McCullers Literary Festival to bring Harper Lee Award-winning author to Columbus

Carson McCullers was the local author who inspired this week's McCullers Literary Festival at CSU.
Carson McCullers was the local author who inspired this week's McCullers Literary Festival at CSU.

This weekend, Columbus State University will host the Carson McCullers Literary Festival for local writers. The event will be aimed at serving high school and college age students but is open to the public. For the first time, this year’s festival will be held in CSU’s newly opened Bo Bartlett Center — a venue which is gaining more and more popularity for festivals and arts-related local events.

Nick Norwood is the Director of the Carson McCullers Center at CSU and is in charge of this year’s McCullers Literary Festival. He recently corresponded with arts reporter Carrie Beth Wallace to discuss his love of McCullers’ work, the festival’s target audience, and this year’s special guest authors.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How long have you been with the McCullers Center, Dr. Norwood?

A: I have worked closely with the Center since arriving at CSU in 2002. I’m currently in my third year as its director.

Q: What will the festival celebrate, specifically?

A: The festival is geared toward student writers — both high school and college — and it will conclude in fact with an awards ceremony to honor the student writing contest award winners in the following categories: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, academic essay, one-act play, and screenplay. There were two contests, one for high school students, one for CSU students. There will be first- ($300), second- ($200), and third- ($100) place winners in each category in the high school contest, and the same in the CSU student contest.

Q: The event is being held at The Bartlett Center. How will this new venue add to the experience for your festival attendees?

A: The Bo Bartlett Center is a beautiful, inspiring venue for events like this. We have held our most recent performances in the McCullers Center’s David Diamond Reading and Recital Series, and the space proved perfect. We’re looking forward to Friday night’s high school student poetry slam, which will be conducted by slam poetry champion Jonathan S.E. Perkins: we’re planning to hold the event on the veranda of the Center, overlooking the river. It should be great!

Q: What has the work of McCullers meant to you?

A: McCullers was one of the writers I latched onto in graduate school. I did a term paper on her, read all her work at once, read the biography by Virginia Spencer Carr (who was on faculty at then-Columbus College when she wrote and published it in 1975). McCullers writes about human loneliness — “spiritual isolation,” she called it — as well as anyone in American literature. And beyond that, there is something about her work and her sensibility that has appealed to readers all over the world. I guess I’m one of them.

Q: Who are you expecting to have at the festival?

A: We are expecting high school students, their parents and teachers, from around the state, CSU students, and members of the local public interested in the literary arts.

Q: Is there anything else our readers should know about the festival?

A: I want all lovers of literature to be aware that we are featuring readings by two highly acclaimed writers — novelist Brad Watson, the most recent Harper Lee Award winner; and novelist Melissa Pritchard, author of 10 books, winner of numerous prizes — and both of those events are free and open to the public.

If You Go:

What: The Carson McCullers Literary Festival

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. April 20, and 8:30-11:30 a.m. April 21

Where: The Bo Bartlett Center for the Arts, 921 Front Ave.

Cost: Free


Schedule of Events:

Friday, April 20

6:30 p.m. – Opening reception

7:30 p.m. – Reading and book signing by Brad Watson

9 p.m. – High school student poetry slam

Saturday, April 21

8:30 a.m. – Breakfast reception

9:30 a.m. – Concurrent master classes with Brad Watson and Jonathan S.E. Perkins

10:30 a.m. – Reading by Melissa Pritchard

11:30 a.m. – Awards ceremony