Literary Festival

The Bishop Dunne Literary Festival was a natural progression from the GeoTech Conference and Lecture Series and is a celebration of exploration where inspirational authors visit the school to encourage students, teachers, and the community to celebrate language in its artfully written, spoken, and poetic forms. Literary writing offers unique insight into the articulation of human experience and tackles contemporary issues. The festival showcases and provides access to professional writers who can offer guidance or inspiration with respect to their craft and support students in an exciting discovery of the modern literary world.

The Bishop Dunne Literary Festival hosts workshops between students and accomplished novelists, journalists, poets, songwriters, and playwrights. A writing contest and publication of the next student Rugged magazine will be featured at a special awards breakfast where outstanding student work in literature will be exhibited. Successful alumni writers will also be showcased.

The keynote speaker, Jesmyn Ward, will give a community lecture on Monday, April 16, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. in the Monsignor Milam J. Joseph Auditorium and will be available to sign books.

There will be exhibits from local bookstores and light snacks will be served.

2018 Speakers

Jesmyn Ward

MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward has been hailed as the standout writer of her generation, proving her “fearless and toughly lyrical” voice in novels, memoir, and nonfiction. Betsy Burton of the American Booksellers Association has called her “the new Toni Morrison.” In November 2017, she became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike.

Ward’s stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives. Shortly after Ward received her MFA, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, and she was forced to evacuate her rapidly flooding home. Ward’s writing is deeply informed by the trauma of Katrina, not to mention its unimaginable social and economic repercussions. Her novel Salvage the Bones, winner of the 2011 National Book Award, is a troubling but ultimately empowering tale of familial bonds set amid the chaos of Katrina. Likewise, Ward’s debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, depicts what Publishers Weekly calls “a world full of despair but not devoid of hope” in the aftermath of natural disaster.

Ward’s 2013 memoir, Men We Reaped, delves into the five years of Ward’s life in which she lost five young men—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows poor people and people of color. Lauded by Kirkus Reviews as a “modern rejoinder to Black Like Me [and] Beloved,” Men We Reaped is a beautiful and painful homage to Ward’s ghosts and the haunted yet hopeful place she calls home. Men We Reaped won the Heartland Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Ward is the also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, which NPR named one of the Best Books of 2016. Taking James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping-off point, this groundbreaking collection features essays and poems about race from the most important voices of our time—from Edwidge Danticat, Natasha Trethewey, and Isabel Wilkerson to Mitchell S. Jackson, Kiese Laymon, and Claudia Rankine.

With Sing, Unburied, Sing, which earned her a second National Book Award in November 2017, Ward gives us a road novel through Mississippi’s past and present that explores the bonds of a family tested by racism and poverty. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a singular Southern odyssey that strikes at the heart of life in the rural South. Margaret Atwood called it a “wrenching new novel…[that] digs deep into the not-buried heart of the American nightmare. A must!” Sing was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by The New York Times and Time. The Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly also called Sing one of the year’s best books.

In her talks, Ward shares her writing process and how her experiences growing up poor and black in the South continue to influence her work. As Ward said in her acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, “I understood that I wanted to write about the experiences of the poor, and the black and the rural people of the South, so that the culture that marginalized us for so long would see that our stories were as universal, our lives as fraught and lovely and important, as theirs.”

KA Holt

Kari Anne Holt is the author of several middle grade novels in verse including House Arrest (Chronicle), a Bank Street Best Book of the Year 2015, and Rhyme Schemer (Chronicle), an Amazon Best Book for Kids and Teens, and a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. Her novel in haiku, Brains for Lunch, was highlighted on the Texas Library Association’s Annotated Lone Star Reading List for 2011. She is also the author of the space western, Red Moon Rising, and Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel, a nominee for the 2014 Connecticut Library Association Nutmeg Book Award and the 2013 Maud Hart Lovelace Award. Kari has recently contributed to the anthology, Dear Teen Me: authors write letters to their teen selves. She lives in Austin, Texas.


Eric Barclay

Eric Barclay is a local illustrator, designer, and the author of I Can See Just Fine (Abrams Appleseed), Hiding Phil (Scholastic Press), and Counting Dogs (Scholastic Cartwheel).

Classic cartoons, modern art, mid-century design and everyday mishaps heavily influence his style. He is an in-demand illustrator for Abrams, American Greetings, Disneyland Paris, Hallmark, Highlights Magazine, Friend Magazine, Scholastic, Westin Kids Club, Papyrus, and many others.

Eric has two daughters, both of them students at Bishop Dunne.

Jason Carney

Jason Carney, a local performance poet, is a four-time National Poetry Slam Finalist, honored as a Legend of the Slam in 2007. He appeared on three seasons of the HBO television series Russell Simmons’ Def Poets. Jason has performed and lectured at some of our nation’s finest colleges and universities as well as high schools and juvenile detention centers from California to Maine. Jason Carney is a graduate of Wilkes University MFA Program for Creative Writing, where he was an honored winner of the Etruscan Prize, the Bergman Foundation Scholarship, and the Norris Church-Mailer Scholarship. He is co-founder and artistic director of the non-profit Young DFW Writers.

Program Details

Monday, April 16

12:00 p.m. Jesmyn Ward lunch and workshop with AP Literature students in library.

7:00 p.m. Keynote address with Jesmyn Ward.

Tuesday, April 17

9:30 a.m. Eric Barclay will speak to 6th grade students in the library.

9:30 a.m. K.A. Holt will speak to 7th and 8th grade students in the auditorium.

10:45 a.m. K.A. Holt will conduct a workshop with select 7th and 8th grade students.

Wednesday, April 18

1:00 p.m. Jason Carney will conduct workshop with select high school students.

2:00 p.m. Jason Carney slam poetry assembly with 9th through 12th grades.

2:00 p.m. Poetry Projects with 6th through 8th grade students.

Literary Festival Committee


Kate DaileyPresident
Mary GracheckAssistant Director of Advancement
Melanie GibsonLibrarian
Channing MilfeldEnglish Department
Brinkley SchneiderEnglish Department Chair
Lydia TorrezDirector of Advancement
Christine VoigtDirector of Curriculum and Instructional Technology
Shannon CeriseBishop Dunne Board Member and Parent
Paula DayBishop Dunne Parent
Jennifer NgorkaBishop Dunne Parent