On Sunday, September 23, the KU English club took the year’s first organized trip to the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington D.C. The group of seventeen arrived in downtown D.C around 10:30 a.m. to be greeted with gorgeous weather and a buzzing city. Believing there was no time to spare, the group immediately began taking in the sights and sounds of our nation’s capital city. Perhaps it was the prospect of meeting a respected author or simply the chance to explore the Smithsonian, but the festival and the city catalyzed a certain enthusiasm in the group.
The National Book Festival itself was located on the National Mall. However, between the massive pavilions, numerous tents and thousands in attendance, the area became practically indiscernible. Since 2001 the annual two-day festival has been celebrating the work of authors, poets, entertainers and what the Library of Congress (LOC) describes as “the written word’s power to change lives.”
More than 125 names made up this year’s author list, among them many bestselling authors and Pulitzer Prize winners spanning every genre. Notables included the likes of Junot Diaz, John Green and Steven Millhauser.
Of the many authors in attendance, Diaz and Nikki Finney attracted the most anticipation within the group.
The opportunity to hear the two authors speak was what many considered to be the high point of the trip. Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, seemed to make the greatest impression. For 45 minutes, he spoke inside the Poetry and Prose pavilion, where he touched on subjects like compassion.
KU’s Dr. Andrew Vogel described his experience afterwards stating that “he seemed to be existing in joy.”
Nikki Finney, University of Kentucky professor of English and National Book Award winner, spoke that day as well. Finney discussed the importance of teachers and the power they have to inspire, emphasizing how much she considers teaching to be a “privilege.”
For some, the trip to Washington D.C. was special for reasons other than the National Book Festival. Given the festivals location, trip members had access to some our most historic national monuments and museums. From the National Mall, nearly every historical landmark can be found within walking distance. Notables include the Natural History Museum, National Air and Space Museum, National Art Gallery and National Botanic Gardens. Free admission to all of these landmarks provided newcomers with a diverse and complete experience in our nation’s capital.
Based simply on the group’s reaction, it is clear that the Library of Congress National Book Festival had affirmed its purpose to promote the written word. The group, comprised of English Club members, former members, professors and friends, unanimously agreed that the trip was both an insightful and positive learning experience. As a club, they wish only to grow and continue organizing more trips like this. For more information on the Kutztown University English Club, check out their facebook page at facebook.com/kuenglishclub or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jon Schiavone