Patchett, Sparks to appear March 25 at Southern Li...

Patchett, Sparks to appear March 25 at Southern Literary Festival

MTSU is upholding nearly 80 years of student writing tradition by serving as host for the 2016 Southern Literary Festival March 24-26, which will feature writing workshops, readings and master classes for students, as well as special guests Ann Patchett and Minton Sparks in free public appearances.

Patchett, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel “Bel Canto,” will offer the festival’s keynote address and sign books Friday, March 25, beginning at 6 p.m. in MTSU’s Student Union Ballroom.

Sparks, an author, performance artist and native of Murfreesboro, will perform at 9 p.m. March 25 in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre.

Both special events are free and open to the public. A searchable campus map is available at

Click on this logo to visit the Southern Literary Festival website.

Click on this logo to visit the Southern Literary Festival website.

The Southern Literary Festival is an organization of Southern colleges and schools founded in 1937 at Mississippi’s Blue Mountain College to promote Southern literature.

Each year a different university hosts the festival, which is an undergraduate writing conference for a wide variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, playwriting and nonfiction.

Authors associated with the festival over the years have included such luminaries as Eudora Welty, Shelby Foote, Katherine Anne Porter, John Gould Fletcher and Flannery O’ Connor, along with co-founder Robert Penn Warren. More recently, authors Frances Mayes and Natasha Trethewey have been among the festival’s guests.

Dr. Jennifer Kates

Dr. Jennifer Kates

This year’s event is open to all MTSU students and faculty as well as students and faculty from the festival’s member schools around the region.

“Southern literature keeps getting redefined,” explains Dr. Jennifer Kates, an MTSU English professor and the organizer of this year’s Southern Literary Festival.

“We reached out to all our local authors, too. We’re not just country music. We were surprised to hear how many people outside Murfreesboro and the region think of Murfreesboro and MTSU as a center for creative writing. … We’ve got a reputation. A lot of people come home to roost here or come out of our programs.”

Patchett also is the author of five other novels, including “The Patron Saint of Liars,” and three nonfiction works. She’s been a Nashville resident since childhood and is co-founder and owner of Parnassus Books.

A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Patchett also has become a spokeswoman for independent booksellers around the country. In 2012, Time magazine named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

You can watch Patchett’s 2012 appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” to learn more about her bookstore — and reading — advocacy below.

Sparks has earned international renown for her storytelling prowess, which blends her always poetic — and often rambunctious — tales of poor rural folks with the music of an accompanying guitarist.

The former social worker and divinity school student has written two books, released three CDs and a DVD and presents writing/performance workshops across the country. She was a 2015 Fellow at the Vanderbilt Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy and is the 2016 artist in residence at Canada’s Banff Performing Arts Center.

You can get a preview of Sparks’ work in this video from her “Gold Digger” CD release show at Nashville’s Bluebird Café.

For more information about this year’s Southern Literary Festival at MTSU, visit or contact Kates at

The festival is sponsored at MTSU by the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts, Department of Theatre and Dance, the University Honors College, the College of Media and Entertainment and the Office of the Provost. Sparks’ performance is also sponsored by the Department of Recording Industry, the Virginia Peck Fund and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

— Gina E. Fann (