Columnist Andrea McGuigan previews The Gathering 2014. The annual literary conference is scheduled to take place at Keystone College in La Plume July 17-20. For more information or to register, visit thegatheringatkeystone.org or contact Charlotte Ravaioli (570, 945-8510 or email@example.com.
The best writing happens when we have something at stake: something to lose, something worth keeping and something to sacrifice to make progress possible. At The Gathering at Keystone College, now in its eighth year, the organizers kept this idea in mind when they created the theme, “On Edge.” The featured panelists and writers for this year’s festival all know writing from the margins: a civil rights poet, a political journalist, writers on the Middle East conflict and a fiction writer who handles familial conflict. All of them challenge the status quo. All of them are ready to push forward. I think of the Fool in the classic Tarot deck, a clownish man following his dog toward the precipice of a cliff. The Fool is an important card with a largely-writ lesson, meant to remind us that sometimes taking a leap into the unknown is the only way to effect real change.
Sonia Sanchez is a poet, playwright and social activist whose awards could fill this entire column. Her work blends a mix of African-American issues, women’s issues and social justice, all polished off with her distinctive, powerful voice. The author of 16 books, her poetry collection Homegirls and Handgrenades won the National Book Award. You would do well to look up her performance on Season One of the now-defunct Def Poetry Jam.
Jacqueline Mitchard is the New York Times -bestselling author of over 20 books. She also has the distinct honor of being Oprah’s very first Book Club selection for her novel, The Deep End of the Ocean. Mitchard is the editor-in-chief of the new Young Adult imprint Merit Press and her essays have been widely anthologized.
Sandy Tolan has written for more than 40 years and as co-founder of Homeland productions, has produced hundreds of documentaries and features for public radio. His book, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, came from the enormous popularity of the Fresh Air segment he produced for NPR.
The three day festival features workshops in essay, earth science, visual art, fiction, memoir, yoga, poetry, digital art, dance and percussion and each lesson plan invokes the over-arching theme of “On Edge.” There will also be a discussion between Sonia Sanchez and social commentator Constance Garcia-Barrio entitled “Sisters Rap.” There will also be a panel discussion “Searching for Common Ground in the Middle East” featuring David Coppola, president of Keystone College and director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University; Eugene Korn, who is the American Director for the Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel and Senior Research Fellow at Beit Morasha of Jerusalem’s Institute for Religion and Society; Ibtisam Barakat, award-winning author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood; and Sandy Tolan (see above).
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