When I was a student at Highland Park High School, the Highland Park Literary Festival was without fail one of the highlights of each spring semester. For a couple of days I could get out of some classes to go hear authors, playwrights, poets, musicians, critics, and, yes, even journalists dole out advice about how to hone a well-written sentence, craft a soul-moving poem, or interact with an audience.
I’ll never forget hearing storyteller and author John Owhanda galvanize my otherwise lethargic freshmen classmates into yelling “Aye,” while he plucked a calimba (African finger piano) and shouted “Ati,” or how keynote speaker Scott Simon brought tears to my eyes reading from his book Pretty Birds, about a high school student in Sarajevo.
The 2013 edition is this week, and part of me is more than a little bummed I can’t sneak in to attend some of the workshops or the Open Mic Night, but alas they’re only open to the students.
The public is invited to share in the literary spirit at the keynote address at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Highland Park High School’s large auditorium. This year’s speaker is Markus Zusak, best-selling author of The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger. The event is free and will be followed by a book signing and reception in the foyer. Show up early at 6:30 p.m. to purchase books by Zusak and other festival presenters.
While I haven’t read any of the Australia native’s books, to hear it told he’s a literary phenom, and it’s sure to prove entertaining. If you’re unable to attend the keynote address, or aren’t sure if you want to, tune into 90.1FM at 1 p.m. on Thursday to hear Zusak talk to Krys Boyd on KERA’s Think. Hope to see you there.