By Elizabeth Varville, Correspondent
The Windhover Writers’ Festival, hosted by the literary journal Windhover at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, was held Feb. 17 through 19. UMHB’s Lord Conference Center, located in Parker Academic Center, was the location for the free events.
The festival benefits writers of all levels because they hear and see the expertise on display in the main events, interact with the featured presenters in workshops and network with fellow writers, per the UMHB website. The goal of the festival is to create a space where writers of all levels can find encouragement and learn to be better writers.
According to academics.umhb.edu/writersfestival, each February the festival brings in featured presenters who give readings and lead workshops. One of the festival highlights, the annual George Nixon Memorial Lecture, features a writer who examines the connections between faith and writing. In addition to the main events, the festival also features panels comprised of local, regional, and national writers sharing their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
This year’s George Nixon Memorial Lecture featured Jeannie Murray Walker. The website describes Walker as a writer and teacher who was born in Parkers Prairie, a village of a thousand people in Minnesota. She lectures and gives readings extensively in places ranging from The Library of Congress and Oxford University to Whidbey Island and Texas canyon country. Walker has written eight volumes of poetry, including Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems, A Deed to the Light, and New Tracks, Night Falling. Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, The Christian Century, The American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, Image and Best American Poetry. Her scripts, which have been performed in theaters across the United States and in London, are archived in North American Women’s Drama, and are published by Dramatic Publishing Company. Her memoir, The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer’s, tells the hair-raising, often funny details of the decade she and her sister cared for their mother. She is a Professor of English at The University of Delaware, where she heads the Creative Writing Concentration. She also serves as a Mentor in the Seattle Pacific University Master of Fine Arts Program.
“I started writing poetry when I was too young to ask the questions why we read or write poetry. I write poetry because it feels good,” said Walker.
The 2016 roster also included Greg Garrett, Brent Newsom, and musical guests Still on the Hill. UMHB’s Helen Kwiatkowski (Professor of Art) also lead an art workshop at the festival.
According to UMHB’s website, Greg Garrett is the critically acclaimed author or co-author of four novels, two books of spiritual autobiography, and over a dozen works of nonfiction dealing with faith, culture, and narrative. He is also a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church based in Austin, Texas, where he and his wife Jeanie live with their children. Brent Newsom’s first poetry collection, Love’s Labors, was published in 2015 by CavanKerry Press. His poems have also appeared in The Southern Review, Windhover, Rock & Sling, Relief, and Best New Poets. A Louisiana native, he and his family now live in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where he teaches writing and literature at Oklahoma Baptist University.
To satisfy the music lovers, Still On the Hill performed on Feb. 18 to an eager crowd. The group has proven to be a favorite at many festivals to include the Kerrville Folk-Festival, Philadelphia Fold Festival, and the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival. They have produced seven widely acclaimed CD’s under the Swiss record label Brambus Records.
UMHB Writer’s Festival has grown over the years as a welcome spring-semester highlight that all of us can learn to appreciate.