The Luther College Writers Festival returns to campus this month, featuring the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Ross Gay as the keynote speaker. In addition to Gay, the festival will feature a broad coalition of 18 writers publishing in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The festival begins Friday, Sept. 22, and ends Saturday, Sept. 23.
Gay – a poet and essayist who has won the National Book Critics Circle award, among others – will give this year’s Farwell Distinguished Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, in the Center for Faith and Life. The lecture, Inciting Joy: An Evening with Ross Gay, is free and open to the public, and will discuss his most recent essay collection, “The Book of (More) Delights,” which hits bookstore shelves Sept. 19. His other works include the essay collections “Inciting Joy” and “The Book of Delights” and poetry collections “Be Holding” and “Bringing the Shovel Down.”
The public can register for the festival at no cost, but a free-will donation is optional and encouraged. The two-day festival will feature a variety of readings and publishing advice, in addition to book signings with the authors.
“I want people to feel welcomed and engaged. I want people to feel excited about words and their transformative potential,” said Amy Weldon, professor of English at Luther and co-director of the writers festival, along with 2001 Luther graduate Keith Lesmeister. “We’re proud that we have a wonderful and diverse mix of writers in terms of genre and culture.”
Many Luther students have read Gay’s work, since it’s taught in a number of Luther courses, including Paideia. They will have the opportunity to attend the different panels to learn about writing and the landscape of the publishing industry from professional writers. Students will work as volunteers to introduce writers at panels and talks and show them around campus.
The theme for this year’s festival is “Writing the Tree of Life: Language in Place.” To kick off the festival, journalist and historian Mark Oppenheimer will give the opening talk Friday afternoon. Taylor Brorby, a poet, memorist and graduate of St. Olaf College, and Carol Roh Spaulding, a fiction writer and professor at Drake University, are among those who will be featured at the festival.
“We are hoping to plant our little tree, our little festival, on our campus and have it grow and welcome people,” Weldon said.