College of The Albemarle (COA) held its 2nd Annual Literary Festival virtually on Thursday, April 30, 2020. The festival had originally been planned for April 9, but with mass gathering restrictions in place due to Covid-19, the face-to-face event was ultimately canceled.
Dr. Joshua Howell, Assistant Professor of English at COA, served as organizer of the virtual festival. While the itinerary for the event was limited to the afternoon in a virtual capacity, compared to the full day of writing workshops and guest speakers that would have been scheduled in a face-to-face event, the content offered was just as rich and engaging.
Using Zoom, a popular platform for video and audio conferencing, as many as 100 attendees joined the virtual festival. COA students, employees and community members took part in one of two writing workshops; “Punctuation Rules: Following Sentence Signposts,” presented by Aaron Bass, Writing Center Coordinator, Academic Support Center at COA, or “How to Structure a Short Story,” presented by Sylvie Green, English Instructor at COA. Following the workshops, a special presentation of “Mark Twain Storytelling” was provided by Ryan Clemens. Clemens is a descendant of Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, and is well known for his one-man show “Meet Mark Twain.” He is also involved with Norfolk’s Virginia Stage Company as Resident Theatre Artist and their outreach program. Clemens entertained the attendees with stories of Mark Twain’s childhood and how Twain became a writer. Clemens also answered questions from the group, both as Twain and as himself. He ended his question-and-answer session by sharing the following:
“Never put off what you could do tomorrow what you could do the day after tomorrow. But something I think about during these dark times on the subject of happiness is this. Happiness is like a beautiful sunset; while it’s there for everyone, sometimes we turn away and miss it. Don’t miss it. Look for your happiness, folks.”
The festival ended with readings of COA’s 2019 – 2020 visual arts and literary review magazine, Estuaries. Jessica Neer, COA student, read a haiku she composed called “Luna’s Ascent.” Aaron Bass read his “Final Passage,” with accompanied artwork by Michael Williams, president of COA’s Art Club. To close out the readings, COA student, Michael Lewis, read an essay titled “Academic Integrity: Beyond the Life of a Plagiarizer,” and thanked Olivia Buzzacco, English Instructor at COA, for her guidance while crafting the essay.