Chancellor Rescues Literary Festival

Good news for readers: The show will go on.

A few weeks after reports circulated that the next North Carolina literary festival, facing financial constraints, might be canceled, Chancellor James Moeser has designated $200,000 to cover the bulk of the event, now set for 2009.

“We’re really thrilled that the chancellor has chosen to support the festival and excited about planning a really excellent event,” said Sarah Michalak, UNC librarian and vice provost.

Reports that the festival was in trouble surfaced in a news report in The News & Observer in November. Many who read the report, including the chancellor, expressed support for continuing the biennial festival, which was launched at Carolina in April 1998. Since then, it has been held at Duke, N.C. State and N.C. Central universities. UNC also hosted the event in 2002.

In a letter to leaders of those other Triangle institutions, Moeser said UNC would use funds from unrestricted private donations for the next event. He noted that it was too late to schedule the event for 2008 but that Carolina would host it in 2009. UNC faculty and students, he said in the letter, “consider it a critical aspect of academic scholarship and community outreach.”

Moeser also encouraged the leaders at Duke, N.C. State and N.C. Central to help “create a more sustainable future for this event,” which each time has had to start over with funding and organizing efforts.

Michalak said that as organizers of the 2009 event prepare for the festival, they will look for “ideas to make it sustainable and, hopefully by the time it’s finished, we’ll have implemented measures that will make it more sustainable.”

The 2009 festival will be held in the spring or fall. A format is not yet planned, but Michalak said she admired the presentation of “author conversations” that came out of the festival when it was held at Duke in 2006, pairing writers Allan Gurganus with former student Ann Patchett, the late Doug Marlette with Pat Conroy, and Kaye Gibbons and singer Mary Chapin Carpenter. “That was a great idea,” Michalak said.

Related coverage is available online:

  • A Storied Celebration: North Carolina’s first major literary festival is coming to campus.
    From the January/February 1998 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to GAA members.
  • A Child of the Literary Festival Returns: Writer and poet Stephanos Papadopoulos ’98.
    From the March/April 2002 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to GAA members.

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