Reading and writing might be solitary activities, but not when the Virginia Festival of the Book arrives. University of Virginia faculty and alumni speak volumes each year at the festival, and 2013 is no exception.
Now in its 19th year, the festival opens Wednesday and features five days devoted to books, inside and out (and even in the virtual world), spotlighting authors who have employed their skills and imagination in writing transcendent poetry and heartbreaking prose. In their writing, they recreate worlds of the past or the future, overcome suffering and loss, and celebrate human rights and daily life.
At least 50 of some 400 participating authors have some affiliation with U.Va., from leaders of the Creative Writing Program to graduates of the GED program, writing about everything from “biophilic cities” to the death of loved ones. Many U.Va. schools, departments and offices co-sponsor some of the 200 events with the festival and its parent organization, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
Most events are free and open to the public, with the exception of a few that require ticket purchases or pre-registration. The book festival website contains all the details; there’s also a “My Book Bag” feature that allows attendees to create their own schedule.
Here’s a sample book bag packed with a stack of U.Va. participants and their novels, poetry collections and nonfiction.
• Rosalyn Berne, an associate professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science in the Department of Engineering and Society, recently published a futuristic novel, “Waiting in the Silence,” in which biotechnology rules everyday life. Her talk, “Our Future: One Planet, Tangled in Technology, with Liberty and Justice for Whom?” will examine how these now-emerging technologies change who we are as human beings and how we redesign ourselves.
• Bridging the divide between nature and culture, and ideas and practice, Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities who chairs the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning in the School of Architecture, will talk about his latest project, biophilic cities, as part of a panel March 21 at 4 p.m. in Jefferson Hall (Hotel C).
Hosted by the Brown College Visiting Environmental Writers Series, he and other panelists will suggest methods for a more sustainable relationship with nature, under the influence of Romantic writings and modern science.
• English professor Christopher Tilghman, director of the Creative Writing Program, will read from his most recent novel, “The Right-Hand Shore,” about the fate of an old family farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. North Carolina novelist and repeat festival participant Jill McCorkle and others will join him March 21 at 8 p.m. in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library auditorium.
• Poets on the Creative Writing faculty, Gregory Orr and Lisa Russ Spaar, joined by Tupelo Press publisher Jeffrey Levine, will discuss the challenges and pleasures of writing prose, also on March 21, at 4 p.m. in the New Dominion Bookshop.
Orr’s nonfiction works include a memoir, “The Blessing,” “Poetry as Survival” and an essay in Levine’s book, “A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith.” Spaar has a forthcoming book of essays about contemporary poetry, “The Hide-and-Seek Muse.”
• Spaar will read from her latest poetry, “Vanitas, Rough,” on March 21 at 6 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore. Paul Guest, the newest member of the poetry faculty, and another poet, David Rigsbee, will also read.
• On March 22 at noon, a group of U.Va. alumni who received M.F.A. degrees from the Creative Writing program will read their recently published poetry and fiction at noon in the U.Va. Bookstore. Authors include Mark Harrill Saunders, interim director of the U.Va. Press, who will read from his spy thriller, “Ministers of Fire”; and Paul Legault, whose collection, “The Emily Dickinson Reader,” is subtitled, “An English-to-English Translation.”
At 8 p.m. that night, there will be an Emily Dickinson after-party at 8 p.m. at The Bridge Progressive Arts Institute at 209 Monticello Road. Celebrate with Emily herself as she trades verses with Legault. Victorian dress is optional.
• If poetry isn’t your mode of expression, Dr. Margaret Plews-Ogan and Justine Owens have other ways to help women growing older and going through life’s difficulties. Plews-Ogan, associate professor of medicine and Chief of the Division of General Medicine, and Owens, a cognitive psychologist and associate professor of medicine, wrote “Choosing Wisdom: Strategies and Inspiration for Growing Through Life-changing Difficulties.” They will give their presentation March 20 at 6 p.m. at the Renaissance School, 418 E Jefferson St.
• For women’s perspectives from another culture, Michiko Wilson, professor of Japanese at U.Va., will discuss a long-neglected aspect of the modern Japanese literary tradition: how modern Japanese women’s critical essays unearth Japan’s conflicted socio-cultural-gender history. Her talk, hosted by U.Va. Women, Gender & Sexuality Program, will be March 21 at 6 p.m. in the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library Auditorium.
• A discussion of issues about masculinity, both classical and contemporary, will be held March 24 at 1:30 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore. Richard Holway, history and social sciences editor at U.Va. Press and author of “Becoming Achilles: Child-sacrifice, War, and Misrule in the Iliad and Beyond,” will talk with David McConnell, co-chair of the Lambda Literary Foundation and author of “American Honor Killings.” Holway also teaches in the politics department and Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program at U.Va.