Festival to draw authors

Change: Shifting from a popular art event, college seeks a more scholarly showcase for the campus.

March 07, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

For the past two years, Howard Community College had been host of First Arts, an all-day celebration of the arts. Although the event was popular, coordinators didn't think it effectively addressed HCC's mission.

While children arrived in droves, interested in artwork such as finger-painting, the HCC staff was hopeful that adults would take an interest in a faculty member's Chinese brush painting, for example, and wonder if the college offered such a class.

But this year, instead of the art showcase, HCC is holding an event that's more reflective of its goals - a book festival, bringing to campus more than 30 local and nationally known authors March 16.

"I believe that people are getting away from books and, of course, into television and VCRs, and reading is really important," said Joan Phillippi, the event's coordinator. "And we have writers right here in Columbia who a lot of people have no knowledge of, and we're hoping to bring these people to the forefront."

The free festival will feature a range of writers from the mid-Atlantic region - including authors of mysteries, romance, children's books and science fiction - who will hold readings and workshops. Some will offer advice on how to get work published.

"We have something for the very scholarly scholars, right on down to things for the children and everything in between," Phillippi said.

Phillippi recruited the authors - who are volunteering their time - through the college's continuing education department and bookstores, and by poring through books at libraries and listening to some of the authors in person.

Howard Weinstein of Elkridge, author of Puppy Kisses Are Good for the Soul, will talk about his career as a dog trainer, accompanied by his Welsh corgi, Mickey.

Randi DuFresne of Elkridge, who writes fiction for Harlequin Super Romance under the name Elizabeth Ashtree, will share her experiences of first getting published.

Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz of Baltimore, co-author with Sun columnist Michael Olesker of Leap Into Darkness, will tell his story of escaping from the Nazis.

The festival is a way to attract more potential students as well as to let people know about the extra amenities offered at the college, according to Valerie Costantini, chairwoman of the college's arts and humanities division.

She hopes people attending the event will join a book club on campus or stay to attend the performance of The Belle of Amherst at Rep Stage, the professional theater-in-residence, at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

"A lot of people still don't know we have a community college in Howard County," Costantini said. "I think that having them come to campus and see what we have here ... to see that we are indeed a quality educational institution that has a great deal of interest in books and authors, really lets folks know we're here."

As one of three keynote speakers at the event, Maryland poet laureate Michael Collier will read some poems from The Ledge, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Since 1994, he has been director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the nation's oldest writers conference, held in Ripton, Vt.

Collier said it is important for poets and authors to participate in book festivals because the events are another way to reach the public than literary readings, and they attract a different kind of crowd. He said he hopes his poetry will help the audience understand that the medium of language can be used to "listen to some of the mysteries that surround us every day."

"When poets pay attention to language, they remind us of the other powerful things language can do, such as sing the songs that soothe the ears, sing the songs that provoke us," said Collier, who is also co-director of the creative writing program at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Kendra Kopelke, named Baltimore's Best Poet in 2001 by Baltimore magazine, and Daniel Mark Epstein, a poet and biographer, will join Collier as the other keynote speakers. The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society helped bring in Collier and Epstein.

Some HCC professors also are involved in the event, including Barbara Greenfeld of Columbia, the college's director of admissions and advising, and co-author of The Kids' College Almanac: A First Look at College; and Vladimir Marinich of Clarksville, professor of social science and author of many books on Western civilization.

Phillippi said she is unsure whether the book festival will become an annual event, but she is satisfied that it is "very appropriate for what we do here, which is educate people."

"We think this is something the community needs," Phillippi said. "We don't know of any other event [like this] in Howard County that has taken place in recent years."

The book festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 16. The keynote speeches take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Smith Theatre. Information: 410-772- 4030, or www.howardcc.edu/events.

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