FMU hosts annual literature festival: Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival returns to campus


Photo by: Christina Xan

Phil Klay, a fiction writer, speaks on a panel discussion with Catherine Pierce, a poet, about their works.

Anna Jackson, Staff Writer

FMU’s English department sponsored the 11th annual Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival, which featured highly awarded and recognized writers Phil Klay, Catherine Pierce, Angela Flournoy and Adam Houle.

Panel sessions, colloquium sessions and author readings were the interactive parts of the festival. During the panel sessions, two of the four writers read briefly from their respective works and took questions from the audience members. Colloquium sessions and author readings featured just one author who had a longer reading and addressed questions from the audience towards the end of the session.

Colloquium sessions were geared towards reading and discussing the work that was read by the English classes during the semester leading up to the festival, whereas the evening readings gave the writer the opportunity to share more of his or her work with those attending the sessions. The festival also included student readings in a panel session hosted by “Snow Island Review,” FMU’s literary and art journal.

According to Dr. Becky Flannagan, professor of English and head coordinator of the festival, this event was planned by the Fiction Festival Committee alongside the Freshmen Writing Advisory Council. Flannagan said that the writers featured in the festival were selected by these committees based on how well they think the books will be received by the students in the English composition classes.

“First and foremost, we figure out if this is a book that our composition students could read and have writing experiences that could come from those,” Flannagan said. “We want books that spark discussion and push our students to think and then provide opportunities for writing about the book.”

Many of the composition classes this semester incorporated at least one of the works into their class schedule.

“By teaching it in the courses, they learn about it enough so that they’re not just coming to passively respond to the text,” Flannagan said. “They have read it, they have questions about it, they are writing papers about it.”

Flannagan said she noticed her students become more energized and more engaged with the featured works as the festival drew closer. Dr. Fred Carter, president of FMU, also noticed this engagement of the students as he attended the festival.

“This is a terrific event for the university, and, frankly, the English department does an extraordinary job in bringing some of the best poets and novelists in the country here,” Carter said. “It is amazing to see how engaged the students become once the presentation starts.”

Flannagan also mentioned the impact she has seen the festival have on some of the students who engage with the writers while they are on campus.

“Ever since we started the festival, I have seen it in the eyes of people I never would have dreamed would be starry eyed over writers,” Flannagan said. “The best thing is when the students meet a writer, and it changes them.”

“It doesn’t happen to every student, but if it happens to 10 students, I think it changes them for good,” Flannigan said. “It gives our students the opportunity to meet people who would be out of their reach otherwise,” Flannigan said.

Rebecca Prohaska, senior theatre design major, reaffirmed how the festival was a unique experience for her that showed her that she could be a successful writer.

“It was entertaining to meet Catherine Pierce,” Prohaska said. “She was a really nice person. It was a surreal experience being able to meet somebody who has written something you enjoy. It kind of validates it and makes it more real.”

The writers who presented throughout the festival expressed that they responded very well to the students of FMU. They thought the students had thoughtful questions about the works.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the students,” Flournoy, author of “The Turner House,” said. “They have asked really good questions. I appreciate their enthusiasm for literature.”

The Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival was a two day event. The festival took place Nov. 10. and Nov. 11. The majority of the festival took place in the Lowrimore Auditorium. Each day of the festival closed out with a reception at The Cottage, where all students and faculty could interact with the writers in a less formal forum.

According to Flannagan, next year’s Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival’s planning was already in motion as this year’s drew to a close. She expects to have writers selected by March.

More information about the festival can be found at