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35th Annual ODU Literary Festival Offers Words with Teeth

Old Dominion University's 35th Annual Literary Festival aims to chew you up and spit you out. In a good way.

Adopting the theme "Words with Teeth," the festival will bring to ODU a wide range of authors whose words not only entertain, but also "have teeth." From Sept. 30 to Oct. 5, 19 authors - from novelists to poets to screenwriters, and more - will speak at various venues on campus.

John McManus and Tim Seibles, faculty members from the ODU English department, serve as co-chairs of the festival.

"We turn to literature for three things: clarification, affirmation and courage. The authors who dare to challenge the given script, who ask vital questions and make bold assertions, give us a new chance to live, an opportunity to revise ourselves," Seibles said.

"Their words are not simply entertaining; their words have teeth. Through precise utterance and expansive imagination, their words give us the means to cut through the filmy stupor that pervades our daily lives. It is a literature that nudges, maybe knocks us, from complacency."

Seibles, the award-winning author of several books of poems, including his latest collection, "Fast Animal," will be among the presenters at this year's festival, as will an ODU colleague, novelist Sheri Reynolds, whose latest book, "The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb," will be released this fall.

Among the most well known authors at the festival will be Allan Gurganus, whose 1989 international bestseller, "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," has been translated into 12 languages and has sold more than 2 million copies. His first published story, "Minor Heroism," appeared in The New Yorker in 1974, and offered the first gay character that magazine had ever presented. His latest book is "The Practical Heart: Four Novellas."

Gurganus will speak at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts.

Other well-known speakers include:

Alice Randall - Known for her writing in a number of genres, she is the author of "The Wind Done Gone," "Pushkin and the Queen of Spades" and "Rebel Yell." Randall is also the first black woman in history to write a No. 1 country song. The award-winning songwriter has more than 20 recorded songs to her credit and is a frequent contributor to Elle magazine. She is writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University.

Randall will speak at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts.

M.T. Anderson - Winner of the National Book Award for the first volume of his "Octavian Nothing" saga, he has written stories for adults, picture books for children, adventure novels for young readers and several books for older readers (both teens and adults). His satirical book "Feed" was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Anderson will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts.

Dustin Lance Black - A screenwriter, producer, director and social activist, and winner of an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk," the biopic of the late civil rights activist Harvey Milk, Black will give a President's Lecture Series talk at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, in the North Cafeteria of Webb Center.

Black is also a founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which, with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson, is leading the federal case against California Proposition 8, which eliminates rights of same-sex couples to marry. In 2012, Black merged his passions with "8," a new play based on the federal Prop 8 trial. ODU Out and the ODU theatre department will present a performance of "8," directed by Ricardo Melendez, at 8 p.m. Oct. 3-5, and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 3-4 at the University Theatre.

Part of the proceeds from the play will go to the ODU Out organization. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students. To purchase tickets call 683-5305.

In conjunction with the ODU Literary Festival, the university's Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries are featuring an exhibition, "Photographs with Teeth," through Oct. 14. It brings together works by Yunghi Kim, Cori Pepelnjak, Karolina Karlic and ODU's Greta Pratt, internationally recognized photographers who explore the working class, the 99 Percent, socioeconomic inequity and the costuming of patriotism.

A reception for "Photographs with Teeth" and a second concurrent exhibition at the galleries, "Woman, Image and Art," will be from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30.

"Poet Sean Thomas Dougherty has said, 'How can we wake up if the words don't bite us - hard - sometimes?'" Seibles said. "We hope this year's lineup of world-renowned authors and artists will offer a refreshing sense of what words and other forms of expression can do."

For a complete schedule of Literary Festival programs and events, visit http://www.lib.odu.edu/litfest/35th/. All of the festival presentations, with the exception of the play, are free and open to the public.