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Mercyhurst Lit Fest enters 12th year

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The 12th edition of the Mercyhurst University Literary Festival brings fiction writer Karen Joy Fowler and poet Mohja Kahf to campus this spring to read from their works and conduct workshops for students.

Fowler, a novelist and short story writer, will speak Thursday, April 3, at 8 p.m. Fowler is best known for “The Jane Austen Book Club,” which spent 13 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was turned into a popular film. Her latest novel, “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,” was among the top works of fiction in 2013.

Kahf immigrated to the U.S. from Syria as a child and writes about the conflict in her native land, focusing on the country's nonviolent resistance, prisoners of conscience, women and religious diversity. She is the author of the novel “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf” and the poetry collection “E-mails from Scheherazad.” She’ll speak on Thursday, April 10, at 8 p.m.

For the first time, this year’s literary festival will incorporate a student theatrical production, “The Laramie Project,” a portrait of a community’s response to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man living in Laramie, Wyo. The play will be staged April 24-27, following Mercyhurst’s Easter break.

The festival concludes Thursday, May 1, with an event celebrating the creative work of Mercyhurst students, including release of the arts magazine Lumen and presentation of student writing awards. It begins at 8 p.m.

All four festival events will be held in Mercyhurst’s Taylor Little Theatre and are open to the public. While admission will be charged for “The Laramie Project,” the remaining events are presented free of charge.

English professors Jeff Roessner, Ph.D., and Ken Schiff, Ph.D., organized the first Mercyhurst Literary Festival in 2003. Renowned poet Samuel Hazo was the featured speaker that year; later festivals have hosted such noted authors as Randall Silvis, Robert Bly, Grace Paley, Martín Espada and Marjorie Agosin. The guests not only read from their own works, in a variety of genres from poetry to science fiction to memoir, but also interact with Mercyhurst creative writing students in small group workshops.

For additional information, contact festival coordinator Ken Schiff, 814-824-2461 or