Annual Mercyhurst Literary Festival

The annual Mercyhurst Literary Festival, now celebrating its 11th year, will bring two acclaimed writers to campus and conclude with a celebration of creative works by Mercyhurst students.

The three events that comprise the festival are scheduled for April 11, 18 and 25, each starting at 8:15 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre.

The festival opens with a reading by Chilean poet, author and human rights activist Marjorie Agosín on April 11. Erie native and bestselling novelist William Kowalski will offer a reading April 18. The festival concludes April 25 with an event celebrating the work of Mercyhurst students, including release of the arts magazine Lumen and presentation of student writing awards

April 11: Marjorie Agosín

Agosín was born to Jewish parents in Chile. She moved with her family to the United States to escape the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende’s Socialist government. She holds degrees from the University of Georgia and Indiana University and is a professor of Spanish at Wellesley College.

Among her many books are the poetry collections, At the Threshold of Memory (2003), An Absence of Shadows (1998), and Starry Night: Poems (1996, winner of the Letras de Oro Prize for poetry from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the North-South Center of the University of Miami), all from White Pine Press.

Her works of memoir and autobiography include The Alphabet in My Hands: A Writing Life (Rutgers, 2000); Always from Somewhere Else (Feminist Press, 2000); and A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile (University of New Mexico, 1995).

In addition to her literary awards, Agosín has also received numerous honors in recognition of her work as a human-rights activist, including the United Nations Leadership Award for Human Rights, the Good Neighbor Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Jeanette Rankin Award in Human Rights, the 2004 National Mujer Award from the National Hispana Leadership Institute and the Gabriela Mistral Medal for Lifetime Achievement, awarded by the Chilean government.

April 18: William Kowalski

Kowalski is a 1984 graduate of Erie Day School, a 1988 graduate of McDowell Senior High School, a 1988 alumnus of the Mercyhurst College Summer Writer’s Institute and a 1994 graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1994, while teaching high school physics in the Mojave Desert, he began work on a short story that evolved into his first novel, Eddie’s Bastard. This book was published by HarperCollins in 1999 and became an international best seller.

Three more novels followed: Somewhere South of Here (2001); The Adventures of Flash Jackson (2003), which was a Literary Guild Alternate Selection; and The Good Neighbor (2004), all published in the U.S. by HarperCollins and in the UK by Transworld/Doubleday. Kowalski also writes shorter books for adults with English literacy challenges, published by Orca/Raven Publishers. He has been a reviewer of new fiction for the Toronto Globe and Mail since 2006, and also writes occasional pieces for The Writer magazine.

In 2000, Kowalski moved to Canada. He now lives in Nova Scotia with his wife, Alexandra, and their two children. He divides his time between writing, parenting, and teaching literacy and basic computer skills to adults who are unemployed, have learning challenges or are seeking to enrich their lives. His fifth full-length novel, The Hundred Hearts, is a multi-generational tale of the effects of war on soldiers and their families.

April 25: Lumen Unveiling and Student Awards Presentation

From the Latin word for “light” and “opening,” Lumen is Mercyhurst’s award-winning student arts magazine. Once a journal for creative writing, Lumen has evolved into an interactive multimedia format combining visual art, poetry and fiction.

Entirely student produced, Lumen has received many awards for its content and design. This year’s editor-in chief is Chelsea Schermerhorn and the designers are Laura Fiegelist and Caitlin Ewing.

The evening also features presentation of the P. Barry McAndrew Writing Awards for the three best examples of student creative writing and the best critical essay on literature. The awards honor the recently retired faculty member who taught in the Mercyhurst English Department for more than 40 years. These awards carry cash prizes through the generosity of the McAndrew family. Students will also share their works during an open-mike session.

About the Festival

The Mercyhurst Literary Festival was created by Jeff Roessner, Ph.D., and Ken Schiff, Ph.D., to bring accomplished writers to campus to read from their works and to interact with student authors. Guests over the years have ranged from Robert Bly and Grace Paley to Martín Espada and Francine Prose.

All festival events are free and open to the public. For additional information, contact coordinator Ken Schiff, Ph.D., at 814-824-2461 or