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Literary Festival: A celebration of poetry, historical fiction

Award-winning novelist and literary scholar Bruce Holsinger was the featured speaker at this year’s annual Lake Forest Literary Festival, featuring an array of nationally recognized writers and scholars under the theme of “Cruel Histories”. 

The fourteenth incarnation of the festival was held this spring and was a celebration of poetry and historical fiction, including these thought-provoking events:

  • Prose Reading by Evan Lavender-Smith
    Lavender-Smith is the author of the novels From Old Notebooks and Evan Lavender-SmithAvatar. His fiction and nonfiction prose have appeared in Arts & LettersBOMBColorado ReviewDenver QuarterlyFenceGlimmer TrainHarvard ReviewHobartThe OffingThe RumpusThe Southern ReviewThe White Review and many other magazines and websites. A founding editor of Noemi Press, he is an assistant professor of English at Virginia Tech.
  • Poetry Reading by Christine Larusso
    Larusso, the 2018 Plonsker Prize winner and writer-in-residence, read Larusofrom her poems, which have appeared or are forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, The Literary Review, The Awl, Apogee, Sycamore Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Pleiades—where she appeared as a featured poet. She is currently a producer for Rachel Zucker’s podcast, Commonplace. 
  • Poetry Reading by Carmen Giménez Smith
    Giménez Smith is the author of Bring Down the Little Birds, a memoir, andGimenez Smith five poetry collections, including the National Book Critics Circle nominee Milk and Filth and the forthcoming Cruel Futures. She is founding editor and publisher of Noemi Press and was recently named one of the poetry editors for The Nation. Formerly a teaching-writing fellow at the Iowa Writers Workshop, she is now professor of English at Virginia Tech.

    Workshop by Bruce Holsinger: Fiction and the Alchemy of Research
    This workshop explored the relationship between research and the Bruce Holsingerwriting of fiction. Drawing on his own work as well as the writing of other authors in the genre of historical fiction, Holsinger discussed archival sources in conjunction with the imaginative passages they inspire. How do novelists transform the raw materials of history into vivid passages of prose? How does the archive furnish authors with plot, character, and detail–and how does fiction transform the archive, and with what consequences for our understanding of the past?
  • Workshop by Susanna Calkins: Framing Fiction Around Historical Questions
    Calkins is an educator, historian with a PhD in history, and author of a Calkins
    series of mystery novels set in seventeenth-century England. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate was shortlisted for the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel (Macavity) Award. Her second, From the Charred Remains, was a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (Lefty), while her third, The Masque of a Murderer, was awarded the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel (Macavity) and was also nominated for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award; an Agatha (Best Historical); as well as the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (Lefty). Her latest novel in the series, A Death Along the River Fleet was released in 2016 and was nominated for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (Lefty) and the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel (Macavity). 
  • Lecture: Plague, Pomp, and Poverty: Remaking Medieval London
    This lecture addressed the challenges of reimagining the London of Bruce HolsingerGeoffrey Chaucer, John of Gaunt, and King Richard II through the lens of historical fiction. As a scholar of medieval culture, Holsinger has long taught the culture of medieval England to his students, and his archival and literary research has explored numerous dimensions of the era from an academic perspective. But this is a very different task than writing novels set in the same period. Do scholarship and fiction represent antagonistic approaches to the historical past? Holsinger drew on his experience as a scholar and a novelist in recovering the depths and richness of medieval London.