DMACC Celebration of Literary Arts Festival postponed

English Professor Marc Dickinson posing with published works from the authors he hopes still visit in the Fall 2020 semester. Photo by Cole Griffin.

This will be the 19th year that DMACC will be holding its annual Celebration of Literary Arts Festival. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizers to reorchestrate their plans. Originally slated to have begun on April 6, the event has been postponed until sometime in the Fall 2020 semester.

Emails sent to the winners of the creative writing contest stated, “Our Celebration of Literary Arts Festival has been cancelled for the spring. However, we do plan to have the event (in its entirety) this fall semester with the same line up of writers …  of course, with all the delays and postponements, it may be a little while before everything gets nailed down in detail. But I’ll keep you updated, and hopefully by the end of this semester the dust will settle and all the schedules will be better in place.”

The entire world has been thrown into disarray and has been forced to improvise in wake of the viral threat. Regardless of when or where, the lit festival organizers are determined to go on.

Marc Dickinson,  professor of English at DMACC and one of the driving forces behind the literary festival, stresses the importance of DMACC’s lit fest when it comes to inspiring students, and not only those interested in writing.

“[Diversity is] a huge component [of lit fest],” Dickinson said. “We look at diversity not just in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in terms of gender, sexuality, profession, age, region and country.” He also tries to include veteran writers who are well established, as well as writers who may just be starting out.

Diversity and representation are important to Dickinson because DMACC has a very diverse group of students. “This is the first time we are having an [army] veteran come,” Dickinson said. “In fact, we even have a couple of veterans who won the creative writing contest.” 

Whether they are interested in writing or not, students could come to lit fest to see people from all sorts of backgrounds who have succeeded following their passion.

For students who are interested in writing, the literary festival serves another important purpose. To Dickinson, since a lot of the writers they get for the festival are also teachers, the public readings and the proceeding Q and A section are akin to a mini-lecture.

“We don’t have a major four-year college or an MFA program [in Ankeny], so we don’t have a huge amount of readers coming through our city,” Dickinson said in regards to the importance of lit fest.

James Stick, DMACC’s dean of liberal arts and one of the founders of the Celebration of Literary Arts Festival, shared how the festival got its start 19 years ago.

“From the time I started here 35 years ago, we had a creative writing contest. Ankeny was the only one that had one.” Stick continued, “we decided to hold a district wide creative writing contest.”

Every so often a writer would be brought in, which sparked the idea of holding a literary festival. “We want our students to have experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Stick said.

Whether the festival be held in-person or over the internet, Stick and Dickinson are determined to have authors read their work for students themselves.

“Poetry in particular is meant to be heard versus just read,” Stick said. He explained that how a poem is read is just as important as the content within. Stick says it’s “an oral tradition.”

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