Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival thrives: Award-winning authors attract record attendance


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Author Megan Abbott signs a copy of “Dare Me,” one of her seven novels.

Joshua Lloyd, Managing Editor

The ninth annual Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival, held on Nov. 6 and 7 in Francis Marion University’s (FMU) Lowrimore Auditorium, went off without a hitch and brought four award-winning authors and poets to the campus.

The 2014 festival featured Megan Abbott, Ron Carlson, Denise Duhamel and Tim Seibles; all of whom are nationally recognized authors and poets.

Dr. Jo Angela Edwins, professor of English and co-director of the festival, said this year’s festival drew in larger crowds than any previous year and was received very well by the campus and community.

“The panel of Friday was the most crowded I’ve ever seen at one of these events,” Edwins said. “We actually ran out of room during that panel, and most of the other [sessions] were well attended as well.”

The event played host to book readings, discussion panels and colloquiums throughout the day on Thursday and Friday, with book signings and an informal “meet-and-greet” reception at The Cottage on both evenings. Also on the roster for this year’s festival are select readings from the “Snow Island Review,” Francis Marion’s student literary journal.

The meet-and-greets each evening gave students and professors the opportunity to mingle and fellowship with the authors.

Edwins explained that it’s important to the department that the festival planning committee chooses authors and texts that will be beneficial to the student body as a whole.

“It all turned out really well. The authors seemed to get along with one another, as well as the students and teachers involved,” Edwins said. “And several of the authors commented on how engaged the students were on the discussion topics, so that’s always a good thing.”

A staple of the festival has been a group of authors and texts that are able to inspire rhetorical, meaningful discussion amongst those in attendance.

The committee strives to ensure the selections for each festival 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.

“We choose texts that will be accessible and interesting…but also helpful with composition and structure,” Edwins said. “Professors can choose to teach from these books if they want. Its not required but a good number of them do, and that opens up a conversation for students in those classes, as well as outside.

The planning committee strives to make the festival appealing to students from all disciplines, not just English and writing majors. There is a lasting strive to bring in authors that can represent a broad spectrum of writing styles and genres.

Opening a book to read a collection of poems, short stories or a novel can be an experience that allows you to view your own passions in a different light, Edwins explained.

“We’re so used to getting our entertainment from Netflix, Hulu or whatever that we tend to forget that writing is involved in that,” Edwins said. “If we enjoy watching something that was written by an avid reader, then me might also get enjoyment out of reading.”

So even if poetry and fiction isn’t your thing, giving it a chance can’t hurt anything. Taking a chance on a subject that hasn’t previously been ion your radar may inspire you to become better at what you enjoy most.

The English department and festival planning committee begins the process of choosing authors almost a year in advance, which means plans for next year’s festival have almost certainly begun.

Keep an eye out as next fall approaches to see what renowned authors the FMU English department has planned for the annual Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival.