan said. “From what I could gather this year,
the students were invested in it and some even asked if we could do something like this
Flannagan explained the English department begins the process of choosing authors
almost a year in advance and strives to ensure the selections are beneficial to everyone
involved. They choose various “common texts” that can be taught throughout the
department, as well as other pieces of literature that are applicable to certain courses, and
then reach out to the authors.
The authors view these events as opportunities to not only promote their personal
works but to raise interest in the field of creative writing.
“For me the best part of these festivals is interacting with the students because
everyone is so impressionable, so it’s not really about selling books it becomes about
touching minds,” said Perkin-Valdez.