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The 50th Writers’ Festival Anniversary Brings Poetry, Theatre, and Student Achievement in Virtual Format

by Grace Ashton

This year’s Writers’ Festival featured seven events from April 5 to April 11. These events included readings, panels, and the staging of Jacqueline Goldfinger’s 2018 play The Arsonists.

In 2020, the Writers’ festival was canceled due to Covid-19, although the student finalists writing contest still took place and was judged by the guest writers. This year, the festival was a primarily virtual event with a handful of hybrid options. With attendance not constrained by physical location or space limitations, it was interesting to see this year’s festival virtual format. To reach a broader audience, more virtual and hybrid event options should remain a possibility and option for future Writers’ Festivals.

The production of The Arsonists was the last event of the full-packed week. There was a limited-attendance in-person event with live streaming availability. The play centers around a father and daughter’s relationship with each other and death, grief, and music. This event was the play’s Georgia debut. The playwright, Jacqueline Goldfinger, is a class of 2000 alumna and taught this year’s informative writer-in-residence workshop at Agnes Scott. In addition to the play, Jacqueline Goldfinger hosted a reading of her newest work, Devil’s Waltz, on April 9 and participated in the Writers’ Festival Q&A on April 8 along with Rita Dove.

Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove served as the festival’s keynote guest writer. She is an award winning poet and essayist from Ohio who has served as poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress and special consultant in poetry to the same organization. Rita Dove is no stranger to Agnes Scott as she first attended the Writers’ Festival in 1992. At this year’s festival she gave an engrossing reading of her work at the keynote event on April 8. 

Another guest at the Writers’ Festival was Tiana Clark. Tiana Clark is a poet, essayist, and Professor of Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Washington Post, VQR, Tin House Online, Kenyon Review, BuzzFeed News, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Oxford American, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere. She gave a reading presented by the Georgia Poetry Circuit on April 8.
The Writers’ Festival kicked off on April 6 with a reading by each of the finalists in the student Writers’ Festival contest hosted by the Center for Writing and Speaking. Entries in four categories were read and judged by guest writers. Finalists’ works were published in the Agnes Scott College Writers’Festival Magazine and winners in each category received a prize of $500.

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