History is in the making this year — no, we’re not talking about the presidential election. For the first time in its 79-year run, MTSU is hosting the 2016 Southern Literary Festival this weekend, March 24-26. MTSU only just registered to become a member school two years ago.
“We are beginning to be recognized as a place for creative writing [in Murfreesboro],” said Kates, President of SLF 2016. “We have more community groups, and we’re beginning to attract more creative writing faculty members in our English department.”
Since its first event in April of 1937 at Mississippi’s Blue Mountain College where Robert Penn Warren — one of SLF’s founding members — and Margaret Flint were keynote speakers, SLF has been held annually in the spring of each year, with the exception of the years 1942-1946, when wartime gas rations prevented the travel necessary to convene.
Originally intended for the festival to provide small liberal arts colleges without big budgets, SLF provided many schools the opportunity to work together and pool resources, all for the celebration and promotion of creative writers.
Back in 1937, “Little Middle,” as the Murfreesboro campus was called, wouldn’t have provided SLF much space or departments to contribute. Now, after decades of expansion that still continues to this day, including the Student Union building that was completed in 2012, MTSU has more then enough space and departments to contribute.
“When we were brainstorming for ideas, we asked ourselves ‘What do we have to offer?’” The answer being that MTSU has a wide variety of departments able to contribute to the festival. “We have an interdisciplinary minor. And so we are pooling resources from all different colleges and departments: Media and Entertainment, RIM, the Honors College, Art and other areas.”
With the intent to draw students from all over and not just the English department, the festival is offering a variety of niche speakers and workshops, including the department of Electronic Media Communications’ new adjunct screenwriting professor, Rick Reichman, who also mentors with MTSU Write, a non-degree program. Also available will be hand-bookbinding, playwriting and poetry workshops.
And since this is Middle Tennessee, acclaimed-songwriter Nathan Bell will be lecturing on social and political awareness in songwriting.
The best thing of all: it’s free to MTSU faculty and students. SLF requires schools and non-students to pay dues, ultimately making it easier for undergrads to attend. But it does require an RSVP, which you can do by messaging Dr. Kates though the SLF Contact Us form at the bottom of the homepage or by emailing email@example.com. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Student Union Lobby.
The festival is sponsored at MTSU by the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts, Department of Theatre and Dance, the University Honors College, the College of Media and Entertainment and the Office of the Provost. Sparks’ performance is also sponsored by the Department of Recording Industry, the Virginia Peck Fund and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
For more information about this year’s Southern Literary Festival at MTSU, visit southernliteraryfestival.org or contact Kates at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration will be from 1-5 p.m. in the Student Union lobby March 24.
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