PeeDee presents poetry fest


Photo by: Renee Cunningham

Benjamin Percy reads from his novel.

The Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival comes to Francis Marion  

The 15th annual Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival took place at FMU on Nov. 3 and 4 at the Lowrimore Auditorium in the Cauthen Educational Media Center.   

The event featured four prominent authors and poets: Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ada Limon, Benjamin Percy and Laura Leigh Morris.  

Created by FMU President Fred Carter, the festival was first held in 2006 and featured two authors, which has grown with time. The festival took a hiatus during 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, so this marked its return to the university.  

Since 2018, professor of English Jo Angela Edwins and assistant professor of English Landon Houle have co-directed the event. Faculty members from the English department hosted different events, including panels, readings, discussions and book signings. At the end of both days, the university held a reception at the Cottage, an exclusive restaurant on campus for faculty.  

On the second day, the Snow Island Review’s editor-in-chief, Daelin Tripp, and managing editor, James Parker, hosted “Draft and Craft,” an event where aspiring writers could spend time constructing pieces either from prompts given to them or works they had already written and speak with Writing Center tutors stationed in the auditorium for advice and critiques on the work.   

“We kept thinking on how to involve students in writing in the midst of such an energizing event as this festival, and this year was the first time Draft and Craft became a part of the festival in its current form,” Edwins said.  

The festival was open to the public, with attendees from local schools such as Wilson High School and writers from as far away as Charleston and Columbia.   

“Panels and readings were filled with everything from laughter to tears,” Edwins said. “This work emotionally uplifted those who attended events.”   

To choose authors, a committee of FMU English professors made selections based on recommendations from individual members of the committee, the English faculty, the community and previous visiting writers.   

Edwins said the committee had specific goals in mind.   

“One of the writers needs to have a book that fits our goal of having a thought-provoking but accessible common read for our first-year composition students,” Edwins said. “That writer is usually, though not always, a fiction writer. This year, of course, it was Benjamin Percy.”  

According to Edwins, the event gave the community a chance to create connections and enjoy the world of literature.   

“By the end, all of us on the organizing committee had bonded with the writers, who were sharing funny stories and laughing with us and with each other as if we’d all known each other forever,” Edwins said.