On Saturday, March 30, seven Tusculum College students, all English/creative writing majors, attended Hollins University’s 53rd Annual Lex Allen Literary Festival in Roanoke, Va. with English Department chair, Heather Patterson.
Students attending included Joseph Borden of Lyles; Allison Harris of Franklin; Austen Heron of Durham, N.C.; Noelle Rankin of Hixson; J. Phillip Reed of Florence, S.C.; Ben Sneyd of Greeneville, formerly of Unicoi, and Carnes White, a sophomore from Montgomery, Ala.
The festival included readings by New York Times Notable Book of the Year Award winner Karen Osborn, T. S. Eliot Prize winner Rebecca Dunham and Guggenheim Fellowship honoree Francine Prose.
Students were invited to submit creative works for the festival’s contests in poetry and fiction. Seniors Reed and Sneyd, were selected as finalists in the poetry category; seniors Rankin and Sneyd and junior Herron were selected as finalists in the fiction category. Work of the poetry finalists were read and discussed in a poetry panel comprised of poets Cathy Hankla, Thorpe Moeckel, Rebecca Dunham and Jeanne Larsen.
Reed’s poem, “The Saints Look On La Sagrada Familia,” was selected as first-place winner of the festival’s poetry prize. Sneyd’s short story, “Riding Reflections,” was selected as runner-up winner in the fiction category.
“Graduate students in Hollins University’s MFA program seemed genuinely interested in our post-undergraduate pursuits, which—to me—meant that our own creative writing program turns heads at some of the highest-ranked programs in the writing community, and I’m always glad to be reminded of that. Our professors and students deserve such recognition,” said Reed.
“It was a delight to see our students praised so highly by attendees of the festival,” said Patterson. “I can say with confidence that Tusculum College’s creative writing program is one of the best undergraduate writing programs currently operating, and I feel that folks outside of Tusculum are recognizing that fact more and more. The writers who come out of our program are being published in esteemed journals, winning awards and getting into top-notch graduate school programs. We can now add success at Lex Allen to our long and lengthening list of our students’ achievements.”
Of his time at the festival, junior Borden noted, “I’ve attended the Lex Allen Literary Festival twice now, and both times have left me with a profound pride in our creative writing program. Besides the competition, it’s a great festival to attend to meet and converse with fellow writers, and it’s awesome that we get the opportunity to hear from and talk to established writers.”
Tusculum students competed against 262 entrants in poetry and 167 entrants in fiction from colleges and universities including Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Notre Dame, the University of Alabama, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, Ohio State University, Agnes Scott College, Pennsylvania State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Louisville, Northern Michigan University, Hollins University, Valparaiso University, SUNY Geneseo, Rhodes College, Saint Joseph’s College, Normandale Community College, St. John’s College, Kenyon College, Waynesburg University, Gordon College, Fairfield University, Middlebury College, Bowie State University, Oberlin College and University of Hartford.
“We should be proud of our writing students’ achievements,” said Patterson. “The contest pool was quite large and impressively talented.”