Art Works Blog

Authors Worth a Listen

By this time, I’m sure all of you have ooohd and aaahed over the stellar lineup at this year’s Poetry and Prose Pavilion at the National Book Festival. I know, I know—we’re impressed with it too. As you’ve studied the authors’ bios, you may have noticed a consistent accomplishment among their many accolades: nearly all of them have received an NEA Literature Fellowship at some point in their careers. Coincidence? I think not.

Of course, this isn’t the first time NEA Fellows have wowed crowds at the festival. Below is a list of podcasts with NEA Fellows who have been featured at the event in the past, or who will be participating this year. Of course, nothing beats hearing these authors in person, so if you’ll be in Washington on September 21 or 22, make it a point to stop by!

Featured this Year:

“[A]s you progress through life, and as you travel, as you have children, as you’re divorced or married, as you’re betrayed or betray others, as you’re fired from a job, every time you go through something grand and emotional, every time you go through something that’s full of despair, every time you uproot your life and move to a new place, every time you go through something jarring you’re like a snake shedding its skin and you become more empathetic and you become, as a result of this, a better writer.” —Benjamin Percy, 2013 Literature Fellow

“In America, we have a sense of a national story that’s an individual one, and it’s one we tell each other in fiction; it’s one we try to live. In the story, every person in America is the main character in their own lives, or in their own stories, and no matter how much you love everyone else around you, they’re secondary characters.” —Adam Johnson, 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner and 2010 NEA Literature Fellow

Past National Book Festival Speakers:

“The library was my favorite room in the school. It was a very beautiful oak paneled room with shelves and shelves of books that no one else seemed to pay much attention to.” —Margot Livesey, 1986 NEA Literature Fellow

“I don’t think any poetry is written that isn’t primarily written to the self, in a way. At least, I would say that about my work. I’m always talking to myself. But I seem to want somebody else to listen to it. I need, I do want an audience. So it’s a strange thing. It’s a very private conversation that then, you make public.” —Kay Ryan, former U.S. Poet Laureate and 2001 NEA Literature Fellow

“[S]tories are about all of us. Stories don’t belong in ethnic bunkers and only people from that ethnicity can tell them, and only people from that ethnicity can read them. So when we put these labels you know, of “Latino” or “Women’s Literature” or something like [that], we’re doing something that is really antithetical to how the world of story works. Because the world of story—it’s wonder. It belongs to all of us.” —Julia Alvarez, 1987 NEA Literature Fellow

“Music soothes one, it brings one through things. At least it has for me. And it’s also provided a structure, I guess, for my own poetic music.” —Kevin Young, 2005 NEA Literature Fellow

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