Amherst College to host literary festival

Amherst College has been no slouch when it comes to producing successful writers. In just one short period in the early to mid-1980s, novelists Chris Bohjalian, Dan Brown, Harlan Coben and David Foster Wallace all got their diplomas there; alongside them were people like journalist and nonfiction writer Ted Conover and director/screenwriter David O. Russell.

The college plans to celebrate some of that history March 3-5 with “Litfest 2016,” an inaugural event that will bring renowned writers, editors, playwrights and others to campus for a number of events: readings, workshops, book signings and talks on publishing and creative writing are all on tap.

Oh, and there’s a poetry slam for students, too.

Among the guests will be investigative journalist Mark Bowden, author of the best sellers “Black Hawk Down” and “Killing Pablo”; novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon; novelist Lauren Groff, Amherst class of 2001, whose most recent book, “Fates and Furies,” was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in fcition; biographer Stacy Schiff, who’s also a Pulitzer Prize winner; and Deborah Treisman, fiction editor for The New Yorker.

“Litfest 2016,” which is free and open to the public (except the poetry slam), will also recognize a new partnership between the college and the National Book Foundation (NBF), which oversees the National Book Award. The foundation runs the National Book Awards on Campus, a program that brings award winners and finalists to colleges to discuss their work. In addition to Lauren Groff, novelist Angela Flournoy, a 2015 Book Award finalist for her novel “The Turner House,” will be speaking at “LitFest.”

The Common, a biannual literary magazine based at the college, has also partnered with NBF to make Amherst the foundation’s Northeast Regional Partner and an annual host of the National Book Awards on Campus. As part of “LitFest 2016,” Jennifer Acker, editor and founder of The Common, will host a conversation with Treisman, The New Yorker editor, on “America’s Fiction Unedited.”

The festival’s kick-off event is March 3 at 7 p.m. at Johnson Chapel, with readings and book signings by Groff and Flournoy. It continues with varied events March 4 and 5. For a full schedule, visit www.amherst.edu/arts/specialevents/litfest.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

“Litfest 2016” has been organized by the college’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry, The Common, the Emily Dickinson Museum, and the English Department and Office of Communications at Amherst College.