SMU’s Dallas Literary Festival Goes Virtual, Featuring Diverse Voices of Powerhouse Writers

SMU News

Originally Posted: March 1, 2021



What makes a literary city?

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU will present the Dallas Literary Festival March 26-28 with a theme appropriate for the times – turbulence. Find the full schedule and register for the free, virtual program.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 26, with Alice Johnson, author of After Life: My Journey from Incarceration to Freedom in a keynote conversation with Mitchell Jackson, author of Survival Math. Saturday and Sunday, March 27-28 will be devoted to panels, readings and author interviews featuring these headliners:

  • Charles M. Blow, New York Times columnist, author of The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto
  • Joy Harjo, the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States, author of the memoir Crazy Brave
  • Tyehimba Jess, winner of Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, author of Leadbelly and Olio
  • Yiyun Li, author of Where Reasons End and Must I Go
  • Ben Moser, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Sontag: Her Life and Work

Other guests include Trevor Pryce, former NFL player and author of An Army of Frogs, a middle-grade book series, and producer of Kulipari, the animated Netflix series based on the books. He will join 80 nonfiction and fiction writers, poets, editors, agents, cookbook authors and illustrators who will serve on panels and read from their works. See for details.

Dallas literary icons Ben Fountain, National Book Award finalist, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Emma Rodgers, founder of Black Images Book Bazaar and the Dallas Civil Rights Museum, will receive the inaugural Literary Leaders award at the festival.

The executive director of the festival is SMU and Dedman College assistant professor of practice of creative writing Sanderia Faye Smith, founder of LitNight Reading Series, a casual monthly virtual gathering of writers and reading enthusiasts, and the author of Mourner’s Bench. Festival partners include the City of Dallas, Sam’s Club, the Dallas Museum of Art, PEN America/DFW, Whiting Foundation and Hurston/Wright Foundation.

“In a typical year, confirming a list of authors like this would be very difficult,” Smith says. “But with COVID-19 stay-at-home recommendations and a virtual format, we’ve assembled a unique group of writers that will help all participants understand the meaning of our turbulent times.”

Young writers ages 14-18 have the opportunity to win $250 and read their work at the festival if they win the Young Writers contest, in partnership with Sam’s Club, Dallas Area Writer’s Group, the Writer’s Garrett and Writing Workshops Dallas. Submission deadline for the fiction contest is March 1. See for details.

The Young Writers contest winner will open the festival with a reading from the winning work, followed by welcomes by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church Pastor Richie Butler and others.

“This festival will answer the question, ‘Is Dallas a literary city?’” says Smith, “The reply is, ‘Yes.’”


SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas.  SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.

By | 2021-03-03T10:58:19-08:00 March 3rd, 2021|Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, English, Events|Comments Off on SMU’s Dallas Literary Festival Goes Virtual, Featuring Diverse Voices of Powerhouse Writers