As part of the countywide Reading Reads program, the annual Literary Festival at Alvernia seems to be growing by leaps and bounds each year. This year’s festival brought packed crowds to Alvernia, for more than 20 events during the month of October. Lectures from world-renowned and regional writers in addition to workshops, seminars, and entertainment filled the line-up.
Highlights of this year’s festival included an evening with Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize Winner and New York Times Bestselling Author of Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs, Straight Man, Nobody’s Fool, and more. Russo was honored as Alvernia’s 50th Anniversary celebrity speaker, in a celebration of literature. Russo wrote his first book, Mohawk, between classes, while he was a college professor in Illinois and Maryland. Since then, several of his novels have become movies or teleplays. And three of these, Empire Falls, Nobody’s Fool, and Twilight starred Paul Newman.
Pennsylvania artist, Bruce Becker discussed his deeply moving book Kindness and Compassion, an insider tale of the inspiring aftermath of the tragic Nichol Mines Amish schoolhouse shootings. Becker, who sold his first drawings at the age of 11, was creating a painting of an Amish schoolhouse bell when he received a phone call telling him that Amish Schoolhouse children were being held at gunpoint, less than 30 minutes from his studio. When he turned his television on, the first image he saw was a bell, hanging on the front of the schoolhouse. One week later, prints of his painting were offered to anyone who contributed funds to the affected Amish families. People across the world joined Becker’s cause, including all the Amish families and children involved, the Amish school teacher, state troopers, EMTs, coroners, and even the gunman's family. Prints of the painting are now hanging all over the country including the White House.
Food Network Host and cookbook author, George Stella, brought “Kids in the Kitchen” to Alvernia. Stella has presented cooking demonstrations alongside celebrities such as Paul Pruhdomme and Julia Child, and has been featured in several magazines and newspapers. He appears regularly on television networks such as FOX, CNN, and CBS, and has a weekly show (Low Carb and Lovin’ It) on the Food Network, and is also a bestselling author.
Sister M. Pacelli Staskiel, professor emerita at Alvernia University, unveiled her new book Designed to Serve: The Place and Persons of Francis Hall 2008, during the festival. Published as the literary centerpiece of Alvernia’s 50th anniversary celebration, it is now available at the university bookstore. Designed to Serve is a narrative of Francis Hall’s history, from construction (first as St. Francis Orphanage to its adaptation as Alvernia University’s foundation building), to recollections of people who were instrumental to the building’s history. Men and women who were residents in the orphanage or local students attending the elementary or high school in the building share their memories in Pacelli’s book.
All Literary Festival events hosted by Alvernia are free and open to the public. Don’t miss next year’s jam-packed celebration during the month of October.