On March 5, the 14th annual Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival comes back home. After having outgrown the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts campus, where the festival began in the late 1990s, the last several festivals have been hosted at the University of North Florida, but with the $13 million expansion of Douglas Anderson’s campus, completed this year, the festival’s organizers decided it was high time to bring the festival home.
In the 20 years since its founding, the event has brought scores of the highest caliber writers to Jacksonville, including Billy Collins, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood and Richard Ford.
This year’s headliner is Andre Dubus III, best known for his best-selling novel “House of Sand and Fog,” upon which the 2003 film featuring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley was based. Poets like Richard Blanco and William Trowbridge and fiction writers Tom Paine and Ron Carlson are offering Saturday workshops.
The 2016 festival, which features 17 writers, is the work of three D.A. creative writing teachers — Liz Flaisig, Tiffany Melanson, and Jennifer Bundy — and is funded largely by the school’s creative writing booster club.
Poet and creative writing teacher Melanson says that bringing the festival home allows the school to showcase its achievements to the community. In that way, it performs a role similar to D.A.’s Extravaganza, the annual showcase of music, writing, dance, cinematic arts, and visual arts that packs the house at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts each February.
Unlike Extravaganza, though, Melanson says the writers’ festival may have lost community understanding of its connection with the school when it was held at UNF.
Though the festival has featured some of the best-known American writers, it bills itself as “a student literary festival,” offering D.A. students a true immersion in literary arts.
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